New research from the Graduate School of Education (GSE) reveals that many schools are not organized to hire and support new teachers in ways that help them enter the profession smoothly and attain early success:
- 33 percent of new teachers are hired after the school year has already started, and 62 percent are hired within 30 days of when they start teaching
- Only 50 percent of new teachers interview with any of their future teacher colleagues as part of the hiring process
- 56 percent report that no extra assistance is available to them as new teachersThese findings are part of a study from GSE’s Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, directed by GSE’s Pforzheimer Professor of Teaching and Learning Susan Moore Johnson. Researchers Susan M. Kardos and Edward Liu surveyed a random sample of 486 new (first- and second-year) teachers in California, Florida, Massachusetts, and Michigan to learn about the hiring practices and the professional culture of the schools where they work.Kardos and Liu found that the new teachers in these four states are entering the profession by different routes and at different stages in their careers æ 46 percent of new teachers in these states are entering teaching at midcareer, and the average age of these midcareer entrants is 38 years.
“The varied backgrounds and preparation of this next generation of teachers pose a challenge for schools. New teachers today do not fit the stereotypical image of 22-year-olds embarking upon their first careers after graduating from university teacher education programs,” says Johnson. “Schools need to think carefully about how to hire and support this diverse group of new teachers, so that they can teach effectively and find success in their work. Otherwise, schools will be forever searching for new recruits.”
According to Liu, well-designed hiring practices might help to ensure better initial matches between new teachers and their schools. Yet, the hiring process relies heavily on paper credentials and interviews by administrators, and schools make very little use of observations. Only 7.5 percent of the new teachers in the four-state pool teach a sample lesson as part of the hiring process, suggesting that very few hiring decisions are based on an authentic demonstration of a candidate’s teaching ability.
Findings from the study also reveal that many schools disregard the unique developmental needs of new teachers. According to Kardos, the professional culture of most schools still treats all teachers the same and does not provide a “novice status” for new teachers: “Teaching is incredibly complex work and to expect a new teacher to be as effective as a veteran teacher on day one, without additional support, is unrealistic.”
Age and career stage at entry
- 46 percent of new teachers in the four states are entering teaching from another line of work, with the average age of new teachers who are midcareer entrants being 38.
- 54 percent of new teachers in the four states are entering teaching as their first career, with the average age of new teachers who are first-career entrants being 26.
- Most new teachers (77 percent) are hired through a decentralized process in which most of their interactions are with individual schools rather than with district central offices.
- 46 percent of new teachers apply to and are hired by individual schools.
- 31 percent are screened first by the district central office but ultimately are interviewed and offered a position by a specific school.
- 23 percent of new teachers are hired by the district central office.
- Most new teachers have limited interactions with future colleagues, students, or parents as part of the hiring process, and thus have few opportunities to learn about the school.
- 88 percent of new teachers interview with the school’s principal.
- 50 percent of new teachers interview with teachers at the school.
- 10 percent of new teachers interview with a parent.
- Less than 1 percent interview with a student.
Professional culture and support in schools
- 56 percent of new teachers report that no extra assistance is available to them as new teachers.
- 43 percent of new teachers go through their entire first year of teaching without being observed by a mentor or a more experienced teacher.
- 77 percent of new teachers shoulder the same load of academic and administrative responsibilities carried by their veteran colleagues. Only 23 percent have any sort of reduced load.”Very few schools acknowledge that learning the art and craft of teaching happens over time,” says Kardos. “New teachers need some concessions to enable them to focus on improving their practice.”
According to researchers, these and other findings suggest that many schools are not taking full advantage of decentralized hiring and its potential for improving the amount and quality of information exchanged between teaching candidates and those who do the hiring. As a result, new teachers in California, Florida, Massachusetts, and Michigan form only moderately accurate pictures of their schools prior to accepting their initial teaching positions.
“Schools that organize hiring well can use it as the first step of teacher induction, setting expectations about standards, norms, pedagogical approach, and school culture, even before a teacher accepts a position,” says Liu. Adds Kardos, “Once they arrive for their first day in the classroom, new teachers need their schools to support them in an ongoing way. Without the necessary school site support, they will not have success with their students, and they will be frustrated and dissatisfied in their jobs.”
About the research
This research is part of the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, a multiyear research project addressing critical questions about the future of our nation’s teaching force by studying how best to attract, support, and retain quality teachers in U.S. public schools. Researchers Susan M. Kardos and Edward Liu carried out this part of the project and will present their findings this week at the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference in Chicago. Susan Moore Johnson oversees the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers.
For this research, Kardos and Liu surveyed a random sample of 486 first- and second-year, K-12 public school teachers (excluding arts and physical education) from 186 schools in California, Florida, Massachusetts, and Michigan. These states were chosen because they share some key policy features and because they are diverse in terms of size, population, and geographic location. All four states are experiencing some degree of teacher shortage; all have alternative routes to certification; all have charter school legislation; all have adopted standards in core subjects; all use criterion-referenced assessments aligned to standards; and all are collective bargaining states.
Because California is a much bigger state than the other three, it exerts a stronger influence on the four-state averages than the other three states. Because of this, the full research reports break out state-by-state figures to show some variation across contexts.