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Published: Thursday, 1/3/2008

Mentoring helps Ohio keep more starting teachers


CLEVELAND - Veteran teachers who mentor classroom rookies have helped Ohio sharply trim the number of new teachers who quit the profession after just a few years, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

About 28 percent of new teachers in Ohio leave the profession after five years compared to 46 percent nationwide, according to Marilyn Troyer, senior associate superintendent at the Ohio Department of Education.

"Having that kind of structured support during the first year is really helpful," Ms. Troyer said.

The mentoring program, in which veteran teachers observe and coach newcomers, also keeps down the cost of replacing teachers.

A recent study by the New Teacher Center at the University of California showed that for every $1 spent on recruiting and training novice teachers, districts save $1.66 after five years because of low turnover.

In suburban Cleveland's Brunswick, Paula Hodson, with 31 years of job experience, has mentored first-year teacher Rachel Daw. Ms. Hodson spends classroom time with teachers new to the district throughout the year, as well as offering guidance during meetings.

All districts in Ohio are required to have programs to guide teachers through their first year.

Providing feedback on classroom style and help with lesson plans and paperwork are only some of the ways Ms. Hodson is guiding Ms. Daw through her first year on the job. Other novice teachers get the same sort of help.

The result: 86 percent of the teachers who have gone through Brunswick's mentoring program over the last eight years still work in the district, Ms. Hodson said.

Brunswick's early retirement incentives created many openings this year.

Of 470 teachers, 45 are new hires, and 25 are teaching for the first time.

Keeping new teachers on the job is even more important as their baby boomer-era colleagues continue to retire. This fall, first-time teachers in Ohio filled 5,800 jobs compared with 1,412 in 2001, according to the Department of Education.

Ohio's mentoring requirement went into effect in 2002, with the goal of helping teachers adjust to their new jobs and prepare for their next round of state licensing.

Of the 36 states requiring mentoring, only half, including Ohio, help pay for it, said Lori Lofton, the state's associate director of teaching professionals.

Ohio allocates about $800 for each first-time teacher, she said. The money goes toward administrative expenses and compensating veteran teachers for their time.

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