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PRIORITIES FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

A Brief to the Ministry of Education from the BC Teachers’ Federation, August 2017 

Recruitment, Retention, and Mentorship of Teachers

The issue

BC’s public education system is experiencing a major demographic shift, creating an increasing demand for teachers—and critical personnel shortages. According to provincial labour market projections, BC schools will require 24,900 new teaching positions by 2022,1 because of a combination of projected student population increases and teacher retirements, and the recent restoration of collective agreement language for class-size and composition levels. Numerous BC school districts are already reporting significant, chronic shortages for teachers teaching on call (TTOCs), as well as general and specialist teachers across the province’s K–12 schools.

Consequently, the systemic recruitment, retention, and mentorship of teachers at all career stages will be of critical importance to BC’s public school system for the coming decade. BC’s school districts need sustainably funded recruitment and induction plans to support the anticipated influx of new professionals entering BC’s public school system, as well as retention strategies for mid- and later-career teachers.

Background

Attrition rates among early career teachers are estimated at 25–30% in Canada. Not only does attrition have negative fiscal impacts, but staffing instability negatively affects student achievement and cohesion within school communities.2

Prior to the provincial election, the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the province discussed a number of recruitment and retention ideas that would address the severe TTOC shortages in many school districts and the need to both attract and retain qualified teachers to specialist teacher roles in rural and remote areas of the province. This need pre-dates the Supreme Court of Canada decision, but the need is now more acute given the level of hiring under way. There are proactive steps that the province can take to address the situation—some through the BC Public School Employers’ Association, and others directly with the BCTF.

In addition, a growing body of research indicates that purposeful induction and mentorship is an effective means of decreasing new teacher attrition rates,3 as it contributes to “reduced feelings of isolation, increased confidence and self-esteem, professional growth, and improved self-reflection and problem-solving capacities.”4 The provision of sustained, job-embedded mentorship also improves professional practice and supports student achievement.5

Mentorship support also promotes increased retention and staffing stability, as “teachers who are mentored have been found to be less likely to leave teaching and less likely to move schools within the profession.”8

Despite such evidence-based benefits, BC’s public school system remains without a provincial mentorship strategy, although a recent pilot project has produced promising movement in that direction. The creation of the New Teacher Mentorship Project (NTMP), a three-way partnership between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, the University of British Columbia, and the British Columbia School Superintendents Association, funded by the Ministry of Education from 2012 to 2017, has established a framework and resources for high-quality mentorship in 40 school districts to date.

NTMP evaluation results indicate that 90% of new teacher participants indicated their classroom practice improved, with 95% indicating an improvement in student learning outcomes.

Key Recommendations

Recommendation 1

As soon as possible, work with the BCTF to initiate a series of recruitment and retention initiatives to address the immediate needs in school districts around the province in filling both contract positions and in ensuring sufficient numbers of TTOCs are available. Such initiatives could include shortening of the salary grid (by removing the lowest three or four steps on the grid) to bring starting wages are more in line with other provinces. Other initiatives could include student loan forgiveness programs, assisting new hires with moving expenses, making available more unpaid mid-year leaves, assisting with housing, reducing rents on teacherages, and greater access to in-service.

Recommendation 2

Confirm final approval of a three-year funding extension for the BC New Teacher Mentorship Project (2017–20).

Recommendation 3

Commit long-term, sustainable funding toward a permanent provincial mentorship program for early career teachers that acknowledges the diversity of BC’s geographic regions and school district needs, and principles of teacher-directed professional development.

Recommendation 4

Provide a significant funding increase and policy guidelines dedicated toward expanding teacher recruitment strategies and incentives for all BC public school districts.

Recommendation 5

Work collaboratively with the BCTF through the collective bargaining process to secure system-wide improvements to classroom conditions, work load, professional development, and wellness provisions as a means of retaining teachers at all career stages.

Further reading

Government of British Columbia. (2015). British Columbia 2022 labour market outlook. WorkBC.

Hobson, A. J., Ashby, P., Malderez, A., & Tomlinson, P. D. (2009). Mentoring beginning teachers: What we know and what we don’t. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(1), 207–216. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2008.09.001.

Ingersoll, R., & Strong, M. (2011). The impact of induction and mentoring programs for beginning teachers: A critical review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 81(2), 201–33.

Karsenti, T. & Collin, S. (2013). Why are new teachers leaving the profession? Results from a Canada-wide survey, Education, 3(3), 141–149.

Kutsyuruba, B., Godden, L., & Tregunna, L. (2014). Curbing early career teacher attrition: a pan-Canadian document analysis of teacher induction and mentoring programs. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 161.    

Schmidt, R., Young, V., Cassidy, L., Wang, H., & Laguarda, K. (2017). Impact of the New Teacher Center’s new teacher induction model on teachers and students. SRI Education: Menolo Park, CA.


1 British Columbia 2022 Labour Market Outlook, 2015, p. 9.

2 Kutsyuruba, Godden & Tregunna, 2014; Ingersoll & Strong, 2011.

3 Hobson et al., 2009, p. 216.

4 Schmidt et al., 2017.

5 Ingersoll & Strong, 2011, p. 210.

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