Highlighting the Success of Teacher Induction Programs in Georgia
July 31, 2014
By Torie Norris
Every year thousands of new teachers enter the job market with hopes of becoming the best educators possible for their students. However, first-year teachers often find that the theoretical knowledge learned in preparation programs does not fully prepare them for the challenges they face providing day-to-day instruction in the classroom. To address this gap, teacher induction programs provide mentoring and professional development to new teachers in the first few years of their careers. During this time, new teachers learn to implement effective instructional strategies and student assessments, adapt to the professional norms of a school, district and the profession, and receive on-the-job training through a program that addresses their unique needs.
Through the Innovation Fund, created under Georgia’s Race to the Top Plan, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement provided grants to three teacher induction programs: KIPP Teaching Fellows ($1,050,000) , Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (ANCS) New Teacher Residency Project (NTRP) ($918,134), and Clarke County Teach to Learn ($869,895). These programs have addressed many of the aspects that research has shown contributes to a successful induction program, including frequent professional development, peer learning communities, and a strong mentor who can model best practices.  This education update focuses specifically on KIPP Teaching Fellows and ANCS NTRP because both programs follow a gradual release model, one where new teachers first observe and assist the model teacher and gradually take more responsibility for the class while receiving consistent instructional feedback.
Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School
The ANCS NTRP, a partnership between ANCS and Georgia State University (GSU), gradually releases new teachers into the profession over three years. During the first year, eight undergraduate students from GSU’s College of Education enter the program as pre-service teachers. During this first year, pre-service teachers fulfill their student teaching requirement while getting extra support and professional development from ANCS veteran teachers. After graduation, some of these teachers are selected to become associate teachers for the following year. Associate teachers co-teach and share all responsibilities with a more experienced teacher. In the third year of the program, some associate teachers are selected to become lead teachers at ANCS, taking on full responsibility for a classroom, while still receiving support and coaching as a new teacher.
KIPP Metro Atlanta
KIPP Metro Atlanta’s Teaching Fellow program differs from the NTRP in that it is only a one-year program. In addition, beginning teachers from all academic backgrounds, not just those who studied education, can apply to become a fellow. KIPP Teaching Fellows expedites the gradual release model so that new teachers are sharing responsibility or serving as a lead teacher in a classroom at one of KIPP’s Metro Atlanta schools by the end of the year.
Many successful teacher induction programs include some form of mentoring, but the quality of the relationship, preparation of the mentor teacher and the opportunities for interaction affect their impact. The most beneficial programs combine a mentor in the same field as the mentee with time for group planning and collaboration.  A close mentoring relationship is central to the programs at KIPP and ANCS.
At KIPP, most new teachers interact with their mentors daily. One KIPP fellow made the following comment in a focus group.
“I go to my mentor teacher for everything. We’re always debriefing. If there are classroom management problems, we’re talking about them in class and out of class.…She’s going over my lesson plans, she’s critiquing them. In class if I am not pacing right she’ll give me a signal to move on. So yes, I go to my mentor for everything, all the time.”
Another new teacher agreed that his mentor teacher has been instrumental in his development.
“Her being able to give me real time feedback in the midst of a lesson is extremely helpful for me. So if there is a scholar who is having a difficult time, I can go over and ask her what to do to fix it. I think that is a benefit of having a mentor teacher right there with you, compared to a first-year teacher who . . . doesn’t have that guidance. I would be such a failure without her, honestly.” 
At ANCS, mentors and mentees interact differently than at KIPP since mentors are not co-teaching with their mentees. However, new teachers tout the benefits of the mentoring relationships. One first-year teacher explained, “I talk to my mentor about a mix of things: life problems, emails that I am not sure how to word, classroom management, instruction, everything. She is definitely someone that I can go to for anything.”
Both ANCS and KIPP fully integrate their new teachers into professional development activities selected to expose them to a wide range of theories and practices in the education field. One teacher at ANCS described her experience, “I completed a struggling reader workshop, a mindfulness workshop for meditating, faculty meetings and pre-planning.” Another teacher explained, “I really appreciated being able to go to other schools [to observe]. Not only do we go and observe, but we discuss them professionally and think about what we could use in our own classrooms.” A KIPP teacher described a valuable professional development experience, saying, “The fellowship program sent us all to professional development outside [the KIPP network]. I was able to go to the National Counsel for Teachers of English in Boston. So that was really neat to be able to get with colleagues from around the nation and better ourselves.”
ANCS and KIPP facilitate collaboration and reflection among teachers through learning groups where teachers share ideas and discuss challenges they encounter in the classroom. ANCS uses Critical Friend Groups (CFG), structured professional learning communities where a small group of both new and veteran educators come together once a month to share experiences and give advice in an informal setting. During focus groups about their experiences, teachers at ANCS emphasized how important these sessions were to their development. In schools where collaboration is not the norm, teachers feel isolated and unable to share ideas and receive feedback. Learning groups also encourage teachers to be more invested in their school communities and the success of other teachers, which may make them more likely to stay in the profession.
KIPP teachers also have opportunities to debrief about their classroom experiences both in monthly group sessions with the Director of Teaching Fellows and at informal gatherings with their peers. While the group sessions provide specific training on pedagogy, curriculum, and classroom management, several teacher fellows commented that the informal conversations during and following these trainings better prepared them to return to the classroom the next day. 
While both the NTRP and KIPP Teaching Fellows are still in the early stages of implementation, the initial results show a positive impact on teacher effectiveness. In the 2012-2013 school year, 100% of the NTRP year one and year two residents received proficient ratings in professional knowledge, instructional planning, instructional strategies, academically challenging environment and professionalism. In addition, 91% of year one and 100% of year two residents agreed that the mentoring experiences received through the program had positive impact on their capacities to increase student achievement. Similarly, all six KIPP Teaching Fellows received proficient ratings in planning, instructional delivery, assessment, learning environment, professionalism and communication. 
As the grant funding winds down, both programs are developing ways to sustain and expand these program models. ANCS plans to develop a Center for Collaborative Learning, which would train surrounding Atlanta Public Schools to foster a supportive learning environment for new teachers through the effective implementation of CFG’s. KIPP, in partnership with Mercer University, plans to adapt the Teaching Fellows Program so that graduate students would complete the program as a year-round practicum. This would prepare them, upon graduation, to enter full-time positions as effective teachers. As these programs sustain and scale their models, more teachers will have access to the gradual release model, paired with mentoring, professional development and peer support, enabling them to improve teaching practices and increase student achievement.
 The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. “Innovation Fund Grant Opportunities.” http://gosa.georgia.gov/innovation-fund-grant-opportunities-0 (July 21, 2014)
 Wong, Harry. 2012. “Induction Programs That Keep New Teachers Teaching and Improving.” NAASP Bulletin, 88 no.638, 46.
Ingersoll, R. & Strong, M. 2011. “The Impact of Induction and Mentoring Programs for Beginning Teachers: A Critical Review of the Research.” Review of Education Research. Vol 81 (2), 201-233.
 “KIPP Focus Group.” Interview by GOSA Innovation Fund staff, March 2014.
 “ANCS Focus Group.” Interview by GOSA Innovation Fund staff, March 2014.
 “KIPP Focus Group.” Interview by GOSA Innovation Fund staff, March 2014.
 Brundage, Thomaesa. “Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School New Teacher Residency Project Focus Group Analysis.” November 2013.
 Wong, Harry. “Induction Programs That Keep New Teachers Teaching and Improving.” NAASP Bulletin, 88 no.638 (2012). 46.
 Ibid, 50.
 “KIPP Focus Group.” Interview by GOSA Innovation Fund Staff, September 2013.
 Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School End of Year Report, September 2013
 KIPP Teaching Fellows End of Year Report, August 2013.