Dr. Shehnaz Khalfan-Washington, who earned her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership at Trident from 2017, was startled to learn that 30% of K-12 teachers leave the profession by the end of their first year, and that 40% to 50% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years. She presented research on the subject in a recent Trident CORE webinar.

As a mentor herself, she wondered if and how teacher mentoring programs could help reduce the rate of teacher turnover. In her study, Dr. Khalfan-Washington interviewed 15 participants (mentees) that have been teaching between one and three years.

Although the participants felt that there is ample support and professional development opportunities for teachers, their experiences with mentoring programs was ineffective.

Based on feedback from the participants in Dr. Khalfan-Washington's study, here are 5 tips for creating an effective mentoring program:

  1. Create a program structure that will hold mentors to a high standard of accountability. Start with supportive, approachable, professional administration and teachers in the roles of program leaders and mentors.
  2. Use accountability tools, such as weekly meetings between mentee, mentor, and program leader. Be sure to document date, time, participants, and what was discussed in these meetings.
  3. Understand that a new teacher can be nervous in front of the classroom. Encourage discussions about how to tackle classroom issues, such as a difficult student, not enough supplies, or a personal issue that is interfering in the classroom.
  4. Evaluate the program and its effectiveness. Conduct an annual assessment of teacher retention rates and possible factors that contribute to any turnover.
  5. Continue to build the teacher community by offering incentives that motivate. Invest in the teachers, and make them feel appreciated.

It takes three to seven years' experience for a teacher to become highly qualified. But because the teacher turnover rate is so high, there are fewer and fewer qualified teachers. Moving forward with good mentoring programs could lead to positive changes in teacher retention rates.

Note: While Trident does not offer teacher/administrator certification/credentialing programs, the doctoral degrees offered help prepare students for the rapidly changing education landscape.