The goal is to help classroom teachers focus on acquiring and transferring a new teaching practice into a teacher's regular practice and to refine teaching practice, deepen collegiality, increase professional dialogue, and help teachers reflect on their work.
This grant aims to facilitate and promote sound practices in the recruitment, training, and retention of high quality teachers, ultimately helping developing charter schools to develop high quality teaching staffs and thereby attain goals related to student performance. Trillium Academy has established a mentoring program that assists participating development teams to establishing effective processes for hiring and maintaining an energetic and effective teaching staff. This program focuses on several key aspects of staff development. First, the program models effective ways to recruit and retain quality teachers. Second, it models how to achieve excellence in teaching through the creation of a supportive community of teaching professionals through a teacher mentoring program.
In order to achieve the objectives of promoting high quality teaching staffs through effective recruitment, retention, and teacher development, Trillium is using its grant funds to engage 2 to 3 development teams in an intensive, ongoing and interactive mentoring program. Trillium will mentor these development teams in several key aspects of staff recruitment and development. The Trillium model begins with a hiring process that calls upon both newer and more experienced "mentor" teachers to play a central role in the interviews of prospective hires. Trillium uses a team interview approach in which applicants are asked to respond to questions and concerns posed by both administrators and teachers. In making a hiring decision following interviews, teachers assess the strengths of each candidate and deliberate with administrators regarding who will be hired. Once the needed hires have been made, Trillium Academy runs a summer orientation for all new teachers. In its first years of operation, Trillium Academy was harmed by high rates of attrition on the part of teachers who had been hired in the spring but then accepted offers from other schools by the time they were slotted to begin their duties at Trillium in the late summer. To remedy this situation, Trillium developed an intensive summer orientation in which new teachers are welcomed into the collaborative school community. At the heart of this orientation, and at the heart of Trillium's entire approach to staff development, is the pairing of each new teacher with a mentor teacher. Planning for the new school year, therefore, changed from an isolated experience for the new teacher into an experience of productive dialogue about strategies for the classroom and the needs and characteristics of the school's specific student population. Trillium's orientation structure then works to widen this dialogue through regular meetings of new teachers, their mentors, and other school staff and administrators. Finally, through these summer orientation meetings new teachers become familiar with the school procedures through an introduction and analysis of the academy teacher manual.
The Trillium Academy Manual is a teacher-created handbook that provides information to teachers concerning all school processes that are relevant to their work at the school. The manual was created by teachers in the early days of Trillium Academy. Recognizing that new teachers are tasked not only with new student populations, but also with learning the rules, norms, and processes of a new learning institution, proactive teachers at Trillium wrote the manual to provide a quick reference guide for their peers. The manual has, however, evolved into a document that also establishes standards of excellence, accountability, and collaboration for teachers. Teachers regularly update the manual so that it accurately reflects school practices and philosophy. By asking teachers to regularly analyze school policy and practices, teachers are given a measure of control over the school's culture and governance. The manual thereby becomes an orientation tool that welcomes new teachers into a democratic and supportive culture.
There is one final noteworthy aspect of Trillium's hiring process that is being modeled in the program they offer to the development teams. As developed above, Trillium strives to model appropriate support networks and collaborative communities for its teachers. In conjunction with these support networks, Trillium also strives to offer its teachers appropriate and effective incentives to treat their work with the professionalism it deserves. All new hires at Trillium start at the same base salary formula with minimal consideration for previous experience. Raises are then given based on teacher performance and experience. Teachers that bring energy, commitment, and talent to their work are rewarded accordingly. Teachers who are driven to succeed come to know that they will be rewarded for their efforts through their remuneration package. Moreover, they immediately recognize that their desire to succeed is not futile because the summer orientation demonstrated from the beginning that the school community is just as committed to helping its new teachers to develop as the new teachers are to helping their students to flourish.
Michigan Association of Public School Academies
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