The Educators Leading the Profession Pilot Mentoring and Coaching Program (ELP) initially grew out of a collaboration among National Education Association affiliates in seven Midwestern states that came together with the united goal of better supporting and retaining early career teachers. Conceptualizing this idea in the years before COVID-19 began, the union leaders initially involved in this initiative set out to address a well-known and perennial problem in teaching: relatively high turnover, especially among teachers in their first five years.
The program pilot ultimately coincided with COVID-19 and its aftermath, and early data show that while teacher turnover remained consistent with historic levels during the initial pandemic years (i.e., 2019–20 through 2021–22), in states where data are available, turnover had increased several percentage points above normal levels by school year 2022–23. Furthermore, teacher morale and professional prestige were at their lowest levels in decades. ELP’s initial motivation, therefore, to support and retain early career teachers, became even more urgent as a profession already marked by relatively high turnover faces unprecedented levels of turnover, vacancies, and burnout among those who remain in the classroom.
The COVID-19 years proved to be crucial testing grounds for ELP’s key hypotheses—that pairing early career teachers with (1) experienced building-based mentors who shared their teaching context, and (2) virtual coaches who shared their subject and grade but taught outside of their own district would lead to new teachers’:
Despite implementing during these difficult years, we found ample evidence that ELP teachers indeed experienced better outcomes as envisioned, revealing the large promise of ELP’s approach. Building on the pilot success, efforts to expand and offer these supports to teachers in more places are underway.
Digital Promise serves as the evaluation partner to ELP and to the Illinois Education Association, which implemented the program statewide, in partnership with the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union. The evaluations focus on key questions about whether the programs were implemented as intended and factors that facilitated or constrained implementation; participants’ satisfaction with program supports (e.g., coaching and mentoring activities, trainings); and participant outcomes. We placed a priority on illuminating program successes and challenges from the perspectives of those centrally involved in implementation, collecting qualitative and quantitative data from participants in all stakeholder groups, including novice educators, virtual instructional coaches, building mentors, district administrators, and local/state union leaders.
See Illinois Virtual Instructional Coach and Building Mentor Program and Educators Leading the Profession (ELP) Pilot Program for a description of each program and high-level findings from the evaluation.