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Boise State research increases teacher retention rates in Idaho

Most newly certified teachers from Idaho’s teacher preparation programs graduate “well-started” for their first day in the classroom. However, without the right support in their new classrooms, one in five Idaho teachers (or 20 percent) will leave the profession after their first year, according to the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. Recruiting and onboarding new teachers can be costly and resource-intensive for districts, and staff turnover can negatively impact student learning.

In 2014, Boise State’s College of Education began focusing efforts on supporting retention programs in the early years of teaching for its graduates. College of Education researchers, Jennifer Snow and Sherry Dismuke, started looking at ways to study the effectiveness of teacher education programs and their graduates’ impact on pre-kindergarten through grade 12 student learning. During their research, they observed the issue of teacher turnover first-hand in the Treasure Valley.

Ongoing support helps new teachers

Jennifer Snow and Sherry Dismuke found that in addition to universities graduating well-started teachers from their programs, continued support from university faculty could bolster new teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom and help them stay. “We can see through the research that the teacher shortage problem is a teacher retention problem,” said Dismuke, who has personally witnessed the pressures new teachers face trying to juggle all of the responsibilities that come with teaching.

Serving students intentionally

Rich Smith (BA, Elementary Education, ‘14) participated in the initial study and currently teaches sixth grade at Whittier Elementary in Boise. “The professors in the study assured me that if I always had the best interest of my class at the core of my decisions, no one was going to be upset with me,” said Smith. “They made sure I understood that every decision I made needed to be intentional and with the purpose of best serving the students I had.”

Safe environments to practice and learn

Kaleigh Fox (BA Elementary Education,‘15) was excited to work with Boise State faculty again so early in her teaching career. “I was still very inexperienced with standards, the students and teaching in general,” said Fox. “The study gave me a safe environment and support system to practice skills in order to be the best teacher that I could be for my students. It required me to think critically about standards, assessments, and how to create effective cross-curricular units that were engaging.”

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