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National Organization is Delivering on the Promise of Public Education: Ellen Moir's Story

Money, guidance, working conditions, and mobility. These are the four biggest influences that determine a teacher’s decision to continue his or her work in the classroom, or leave the field altogether. What many don’t always know, is that guidance is one of the most important resources for teachers, and makes a real difference for their students. Of the teachers that have been assigned a mentor during their first year, 86 percent remained in the same position after five years, resulting in more experienced and successful teaching in the classroom. Teachers want and need support to develop their practice throughout their career, so their students can succeed. The question is, how can we make sure teachers get the guidance they need to make a difference for kids?

Across the nation, school districts are now turning to New Teacher Center (NTC) to help them establish a system that gives teachers the hands-on coaching and mentoring guidance needed to overcome challenges and change the odds for students.  These districts also partner with NTC to support experienced teachers and school leaders, since this type of systemic approach is the fastest way to accelerate student learning.

NTC’s mission is to improve student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders, an idea first constructed by Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ellen Moir. Moir founded NTC as a local organization in Santa Cruz, California in 1988. Each day, Moir continues to watch her vision become more of a reality in schools across the country.


New Teacher Center

Before starting NTC, Moir worked at the University of California, Santa Cruz, as the chair of the teacher education program. During this time, Moir began to see that many of the program’s graduates who were working as teachers wanted to leave the profession within the first couple years after starting, an uncommon trend in today’s workforce.

What Moir found most upsetting was the fact that the graduates were either unprepared to overcome common struggles new teachers face, or showed signs of wanting to quit teaching. This trend would spark Moir’s theory that teachers who were new to the classroom were not receiving the proper job-embedded training and resources to thrive in the position long-term.

Moir states, “The most talented of the students wanted to quit after their first year. After observing this, I became convinced that the new teachers lacked support to survive in the classroom long-term.”

Moir decided to take action, and in 1988 founded New Teacher Center, which began as a local organization serving teachers in the Santa Cruz community. NTC started seeing positive results almost immediately, became a national organization in 2009 and has expanded to currently help over 40,000 teachers and 7,500 teacher leaders in 600 school districts across the United States. Teachers in the program work together with their mentor with the goal of getting their students more college, career, and community ready, by the time they leave the classroom.


Mentors Helping Teachers

With obvious success, one has to wonder, how do they do it? NTC established the teacher induction program (for new teachers) and instructional coaching (for experienced teachers), two models that provide ongoing coaching for teachers from accomplished, specially-trained peers. The organization also supports school leaders in becoming strong instructional leaders.

“Oftentimes, new teachers are not always able to translate the problem of not having the necessary resources to succeed. In order to be the best teachers possible, they truly need instructional and emotional support,” Moir explained.

Since being implemented into classrooms across the country, the NTC programs have become a helpful tool for teachers who are placed into low-income, minority districts without the proper resources needed to succeed. Last year alone, NTC’s work resulted in over 3.4 million students across the U.S. who had access to more competent, more confident, more engaging and more effective teachers than the national average.

“Mentors observe the teacher, give their feedback, assess the students, help make lessons plans, and help look at the student growth,” Moir said of the mentorship program. “New teachers come in as excellent teachers, and after three years come out as experts.”

It is not difficult to see the incredible impact the center has had on both the teachers and students either. According to the New Teacher Center website, 90% of new teachers say that the NTC mentors have had an influence on their teaching style while meeting their needs as a professional. The most exciting part? Not only has the teacher retention rate increased by an additional 30% following two years of NTC support, 88% of those teachers reported a direct impact on their student’s success in the classroom. In fact, early results of an independent evaluation of NTC’s work show student achievement gains. Students of NTC-supported teachers demonstrated three-to-five months of additional learning in reading. This is the perfect example of a win/win in education.


Moir’s Influence and Recognition in the Field

Moir has played a significant role in the field of education over the last three decades, becoming a major resource for new teachers about how to succeed in the classroom. In addition to her work with NTC, Moir has also co-authored several publications about education, including Keys to the Classroom and Keys to the Secondary Classroom, New Teacher Mentoring: Hopes and Promise for Improving Teacher Effectiveness, and Blended Coaching: Skills and Strategies to Support Principal Development.

Moir has also been the recipient of several prestigious awards for her work in education, including the 2005 Harold W. McGraw Prize in Education and the 2013 NewSchools Venture Fund Organization of the Year Award, among many others. Most recently, she was the recipient of the 2015 Mary Utne O’Brien Awards for Excellence in Expanding the Evidence-Based Practice of Social and Emotional Learning, and the 2015 California Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (CASCD) Outstanding Instructional Leader Award recipient.


Moving Forward

Even with the success of the center, Moir continues working to implement more innovative programs meant to improve the teacher’s success in the classroom. Some of those innovations include an online portal, and most recently, the Learning Zone smart phone app. A resource to measure a mentor’s impact in the teacher’s classroom over time as part of NTC’s programs, Learning Zone focuses on using a data-driven, online approach for the mentors and teachers to use.

“The data collected over time gives the new teacher a window into where they started and where they have come over time,” explains Moir. “The mentors are helping the new teachers get on a habit of excellence early, and they’re developing those habits of what excellent teachers have over time. It ensures that new teachers are getting the kind of preparation and development they need and course work to be as successful as possible when entering the teaching force.”

For many of the mentors NTC trains, their work in the academic field does not stop after the classroom. Many have moved on to become principals or curriculum developers, allowing them the opportunity to continue improving the field of education while providing the resources that students need to be successful.

Although Moir continues to be amazed by the incredible success for teachers and students alike, she sees this as only the beginning in NTC’s mission to help ensure there’s a talented teacher in every classroom across the nation. “I have learned that teachers are the rock stars of America. They lift the lives of young people. I want to make sure every student in America gets the best teacher possible.”

With New Teacher Center growing, Moir continues to show gratitude for nearly 200 colleagues who continue to have an impact on the lives of students all across the country. While Moir hopes to eventually impact every teacher and student in the United States, she is content to know that New Teacher Center is making a difference. Every teacher supported by NTC is helping students become college, career, and community ready.