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New Illinois teachers are focus of statewide conference in Springfield


Craig Chamberlain, Education Editor
217-333-2894; cdchambe@illinois.edu


Released 2/19/2007

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Keeping quality teachers in Illinois classrooms will be the agenda for a statewide conference Feb. 27-28 in Springfield, Ill., expected to draw more than 350 educators and policymakers.

“Induction and Mentoring: Making It Work,” at the Hilton Springfield, 700 E. Adams St., is the second annual conference organized by the Illinois New Teacher Collaborative, a statewide initiative involving almost every group with an interest in Illinois education.

The Tuesday morning keynote speaker will be Susan Moore Johnson, the Carl H. Pforzheimer Jr. Professor of Teaching and Learning at Harvard University, and the author of “Finders and Keepers: Helping New Teachers Survive and Thrive in Our Schools.”

Opening the conference on Tuesday morning will be Reg Weaver, the president of the National Education Association and a former Illinois teacher. Dan Humphrey, from SRI International, will talk Wednesday morning about research under way on new-teacher programs in Illinois and Ohio.

Among others scheduled or invited to speak or participate are several legislators, and representatives from business, the news media, and the Illinois boards of education and higher education.

Research suggests that student achievement is highest when students are taught by teachers with five or more years of experience, according to Renee Clift, a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the acting INTC director. Yet as many as half of new teachers without access to good support programs are gone by their fifth year, she said.

“Illinois is one of the first states to develop a multi-faceted approach to this challenge,” she said. “The INTC is the only organization in the state that has new-teacher support as its only agenda, and this conference is the only one that is focused on ways to increase that support.”

The conference is intended to be an interactive, planning-oriented event, Clift said. Participants will have a chance to learn about new-teacher induction and mentoring programs from throughout the state, including 10 pilot programs funded by the Illinois State Board of Education for the current school year.

Participants will work within school district teams and also have a chance to interact with colleagues from across the state, based on their roles (teacher, administrator, and others) and type of district (urban, suburban and rural). They will be asked to work together in setting goals, processing information and sharing resources.

“The hope is that they’ll learn from one another,” Clift said. “If they don’t have a new-teacher program, then we hope they find the motivation and means to develop one. If they do have a program, then we hope they find ways to improve it.”

Beyond the conference, Clift said, “the big thing that we’re trying to do at INTC is just maintain an awareness at every level that support programs for new teachers are key if we want well-qualified teachers in all classrooms.”

Available through the INTC Web site are extensive links to information, resources and programs for novice teachers, as well as for the administrators, mentors and support organizations that work with them. Among those resources is a searchable database dealing with topics such as classroom management, teaching standards, lesson plans and communicating with parents.

The site also includes a directory of programs for new teachers throughout the state, as well as links to programs at national and regional levels.

Among those funding the Springfield conference are the State Farm Companies Foundation, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Principals Association, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the University of Illinois.