"I'm Out Of Here!"
High Turnover Rate Punctuates Importance Of Mentoring Programs

This article was originally published in the Illinois Education Association (IEA/NEA) "Advocate,"
December 1998-January 1999 issue, page 8.
Used with the permission of Gordon Jackson, Editor.

IEA's website is www.ieanea.org

The statistics are staggering!

New teachers, especially those tossed into "sink or swim" situations, often do not survive in "real world" classrooms.

Nationally, it is estimated that 30 percent of new teachers leave during their first two years, and more than 40 percent depart during their first four years. Studies also show that teachers who leave the profession reported a lower mean income than those who stayed, challenging the belief that teachers quit to earn more money in other careers.

Mentoring programs are also crucial, notes Palatine's Carole Einhorn, because without them, novice teachers often develop "coping" strategies and defenses to help them survive in the classroom. However, these strategies may be the very ones, she adds, that prevent them from becoming effective teachers. These coping strategies can then "crystallize" into a non-productive, career-long teaching style.

Public education also cannot afford a "brain drain" of young, potentially dynamic teaching talent for another reason. In the next 10 years, NEA Research estimates that hundreds of thousands of veteran teachers will retire, many of them via special pension options such as Illinois" Five-Plus-Five and 2.2 plans. Couple that project with growing student enrollments and it is estimated that the nation may need to hire up to two million new teachers by the year 2007.

Dr. Hazel Loucks, a teacher-induction scholar and director of IEA's Student Program, notes that interviews with first-year teachers who have had mentors indicate they "feel supported" and are more likely to remain in teaching that those without mentors. "Their 'happiness quotient' is directly related to their degree of support," she says. "New teachers need someone with whom to share their frustrations, concerns, and joys. New teachers are often away from their friends for the first time in four years, and they need a confidant. Mentors can fulfill that role."