California’s recognized national leadership on developing and supporting new teachers is at risk. That’s bad news for beginning teachers—and for the students they teach. Here’s why—and how we can fix it.
More than 200,000 new teachers enter the profession annually across the United States—10 percent of them in California alone.
As New Teacher Center (NTC) reported in our Review of State Policies on Teacher Induction, 27 states require school districts to operate an induction or mentoring program for every new teacher. California used to be among them.
Seventeen states provide dedicated funding for teacher induction and mentoring. California used to be among them.
Only three U.S. states require and fund a multi-year induction program for every beginning teacher. California used to be among them, too.
The economic recession severely weakened California’s widely heralded Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program. BTSA provides new teachers with job-embedded, individualized support aimed at making them more effective educators and helping them to fulfill state credentialing requirements. In 2008, California provided more than $4,000 in dedicated BTSA funding per beginning teacher. Since then, as a result of the categorical flexibility granted to school districts in the face of budget cuts, school districts have been allowed to redirect this funding toward “any educational purpose.” According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, 55 percent of school districts have shifted funding away from BTSA and 10 percent have shuttered their BTSA programs entirely.
While these temporary rules were slated to sunset after the 2014-15 fiscal year, Governor Brown’s proposed school finance reform plan would codify the state’s lack of direct investment in beginning-teacher development.
In a recent EdSource Today post, NTC founder and CEO Ellen Moir argued for restoring California’s historic commitment to developing a world-class teaching force. She served on State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s Educator Excellence Task Force, which recommended strengthening and reinvesting in BTSA, so all new teachers receive much-needed, personalized instructional support.
While rightly focused on equalizing school funding, the governor’s plan would eliminate dedicated funding for teacher induction and professional development in the state budget. Given that teachers are the greatest school-based determinant of student learning and that beginning teachers are more likely to teach in high-need, low-income schools and districts, this exclusion merits reconsideration based both on evidentiary and equity grounds.
NTC supports the intent of the governor’s school finance reform plan. We believe it can be achieved while restoring our investment in California’s beginning teachers.
Comprehensive, high-quality induction programs can be costly—but they achieve results that lesser approaches do not. One California study found a positive return from investments in comprehensive teacher induction: $1.66 for every dollar spent after five years, as a result of reduced teacher turnover savings and enhanced teacher effectiveness. And a federally funded randomized controlled trial found that multi-year induction programs increase student achievement in mathematics and reading.
But we certainly shouldn’t throw good money after bad. That’s why, as California reinvests in its beginning educators, it also should ensure that its investment has the desired impact. In the past, all BTSA programs were not created equal. Some employed research-based approaches. Others sought to fulfill basic state mandates, but didn’t provide new teachers the type of support needed to accelerate their development and keep them in the classroom.
California should continue to require new teachers to participate in a BTSA induction program to advance from a preliminary to a professional teaching credential. But the state cannot continue to let school districts off the hook. Today, districts no longer are required to operate BTSA programs, but teachers with a five-year preliminary credential must still complete an induction or clear credential program to earn a clear credential. This places an added burden on beginning teachers in those districts to locate a provider (often a college or university) of the support required to advance in the teaching profession. This is not sustainable.
As NTC initially recommended in a 2010 policy paper, California should do more to ensure the implementation of high-quality, standards-based BTSA programs that lead to more effective teaching and improved student learning. The state should deepen its analysis of BTSA impact—not only on teacher retention, but teacher effectiveness as well.
California also should promote program innovation and efficiency. It should encourage consortia approaches to supporting new teachers within existing BTSA clusters and the use of online mentoring.
Strong induction programs with deep support from local educational leaders and a proven track record will persist in isolated settings across California. This will include the NTC-affiliated Santa Cruz/Silicon Valley New Teacher Project and our many other long-standing partner districts and consortia across California. But our challenge is to extend that opportunity to each and every new teacher in the state.
State policy has an important role to play in this effort. California should restore its commitment and reclaim its mantle as a national leader in supporting new teachers.
As state policymakers aim to equalize and restore education funding, I hope you’ll join New Teacher Center in encouraging Governor Brown and the Legislature to reinvest in high-quality beginning teacher induction programs that improve teaching and strengthen student learning in every California school.
Liam Goldrick has served as Director of Policy for New Teacher Center (NTC), a California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders, since 2006. Liam leads a range of initiatives designed to strengthen educator effectiveness policies at the state and national levels.
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Glen 10 years ago10 years ago
Would love to see the dialogue that there is not a crisis regarding failed teachers, but failed parenting. People don’t like to hear it but you can predict test scores basically by zip code. It has been that way for as long as I can remember and I can’t see it changing. Teachers are partners in education, and if the work isn’t being done at home no amount of teacher training will close that gap!
Glen 10 years ago10 years ago
All the people I have known who have gone through BTSA say it is a lot of paperwork with not a lot of benefit. Why not do teacher training like all private businesses out there. The senior teachers should have a responsibility to develop new teachers coming in and being supported by the administration. Forcing a teacher through a structured program with little value add is not the answer. For some … Read More
All the people I have known who have gone through BTSA say it is a lot of paperwork with not a lot of benefit. Why not do teacher training like all private businesses out there. The senior teachers should have a responsibility to develop new teachers coming in and being supported by the administration. Forcing a teacher through a structured program with little value add is not the answer. For some reasons teachers feel like they should get extra compensation for that. That is ridiculous. Imagine the software industry (or restaurant for that matter) paying to mentor new employees coming in. It is called job description!
On another note teacher retention is not really important given the wave of March 15th notices that go out to those with lowest seniority in the district! The value of retention is not to teaching as a whole, but to a school who can over years become a valuable part of the culture and community.
Eric Premack 10 years ago10 years ago
With all due respect to the New Teacher Center (I hear they do great work), it's not at all clear that BTSA is such a great idea that the state should mandate it. The research supporting teacher induction programs is quite weak. One study cited in Liam's article notes mixed results: "“There is both good news and bad news in this study for policymakers,” said Steven Glazerman, senior researcher and lead author of the report. … Read More
With all due respect to the New Teacher Center (I hear they do great work), it’s not at all clear that BTSA is such a great idea that the state should mandate it.
The research supporting teacher induction programs is quite weak. One study cited in Liam’s article notes mixed results: ““There is both good news and bad news in this study for policymakers,” said Steven Glazerman, senior researcher and lead author of the report. “Comprehensive induction, which can be quite expensive, did not help districts retain teachers or make them feel more satisfied or better prepared to teach compared to usual levels of new teacher support. However, the two-year intervention raised test scores, and that is often the bottom line for policymakers.”
When the BTSA requirement was originally imposed, the law was written such that if the funding disappeared, the mandate requiring teachers to complete BTSA would disappear too. In practice, however, the funding disappeared and the mandate continues–saddling districts, schools, and teachers with an expansive mandate that research indicates is of mixed, if not dubious value. Instead of re-creating the categorical funding program, it’s time to evaluate whether the BTSA mandate should remain.
David Patterson 10 years ago10 years ago
Keeping Categoricals - NO – Change the Incentives! A real dilemma! This one will be playing out throughout the consideration of the governor’s weighted student funding proposal. Will school districts do the “right thing”, or does the state have to make them do it? Paul did a very good job of laying out the issue for BTSA. I suggest the BTSA situation is a microcosm of the larger problem, a mis-match of incentives - rewards and punishments … Read More
Keeping Categoricals – NO – Change the Incentives!
A real dilemma! This one will be playing out throughout the consideration of the governor’s weighted student funding proposal. Will school districts do the “right thing”, or does the state have to make them do it?
Paul did a very good job of laying out the issue for BTSA. I suggest the BTSA situation is a microcosm of the larger problem, a mis-match of incentives – rewards and punishments – for adults. I personally think the evidence is there regarding the value of high quality teacher induction programs and the development of effective teachers. However, as Paul describes, districts and the people that run them are acting very rationally – in the world in which they work when they take money from this work and don’t operate high quality programs. It is rational because districts and those who work in them have very weak real world “I will lose my job” incentives if student performance doesn’t significantly improve. Those entrenched in the bureaucracy want student achievement to get better, but don’t change how the system works. The history of school reform and the science of organization change provides clear evidence that this does not work.
Governor Brown thinks that local control is good. I strongly agree – if there are strong organizational and individual incentives (positive and negative) for STUDENT SUCCESS. Leadership and expertise such as provided by the Santa Cruz/Silicon Valley New Teacher Project provide solid research and strong programs. The challenge is not reinstituting a mandate that districts provide BTSA programs and the long list of other mandates, but that districts and those who work in them are given the flexibility to significantly improve student performance and have strong and clear organizationally and individual incentives to make it happen.
el 10 years ago10 years ago
If you aren’t electing (for your school board) and hiring (for your administration and your teachers) people who genuinely are themselves interested in student success, the battle is already lost.
Paul 10 years ago10 years ago
I'm glad someone noticed that temporary categorical funding flexibility, and its permanent incarnation -- weighted student funding -- spell the end of dedicated money for Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA). Still, most districts have maintained their BTSA programs or continued to participate in BTSA consortia. Teachers in districts that have abandoned BTSA are lucky: instead of being forced into the default local BTSA program, they are free to choose from a range of statewide … Read More
I’m glad someone noticed that temporary categorical funding flexibility, and its permanent incarnation — weighted student funding — spell the end of dedicated money for Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA). Still, most districts have maintained their BTSA programs or continued to participate in BTSA consortia. Teachers in districts that have abandoned BTSA are lucky: instead of being forced into the default local BTSA program, they are free to choose from a range of statewide programs, including ones delivered primarily online. Moreover, local BTSA programs are pseudo-academic. Seminars are lead by teachers on special assignment and administrative credential holders; academic credit, if available at all, is optional. University induction programs are housed in academic institutions, where there is at least a chance of meeting a professor, and all course offerings are deemed worthy of academic credit. I’ve often said that colleges of education are lousy, but they are better than after-school seminars over coffee at the County Office.
Now, repeat after me: There is no evidence that BTSA increases retention.
“The primary hurdle to determining the impact of BTSA … on teacher retention is the lack of a statewide data system that is capable of tracking teacher attrition. Despite the millions of dollars that are now being poured into the BTSA program, there is no way to measure the effectiveness of BTSA with regard to retention on a statewide level. In the absence of state-level data, we must rely on uneven reports collected from local programs.” [“Teaching and California’s Future: The Status of the Teaching Profession 2003”, Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning]
These words are as true in 2013 as they were when they were written ten years ago.
The CTC’s retention reports are based on questionnaires administered to teachers who completed BTSA. There are no pre-BTSA or non-BTSA control groups, and departure before eligibility for or completion of BTSA is not even considered.
A 2006 study examined early, non-standardized BTSA programs from the 1990s. Researchers found small (2- to 4-percentage point) gains in retention after districts implemented BTSA, and basically assumed that these gains were due to BTSA. Retention was inferred from matching Employment Development Department (EDD) employer and total salary data with recent teacher credential transactions.
Now, repeat after me: Retaining teachers saves money for the state but costs extra for districts.
Supporting new teachers is a laudable goal. The State of California shoulders most teacher training costs. This investment is eroded every time a new teacher walks out, so the state has a strong interest in finding ways to retain teachers. (We lack evidence that BTSA is the answer, but let us imagine that some sort of program for beginning teachers might work.)
At the district level, the picture is quite different. A contract teacher who walks out mid-year is replaced by a substitute who earns a fraction of the contract teacher’s salary, and minimal benefits (an 8% district STRS contribution, if the substitute filled out a “permissive election” form). A teacher who leaves after one or two years is replaced by another newcomer, likely to be back on the lowest row of the salary scale. Early and frequent departures depress the average salary. (Some people believe that recruiting teachers costs money, but this is an opportunity cost: no new money is spent, because the principals and district office employees who handle recruitment are already present. The other activities that principals might be doing with their time, such as coaching teachers or visiting classrooms, wouldn’t produce any new revenue, either.)
It will be interesting to see whether local BTSA programs wither when the vestiges of the Teacher Credentialing Block Grant go away for good, under weighted student funding. It will also be interesting to see whether the state owns up to the need for CalTIDES, if only to assess the effectiveness of BTSA. Separately, it will be interesting to see whether the CTC ever does away with preliminary credentials, given the political weight behind BTSA on one hand and the absence of empirical evidence of BTSA’s effectiveness on the other.