September 30, 2014
“My first year of teaching opened my eyes to the world of teaching and the benefits of being coached. The staff here is a wonderful welcoming family.” Ft. Berthold Teacher
According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, nearly 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within five years. This turnover is disruptive to schools, administrators, other teachers, and, most importantly, students. But there is a solution—coaching and support to first-year teachers can improve a teacher’s ability, while making the teacher more likely to return to the school.
Last year, new and veteran teachers at Ft. Berthold Reservation Schools participated in instructional coaching and other supports with the help of Great Northwest Education Cooperative’s Succeed 2020 master teacher, Dr. Kent Hjelmstad. The instructional coaching and related supports included three elements; opening and closing events, regular early morning training sessions, and classroom observation and discussion in the form of instructional coaching.
The opening and closing events proved to be particularly important. By setting a foundation, the opening event helped create a supportive teacher community and demonstrated how data can be used to track student achievement and target lessons accordingly. The closing event reinforced the strength of the teacher community and allowed teachers to review the accomplishments of their students through data.
Throughout the school year teachers participated in bi-weekly training sessions. These sessions addressed instructional strategies and teaching topics, such as classroom management. In the final months of the school year, teachers were introduced to the Learning Pyramid, a set of seven techniques that are intended to improve student retention rates. Teachers also studied “The Essential 55″ by Ron Clark, which provides guidance on how to discover a successful student in every child.
Finally, and most importantly, teachers practiced what they learned with the support of the master teacher. Dr. Hjelmstad observed more than 50 lessons in the final months of the school year and provided coaching to reinforce good practice and help in areas where teachers were struggling.
After only one year, schools like New Town High School saw a substantial change. One veteran teacher said, “I’ve been a teacher for several years and still find this helpful.” Teacher turnover reduced dramatically. In the fall of 2013, New Town had openings for 29 new teachers. In the fall of 2014, that number dropped to 7 openings.
When other school districts off the reservation hear about the success of the master teacher, they want to learn more. In fact, several superintendents in northwest North Dakota have requested the program be implemented in their schools. The Great Northwest Education Cooperative has responded by tripling the size of its master teacher program throughout the region during the 2014-15 school year.