Improving Retention of New Science Teachers
As the nation faces a pressing shortage of qualified science teachers, University researchers are studying how school districts can retain new teachers.
Department of Secondary and Special Education Chair Douglas Larkin and Biology Professor Sandra Adams have received a five-year, $800,000 National Science Foundation award for their project, “Studying the Retention of Novice Science Teachers by Learning from School District Induction and Mentoring Programs.”
The professors will begin by assessing the retention rates of science teachers in the first five years of their careers in New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. “We are specifically looking to investigate the role that induction support during a new teacher’s career has on retention,” Larkin explains. “Our expectation is that districts with higher retention rates are engaged in innovative practices and mechanisms of supporting new teachers that we can then share with a wider audience.”
“Our hope is that by identifying successful means of supporting new teachers, we’ll be able to provide districts that aren’t engaged in effective retention practices with a vision for changing their support for new teachers.”
The team will track multiple teacher cohorts from three groups for five years each: high-need schools and districts in the top 5 percent of their states in terms of retaining new science teachers; schools and districts with high retention rates for teachers of color; and Noyce Scholars.
While they are concentrating on science teachers, Larkin notes that the database tools they are developing should ultimately help states track retention rates for teachers in any discipline.
In the first of two phases, the researchers — and doctoral and master’s degree students — will examine school district staffing data to construct a five-year retention map for the three cohorts. The second project phase will draw on these findings by identifying districts in the focus states with high rates of teacher retention, and conducting site visits to construct case studies of their induction and mentoring programs.
“Our hope is that by identifying successful means of supporting new teachers, we’ll be able to provide districts that aren’t engaged in effective retention practices with a vision for changing their support for new teachers,” Larkin says.