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Statewide conference to build on support for new teachers in Illinois


Craig Chamberlain, Education Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Support programs for new teachers will once again be the focus of a statewide conference Feb. 26-27 in Springfield, Ill., the third annual conference organized by the Illinois New Teacher Collaborative (INTC).

More than 300 educators and policymakers are expected to attend the event, titled “Induction and Mentoring: Supports, Solutions and Successes,” at the Hilton Springfield, 700 E. Adams St.

Among the programs expected to get attention at the conference will be 10 continuing pilot programs and more than 30 new pilot programs for which funding was recently allocated by the Illinois State Board of Education.  (All pilot programs will be listed at this site following the conference.)

Support for new teachers is the “stealth issue” in too many school districts, says Renee Clift, a professor of education at the University of Illinois and director of the INTC, a statewide initiative involving almost every group with an interest in Illinois education.

The issue is routinely overshadowed by more-pressing concerns such as test results and school budgets, she said. Yet lack of support is often cited by teachers – even more than salaries – as their reason for leaving a given school or leaving the profession entirely.

“If you don’t take the promising teachers and really encourage them and support them and praise them and help them grow, you have turnover,” Clift said. As many as half of new teachers without access to good support programs are gone by their fifth year, she said.

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. For those that do not have programs, the hope is that they will find the means to develop one, she said. For those that do have programs, the hope is that they will find ways to improve them.

“It’s not something that you leave to chance; you have to have a thoughtful, well-designed program,” Clift said. “The research says if it’s left to chance, it doesn’t happen.”

Conference sessions also will include orientation or training in the use of INTC’s online resources and in the use of technology for communication and collaboration.

Opening speaker for the event will be Ed Geppert, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. The keynote speaker, on Tuesday morning, will be Ellen Moir, director of the New Teacher Center at the University of California at Santa Cruz, on the topic “Induction in Illinois: Seizing the Day.”

Wednesday will open with a town hall meeting, “Building a Future for Statewide Induction and Funding,” moderated by Alexander Russo, contributing editor for Catalyst and Scholastic Administrator magazines. Joining Russo on the panel will be state Sen. William Delgado, D-Chicago; state Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville; and Linda Tomlinson, assistant state superintendent of schools.

The annual conference has been the primary vehicle for raising awareness and providing resources for new-teacher support programs, Clift said, but the INTC plans to expand on that later this spring and through the summer with a series of regional meetings.

The INTC is funded by the State Farm Companies Foundation, the Illinois State Board of Education and the University of Illinois.