Guidelines for Implementing District - Based Teacher Mentoring Programs
- Initial Steps
- Required Mentoring Plan Components
- For Consideration in Designing the Mentoring Program
These guidelines are offered to assist school districts and teachers in understanding their responsibilities under the new teacher mentoring regulation. Under previously revised provisions of Section 100.2(dd) of the Commissioner's Regulations, effective February 2, 2004, new teachers must complete a mentored experience in their first year of teaching. Likewise, under the new provisions of Section 80-3 of the Commissioner's Regulations, employing districts are now responsible to provide such mentoring to new teachers and must incorporate the design and planning of such mentored experiences into the district's professional development plan.
Key Provisions of the new mentoring regulation:
The purpose of the mentoring experience is to improve the skill and retention of new teachers as they transition from academic preparation to their first professional appointment.
The mentoring program must be developed consistent with Article XIV of the Civil Service Law. Any mentoring program components that fall within the purview of contractual negotiations should be addressed accordingly.
The mentor's role is one of guidance and support. However, the mentor may have an evaluative role as well as guidance and support, if this stipulation has been negotiated and agreed upon in the local teachers' contract. If the mentor's role is solely that of guidance and support, information emerging from mentoring activities and the mentoring relationship is confidential.
Required elements of the mentoring program include:
- A mentor selection procedure -- published and available to district staff and the public upon request
- Mentor training and preparation
- Defined set of mentor activities
- Allocation of time for mentoring activities to take place
- The district must maintain documentation of mentoring activities. Items to be recorded: names and teacher certificate numbers of mentors and teachers served, type of mentoring activities, and the number of clock hours of mentoring provided to each new teacher.
The amendment provides a framework and direction for districts designing mentoring experiences required for first-year teachers. It allows for local flexibility, while "pointing" districts in the direction of best teacher mentoring practice. The guidance that follows incorporates the regulatory framework, but also presents a more complete guide to best practice in teacher mentoring.
Introduction. Induction of new teachers is an important part of the overall preparation and professional development of beginning practitioners. It is part of the teacher's continuum of experiences -- building on preparation programs and accomplishments, and anticipating continued development over the course of the teacher's career. Mentoring is an essential strategy in the teacher induction enterprise.
Experiences of districts in pilot teacher mentoring projects in the late 1980s and 1990s point to the efficacy of this approach for achieving the highest quality, personalized support in welcoming new teachers to the profession and assisting them to practice effectively. Teacher induction has consistently shown to be effective in stemming teacher attrition (NYSED, 1991; Bullard, 1998). Further, teacher mentoring appears to significantly impact a beginning teacher's movement along the continuum of skill development and self-confidence as a teacher (NYSED, 1989).
Program decisions and actions. In designing and implementing a new teacher-mentoring program, key decisions and actions must be considered during the course of implementation.
Planning and early decision-making. Decide on desired goals and outcomes. Goals and expected outcomes of the mentoring program should be clearly defined for all mentors and novice teachers, as well as the entire school community. Teacher retention and increased teacher skillfulness are defined in regulation as purposes of mentoring programs. Teacher recruitment and establishment of a vital teacher learning community are also indirect outcomes of mentoring programs. Ultimately, as with any professional development for teachers, increased student achievement is the primary goal of a teacher-mentoring plan.
Construct a knowledge base (literature and experience), design the program, identify constraints, and inform the greater school/district community of the proposed model. Begin with the Office of Teaching Initiatives web site at http://www.highered.nysed.gov/tcert/ . This site contains information pertaining to mentoring as well as structural models, print and other resources. Neighboring districts that have experience with teacher mentoring, teacher centers, local teacher organizations, and Regional School Support Centers are also good sources for information on implementation and development of mentoring programs. National, statewide and regionally sponsored conferences that are dedicated to teacher mentoring are also valuable sources of knowledge and expertise.
Develop or identify program evaluation models based on the knowledge base and identified program outcomes.
Next, outline the implementation plan, and implement, assess, and modify program components as appropriate.
* = CR 100.2 dd excerpts pertaining to mentoring programs.
Development. By regulation, any items of the mentoring plan that fall within the purview of Article XIV of the Civil Service Law (Taylor Law) must be negotiated contractually in accord with those provisions.
* The mentoring program shall be developed and implemented consistent with any collective bargaining obligation required by Article 14 of the Civil Service Law, provided that nothing herein shall be construed to impose a collective bargaining obligation that is not required by Article 14 of the Civil Service Law.
It is recommended that the entire mentoring program be collaboratively developed with the full participation and agreement of district officials and the local teachers' union. Experience has shown that professional development is most effective when it is planned with the input of representatives of the recipients of the training. This principle holds true for this form of professional development as well.
Role of the mentor. By regulation, confidentiality of information obtained by the mentors in their work with their assigned mentees must be maintained, if the mentor will serve in a strictly guidance and support role. Mentors may also serve in an evaluative role relative to their assigned new teachers if this responsibility is negotiated and incorporated into the appropriate collective bargaining agreements.
* The information obtained by a mentor through interaction with the new teacher while engaged in the mentoring activities of the program shall not be used for evaluating or disciplining the new teacher; unless the school district or BOCES has entered into an agreement, negotiated pursuant to Article 14 of the Civil Service Law whose terms are in effect, that provides that the information obtained by the mentor through interaction with the new teacher while engaged in the mentoring activities of the program may be used for evaluating or disciplining the new teacher.
The mentor can fulfill a variety of roles for the novice teacher: guide, advocate, confidante, subject expert, "critical friend", champion, and reflective partner, all of which can be considered in light of the overall goals of the mentoring program. Minimally, however, a decision should be made early on regarding the mentor's role relative to a novice teacher's performance evaluation. A mentor may participate in the novice's evaluation, or maintain a purely supportive role in his or her colleague's development. There are advantages to both courses. A mentor in conjunction with a beginning teacher's supervisor can assist in assuring that the performance review is a true professional growth experience for the novice. On the other hand, defining the mentor's role as guidance and support, and ensuring confidentiality of the participants' interactions, helps to create a truly collegial relationship, inviting honesty, risk-taking, and self-reflection by the novice teacher about the practice of teaching.
Mentor selection. The regulation calls for the mentoring plan to include a * procedure for selecting mentors, which shall be published and made available to staff of the school district or BOCES and upon request to members of the public...
Mentors should be selected based on mastery of pedagogical skills, content knowledge, teaching experience, interpersonal skills and a willingness to serve as a mentor. Particular consideration should be given to teachers with National Board certification, or locally recognized teachers of excellence. Districts that have experience with teacher mentoring often add other local criteria such as leadership qualities, organizational skills, experience with informal mentoring, and positive attitude toward professional growth. They also point to such skills or attitudes as self-confidence, enthusiasm for teaching, and the ability to see many different ways to accomplish a purpose or goal, as desirable in mentor candidates (NYSED, 1989).
The experience of many school districts indicates that mentor selection is best conducted by a carefully balanced committee of experienced educators. The procedures and criteria for the selection of teacher mentors should be clearly articulated to the public. The importance of an open and thoughtful process cannot be overstated. The presence of a balanced committee using a well-defined public process helps eliminate future questions regarding the quality of the mentoring program.
Mentoring activities. Mentoring programs may include such activities as joint lesson planning, coaching, observations, reflection activities, or even curricula development around the NYS Learning Standards. By regulation, districts must describe in the mentoring plan a defined set of activities in which the mentor will engage with his or her assigned beginning teacher:
* types of mentoring activities ... may include but shall not be limited to modeling instruction for the new teacher, observing instruction, instructional planning with the new teacher, peer coaching, team teaching, and orienting the new teacher to the school culture...
Mentor preparation and development. The regulation is not restrictive, but rather, seeks to move districts toward best practices.
* the preparation of mentors, which may include but shall not be limited to the study of the theory of adult learning, the theory of teacher development, the elements of a mentoring relationship, peer coaching techniques, and time management methodology...
Even excellent, highly skilled teachers need preparation as they take on the role of a mentor to a colleague. Adult learning theory, teacher development, knowledge of beginning teacher needs, conferencing skills, coaching techniques, reflective practice and establishing effective communication with parents and colleagues are all areas which are beneficial to include in mentor preparation programs. Preparation for mentors can be delivered as formal courses of preparation, for example, those offered by colleges, teacher centers, school districts or consortia offerings. In addition, mentor support groups or monthly mentor meetings are important as on-going sources of support for mentors. A mentor's participation in such activities could partially fulfill the continuing professional development requirements for the maintenance of professional certification, after February 2004.
Time allocation. The district must consider and decide when and how much time will be provided for mentors to carry out mentoring activities. The regulation allows for an array of configurations that a district might employ to ensure that there is adequate opportunity for mentoring activities to take place, including release from instructional time, release from duties, the use of superintendent conference days, and summer orientation. There is latitude in how time is provided, but there must be a defined time when mentoring services will occur:
* time allotted for mentoring, which may include but shall not be limited to scheduling common planning sessions, releasing the mentor and the new teacher from a portion of their instructional and/or non-instructional duties, and providing time for mentoring during superintendent conference days, before and after the school day, and during summer orientation sessions.
Significantly, best practice dictates that districts plan and build into school scheduling time for professional development for teachers in its employ.
Record keeping requirements. The regulation requires districts to retain the names and teacher certificate numbers of mentors and the teachers to whom they provided service, mentoring activities and the number of clock hours of mentoring provided to each new teacher.
* School districts and BOCES shall maintain documentation of the implementation of the mentoring program described in the professional development plan. Such documentation shall include for each individual receiving mentoring pursuant to the mentoring program: the name of that individual, his or her teacher certificate identification number, the type of mentoring activity, the number of clock hours successfully completed in the mentoring activity, and the name and the teacher certificate identification number of the individual who provided the mentoring.
The mentoring relationship. The quality of the relationship between the experienced teacher and the novice teacher is central to an effective and meaningful mentoring experience. The knowledge, organizational skills, and wisdom of the experienced mentor teacher, coupled with the energy, enthusiasm, and eagerness of the newcomer, are key ingredients leading to a more productive and satisfying beginning teaching experience. The mentoring relationship emerges, develops, and matures in response to the beginning teacher's perceived needs and abilities (NYSED, 2000). In general it should be characterized as professional, flexible, trustful, mutually educational and entailing sustained, frequent contact. Districts should support the establishment of the mentoring relationship in a number of ways, including arranging for initiation of the relationship, e.g., joint orientation, common training or social events early in the school year; scheduling; and establishing a process to allow for adjustments in mentor/mentee pairing (Mager, 2000).
Role of the principal and other educators in the school. The relationship with the school administrator is a key relationship in the newcomer's professional life. The initial relationship of a beginning teacher with his or her principal greatly impacts the decision to remain in teaching (Gold, 1996, p. 579). In successful teacher mentoring programs, building principals participate in mentor selection, facilitate assignment of new teachers to mentors, support and champion mentoring as integral to the school's professional development planning to other teachers and parents, assist with scheduling for program activities, and assist in the design of the mentoring program, among other activities.
The induction of teachers needs to be seen as the work and responsibility of the entire school community. For example, mentors will frequently direct assigned mentees to other colleagues' classrooms to observe or include them in action research or curriculum development projects with other teachers, to experience collegial collaboration. This should be encouraged if schools are to become truly supportive learning communities for all learners, students and teachers.
Mentoring and annual professional performance reviews. Regardless of the district's designation of the mentor's role as strictly one of guidance or one of evaluation as well as guidance, the presence of a mentoring program should never be construed as limiting or replacing the process of annual professional performance reviews conducted by school administrators or others who supervise the beginning teacher. The mentor program should complement the annual professional performance review process, sharing the common goal of excellent teaching and increasing student achievement.
Role of colleges and universities. Educators from post secondary institutions proximate to the district are an excellent resource and should be included in the design and planning of the district-mentoring program. In addition, college faculty can provide content area expertise, reflective courses and seminars, consultation for local program evaluation, sponsorship and support of regional mentoring activities, e g., mentor training or conferences for multi-district mentoring participants. College faculty in teacher preparation programs can also be an important connection for recruitment of classroom replacement/substitute teachers.
Program coordination. Teacher mentoring programs in districts are best overseen and coordinated by an identified person or small group who will attend to such matters as working with building principals to schedule program activities, including conferencing, classroom observations, or mentor training. This group or individual also needs to intervene when mentor teacher and beginning teacher matches require adjustment due to personality conflicts or other unforeseen circumstances. The particular configuration depends on local circumstances and there is no one model that is best for all districts. Some districts have successfully utilized teachers as coordinators, to work cooperatively with building principals; others have used a co-coordinator design with an administrator and teacher jointly acting as coordinators; still others choose to coordinate by committee (a caution here: too large a group may be unwieldy). Whatever program coordination design is chosen, there should be linkages with the district's professional development planning committee.
Adjustments in mentor teacher and beginning teacher pairings. Occasionally, despite everyone's best efforts and sound selection processes, the mentoring relationship is troubled, has irretrievably broken down, and does not meet the needs of the beginning teacher. This eventuality should be anticipated, not because it happens often (in fact, it is quite rare that conflicts can't be worked through), but because the new teacher's needs are paramount in the teacher mentoring relationship, and it is essential that it not be a negative experience for the newcomer. In fact, it is advisable, if another mentor is not available in the event of an unsuccessful pairing, that the new teacher be supported outside of the formal mentor program with care taken by the program coordinator that this not be seen as a failure on the part of the new teacher.
Program evaluation. Evaluation of teacher mentoring programs is done for the purposes of accountability, program improvement, and to grow the local and statewide knowledge base of successful mentoring practices. Decisions about the evaluation of teacher mentoring programs should be made during the planning phase of the program. Such decisions include:
Who will conduct the evaluation? Will you use district personnel or contract for the services of an external evaluator? There are advantages to both: in-house resources may be less costly and more accessible; using an external evaluator may bring fresh perspectives and allow for greater assurances to respondents of the confidentiality of their input.
Who is the intended audience? School community, parents, school board members, district professional development committees, SED, and local legislative representatives are all possible audiences.
What questions do you want addressed by the evaluation? For this, go back to the expected outcomes of the teacher-mentoring program: e.g., teacher retention, improved school climate, increased teacher effectiveness, increased student achievement. Are you concerned about any negative impact to the school community or to instructional programming? Do you want to make adjustments to the various components of the mentoring program during implementation?
What kinds of data will be collected and how will it be collected? Again, go back to desired outcomes for direction here. Think long-term and short-term information needs. You may also wish to look at some historical factors; for instance, what is the recent history of teacher turnovers? Is there any "exit" interview data as to why teachers leave? Are mentors and new teachers comfortable with arrangements for time for their working together? What about the effect on others in the school building?
Improvements can be made in the teacher-mentoring program each year if you build in the means for evaluative feedback to be used in program development. Continuity of personnel in advisory or steering groups will be beneficial to this process. Also, former mentors and mentees can provide valuable information about activities, materials, training or support strategies that were particularly effective for them (Regional Laboratory for the Northeast and Islands, 1994; Mager, 2001).
Bullard, C. Qualified teachers for all California students: Current issues in recruitment, preparation, and professional development. California State Library, August, 1998.
Gold, Y. "Beginning teacher support: Attrition, mentoring and induction". In Handbook of Teacher Education (2nd Edition), 1996.
Mager, G. Statement of mentoring as a form of new teacher induction. Presented to the NYS Professional Standards and Practices Board, 2000.
Mager, G. [Discussion of evaluation of teacher mentoring programs, 2001]
Newton, A.; Bergstrom, K.; Brennan, N.; Dunne, K.; Gilbert, C.; Ibarquen, N.; Perez-Seles, M.; and Thomas, E. Mentoring: A resource and training guide for educators. Andover, MA: Regional Laboratory for Educational Improvement of the Northeast and Islands, 1994
New York State Education Department. Mentor Teacher Internship Program: Guidebook (Draft), 1989.
New York State Education Department. A report to the State Education Department on the New York State Mentor Teacher Internship Program for 1986-87: A follow-up on the experiences of intern teachers. Prepared by Dr. Gerald Mager, Stanley Cianfarano and Carol Corwin, June, 1990.
New York State Education Department. NYS Mentor Teacher Internship Program, 1986-91: Summary of teacher retention reports. NYSED, 1991.
New York State Education Department. 2000-2001 New York State Mentor Teacher Internship Program: Request for proposal, 2000
COMMENTS regarding these draft guidelines may be directed to Sanford Lake in the NYSED Office of Teaching Initiatives at firstname.lastname@example.org