Putting Education Reform To The Test

How Hillsborough Schools Are Keeping More New Teachers In The Classroom

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Just 5 percent of new Hillsborough County teachers did not return this year. That's down from 28 percent two years ago. The district credits a mentoring program funded by the Gates Foundation.

Hillsborough County schools are retaining more than nine of every ten new teachers they hire with the help of a mentoring program funded by a $100 million dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Teacher retention has been a persistent problem nationally, with some studies finding as many as half of all new teachers leave the field within five years. Groups such at the National Council on Teacher Quality have also focused on the quality of U.S. education schools and district policies.

That turnover doesn’t help students and the training costs are a drag on tight school district budgets.

Two years ago 28 percent of Hillsborough schools’ new teachers left after the first year. That’s when the district started using Gates grant money to pair up rookies with veteran mentors who had been pulled out of the classroom.

Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia says the rookies get tips on classroom management, lesson plans and how to make those plans connect with students.

It’s just walking through with people new to a career the pitfalls that might occur and then kind of addressing them ahead of time,” Elia says. “And then when they do occur, understanding what to do to fix it.”

Last year the number of new teachers leaving the county dropped to 14 percent. This year it’s down to 5 percent.

Hillsborough schools have hired 700 new teachers for the school year beginning Monday.

Elia believes the money the school district saves in training could pay for the mentoring program once the Gates Grant runs out.

“We actually had people who have left counties in this geographic area to come to us because they want to get that extra support as young teachers,” Elia says.


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