It’s never easy being a new teacher, and it’s especially difficult for novices teaching math and science in inner-city school systems.
These teachers need all the help they can get — and who better to offer that help than experienced educators who can guide them around the pitfalls that drive many from the profession?
That is the question UAB School of Education Professor David Radford is trying to answer with a five-year, $4.5 million study into various mentoring methods. The study, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, is being conducted with the University of Memphis, the University of Houston and the three city school systems where these universities are located.
“Research shows that up to one-half of beginning teachers leave the profession within the first five years,” Radford says. “The problem isn’t that we’re not producing enough teachers; it’s that we’re not keeping them in the classroom.”
Radford points to a 2003 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, which shows that about one-third of the nation’s new teachers leave the profession within the first three years. The retention rate is even lower among teachers in urban and high-poverty schools. “The solution is support for beginning teachers,” Radford says. “We know that mentoring works.”
While the styles of mentoring are the key factors being tested in this study, other resources are also being provided to make the process work more smoothly. Part of the money is being spent to establish and maintain a special Web site that will help the new teachers find resources and stay in touch with the program.
The NSF grant funding this project is the largest single grant of its kind that UAB’s School of Education has received, says Dean Michael Froning. This is one of several major projects now under way at the school.
“We’ve been doing well lately,” says Froning. “Renewed focus on externally funded research by our faculty is paying off in new and exciting ways.”
While the final results of this study won’t be known until the end of the project, Radford says progress reports will be released periodically to the participating schools and teachers. Information also will be available to other schools that are members of a consortium of more than 20 urban universities to which UAB, Memphis and Houston belong. The ultimate goal of the project, he says, is to develop a pattern for other school systems to follow when setting up their own mentoring programs. Starting a teaching career always will be challenging, but these programs may provide the support that will make a difference for new teachers of the future.
For more on this story, visit the UAB School of Education Web site .