Studying the Retention of Novice Science Teachers by Learning from School District Induction and Mentoring Programs

Project Details


Retaining STEM teachers is a challenge across the Nation. This Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program Track 4 project seeks to investigate factors that affect retention of novice science teachers throughout the first five years of their career. The project will pay particular attention to understanding the ways in which school districts design and implement mentoring and induction programs that demonstrate success in retaining teachers. The study will include examination of retention rates of science teachers in high-need schools, science teachers of color, and retention of Noyce Scholarship teacher recipients. In the United States, significant resources are devoted to recruitment and preparation of science teachers, yet the mentoring and induction experiences that may contribute positively to science teacher retention are poorly understood. A better understanding of evidence-based practices for designing mentoring and induction experiences for new science teachers could have clear implications for both policy and practice. This study will use state level data, spanning a ten-year period, from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, to identify school districts with exemplary novice science teacher retention, and then conduct site visits and write case studies that describe the characteristics that contribute to the high retention of science teachers in these districts.

This study has two phases. In the first phase, researchers will examine publicly available staffing data to develop a 5-year retention map for three cohorts of teachers in each state, with additional cohorts tracked over the duration of the study. This staffing data from each state will be used to map the career paths of individual science teachers for a more comprehensive picture of teacher retention, mobility, and attrition. By identifying districts that are highly successful in retaining science teachers, the findings from this analysis will be used to set the stage for the second phase of the research. In the second phase, the researchers aim to closely examine a subset of districts that demonstrate high science teacher retention rates. This analysis focuses on gaining a better understanding of the role of mentoring and induction programs, as well as other factors cited in the literature that may influence teacher retention. This project uses a theoretical framework, based in research literature, that looks at teacher retention in terms school contexts and personal/professional backgrounds. One state study will occur in each of years two through five of the project, beginning with New Jersey in the second project year. A subset of districts that are successful at retaining science teachers of color, science teachers in high-need districts, and Noyce graduates teaching science will be identified for further study. It is estimated that a sample of 15-20 school districts per each of the four states will be identified, with the aim of representing the range of district characteristics, and mentoring and induction programs. From these districts, the research team will select five to six exemplar districts for case studies that will address the best practices, structure and organization, funding, and critical issues in each district related to the mentoring and induction program. Anticipated outcomes of this study include: state-specific reports on the role of mentoring and induction and other retention-related factors for dissemination (through policy briefs, conference presentations, peer-reviewed manuscripts, and a multiple-case study in the form of a book-length manuscript featuring generalizable best practices in mentoring and induction, as well as other factors influencing retention), and the production and dissemination of a shareable database analysis tool for calculating actual retention rates (disaggregated by teaching certification) from existing staffing data sets. The potential contributions of this study include the dissemination of knowledge about how to better support novice science teachers so that they remain in the profession. Further, this study will provide all states with a set of tools by which actual retention rates can be measured.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date15/08/1831/07/23


  • National Science Foundation: $800,000.00


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