Carol A. Bartell; foreword by Linda Darling-Hammond


A Preliminary Assessment of NTIP



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A Preliminary Assessment of NTIP

Will the New Teacher Induction Program, as presently constituted, stand the test of time? While it is always tricky to try to assess a work in progress, one way to proceed is to identify the provincial government's own goals for the program, and then project the likelihood of them being met, based on evidence derived from the growing body of academic literature, as well as analyses of actual programs that are up and running, elsewhere. The news release which accompanied Kennedy's formal announcement of the program in October, 2005, stated that NTIP would "better prepare and retain new teachers in the classroom and help boost student achievement" (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2005, October 4, para.1). It quoted the Minister as acknowledging that Ontario's current pre-service teacher preparation was shorter than in most other jurisdictions. "This program will complement their formal one-year training with another full year of on-the-job training, mentoring and assessment" (para. 2). This theme was repeated in a Program Guideline issued by the Ministry of Education (MOE) several months later (Ontario MOE, 2006, March). After declaring that NTIP was the second step in a continuum of professional development for teachers, the document promised "another full year of professional support, thus accelerating the learning curve, so that by the end of their first year of teaching, new teachers will have the requisite skills and knowledge to allow them to achieve success as an experienced teacher" (p. 3). The Ministry further projected that NTIP would "encourage a more collaborative and professional environment in Ontario's schools" (p. 3), and be an important factor in achieving its vision of "high levels of student achievement and greater public confidence in the education system" ( p. 3). Lofty goals, indeed.

The list of specific outcomes which the Ministry expects new teachers to achieve as a result of successfully completing the New Teacher Induction Program is rather more modest. First, they are to demonstrate competency in such areas of teaching as the equitable and respectful treatment of all students, knowledge of the curriculum, and classroom management strategies. Achievement of this goal will be measured by passing a teacher performance appraisal (TPA) conducted by the school principal through at least two classroom visits. Second, the novice teachers are to acquire an orientation to the Ontario curriculum, as well as to the specific board and school where they have been hired. This will be covered through attendance at school and board-based workshops, mainly held prior to the school year. Third, the new teachers are to receive professional development and training in such areas as literacy and numeracy, identifying at-risk students, dealing with bullying situations, assessment and evaluation, communication with parents, and teaching diverse learners. This is to be accomplished through attendance at workshops and training sessions designed to broad provincial specifications, but delivered locally. The fourth goal is to improve skills and confidence through participation in a mentoring relationship, while the final, rather redundant, outcome on the list is to have demonstrated a proven record of "successful teaching in an Ontario publicly funded school board" (Ontario MOE, 2006, March, p. 4).

How likely are these more modest outcomes to be met? The Ministry is letting a lot ride on the first outcome: proven competence as demonstrated by a stamp of approval from the principal through the teacher performance appraisal process. Here at last is a fleshing out of that vaguely-worded promise of an assessment at the end of the first year of teaching, first mentioned by Kennedy when the Liberals were considering scrapping the OTQT. Yet, there may be a price to pay in lost overall effectiveness, if the same principal who is expected to be a source of support to new teachers is also the person who can end their careers. It will be interesting to see how many beginning teachers have their careers terminated through the TPA. In the short run, success in the orientation and professional development outcomes will be measured by attendance at, and participation in, the prescribed workshops and training sessions. Presumably, these events will help the new teacher to better demonstrate the acquisition of those TPA competencies being evaluated by the principal. Similarly, one can observe and record certain visible aspects of a novice's participation in a mentoring relationship. However, measuring the acquisition of skills and confidence is going to be largely an act of faith. In other words, if you set it up, they will participate, but to what degree will they benefit? As Hotspur points out in Henry IV, Part 1, upon hearing Glendower's boast that he can call up fairy spirits from the depths: "Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call them?" (Bevington, 1987, p. 210). The degree of benefit will be hard to determine, although the requirement that mentors and mentees jointly develop an Individual NTIP Strategy is a gesture in the direction of accountability. Interestingly, though, at the end of the process it is the principal who will co-sign the one-page Individual NTIP Strategy form with the new teacher, not the mentor (Ontario MOE, 2006, March, Appendix B). One is left with the nagging feeling that the program is labelled induction, but at the end of the day it is in reality evaluation - and potentially high stakes evaluation, if principals choose to exercise their full authority under the TPA system.

While orientation sessions and professional development workshops can make a valuable contribution to the induction of beginning teachers, there is general agreement that the centrepiece of such a program is the mentoring relationship. How well does NTIP stack up here, as currently envisioned in the Program Guideline? The short answer is that it seems deeply flawed. In the first place, mentoring is to be unpaid and largely unrewarded, and yet school principals are charged with recruiting and selecting suitable mentors from volunteer teachers. These experienced teaching professionals are merely expected to be excellent role models, life-long learners, effective communicators, knowledgeable of curriculum, and skilled in teaching and learning strategies suitable for both adults and students. According to the Program Guideline, the mentoring program is to be organized and systematic, yet also differentiated, and involve a training component to turn the veteran volunteers into genuine mentors. Again, much of the responsibility for ensuring a successful launch seems to fall to the overworked principal, who is expected to orchestrate, and yet not dominate, the matching process between eager recruits and willing veterans (Ontario MOE, 2006, March, pp. 12-13).

It seems appropriate at this point to consider funding. The NTIP Program Guideline for 2005-06 promised each school board a base grant of $5000, plus " approximately $1200-1400 per new teacher" (Ontario MOE, 2006, March, p. 17). This figure doubles the amount provided for each beginning teacher in New Brunswick's induction program. However, it is barely one third of the amount called for in the Ontario College of Teachers' 2003 induction blueprint for a two-year program (OCT, 2003). Furthermore, critical recommendations based on participant feedback in New Brunswick in 2004 called for additional finances, an extended program beyond one year, and the inclusion of long-term supply teachers (Gill, 2004), a high-needs group of classroom instructors also missed by Ontario's NTIP as currently constituted. Most of the funds will be eaten up by orientation sessions and prescribed workshops, leaving little money for more than token class release for mentors and novices. It seems clear the $15 million per year, while a nice round sum in the abstract, is nowhere near sufficient to ensure that, to quote the Guideline itself, after one year of NTIP, "new teachers will have the requisite skills and knowledge to allow them to achieve success as an experienced teacher," (Ontario MOE, 2006, March, p. 3).

What about the more expansive goals proclaimed by the Minister of Education when he announced the creation of the New Teacher Induction Program, early in October, 2005? First, will it better prepare and retain new teachers? The answer to this question appears to be yes, though there are qualifiers. Simply put, the bar has been set so low in Ontario for the past 15 years when it comes to new teacher induction that any semblance of an organized initiative from the Ministry, especially if accompanied by a few dollars in funding, is bound to look good by comparison, at least at the outset. The gap between pre-service training and in-service professional learning has now been addressed, albeit in a modest way. As for teacher retention, the statistics on dropouts from the profession were never as grim in Ontario as those reported south of the Canadian border. The OCT's 2005 State of the Profession survey, for example, painted a picture of general satisfaction by the province's teachers, accompanied by the usual suggestions for further improvements (Jamieson, 2005, September). Ironically, the Liberal government's success in bringing peace and stability to the education system, largely through negotiated multi-year labour contracts, but also due to their more consultative style, seems to have reduced the need for making teacher retention a top priority.

Kennedy's second claim, that NTIP would boost student achievement, is much more problematic, because the connection is so indirect. The assumption appears to be this: the implementation of NTIP will better prepare new teachers to teach, and since better teachers produce more effective learning experiences, therefore it follows that a successful teacher induction program will ultimately boost student performance. Intuitively, the logic seems sound, and yet there is a dearth of evidence to prove the conclusion. We might more productively ask this question: is NTIP as good as it could be? Here, the answer is clearly no. The limited training process is not going to turn out many "educative mentors" of the kind described by Feiman-Nemser (2001). Nor will the add-on nature of the mentoring role for veteran Ontario teachers, already busy with other things, produce many exemplary administrative or curriculum leaders of the sort described by Moir and Bloom (2003). Moreover, a study by the Ontario College of Teachers revealed that, in 2005-06, fully 59 percent of new teachers were hired after school began in September, thus causing them to miss out on significant aspects of the structured orientation (McIntyre & Jamieson, 2006, December). It seems highly unlikely, then, that the current NTIP is going to lead to the cultural transformation of the Ontario teaching profession, as envisioned by Hargreaves and Fullan (1999 and 2000).

If we compare Ontario's NTIP with the five essential elements of a successful teacher induction program identified by Moir and Gless (2001), the two areas where the greatest deficiencies are evident are in institutional commitment and quality mentoring. The program has a vision, it can tap into the professional standards developed by the Ontario College of Teachers, and it is focused on classroom based teacher learning. However, without a much stronger commitment from the provincial level, as expressed in funding priorities and bureaucratic attention by the Ministry of Education, the program will accomplish little. In particular, school boards need to be empowered and encouraged to set up meaningful, high-quality mentoring programs. This will entail the expenditure of two or three times the current allocation, but such expenditures would actually merit the commonly-used euphemism of 'investment.' Improperly-trained mentors, haphazardly recruited and hurriedly matched with anxious and overwhelmed novice teachers, simply will not achieve the desired outcomes.

Kennedy's third enunciated goal for NTIP was that it would result in greater public confidence in the school system. Here, the symbolism is important. While retaining the support of the teacher federations, the government has institutionalized a form of new teacher assessment, through the mandatory performance appraisals conducted by the school principal. Over the years, polling data has tended to show that Ontarians favour the testing of teachers, but are opposed to public confrontations between their government and these same teachers. Through a patient and conciliatory style, and by combining orientation, training and mentoring elements with a more authentic form of performance evaluation, the current provincial government was able to achieve what its predecessor could not: a workable means of assessing newly-hired teachers. This may well result in greater public confidence, at least initially.

The actual achievements of Ontario's New Teacher Induction Program, to date, are modest but not insignificant. Given the virtual disappearance of meaningful board- and school-level orientation programs by 2000, in an era of dramatic funding cutbacks, the reappearance of intentional programming for beginning teachers is a welcome development. Moreover, the tangible evidence of a provincial commitment to new teacher induction, as evidenced by a funded program supported by bureaucratic personnel and policy guidelines, offers some assurance that the initiative is more than a passing fad tied to the unusually high levels of replacement hiring at the turn of the new millennium. Within the overall budgetary priorities of modern governments, new funds are hard to come by. Viewed in that light, the $15 million allocated for NTIP marks a significant first step. Given the current government's commitment to the consensual policy-community model of governance, it will be up to interested stakeholders such as teacher federations and parent groups to apply pressure upon the Ministry, but also at the political level of cabinet and caucus, to gradually increase financial and administrative support for the initiative. High-quality mentoring within a properly-funded and permanent new-teacher induction program does offer the promise of more effective teaching and higher levels of student achievement. Ontario's NTIP policy is not all the way there yet. Other jurisdictions, contemplating the allocation of scarce funds to new-teacher induction, need to be aware of the potential costs, but also the higher payoffs in program effectiveness, from a full-blown teacher mentoring initiative.

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AUTHOR:

Diane Corcoran Nielsen Arlene Lundmark Barry Ann Brickey Addison

TITLE:

A Model of a New-Teacher Induction Program and Teacher Perceptions of Beneficial Components

SOURCE:

Action in Teacher Education 28 no4 14-24 Wint 2006

COPYRIGHT:

The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission. Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited. To contact the publisher: http://www.siu.edu/departments/coe/ate/




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