Monday, January 26, 2009

Mentoring - still searching

For true alternative teacher certification programs, mentoring is a critical component to ensure that career changers are brought up to speed as fast as possible. In an independent study of ABCTE teachers, we were very presently surprised to see that 83% of our first year teachers had a mentor and received about 45 minutes per week with that mentor. So our school districts are helping new teachers.

But how effective is that mentoring? Mathematica Policy Research just came out with a randomized study of the mentoring program that was the gold standard – The New Teacher Center’s program. This program can cost school districts around $5,000 per teacher so with that kind of investment, you want a good pay off.

Some quick thoughts from the study -

  1. 17 districts and several hundred teachers were involved. The majority of students in each district were low-income
  2. Control group received normal mentoring and the treatment group got either the New Teacher Center or the ETS program
  3. Plan is for 7 districts to keep up with the study during a second year of mentoring
  4. Major finding is that if you give teachers a more intensive mentoring program, they report receiving more mentoring
  5. Study did NOT find any impacts on student achievement or teacher observation scores or retention

We all continue to look for the one thing that might help all teachers and students perform at a higher level. It appears that these mentoring programs are not it and that we need to keep looking.

1 comment:

Liam Goldrick said...

Dave--Your take on the Mathematica study is not entirely accurate. The study did NOT measure the implementation of either the New Teacher Center or the ETS PATHWISE induction models as you suggest. To say that neither model works would be incorrect. It measured the implementation of a designed induction treatment (comprised of some elements of both approaches, but not all) which was implemented by both organizations and compared it to existing programs (some of which appeared to be surprisingly robust) in those schools and districts. The study design firewalled those mentors and new teachers from non-treatment peers--preventing these programs from informing or impacting the broader culture of teaching and learning in these settings. Also, it did not allow for significant connections to district administration--relationships we have found to be critical in the implementation of real world mentoring programs.

The results also reflect the first and only year of implementation of the induction treatment (except in a subset of districts in which a second year was added late). Existing policy research suggests an implementation curve for new programs especially in year one. The comparison of a one-year program in which all participants were brand new and receiving on-going training during that year to existing programs in which participants had a familiarity and comfort level raises some concerns as well.

In short, these first-year evaluation results are instructive, but it would be a mistake to suggest that they are definitive and that they would apply in all school contexts.