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NEA-Saturn/UAW Partnership Awards Announced

Six local programs recognized for teacher retention strategies

WASHINGTON - June 11, 2008 -

The 2008 NEA-Saturn/UAW Partnership Awards, which recognize exemplary partnership efforts between local school districts and education associations, have been awarded to: Paradise Valley Unified School District (Ariz.); Simi Valley Unified School District (Calif.); Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District (N.Y.); Guilford County Schools (N.C.); Hampton City Schools (Va.); and Spokane Public Schools (Wash.)

"Great teachers have the power to steer their students onto the paths of academic success and lifelong learning," said National Education Association President Reg Weaver.  "The six recipients of this year's NEA-Saturn/UAW Partnership Awards show that when school districts team up with the local teachers union, it's a winning combination for their students."

A lack of planning time, heavy workload, low salaries, and the lack of mentoring programs are cited as reasons why new teachers leave the profession. Approximately 20 percent of new public school teachers leave the profession by the end of the first year, and almost 50 percent leave within five years. Pay-related turnover is especially high for minorities, males and teachers under the age of 30.

"Although it's often regarded as one of the toughest professions out there, teaching is also an incredibly rewarding career," said Weaver.  "When we help educators accelerate through the transition period from student to practitioner, we keep great teachers in the driver's seat."

Started in 1997 as a way to highlight innovative partnerships, the annual NEA-Saturn/UAW Partnership Awards will be presented June 30 at the NEA Board of Directors meeting in Washington, DC. The 2008 winning partnerships are in the following communities, listed in alphabetical order of each recipient's state:

Paradise Valley, Ariz.-In a state ranked next to last in school funding, Paradise Valley Unified School District faced a declining enrollment, low teacher salaries, and increasing state and federal professional requirements that made attracting and retaining quality teachers a serious challenge.  But after teaming up with the Paradise Valley Education Association, the school district's combination of instructional coaching, one-on-one conferencing, best practices modeling, student data collecting, and collaborating with curricular and technology specialists has resulted in enhanced professional development and increased student achievement.

The three-year Paradise Valley Mentoring Program mentors receive extensive, ongoing training and meet at least five times a month with other mentors. Retention rates have risen and, in teacher satisfaction surveys, 85 percent rated mentoring support "excellent."

Simi Valley, Calif.-With a fourth of the 21,000 student body in Simi Valley Unified School District classified as English language learners, the language barrier became a learning challenge for novice and veteran teachers alike.  Adapting to the needs of the multicultural population, the Simi Educators Association partnered with the school district to launch Simi Valley Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Program, which allows teachers to analyze and reflect on their practice and share strategies while fulfilling state professional credential requirements. 

 In its 10 years, the contractually mandated two-year program evolved to include a separate track and support system for special education teachers. Mentors, who are paired with beginning teachers by grade level and subject, are competitively selected and receive professional development training, mentoring skills and portfolio requirements instruction. Teacher retention rates have reached 80 percent.

Springville, N.Y.-In a small farm town in rural New York, one school district continued to experience high teacher turnover and retirement rates. Adding to the challenge, Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District's diverse student population was economically disadvantaged.  Griffith Institute Faculty Association worked with the district to develop the Springville-Griffith Institute Mentoring Program, which balances the needs of classroom teachers and school-based service providers by focusing on professional development and mentoring to stabilize staffing and improve instruction and student achievement. 

Teacher mentors are trained in peer coaching, supervision and adult learning styles. The program provides a back-to-school orientation and three half-day training sessions for new teachers. Since 2003, 88 percent of 104 probationary new hires were retained.  Despite a 25 percent turnover in staffing, students' state assessments and graduation rates have improved. 

Greensboro, N.C.-Because North Carolina's third largest school district experienced exponential population growth, Guilford County Schools needed to act fast to fill teaching positions.  To help recruitment and retention efforts, the district teamed up with the Guilford County Association of Educators to create Guilford County Schools Department of Induction and Success, which provides incentives like member benefit materials, a new teacher survival kit, and a healthy dose of hospitality and refreshments during its induction orientation sessions. The process is repeated for lateral entry and veteran new hires. 

The program's mentors are certified and receive training on-site and at university summer institutes. Principals and coordinators select mentors and try to pair them with teachers based on grade and subject. New teachers receive more than four days of training on policies, resources, lesson plans and classroom management. New teacher retention rates now approach 90 percent.

Hampton, V.A.-For this coastal city, a combination of early retirements, low salaries and inadequate education funding contributed to a shortage of teachers.  Hampton City Schools and the Hampton Education Association knew two factors needed to be tackled:  how to fill teacher vacancies with great candidates and, once they're in the classroom, how to keep beginner teachers at the chalk board.  The joint project, Teachers Helping Teachers, New Teacher Induction & Mentoring Program, goes on the campus of Hampton University to attract student teachers. 

To help its retention efforts, the week-long program introduces new teachers to curriculum and school policies during its uplifting orientation with veteran teachers.  New teachers work with four mentors and coaches to address diverse needs.  Results were visible almost immediately when retention rates increased-even soaring to 96 percent for hard-to-staff schools.  By the end of the year, the achievement levels of the new teachers' students equaled those of the veterans. 

Spokane, Wash.-Eight years ago, the largest city in Eastern Washington found itself in an uphill battle in keeping new teachers in the profession.  Coming together to do what's best for its students, the Spokane Education Association collaborated with Spokane Public Schools to create the Career in Teaching Mentor Program, a strong induction program that employs veteran teachers to mentor first-time teachers.  

New teachers attend an orientation and professional development workshops while receiving weekly mentor classroom visits and guidance for their professional growth plan. Each year, nine full-time mentors-who are selected competitively-are excused from the classroom full-time to nurture, help and guide 75-100 teachers new to the profession.  A full-time administrative facilitator and a professional learning coordinator complete the staffing.  The results speak for themselves.  Retention rates now exceed the state average despite declining enrollments and a "one-year-only" contract policy.

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Contact: Staci Maiers  (202) 822-7823