Educators Leading the Profession (ELP) Pilot Program – Digital Promise

Educators Leading the Profession (ELP) Pilot Program

Educators Leading the Profession completed pilot implementation in 2021–22 and 2022–23 in 10 small to medium-sized districts across six states: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Ohio. Approximately 100 to 130 early career teachers, building mentors, and instructional coaches participated in the pilot years. Within the first month of school, participating new teachers were paired with a building-based mentor and chose a virtual instructional coach who matched their teaching assignment. ELP’s major mechanism of support stems from the design of these two complementary but distinct roles, where new teachers have:

  1. A building mentor, with whom they share a school context, who can guide them through the logistics, the relationships, and the unique culture of their school; and
  2. A virtual instructional coach with whom they share a grade and subject, who can advise them on best practices in teaching and learning with a confidential and important outsider perspective

ELP also offered all participants monthly webinars that focused on instructional practices and relationship-building with colleagues, as well as opportunities for participants to exchange ideas and stories about their respective practices.

High-level Findings

We found that ELP positively influenced all four of its intended outcomes:

  • New teachers’ sense of effectiveness in teaching
  • New teachers’ reduced stress and greater well-being
  • New teacher retention in the profession
  • Improved mentoring and instructional coaching practices

Here we describe those highlights along with other interesting findings:

  • Experienced teachers are eager to help the profession they love and are worried about: Almost all mentors and coaches interviewed felt very concerned about the teaching profession and interested in helping other teachers stay, so participating was a way for them to feel as though they were helping.

“The problems are too big, but if you let that stop you from solving the small problems, then you’ve given up entirely on the profession.” —Building Mentor

  • Teachers in ELP stayed at higher rates than district colleagues: Of the 67 teachers who participated in ELP in 2021–22, 64 (96%) were still teaching in 2022–23, and 55 (82%) remained teaching in the same school, a higher retention rate than ELP districts experienced with non-ELP teachers. By the end of the pilot, 88% of ELP’s surveyed new teachers pictured themselves retiring after a full teaching career.

[One of my teachers last year] was close to quitting teaching altogether, and I said, ‘You’re a great teacher,’ [I] encouraged him to try a different district, and wrote him a letter. Now he’s there, it’s closer to home, it’s a different place, and he loves it and is happy he stayed in teaching. So I think it’s definitely helping keep teachers in teaching, even if they move. —Building Mentor

[ELP] is helping me stay. Last year, I had a team that did their own thing and I felt really alone, and if it wasn’t for my mentor or coach, I’m not sure if I would’ve stayed in teaching because I felt so alone. They worked closely with me. My coach made me feel validated and heard and like she was someone I could work with. Those were my people. My building mentor here last year I wouldn’t have known right away [if not for ELP], but she noticed I was struggling and helped me and hooked me up with others who could help, so that was something that made me want to keep teaching. —Second-Year Teacher

  • Teachers felt positive: ELP teachers demonstrated better morale than is typically reported right now.
6 in 10 felt ELP reduced stress and helped work-life balance, 85% felt happy to be a teacher, 90% never or rarely felt the stress outweighed the joys

Source: ELP evaluation new teacher spring 2023 survey (n=40).

  • The value is in not feeling alone: Whether we spoke to teachers who felt isolated from the colleagues in their school but bonded with their virtual coach or teachers who felt different than others on their teaching team but buoyed by the support of their building mentor, the value teachers found in ELP was knowing they had people to turn to.

“I change my mind every single day if I want to make this my life’s work or not… Right now I think yes. I think there’s value in this and would help people stay. Again making connections outside of your district is a valuable part. I know in my building it’s hard to even float out of my hallway and meet other colleagues to learn from them. This program makes it a little less isolating. After that last webinar I told my coach, if I didn’t have my people in my school, I wouldn’t make it.” —First-Year Teacher

  • Emotional support was as valuable as pedagogical support to new teachers: Among teachers who returned for the second pilot year, emotional support was as or more valuable to them as a reason to return to the program as pedagogical support was:

ELP returning new teachers’ perceptions of the value of emotional and pedagogical supports

Chart showing breakdown of value. Most % of returning new teachers found "the emotional support provided by my Bulding Mentor" to rate as "Very Valuable"

Source: ELP evaluation new teacher survey, fall 2022

  • ELP’s division of support between the mentor and coach is instructive: The ELP instructional coach’s specialty, pedagogical content knowledge, is a familiar area of the knowledge base of teaching to most educators. However, listening to building mentors describe the range of ways they helped new teachers, such as knowing how to be prepared for a substitute in case of taking a sick day or reading a principal’s mood to know when to approach them, points us to fertile ground as researchers for understanding dimensions of teaching that have historically gone unexplored.
  • Unions and educators themselves can lead efforts to support and retain teachers: We found that participants appreciated the program being union-led as a way to ensure confidentiality and trust, and that participants valued the union taking on teacher support as a mission, with many participants feeling this was a “good face” for the union. ELP has shown that educators already hold the answers to supporting and retaining new talent and to strengthening their profession from the inside out.

Learn more about the ELP Pilot Mentoring and Coaching Program:

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