This guest post comes from Lisa Lachlan-Haché, principal researcher for the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at the American Institutes for Research.
Behind every great teacher is a great mentor. And behind every great mentor is a commitment to the resources and funding that allow educators to develop and hone their craft.
The flexibility offered with the Every Student Succeeds Act is an opportunity to create the kind of comprehensive induction programs that address the needs of new teachers — across the board, and particularly in the lowest-performing schools, where teacher recruitment and retention are often barriers to school success. The flexibility built into ESSA allows districts to rethink funding for both school improvement and professional development. By braiding funding from Title I and Title II, districts can re-envision professional learning for both new teachers and their mentors — reversing high teacher turnover trends and increasing the lure of teaching in challenging schools, all the while increasing teacher effectiveness for the students in most need. All but six state ESSA plans highlight mentoring and induction programs as a strategy to address the interconnected challenges of inequitable access to excellent educators, teacher shortages and teacher retention. However, the best laid plans in educational improvement can go unfunded and be challenged by implementation and sustainability.
To support this work, our team at the GTL Center, in partnership with the New Teacher Center, designed a ready-to-use toolkit to support states working closely with districts to build strong mentoring and induction programs. The tools include resources for district teams to home in on root causes and innovative solutions, recalibrate mentor recruitment and selection, and re-envision professional development for mentors and new teachers. Our aim is to reach state agencies with evidence-based practices that meet the requirements of ESSA while also providing essential support for new teachers and their mentors. The work engages districts in targeting instructional improvement through meaningful, formative assessment of beginning teacher practice. We know that implementing high-quality mentoring and induction can be essential for establishing and maintaining an effective educator workforce.
Teachers serve critical roles as not just facilitators of student learning, but also as facilitators of collaborative learning with other teachers. Most notably in their role as mentors for those new to the profession, teachers are instrumental in supporting their new peers as they gain footing in an increasingly challenging profession. Mentors recognize that beginning teachers are novices and need ongoing support and coaching over time. Mentors know that one day (often sooner that you might imagine), these new teachers will become leaders of schools and educational systems.
What we’ve learned through rigorous research suggests that comprehensive mentoring and induction programs can make a difference between teachers staying or leaving, between students performing well or missing the goal. Beginning teachers who participate in rigorous mentoring and induction programs tend to have better retention and effectiveness outcomes. Yet teachers in low-income schools are less likely to receive high-quality mentoring and induction supports.
To change these trends, induction programs must be evidence-based and comprehensive. We would love to know more about what is needed in your state. Together we can promote evidence-based, comprehensive mentoring and induction policies that go beyond requirements and build momentum that uses innovative funding streams to invest in the needs of the lowest-performing schools.
For more information, please visit our website.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week from all of us at the GTL Center!