Front Cover
   Table of Contents
   Chapter 5
 
 
 
   
 
 
  Framework for
Inducting, Retaining,
and Supporting
Teachers (FIRST)
    -
 
 
 
   Chapter 6
© 2003 Harry K. Wong Publications, Mountain View, CA
  Chapter 5 PDF
 
New Teacher Induction: Print Page

Exemplary Induction Programs

Framework for Inducting, Retaining, and Supporting Teachers (FIRST)
Lafourche Parish Public Schools


Program Goals

The Lafourche Parish Public Schools with its central office in Thibodaux, Louisiana, has instituted the Framework for Inducting, Retaining, and Supporting Teachers (FIRST) program. The primary purpose of the program is to improve student achievement. To accomplish this, the FIRST program has the three main goals:

  • Reducing the intensity of the transition into teaching
  • Improving teacher effectiveness
  • Increasing the retention rate of highly qualified teachers in the school district

Inception of the FIRST Program

When the program was originally being developed, the Lafourche Parish schools researched some of the most successful induction programs and used these programs as models. In doing so, they looked first to what has been called the "mother of all induction
programs," that of the Flowing Wells School District in Tucson, Arizona. (See further on in this chapter on page 86.)

A Cooperative Effort

Lafourche attributes much of the success of its FIRST program to the combined efforts of the following people: teachers, students, and administrators in all of its 27 schools, central office administrators, curriculum coordinators, site-based instructional facilitators, parents, school board members, community members, and the faculty members of the education department at Nicholls State University, who work closely and collaboratively with the school system to ensure top-quality preservice teacher preparation.

Program Description

Lafourche typically hires between 40 and 60 first-time teachers in August to fill positions in its 27 schools. The highly acclaimed success of its induction program has become one of the district's main attractions for new teachers. The program consists of three years of ongoing training and support. It commences with a highly structured four-day training session for all new teachers in early August, before school begins. New teachers receive stipends to attend. Even though participation is voluntary, 99 percent of new teachers participate eagerly.

On the first day, new teachers are greeted and welcomed by the superintendent, the assistant superintendent, supervisors, principals, coordinators, school board members, and experienced teachers. Welcome banners adorn the training arena, and refreshments are served. Each participant's picture is taken and placed on a map of the district next to the school where that participant will be teaching. The new teachers are seated in cooperative groups and they immediately begin their first "bellwork" assignment, which allows everyone to get to know one another. The superintendent officially welcomes everyone, sharing the district's philosophy, goals, and culture. The three curriculum coordinators are the main presenters throughout the four days. Other presenters include a Title 1 coordinator, a special education coordinator, a principal, experienced teachers, and a second-year teacher.

Chronicle of a New Teacher

I am a new teacher in Thibodaux, Louisiana. . . . Upon signing my contract, I am invited to participate in the FIRST program, a three-year journey toward effective teaching. I attend a four-day training in early August. On Day 1 we are welcomed by administrators, school board members, coordinators, principals, and experienced teachers. There are refreshments, handshakes, welcome banners, cameras flashing, and an overall atmosphere of people who are happy to have us as members of their organization. We immediately get started with "bellwork," an assignment that we will receive each morning as we arrive. The atmosphere is that of a "model classroom," where we are the students and the induction team members are our teachers. They model exactly what we need to do during our first days and weeks of school.

The superintendent and the induction team introduce themselves. Everyone is smiling, everyone is expressing confidence in our future success as teachers, everyone shares a common philosophy, and I begin to understand what is meant by a "shared culture" of beliefs that must guide any successful school district. We are assured that the next four days will help alleviate our fears, answer many of our questions, and provide the basic tools we need in order to become effective classroom teachers. I like this place already!

The very first things we learn are the classroom procedures-procedures for securing attention, working in groups, taking breaks, passing out materials, and so on. These procedures are modeled and practiced. They remain consistent throughout the four days and help our "classroom" run as smoothly as a well-oiled machine. I learn that establishing procedures from day one is crucial to good classroom management and I receive explicit instructions on how to establish routines, procedures, and rules for my classroom.

The four days are highly structured; the pace is steady; the environment is very positive and work-oriented. We are actively involved in all lessons. Though classroom management remains the focus, we also learn about district policies and procedures, positive discipline, lesson planning, instructional strategies, students with special needs, and more. On Day 3 a second-year teacher talks to us about first-year experiences and the value of induction. It helps to hear from someone who was in our shoes just one year ago. On Day 4 soft music echoes in the distance as we all stand together listening to a poem titled "I Am a Teacher."10 There are very few dry eyes in the room as we receive certificates of achievement along with hugs and well-wishes from our "teachers." Next, we are treated to a luncheon, where we meet mentor teachers, principals, school board members, and more of the administrative staff. Following lunch, we visit demonstration classrooms, where the district's most successful veteran teachers show us how they have prepared for the first day of school.

I head for home, much more confident than I was just four short days ago. With so many people helping to ease my transition into teaching, I am confident that I will become a well trained, highly effective, and successful classroom teacher. And the children I teach will be the ultimate winners.

Each participant receives a copy of The First Days of School11 along with a new teacher binder that includes the following:

  • A letter of welcome from the superintendent
  • The district's philosophy and mission statements
  • Staff and faculty rosters for each school
  • A place for posting daily schedules and duty schedules
  • A guide for developing a classroom management plan
  • A place for posting classroom or schoolwide discipline plans
  • Checklists of things that must be in place before school begins
  • Sheets for recording individual student data
  • Interest inventories for students
  • Tips on parent communication and teacherparent relations
  • Tips on classroom management
  • A "success journal" for teachers' daily classroom experiences

The atmosphere is comfortable, pleasant, and workoriented. The setting replicates a model classroom. The curriculum coordinators are the "teachers" and the new teachers become the "students." Participants remain actively involved in all lessons. Procedures and routines are immediately established, modeled, and practiced in order to set the stage for a well-managed classroom.

Day 1 focuses on classroom management and local policies and procedures.

Days 2 and 3 address the first days of school, discipline, instructional strategies, assessment techniques, working with parents, and meeting individual learner needs. Though a variety of topics are addressed during the four days, the primary focus remains on classroom management.

On Day 3 a second-year teacher talks to the new teachers about the value of the induction process. This teacher entertains questions from the inductees and shares personal first-year experiences.

On Day 4, after a general review, there is an awards ceremony, where new teachers receive certificates of achievement for completion of the initial phase of the induction process. A luncheon follows, where new teachers meet mentor teachers, principals, school board members, and administrative staff members. On the afternoon of Day 4, the new teachers visit demonstration classrooms specific to their grade levels and receive advice and instruction from some of the district's most successful veteran teachers.

In January the school district hires between 30 and 40 more first-time teachers. For those new teachers hired in January, a "streamlined" two-day initial induction session is conducted

Mentor Teachers

At each school site new teachers are paired with mentor teachers, who offer guidance and assistance during the first two years of teaching. Mentor teachers are paid for their services. The mentoring component is state-funded. The new teacher's particular needs, grade level, and assignment, as well as the location of the new teacher's classroom, are all considered in matching mentors with new teachers. These mentor teachers, selected for their excellence in teaching, receive three days of intensive training conducted by the curriculum coordinators and they continue to receive ongoing training throughout their tenure. They remain classroom teachers but receive release time to work with the new teachers.

The mentor teachers work collaboratively with the district curriculum coordinators and site-based instructional facilitators in conducting informal observations of the newly-hired teachers. These observations are not used for evaluation; the intent is to provide new teachers with specific, immediate, nonthreatening feedback on their teaching performance. Individual improvement plans are developed in order to enhance each new teacher's present skills

Instructional Facilitators

Lafourche has instructional facilitators in each of their K-8 schools. They hand-select their most effective teachers to spend their days in classrooms conducting demonstration lessons, observing and providing feedback, assisting teachers in setting up classroom management plans, and lending their ears, shoulders, and expertise to new teachers. It's so much more effective than their mentoring component-not because the mentors aren't doing excellent jobs, but because they have their own classrooms and can't always provide immediate assistance and feedback. These facilitators are in the classrooms daily, reinforcing all of the things taught to the new teachers during induction.

The instructional facilitators receive training from the school system. Lafourche also conducts monthly support group meetings for them and the facilitators in turn, go back and host monthly meetings for the new teachers and provide ongoing training for their entire staffs.

Additional Resources

Another component of the induction process involves monthly district-level new teacher support group meetings. During these meetings new teachers share their experiences, voice concerns, and cooperatively seek solutions to problems. The curriculum coordinators facilitate these meetings.

New teachers are also required to participate in the Louisiana Teacher Assistance and Assessment Program, with formal observations determining certification decisions. All teachers participating in this program receive two additional days of training in September on the Louisiana Components of Effective Teaching. The FIRST program has recently been adopted as a statewide induction model, as induction has become an integral component of the state's assistance and assessment program. The new statewide program is now known as "Louisiana FIRST."

In April new teachers return for a one-day induction review. On this day new teachers address ongoing concerns, share first-year teaching experiences, and receive additional training.

During the second and third years of the induction process, the curriculum coordinators and instructional facilitators continue to work closely with the new teachers. Classroom observations are ongoing. In addition, second- and third-year teachers attend four half-day sessions to receive further training in classroom management, authentic assessment, the Louisiana Components of Effective Teaching, high-stakes testing, instructional strategies, positive discipline techniques, and instructional decision making. During one segment of each session, participants pose questions, voice concerns, seek solutions to common classroom problems, and share personal classroom experiences. Again, participants are paid stipends to attend. Second- and third-year teachers also have the option of participating in monthly support group meetings.

Another means of support for the new teachers is the Prescriptive Inservice Program. The program consists of successful veteran teachers providing monthly inservice training for participants and conducting ongoing, informal prescriptive observations with feedback. Participation is voluntary and any teacher requiring additional support may participate.

Role of the Principal

At each school site the role of the principal in the induction process is an important one. To ensure consistency between what is promoted during the initial induction training and what will be promoted in the schools, principals receive awareness training before the actual induction process begins. At each school the principal provides orientation, support, encouragement, and guidance for the new teachers, along with opportunities for ongoing assistance and staff development.

During the initial induction training in early August, one of the principals provides some of the actual training. New teachers hear-from a principal's viewpoint-what will be expected of them regarding professional attire, attitude, responsibilities, and professionalism in general.

Program Results

Data collected since 1993 indicate a dramatic decrease in the rate of new teacher attrition in the Lafourche Parish school system. Just a few short years ago, the Lafourche Parish school system had a vision. The goal: to implement an induction program that would ease the way for new teachers by providing ongoing training and support. The results: overwhelming enthusiasm on the part of new teachers, mentors, administrators, school board members, and the community, a drastic decrease in new teacher attrition rates, and a culture of more confident, competent, qualified new teachers influencing the lives of thousands of students.

And all within a budget of $50,000 a year. Compare this investment with "The Costs of Low Retention" in Chapter 1, page 6. This a small price to pay for an endeavor on which no dollar amount could possibly be placed: the children, our future. For information on the Lafourche Parish Public Schools' FIRST program, contact

Annette Breaux,
Curriculum Coordinator
Lafourche Parish Public Schools
110 Bowie Road
Thibodaux, LA 70301

How Successful Is Lafourche's FIRST Program?

FIRST is so successful that Louisiana has adopted it as a statewide model for all school systems. One can't argue with their success and the Lafourche schools have made some tremendous strides. Since implementing an induction program, their attrition rate has dropped an astounding 80 percent!

The Louisiana FIRST program is designed to equip school system teams with knowledge, skills, and dispositions to significantly improve the assistance opportunities available to new teachers. Information on Louisiana FIRST is available at

www.doe.state.la.us/DOE/OQE/certification/LaFirst_r1.pd