For many new teachers, the first years of their career can be the most difficult. Whether adapting to long hours in a high-stress environment or working within a system with limited resources, the challenges presented can be overwhelming, resulting in a disproportionate number of fledgling teachers quitting the profession within the first five years, according to a study from the Charles Butt Foundation.1 According to the study, 6 out of every 10 teachers drop out of the profession within their first five years. Another study from the Learning Policy Institute found that it can cost a school district up to $20,000 to replace a new teacher, and the turnaround culture that arises in underfunded districts creates a self-perpetuating problem.
THRIVE, an initiative developed by the College of Education (COE), addresses the issues of teacher attrition and retention by providing a unique combination of professional development, community building and long-term sustainability planning for school districts throughout Texas. With support from The University of Texas (UT) System, two local school districts, Jeanne and Mickey Klein, and several foundations including The Powell Foundation, The Meadows Foundation, The Klein Foundation, The Buena Vista Foundation and The Tapestry Foundation, THRIVE addresses the complex challenges that school districts face from a holistic perspective and provides teachers and leaders with the necessary tools to adapt to a rapidly changing educational environment.
“Great teachers are a foundational building block to a thriving economy, an informed and productive citizenry and a high-functioning democracy, yet our state is facing a critical teaching shortage,” said Archie Holmes, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs for UT System. “While UT institutions are working to recruit and prepare more high-quality teachers, we must also retain those teachers already in the field. UT Austin’s THRIVE is an innovative and effective way to help secure the future of our state’s educator workforce.”
THRIVE builds off the framework of Texas Education START, a pilot program launched by the College of Education in 2021. Developed in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, when more than 5.8 million Texas public school students were forced to switch to a virtual classroom setting, START built a network of mentors for teachers adapting to the new hybrid dynamic across the Austin Independent School District (AISD). In just three years, the retention rate for those participating in the program reached 90%, a significant increase compared to the 76% retention rate for teachers who weren’t involved. THRIVE seeks to continue this momentum by expanding the program’s reach statewide.
Addressing the Teacher Shortage
THRIVE takes educator support a step further and bridges those gaps and stabilizes the workforce by providing the resources of UT Austin to offer outreach to new teachers. THRIVE’s architects aim to increase teacher retention by at least 10% by partnering with local school districts and implementing sustainable early career training.
“I support Texas Education THRIVE and the College of Education because the best thing we can do for the future of Texas and society is support teachers and provide them with the tools they need to be successful,” said supporter Jeanne Klein (B.S. ’67). “What kind of world will be living in if we can’t keep teachers in the classroom and provide all children with a high-quality education?”
THRIVE is based on three foundational pillars: District Engagement, Professional Learning and Mentorship and Networks of Support. Districts that opt to participate in THRIVE undergo a needs assessment and gap analysis study to identify areas of strength and priority areas that need to be addressed. Once the analysis is complete, THRIVE addresses issues of teacher retention and engagement in three ways:
Integrating a school-based mentorship model: THRIVE reaches out to veteran teachers and provides additional training so they can act as mentors to new hires.
Carving out time for additional training: THRIVE secures earlier release times for new teachers to allow them to make dedicated time for co-teaching, observing or personalized coaching to improve their skills and provide better resources. THRIVE also provides veteran teachers seeking to further their careers with opportunities to obtain new certifications and potentially transition to another phase of their career.
Providing a support network: THRIVE leverages the resources of UT Austin and its network of partners to develop customized learning programs, instructional materials and equipment that will provide additional professional development for teachers.
With support from partners including the Austin Independent School District, Del Valle ISD and Manor ISD, THRIVE will have a sustained impact on education in Texas that can serve as an example to education systems in other states. To learn more about the program’s benefits and how your school district can participate, please visit THRIVE.