- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Several Minnesota school districts are working to address a low retention rate for young teachers by improving the support they receive.

The state loses one-third of its new teachers within the first five years after they start, according to Minnesota Department of Education data. Many new teachers say they’re lacking a mentor to give them feedback on their work, according to Tom Rademacher, Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year.

“We’re still relying on this kind of bizarre sink or swim mentality,” he said.

Research has shown providing first-year teachers with mentors encourages them to stick with their careers, allows them to hone teaching skills and helps their students produce better results in class.

A number of the state’s schools districts are trying the better support new teachers, but the efforts are inconsistent, according to Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, the state teachers union.

“Some districts do it better than others, but it’s definitely something that we need to be focused on,” she said.

Specht believes mentoring and retaining young teachers, especially minorities, should be a focus of the state’s educational landscape. Minority teachers leave the profession more often than white teachers, and research suggests it’s because minority teachers are often called upon to work at urban schools, where the job is often more challenging.

While the state’s enrollment is made up of 26 percent minority students, only about 3.5 percent of Minnesota teachers are minority. Staffing schools with more minority teachers will increase the achievement of minority students, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study.

Schools in Moorhead and Minneapolis are at the forefront of the new effort to provide first-year teachers with mentor support, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1tTgWcw ) reported.

Superintendent Lynn Kovash of Moorhead hired three retired teachers this year to help young teachers.

“While you’re supporting the teacher through a relationship, you’re also helping train them, you’re helping work through best strategies, teaching methods,” Kovash said.

Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis is providing young teachers with multiple mentors to help with lessons and classroom environment.

A new teacher evaluation system that went into effect statewide this year is also helping provide support to first-year teachers. It allows them to receive feedback through classroom observations and work with other teachers to study student data and develop new approaches for the classroom.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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