Selling the Benefits of &

the Need For an Induction Program

© 1999, Barry Sweeny

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The following was written to a person who had requested advice for the content of a presentation to his school district's Board of Education. His purpose was to explain the value of and need for a beginning teacher mentoring program. He had expressed his own ideas about what to say, which included the usual ideas about the needs of new teachers for support and guidance, and the stress and discouragement that many of them feel during their first few years in the profession. Here are some additional suggestions.

By the way, good luck with your presentation to the Bd. of Ed. next week.

I agree that the Board should know and understand the plight of beginning teachers. Most board members will have no way of understanding what a challenge it is that new teachers face and the effects of that struggle on a whole career of teaching and student learning. Here are some of the conclusions we have reached from research and our own experience that will help them see the dreadful impact of having no support program and the potential for good that a quality induction program can have.

In case you have not thought to do so, I recommend giving the Board some additional items beyond what your email stated. These items are offered in consideration of the make up and background of many members of Boards of Education, and what they feel to be their responsibilities as regular "citizens" and non educators. They often perceive themselves as the guardians of the budget and know that they are expected to keep the budget "within reason". This means that they must be shown and must understand the non educational reasons for an induction program. Here are my ideas.

1. Two Estimates of Costs:

Do not present your program without giving the Board a clear picture of the potential costs for the program. Describe what you believe to be a quality program and what providing such a program will require in terms of time and costs. That means you must do some considerable work to develop credible figures that you will have to live with for a long time (three years?). I suggest that you offer the board two estimates of costs.

A. Cost of the program given the number of new teachers you project will be involved in the program when it starts.

B. Cost of the program for another number, say twice as many. Place this cost in a chart that allows comparison to the first cost (A above). This is very important because it will illustrate for the Board that costs do not double when services double. For example, the costs for the whole group portions of any orientation meetings (or other meetings) remain the same whether 10 or 50 attend. Of course this is not the case for food and materials, etc. and there will be increased stipends to cover an increase in the number of any break out session leaders needed. There is, however, some economy of scale and the Board should understand this or they may place unreasonable limits on the program.

2. Estimates of Return on Investment (ROI):

There are a number of ways to illustrate for the Board that there are many hidden costs already in the current budget which are the current costs of NOT providing support to new teachers. You want them to realize that if an induction program costs more (it does) but it can save the district money which was an existing and hidden cost, the program will be perceived as more "cost effective" and "worth it". Here are some things to consider that can help you demonstrate this effect:

A. Teacher Retention -

The power of mentoring and induction programs to improve the ability of a district to attract the best new teachers and to dramatically increase New Teacher retention is very well documented. Increased attraction is critical because:

B. What is the cost to the district when a new teacher leaves teaching or is not rehired?

C. What is the cost, even when teachers stay in the district, but when struggling novice teachers must focus more on their own needs, than those of the kids, and their own day-to-day survival because they have little support, assistance, and guidance toward more effective instructional practice. The fact is, struggling, unsupported teachers adopt coping strategies that often are less effective instructional practices, and those practices will tend to persist throughout a career. This tragic effect is well documented and the cost in student learning is immeasurable

D. What is the cost to the district of veteran teachers who need renewal and new ways to contribute to the needs of their colleagues and the goals of the organization, but who have no appropriate avenue for that?

E. What is the cost to the district when excellent, gifted teachers seek to make a greater impact and find the only role choice is to leave the classroom and become an administrator. Such teachers need the opportunity to serve as instructional leaders and service as a mentor is just what the doctor ordered. When such options do not exist the resources and potential teacher leadership that is lost is immeasurable.

3. Claims of Other Benefits:

A. If mentoring is defined to do so, and mentors are prepared so they can do so, can increase the collaboration and professionalism of teachers and positively impact the climate and working environment. What is the value of such a work environment?

B. Mentoring and coaching model for students the importance of being life-long learners. What is the value gained when the students see that adults must keep learning?

C. Mentoring establishes the norm and expectation in the minds of new teachers that career-long professional growth is an expected part of the work of the educator. What is the value gained when teachers work every day a getting better at teaching and promoting student success?

D. Mentoring increases the opportunities for positive leadership by teachers. What is the value gained when the Board can demonstrate it's support for teacher empowerment in positive directions that contribute to district agendas.

E. Mentoring is a perfect means of incorporating new staff into the culture and traditions of the district. What is the value of ensuring that new staff are brought into, adopt, and contribute to the initiatives of the district (strategic plan, SIP goals, etc.)

Many of these "costs" are almost impossible to measure or to describe, but I do recommend that you try to do as much as you can to market the induction program in terms of "Return on Investment" with all levels of specific and general benefits included. Try to provide a list of valued benefits and results that are reasonable to expect from a induction program.

4. Check the wording of the purposes or goals for the induction program to be sure they are aligned with the benefits concepts you are presenting. In other words, ensure that it is clear in the program purposes:

(The next section explains why this last item is so critical to getting approval for your program.)

5. Finally, propose a program evaluation process over at least three years which will be perceived as rigorous and which is designed to demonstrate the extent to which the program purposes can be accomplished in those three years.

You goal is to be perceived as:

Of course, agreeing to be held publicly accountable for being a good steward of precious district resources and accomplishing valued purposes is a frightening commitment. That is why the last item in #4 above is so crucial. Be realistic.

Also, insist on a budget that gives your program and your mentors the training, support, and recognition they deserve for the challenging task we expect of them. DO NOT commit to accomplishing valuable things for teachers and their students without the resources and tools that will be needed to do the work well. You will not gain that level of support later if you demonstrate in the earlier years that your program can do a good job without adequate training, support, and time.

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© 1998, by Barry Sweeny, Best Practice Resources, 26 W 413 Grand Ave. Wheaton, IL 60187

630-669-2605, email and web site at <>.