Induction & Mentoring at PhysTEC Sites
Ball State University
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
Florida International University
Seattle Pacific University
University of Arizona
University of Arkansas
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Minnesota
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Western Michigan University
Over half of all science, mathematics, and engineering teachers in the U.S. leave the profession within their first ten years, according to the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Other recent reports indicate that up to 40% of physics teachers leave the profession within the first five years. While a certain amount of teacher attrition is inevitable, and even beneficial, our country’s schools are often compared to leaky buckets for their inability to retain high-quality teachers. Recruitment does little good if new teachers leave before they have the chance to gain experience and develop professionally.
There exists today a broad consensus that recognizes new teacher isolation and lack of support as major causes of teacher attrition, and recommends stronger induction and mentoring programs for beginning teachers as a means to keep them in the classroom. The Alliance for Excellent Education recommends comprehensive induction programs consisting of high-quality mentoring, common planning time, ongoing professional development, an external network of teachers, and standards-based evaluation for new teachers. For a list of additional induction and mentoring-related reports, guides, and tools, please see our list of selected resources.
PhysTEC Teachers in Residence have mentored over 800 in-service and pre-service teachers since the project began. PhysTEC recognizes that a teacher mentor should have experience teaching the same content at the same grade level as his or her mentee – a point also emphasized in many of the recent reports that have come out about induction and mentoring. Because a high school physics teacher may not have any colleagues within his or her school who teach the same content, teacher networks such as Teacher Advisory Groups have proved crucial in ensuring that new teachers have access to appropriate mentors who can provide them with the support they need. Also critical have been electronic communication means including phone, email, and even videoconferencing, all of which have enabled mentors to reach far-flung mentees who may be teaching an hour or more away. Mentoring has thus become an important mechanism through which PhysTEC has been able to reach out to local K-12 communities (see Collaboration).