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Program teaches Greenfield educators something more

July 29, 2013

Greenfield — As the state prepares a new system for evaluating educators, the Greenfield School District hopes its own mentoring program for new teachers will help ease the transition.

In a recent update to the School Board on the district's participation in the Southeastern Wisconsin New Teacher Project, Charity Eich, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for grades 4K-5, described the benefits of mentoring new teachers.

The ultimate reason the district is part of the SEWNTP consortium, Eich said, is to help new teachers reach their goals through mentorship.

Lessons to be learned

It is important to keep in mind that teachers are not finished products after initially completing a teacher preparation program, she noted.

"They come to us with a lot of knowledge, but not necessarily as much application of that knowledge," Eich said. "So when they get into a classroom on their own, they need a lot of support and a lot of coaching and mentoring in order to realize their full potential as an educator."

The consortium includes 26 local school districts, working in partnership with Cardinal Stritch's School of Education and the New Teacher Center, who want to provide opportunity and access for beginning teachers, mentors and districts in order to maximize teacher effectiveness to ensure student learning.

The district pays a fee to belong to the consortium, and teachers have the opportunity to attend any professional development events that interest them at no cost, Eich said.

The district has an application process for mentors and has received 25 applications for this school year, Eich said, about the same as the number of newly hired teachers who will be joining the district.

SEWNTP provides training and professional development for mentors and mentees, as well as networking opportunities with teachers outside of the district, Eich explained. This school year will be the first that mentors and mentees attend initial training courses together, she added, which will give mentees the chance to apply those lessons and get feedback from their mentors right away, allowing them to advance more quickly.

Weighing the benefits

Among the benefits of participating in a mentoring program, highlighted in Eich's presentation, is reduced attrition and turnover, greater intent of new teachers to remain teaching, increased job satisfaction, accelerated growth and development of new teachers, cost savings and, most importantly, higher student achievement gains.

Although the program is primarily geared toward new teachers, particularly those in the first three years of their practice, any teacher can benefit from participating, she added.

"We are all continuing to learn and continuing to grow, whether we've been a teacher for one year or we've been a teacher for 30 years," Eich said.

The mentoring program has another benefit, at least from a state regulatory standpoint.

Though the program wasn't specifically designed for the purpose, it ties in nicely with the state's new Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System, which aims to support continuous improvement of educators (teachers and principals), resulting in improved student learning.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is preparing to fully implement its new, comprehensive evaluation system for teachers and principals beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

Superintendent Lisa Elliott said the benefits of belonging to SEWNTP far outweigh the cost to the district.

"When I think about the amount of time, energy, effort put into recruiting and hiring and then retaining teachers, it's well worth the amount of money that we spend," Elliott said. "But when I look at those benefits and how we're going to leverage those vectors to be able to support us through the Educator Effectiveness System, again, it's well worth the investment, too."

Board members expressed support for the program and interest in learning more about the Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System and its implications for the district. Elliott said administration would prepare a presentation for the board in the near future.

AT A GLANCE

In addition to tying in with the state's Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System, the Greenfield School District's mentoring of new teachers is also based upon the main goal of the district's professional learning vision statement:

· "To improve student achievement by empowering all teachers to grow their instructional practice through a systemic, ongoing and collaborative professional learning approach."

· The state began small developmental pilots of the Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System with about 600 educators during the 2012-13 school year. The pilot will expand to an additional 1,200 educators in 2013-14, and will be implemented statewide in 2014-15. For more information, visit http://ee.dpi.wi.gov.

For more on SEWNTP, visit www.stritch.edu/sewntp.

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