School Authority: Fort McMurray Roman Catholic Separate School District No. 32

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1 Project ID: Enhancing Student Achiev / New Teacher Retention School Authority: Fort McMurray Roman Catholic Separate School District No. 32 Scope: 1100 Students, Grades 1 to 12, 9 Schools PROJECT PLAN Project Description: This project is directed to the students of incoming teachers new to our district. Our concern for their learning is based in the history of our district having a teacher turnover rate of upwards of 20% each year. Students in these classes are additionally challenged in their learning because their teachers are predominately from out of province and are unfamiliar with the Alberta Program of Studies. This can create a lot of disconnect between their learning and the approved curriculum objectives. Rapid familiarity of the teacher with the curriculum is key to student achievement, especially in grade 3, 6, 9, and 12 when, after 10 months of instruction, students are expected to successfully complete Provincial Achievement Tests and Diploma exams. So in order to perform well on their grade 3, 6, 9 and 12 provincial tests/exams and district religion assessment, curriculum-based instruction and assessment for them is imperative; this project is intended to bring consistency to the first years their new teachers' instruction. It is our intention to familiarize, support and direct the knowledge and delivery of the curriculum of these new district teachers. The project aim is to affect positively the achievement of their students because it is our experience presently that most new teachers are from out-of -province and staying on the Alberta curriculum becomes a losing struggle when faced with first year survival instincts. And so with one District-wide consultant dedicated to the task of observing, tutoring, encouraging and monitoring the evolution of these new professionals on a weekly basis, teaching from the Alberta programs of studies in their classrooms will be assured. This designated, experienced support teacher will support new teachers in both French and English. Improvement Goals: Student Learning Goals Improved student achievement in core subjects for students with new teachers. Strategies 1) Curriculum Coaching and Collaboration for new teachers 2) Curriculum Alignment in-servicing and modeling for new teachers 3) Differentiated Instruction in-servicing and modeling for new teachers and application of DI strategies 4) Effective teaching in-servicing for new teachers 5) Student Assessment inservicing and modeling for new teachers and application of best Measures PAT student achievement scores in the four core subjects for Div 2, 3 & 4 of new teachers as compared to their experienced colleagues AISI Project Enhancing Student Achiev / New Teacher Retention, 2009 Page 1

2 Improve new teacher retention and enhance consistent curricular delivery practices throughout our district for the benefit of student learning. practices Increase new teacher satisfaction and consistency of curricular delivery practices through: (1)Curriculum Coaching and Collaboration (2)Curriculum Alignment in-servicing and modeling (3) Differentiated Instruction in-servicing and modeling (4) Student Assessment best practices in-servicing and modeling and (5) Effective teaching in-servicing Description of Quality measures - Annual new teacher retention rate as collected by FMCSD Human Resources Department; Qualitative - teacher and student satisfaction survey measures Evaluation Methods: Evaluation and ongoing overall effectiveness and success of this project will be monitored by project measures, regular meetings among designated project personnel and contact with School Improvement Branch personnel. Senior administration will be key to keeping the focus and progress of the project consistent with its aims and goals. Annual AISI reports will provide a regular and general opportunity to review incremental progress and make necessary adjustments accordingly. PROJECT RESULTS Student Learning Outcomes: The primary purpose of this AISI project is to counter the effects of Fort McMurray Catholic Schools' new teacher turnover rates. This high rate of turnover, we surmised, was having a detrimental effect on the quality of instruction our students were receiving from novice, outof-province recruits who in large numbers were continuously staying with us for only a couple of years and then moving on to other Alberta jurisdictions. This left us with challenge of recruiting, retraining and reorienting another group of novice educators each year. And more importantly, this left the students of those new-teacher classrooms with the challenge of being instructed by an inexperienced professional and an "disadvantage gap" between them and groups of students of experienced district teachers. Based on first year results, we know that the achievement rate of the students in new teachers' classrooms is approaching and matching the accomplishments of students in experienced teachers' classrooms. The Project results of this first year are very encouraging. Both Qualitatively and Quantitatively the project is making gains in closing the "disadvantage gap". Both new teachers and their students are receiving support and making important and significant academic gains. The PD offered targeted the improvement of new teachers' classroom practices with students. This affected students' learning and overall achievement results improved as well as better-prepared and better-oriented new-to-the-district teachers. AISI Project Enhancing Student Achiev / New Teacher Retention, 2009 Page 2

3 Both Qualitatively and Quantitatively, our results are demonstrating that dedicated support of new teachers funded by this AISI project is having the desired result: students are learning and achieving equally well in new teacher classrooms compared with experienced teacher classrooms. PAT results of students in new teachers' classes have exceeded the project targets by between 3-12 % and now stand nearly equal to the results of students in experienced teachers' classrooms. This closing of the "disadvantage gap" is important to our commitment to provide equal learning opportunities to all our students. In conjunction with this, retention of new teachers has increased significantly and so the benefits of keeping the professionals that we have supported to help students achieve will continue to help our learning environments beyond the Project's original objectives. The results of year three are similar to those of year two of the AISI project. The student PAT results yielded very similar results to last year, except for one area as previously reported- division two. Over three years of the project there were significant gains in division one and division three student achievement in new teacher's classrooms, as measured by average PAT scores. Surprisingly year three showed a slight decline in student achievement in division two PAT results. This was particularly evident in the area of Social Studies where a new curriculum was implemented. This was mirrored in the results of experienced teachers as well as new teachers in our district. The same level of curricular support was not provided in the area of Social Studies due to a lack of resources and knowledge about the new curriculum. Anxiety about the new curriculum and the new PAT was common throughout the district. This may have spilled over to the new teachers and affected student achievement in the new curricular area. The new teachers willingly participated in all opportunities provided by the New Teacher Mentor, in-school mentor and professional development opportunities. They reported significant satisfaction with the support and training they received throughout the school year. School based administrators demonstrated support in the areas of communication, release time for pd, regular meetings, general areas of well-being and guidance for the day-to-day demands on a new teacher. Our AISI project direction was confirmed by significant positive results in year two and continuing into year three. In our opinion this project met and exceeded our expectations in retention, student achievement and teacher satisfaction. Effective/Promising Practices Professional Development: The most effective PD strategy in year one was a consistent orientation for new teachers to best practices in the Fort McMurray context. Because so many of our new teachers are from out-of-province, it is critical that they become quickly and consistently oriented to the Alberta Programs of Studies. This planning and instructional orientation of the provincial curriculums is accomplished by the AISI Project mentor teacher through ongoing classroom visits, monthly PD sessions, and instructional in-services and support interventions by subject specific district consultants on an as needed basis. In-school instructional support was provided by the AISI Project using classroom coaching from a New Teacher mentor, in-school mentors and the schools' Vice Principals (given more AISI Project Enhancing Student Achiev / New Teacher Retention, 2009 Page 3

4 admin. time from AISI funding). This support was augmented through the monthly sessions put on by the New Teacher mentor addressing instructional strategies to enhance student learning. Professional development for new teachers during the school year began with a two day orientation professional development session prior to school startup. Orientation PD topics included the following: school/district expectations, provincial education expectations, pedagogical expectations, and district personnel procedures. Subsequent professional development throughout the school year centered on instructional best practices and classroom management issues. Other topics covered included: Parent Teacher interviews; Differentiated Instruction; Assessment for and of Learning; Modifying and Accommodating students with Special Needs; Higher Level Thinking Skills; Conflict Resolution; FMNI programming; and Bullying. All this PD was offered in service to the improvement of new teachers' classroom practices with students and so that students' learning and overall achievement results improved as well as better-prepared and better-oriented new-to-the-district teachers. Professional development remains the key to this project since we are trying to affect and support the learning environments of and for students in new teachers' classrooms. All the initiatives begun during the first year of this project continue: support for successful instructional strategies, monthly PD sessions between the AISI project coordinator and new teachers, ongoing in-class mentoring of new teachers to enhance learning classroom environments, subject specific interventions when needed. The support for the new teachers began this year again with a general orientation of successful learning practices as well as orientation in program practices: Parent Teacher interviews; Differentiated Instruction; Assessment for and of Learning; Modifying and Accommodating students with Special Needs; Higher Level Thinking Skills; Conflict Resolution; FMNI programming; and Bullying. Results from surveying the satisfaction of the teachers who were support by this AISI project demonstrate that the ongoing PD was appreciated and successful in creating optimum learning environments for students. Each new teacher participated in professional learning communities on a regular basis, professional development workshops and conferences, observations of experienced teachers and opportunities to work with curriculum consultants. This increased their working knowledge of the Alberta Curriculum which had a direct impact on student achievement. Each new teacher was provided with an in-school mentor who's purpose was to orient the new teacher in the school culture, district, community and the teaching profession. Each inschool mentor participated in a training program. Elements of this training included current research in the area of new teacher development, peer coaching and current practice in curriculum, assessment and instruction. The benefit of this program was two-fold. New teachers were provided with an opportunity to further their development in the area of instruction in a non-threatening and non-evaluative manner. In-school mentors were provided an opportunity to hone their own teaching skills and build thier individual AISI Project Enhancing Student Achiev / New Teacher Retention, 2009 Page 4

5 leadership capacity. Throughout the course of the school year the New Teacher Mentor Consultant provides opportunities for new teacher dialogue following classroom observations and non-evaluative feedback. The significance of this project is attributed to the new teacher Mentor as project manager. The district mentor consultant is a key person who nurtures personal well-being and builds trusting relationships with new teachers. Our northern location typically requires us to hire new teachers from across Canada. The district mentor consultant alleviates feelings of isolation by being the go-to person on a daily basis. As well the mentor consultant affirms the new teachers regarding the wealth of new knowledge that they bring to our district from their university studies. On days when they question their choice of profession, the mentor consultant buoys their spirits and reinforces their contributions to our district. The strong connections that are made between the new teachers and the mentor consultant are key in the retention and training of quality staff. Summary and Reflections What worked well: A number of things are going well in this project: Quantitative and Qualitative Measures are on target and good, retention rates of new teachers has improved, and student Achievement rates are approaching equal when compared with student assessment results between new teachers and experienced teachers. The improved results in the areas of the Measures show us that new teachers to the District are getting the support they need and consequently providing better instruction for their students. In addition, we are retaining greater numbers of new teachers (even after the first year of the project) than we were in past years and so retaining this experience should continue to improve the teaching pool quality we generally have in our District. The support new teachers are receiving is meeting their needs (as reported by this cohort) and so they are more adjusted to their new profession and in many cases their new geographic location. This allows them to be at their best for the students and their learning needs. Both Qualitatively and Quantitatively the results are demonstrating this project is working. PAT results of students in new teachers' classes are essentially equal to experience teachers' student results; in essences this assures us that both groups of students are learning equally well. Our improved retention of new teachers is also a big AISI Project success since this initial problem was generally disruptive to the learning environments throughout the District. Now, after only two years of the Project's comprehensive support to these new professionals, we are able to build on their successes with their students. The fact that the new teacher program was continual and year-long proved to be very AISI Project Enhancing Student Achiev / New Teacher Retention, 2009 Page 5

6 beneficial to the new teachers. This enhanced the development of new teachers skills in the area of curriculum, assessment and instruction. It created a support group environment for the new teacher cohort where issues and concerns could be raised in a non-threatening environment. It also cultivated new friendships which we believe is added to their decision to remain in our community. What did not work well The in-school mentoring program set up to support the new teachers with guidance from designated experienced staff members needs some fine tuning. New teachers were unable to participate in the Professional Learning Communities in the District because their meeting times were are the same time as New Teacher PD sessions. This will be remedied for the school year. As identified in our new teacher survey, although satisfied with the first day of the orientation program, new teachers still felt the need for more prep time in the classroom. This led to a revision of our new teacher orientation schedule in year three of the AISI project to reduce the district agenda in the first day to allow more time in the school orientation. Project adjustments No project adjustments of any note will occur between the first year of this Project and its second year. No project adjustments of any note will occur between the second and third year of this Project. AS mentioned previously, the two day orientation allowed the teachers to spend more time in their school rather than at the district level covering topics related to finance, benefits and other human resources policies. These items were communicated at a later date. Sharing and celebration of success The excellent results of this project have been communicated to the school staffs through their principals and to the parents through the school councils. An article was printed in the SCOOP newsletter regarding the success of our project in year two. Following the review of the AERR we were invited to share our success with other districts. It is our understanding that it will be made available with other districts who share in the same challenges in the area of retention and recruitment. AISI Project Enhancing Student Achiev / New Teacher Retention, 2009 Page 6

7 During job fair recruitment in other provinces the details of our new teacher induction and orientation program is shared with new candidates. This information is always received with great interest and appreciation by those interested in our school district. Unanticipated results/effects The lowering of the turnover rate of new teachers so quickly (if sustained) will have a direct affect on the financial and resource costs (time and personnel required) of annual recruitment to fill teacher vacancies. The quicker than expected effect of lowering the turnover rate after this first year of the project may influence the annual recruitment estimated needs sooner than expected. The subsequent lowering of the turnover rate of new teachers to fewer than 5% and the balancing of PAT achievement so quickly is very surprising and gratifying. This Project has worked as it should, just a little quicker that we had anticipated. The reciprocal benefits to the in-school mentors in the area of building their own leadership capacity and desire to further their education in the area of leadership was an unanticipated benefit. The significant success after year one of the project was a pleasant surprise. The program is so well-received by the new teachers that it exceeded our expectations. They welcome and embrace the support from the New Teacher Mentor and the in-school mentors. AISI Project Enhancing Student Achiev / New Teacher Retention, 2009 Page 7

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