Key Components of a New Teacher Induction and Mentoring Program

Robin Dexter rdexter@uwyo.edu, William Berube, Alan Moore - University of Wyoming

Mike Klopfenstein, Laramie County School District #1, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Research supports the fact that up to one-third of new teachers leave the profession within the first three years (Feiman- Nemser, 2001; Schwalbe, 2001; Tye & O’Brien, 2002). Viadero (2002) reported that 29 percent of new teachers leave education within their first three years, and by the end of five years, 39 percent have left. And, after five years, roughly 50 percent of beginners have left teaching (Anderson, 2000; Kestner, 1994). Supporting and retaining new teachers effects more than just the new teacher; the impact is felt by students, parents, veteran teachers, administrators, teacher educators, policymakers, and taxpayers.

  The requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) required that by the 2005-2006 school year, all teachers must be highly qualified. The quality of a teacher is the single most important factor in improving student achievement (Haycock, 1998; Moir & Gless, 2004; National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 1996). New teachers are expected to take charge of their new classrooms as if they had been teaching for years. No matter how well new teachers are prepared in college, learning to teach requires guidance and time to transition from being a student to having students of their own (Brewster & Railsback, 2001). The key to addressing retention of new teachers is to provide induction and mentoring programs (Brewster & Railsback, 2001; Brock & Grady, 1998; Heidkamp & Shapiro, 1999; Heller, 2004; Portner, 2001; Renard, 1999; Tye & O’Brien, 2002; Wong & Wong, 2001). These programs should be a systemic process where all components of the program are interconnected.    

What are school districts currently providing and what is still needed to support new teacher induction and mentoring programs? The Wyoming State Department of Education provided funding to support a statewide task force to answer this question. The task force was developed to include education professionals representing rural and urban districts; large, medium, and small districts; professionals assigned to mentoring positions; teachers; and university teacher and leadership preparation programs. The Mentor Task Force (MTF) was charged with developing a portable new teacher induction and mentoring program that would be available to all school districts in Wyoming to support the development of and/or the continuation of district induction and mentoring programs. The MTF developed and disseminated the portable program, New Teacher Induction and Mentoring Tool Box, to all 47 school districts in the spring of 2004.

The New Teacher Induction and Mentoring Tool Box was developed around eight key components of induction and mentoring programs. The eight key components emerged from the review of literature and the review of induction and mentoring programs implemented in six Wyoming school districts. The Tool Box included research articles and books to support each of the components, as well as forms and examples of how to include and implement each of the eight key components in a district or school new teacher induction and mentoring program.

Literature Review

Each of the eight key components will be introduced with a review of literature to support the need to include the component in an effective induction and mentoring program along with information collected from six Wyoming school district induction and mentoring programs. The eight key components are: program planning; funding; mentor roles and responsibilities; mentor training; mentee roles and responsibilities; mentee training; administrator roles and responsibilities; and evaluation of the program.

Program Planning


Systematic support for beginning teachers is critical in order to retain good teachers to improve student achievement. To ensure the implementation of a systematic effective program it is important that the planning component of an induction and mentoring program include a clear vision; commitment to mentoring; a planning and decision making process; and guidelines, policies, and procedures (Portner, 2001). Brewster and Railsback (2001) found that programs should be developed around the needs of the people to be served by the program. The program should also have clearly defined goals, purposes, roles, and responsibilities for all participants; supportive leadership; and be adequately staffed.

The district planning committee must spell out program assumptions and purposes. Therefore it is important that quality new teacher programs have a clear vision of what the program is about. Researchers reported that the district can demonstrate commitment by ensuring adequate time and resources; establishing policies that protect and support new teachers; and by making teacher development the centerpiece of educational reform (Brewster & Railsback, 2001; Moir & Gless, 2004; Portner, 2001; Sweeny, 1994). The vision and defined purposes of the mentoring program should drive every decision and the vision and purpose should be referred back to often via a decision making process. 

Programs reviewed in the literature reported the development of partnerships to support new teacher induction and mentoring programs (Brewster & Railsback, 2001; Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Moir, Gless, & Baron, 1999). Feiman-Nemser (2001) summed up the need to build partnerships when she stated, “no single institution has the expertise, authority or financial resources to create the necessary structures and learning opportunities. School, universities, teacher unions, and the state all have an important part to play” (p.1037).

  All six of the Wyoming district programs reviewed included belief statements and a plan for implementation that included goals and timelines. District plans also demonstrated the importance of developing a culture that supported mentoring. The six district induction and mentoring programs reviewed for this study had been in place for as long as six years to one full year of implementation. Two of the six programs used the Pathwise Professional Development Program (Educational Testing Service, 2001).

Induction will happen with or without a formal program and too many programs for new teachers lack what it takes to be effective. The first years are the best time to pattern best practices.

Funding


  Should states mandate and fund new teacher induction and mentoring programs? In a report released by the Education Commission of the States in July 2000 (Geringer, 2002), Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer identified beginning teacher support and induction programs as an important piece of legislative strategies aimed at retaining teachers and increasing teacher quality. Districts will need support in developing, implementing, and sustaining quality induction and mentoring programs, especially in rural districts.

According to Brewster and Railsback’s (2001) study, Montana’s Systemic Teacher Excellence Preparation (STEP) program was initially funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and received significant support from the state university system. This program included a statewide application process to match mentors to support new teachers in rural areas. In 2000 the Idaho state legislature passed a law to provide $2 million for school districts. Idaho school districts can apply for funding by submitting a comprehensive plan and each plan will be reviewed every three years. The Kent School District in Washington funded their program with district funds, the state’s teacher assistance program, and a pilot grant (Brewster & Railsback, 2001). The Davis School District in Utah started a $700,00 mentoring program to help first, second, and third year teachers (Casper Star, 2004). The Davis School District program was based on a program developed by the New Teacher Center at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

The Santa Cruz New Teacher Project (SCNTP) was part of California’s Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program, which was a statewide initiative jointly administered by the California Department of Education and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The state funded the program at a rate of $3000 for each beginning teacher with added district support of $2,100 for each teacher (Moir, Gless, & Baron, 1999). These authors also reported that California spends more on teacher retention than any other state.

According to Schwalbe (2001), the Milken Foundation estimated the cost of losing a first year teacher at as much as $17,000. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future reported that the average cost of replacing a teacher is $12,500 while most good induction programs cost about $4,000 per teacher (Colgan, 2004b). When the cost of mentoring a new teacher could be as much as $5,000 compared to the cost of losing a first year teacher at as much as $17,000; where should states and local school districts be allocating funds? This same report made three major recommendations: 1) states and school districts should use funds from Title II of the NCLB Act to fund comprehensive induction programs; 2) Title II of the Higher Education Act should be amended to require partnership grantees to provide comprehensive induction; and 3) new funding should be appropriated by Congress to ensure that every new teacher in high-need schools receives comprehensive induction.

The availability of funds will influence the extent to which a district will be able to support and sustain a mentoring program. Data collected from induction and mentoring programs in Wyoming revealed that districts tend to find creative ways to fund their programs. The districts used Title II funds, district funds, and the willingness of professionals to put in their own time to support new teachers. Districts used a combination of providing release time, stipends, supplemental pay, and substitutes as compensation for mentoring responsibilities.  

     If schools are to retain highly qualified teachers in order to improve student achievement then resources to support new teachers in their first years of teaching must be committed by federal education agencies, states, and school districts. Once schools strengthen the teaching force by seeing that teacher needs are met from the very beginning through the continuum of professional development they deserve, all of our schools will become places where teachers want to work (Schwalbe, 2001).

Mentor Role and Responsibilities 

Mentor teachers are seen as teachers of teachers. Feiman-Nemser (2001) shared that well-prepared mentor teachers combine the knowledge and skills of a competent classroom teacher with the knowledge and skills of a teacher of teaching. Moir (2003) expressed that too often mentoring programs are conceived as buddy systems but mentors in effective induction programs use their expertise and interpersonal skills to build relationships that support beginning teacher development in response to the individual needs of the new teacher. Building the relationship is the most crucial first step.  

     Mentors have a tremendous responsibility in bringing a new teacher to a high level of teaching in their first years of teaching. Typical responsibilities of mentor teachers included: modeling lessons; observing and coaching; modeling the use of technology to enhance instruction; analyzing assessment, curriculum, and instructional planning; gathering resources; guiding teachers to implement effective behavior management strategies; enhancing teacher understanding of data analysis; and demonstrating a reflective approach to teaching, self-evaluation, and implementation of new ideas (Auton, Berry, Mullen, & Cochran, 2002; Denmark & Posden, 2000; Ganser, Marchione, & Fleishmann, 2005; Moir & Gless, 2004).   

     Mentor roles, responsibilities, and accountability in the mentoring process need to be clearly stated at the onset. The six Wyoming induction and mentoring programs had clearly defined mentor roles and responsibilities. Two of the districts used the Pathwise program while the other districts have formally developed district guidelines and procedures.

Mentor Training 

Mentoring adults is different than teaching children. Mentor teachers must be able to build professional relationships, gather and diagnose data, coach and conference, expand mentees’ repertoire of teaching modalities, instill sensitivity within the classroom, and guide their mentee through the application and reflection processes (Portner, 2001). Mentor teachers should be given the support and the training to become successful mentors. This training should be in the form of ongoing staff development.

Good teachers do not always make good mentors (Denmark & Podsen, 2000; Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Moir, 2003; Portner, 2001). The potential qualities of a mentor need to be identified and assessed. These authors shared several ways to assess the qualities of a potential mentor: application process; interviews; recommendations; professional activities and presentations; portfolios; and videotapes of classroom teaching. After the selection process is complete the training must begin.

Moir (2003) stated “Training mentors is as important as training the novice teachers they will serve” (p. 6). This training should include: effective lesson planning; aligning assessment and curriculum; analyzing student work; collecting and analyzing classroom data; effective classroom strategies; behavior management practices; cognitive coaching strategies; reflective practice; communicating with parents; and stress management strategies to name a few.

A quality induction and mentoring program costs money. Mentors should not be expected to do the work of a mentor without adequate compensation. Programs that are most effective tend to employ and support full time mentors. Other programs reported providing stipends of $2,000 up to $5,000 dollars. Portner (2001) suggested compensation in forms other than money, such as: tuition waivers; release time; reduced course load; perks such as a laptop computer; and release from non-instructional duties. Dagenais (2003) shared that local circumstances will determine the kind of incentives mentors require to commit to the responsibilities of mentoring. He also stated that the qualities and benefits of an effective mentor are hard to quantify.

The review of the six induction and mentoring programs in Wyoming districts revealed that the bigger school districts have an induction and mentoring coordinator. Mentor teachers typically receive a stipend, release time, and substitutes. Mentor training included relationship building, conferencing skills, teaching strategies, data analysis training, classroom management, confidentiality issues, and site specific training. All six programs had defined their mentor selection process and training programs.

Mentee Role, Responsibilities, and Training  

The mentee is expected to take responsibility for participating in professional development, developing an awareness of the cultural context of the community, and involvement in the mentoring process. These roles and expectations need to be clearly defined for the beginning teacher. Brewster and Railsback (2001) identified steps that new teachers can take to help themselves: ask for help; seek out a mentor; observe other teachers; avoid negative elements such as those who lack enthusiasm for the job of teaching; get to know other teachers outside of the school context; connect with other new teachers; connect with the principal early on; search out resources; and join professional organizations.   

     Induction and mentoring programs typically require new teachers to be on duty extra days. Anywhere from two weeks prior to the regular contract to three days. Many programs required attendance in weekly or monthly professional development meetings. Several programs identified two to five year induction and mentoring plans.   

    The first step in developing training for new teachers is to identify the areas in which beginners need the most help. Training for new teachers needs to be individualized. Several authors supported the need for training in the following areas: learning routines and procedures; lesson planning; classroom management skills; discipline strategies; engaging students in class activities; establishing a positive classroom environment; assessing student performance; understanding state and district standards, assessments, and accountability guidelines; curriculum alignment; communicating and involving parents; time management skills; participation in staff development; teaching with technology; and reflective practices (Beerer, 2002; Brewster & Railsback, 2001; Ganser, Marchione, & Fleischmann, 1999; Wong & Wong, 2001).

One last responsibility of a new teacher would be to inquire about what a district offers in the form of an induction and mentoring program during the interview process. Districts could promote the success of their induction and mentoring program as an incentive in the recruiting process. 

Three out of the six Wyoming school district induction and mentoring programs defined mentee roles, responsibilities, and training programs. One district offered the opportunity to have a mentor as a choice for the new teacher. Roles and responsibilities included contractual obligations, required participation in professional development, and development of a professional portfolio.

Administrator Role and Responsibilities  

     Tye and O’Brien (2002) reported that respondents in their survey identified the lack of administrative support as the reason ranked fifth by those teachers who had left the profession and by those who were still teaching and just considering leaving the profession. Colgan (2004a) found that school-based support is more likely to make teachers decide to stick around in their schools and in the profession. Matthews, Hansen, and Williams (2004) stated that hiring and placement are important roles for the principal but the most important role a principal plays is in the support and development of new teachers. Effective principals are the key to success in our schools and to increasing teacher retention (“The Principal Effect”, 2004).

There are a variety of roles administrators can take on. The roles and expectations of the administrator in the mentoring program need to be clearly defined. Brewster and Railsback (2001) identified specific ways a principal can support induction and mentoring of new teachers: (a) take the lead in developing a formal program, (b) commit to funding programs, (c) do not assign new teachers the most challenging classes, (d) match teacher caseloads to the level which they student taught, (e) provide orientation at the beginning of each school year, (f) provide as much information as possible on the students they will teach, (g) provide the new teachers with the resources they need, (h) clearly communicate expectations, (i) be sincere with your support of their success, (j) be in their classrooms on a weekly basis, (k) find ways to integrate the new teacher into the school community, and (l) support their participation in staff development.

Moir, Gless, and Baron (1999) found that administrative support can influence the beginning teacher’s own commitment to the process of professional reflection, assessment, ongoing learning, and collaboration.

Only two of the six Wyoming induction and mentoring programs reviewed had clearly identified the role of the building administrator. The principal’s role in a teacher’s career is an overwhelming responsibility. It is critical that administrators understand the value of mentoring and induction.

Evaluation

  Mentoring programs should be continuously monitored. Several authors advocated for the use of quantitative and qualitative data collection methods to monitor formative and longitudinal effects of induction and mentoring programs (Dagenais, 2003; Dolton & Newson, 2003; Fleischmann, 1999; Ganser, Marchione, & Fleischmann, 1999; Moir, 2003). These methods included: reflective journals; interviews; focus groups; portfolios; individual learning plans; written narratives; surveys; new teachers retention rates; and student assessment.

If policy makers are to be convinced to support induction and mentoring programs then local, state, and national level organizations must continually evaluate and document the changes these programs make in student achievement. Researchers must continue to study the impact of induction and mentoring programs on teacher effectiveness, student achievement, teacher retention, and to share best practices of effective programs. Moir (2003) reported that the National Teacher Center (NTC) researchers are analyzing the impact of quality teacher induction programs on students. Dolton and Newson (2003) completed a study that substantiated the fact that high levels of teacher turnover can be shown to have a detrimental effect on pupil progress and achievement. The NTC study linked Standard Achievement Test-9 scores to new teacher support and the Doltan and Newson (2003) study linked SAT scores to turnover rates.

Analysis of the six Wyoming district induction and mentoring programs revealed that all six had a plan for evaluating their program. These plans included surveys, portfolios, teacher evaluations, and retention rates. None of the six programs reported using student achievement data.ConclusionThe review of research in the literature on induction and mentoring programs demonstrated that induction and mentoring programs have had a positive impact on retention of new teachers, veteran teachers, school culture, and student achievement. If schools are to meet NCLB mandates and the growing demand for quality educators policymakers, taxpayers, veteran teachers, teacher unions, institutions of higher education, and administrators must find proven effective strategies to support and retain highly qualified teachers in the field of teaching.


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