5oaks New Teacher Support
Eight years ago oak trees survived the powerful hurricane Katrina on the gulf coast because of a shallow root system that was spread far and wide. Beneath the soil, oak trees interlock with roots of other oak trees. Contemporary poet, Alixa Naima, reminds us that "you cannot bring down a thousand oak trees bound beneath the soil." Such is the inspiration for the 5oaks Educator Support project—an initiative of the Wheelock College Aspire Institute designed with the intent to create a strong root system to support, prepare, inspire and retain the next generation of effective transformative educators.The five in 5oaks stand for the five key or "root" areas we believe are essential for teacher success:
- leadership development
- teacher support network
In January 2014, Aspire launched this comprehensive new teacher support initiative. The 5oaks project aims to increase teacher efficacy and retention through mentoring and training, leadership and advocacy programs, and expanded teacher support networks, with a special focus on new teachers of color. The project is funded by an $800,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich.
The retention of new teachers, especially those of color is a daunting task. The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) (2011) reports "over a third of the nation's new teachers leave the profession within five years. In urban school districts, one in five new teachers leave the classroom after just one year, and nearly half leave within five years." The NCTAF (2011) "urges the development and adoption of a new approach to teacher deployment that mobilizes learning teams comprised of new teachers, teacher mentors, and teacher retirees..." At the same time, the teaching profession faces a significant teacher-student diversity gap. The Center for American Progress (2011) points out that nationally, "students of color make up more than 40 percent of the public school population, [but] teachers of color, who are not non-Hispanic white, are only 17 percent of the teaching force" (p.1).
The 5oaks Educator Support initiative consists of three components:
- 5oaks Teacher Mentoring-to address the problem of limited mentoring support for new teachers by mobilizing a growing pool of retired educators to serve as skilled mentors in schools.
- 5oaks Teachers of Color Fellowship-to enhance the professional experience of teachers of color in Boston schools by providing supportive peer cultures and leadership development.
- 5oaks Competency-Based Professional Learning-to provide in-time training to new teachers in content knowledge and instructional skill.
Together, these program components will be designed to increase the numbers of promising teachers who stay in the profession beyond their first three to five years. Research points to experienced teachers as essential to student academic success, especially in urban, rural and low-income schools. "Education is about experiences," said Dr. Jibril Solomon, Education Program Director at the Aspire Institute, "meaningful experiences that transform the learning and lives of students. The 5oaks project empowers new teachers with vital skills, knowledge, training and support to facilitate the quality of students' positive educational experiences and outcomes."