by Harry and Rosemary
More Effective than Mentors
The research is very specific: Well
trained, proficient and effective teachers produce student learning.
Administrators—Why do you keep doing this?
Each year schools spend $7.3 billion recruiting and hiring the
same new teachers to replace the same teachers hired the year
before. They are given a mentor, yet the attrition rate
stays the same and student learning does not improve. When
the next new teacher is hired, he or she is given a mentor, too.
No one ever stops and analyzes why the pattern keeps repeating
One-on-one mentoring does not improve student learning.
here to see the research.
New Teachers—Why do you keep doing this?
You’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars preparing to
be a teacher with the intent of making a difference in the lives
of young people. You are eager, dedicated, intelligent,
compassionate, and want to teach. And yet, you don’t
know anything about the district that is hiring you.
In which district would you like to work?
District 1: You are given your assignment
and told to go and teach—on your own. You may be
given a mentor, a veteran teacher down the hall, who may be
of help, if asked. Or, the mentor may be a full time mentor
who has been given a case load of 14 teachers and the mentor
comes around once a week or every other week to see you for
District 2: You are given a mentor,
several coaches, lead teachers, administrators, and a host of
activities all designed to fulfill the potential in you. This
is what you get in the Hopewell City Schools.
And if you have been hired at Carter G. Woodson School in Hopewell,
Virginia, the new teachers are given a SHOWER. The teachers
celebrate your arrival by putting out boxes and baskets where
the other teachers can place materials for bulletin boards,
sticky-notes, crayons, books, and necessities of the classroom.
Then, the staff helps you, the new teacher, set up
Hopewell’s Formula for New Teacher Success
Linda Hyslop, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction in the
Hopewell City Schools in Virginia, says, “We cannot promise
our new teachers big bucks like the surrounding big school divisions
but we can offer support and quality staff development.
As a result, teachers return to teach in Hopewell after leaving
for what they thought would be happiness by making more money.”
The Hopewell City Schools is a highly distinguished Title 1 school
system and a Standard and Poor’s Outstanding School Division.
Hopewell has had a large turnover in the last three years due
to retirement and licensure issues. Thus, the induction
program takes on greater importance. The reason
Hopewell succeeds with its new teachers and its students is because
they have a comprehensive new teacher induction program.
- To see a brochure summarizing the Hopewell New Teacher Induction
Common sense would tell you that in every aspect of life, people
are given a full complement of activities and people to train
and support them from the day they come on the job until the day
Comprehensive training programs are the norm for most jobs.
Ask the fire chief, the store manager, or hospital executive what
they do with new employees. Ask the baseball manager, construction
foreman, or senior partner in a law firm what they do. Ask
the workforce at Domino’s Pizza, Starbucks, The Cheesecake
Factory, and McDonalds. They all will tell you that every
employee is trained. And in most cases, the training continues
until the employee leaves the company.
Even the best educated of new employees need on-the-job
training. Despite completing college and medical
school, doctors spend years working as hospital residents before
entering private practice. Newly elected judges, armed with
law degrees and years of experience, attend judicial college before
assuming the bench. Pilots receive initial training and
recurrent training every time they change positions, such as from
co-pilot to pilot, and when they fly a different type of plane,
such as from a 737 to a 757.
Many People to Help You Succeed
In the Hopewell City Schools, new teachers are given a full complement
of activities and skilled people to help them become proficient
Proficient: possessing knowledge and
Effective: able to produce results
Every new teacher in Hopewell has access to the following complement
Buddy: This is an assigned teacher to
serve as a buddy to whom the novice teacher can turn for immediate,
simple help, such as answers to school procedural questions or
quick advice. Hopewell correctly designates this teacher
a buddy and not a mentor.
|The Buddy’s Responsibility
- Makes the new teacher feel welcome.
- Helps the new teacher find the essentials.
- Provides information on routines, procedures, and
the unwritten roles.
- Shares ideas.
- Provides a sounding board and some nonjudgmental advice.
- Is a support.
Coach: This is a teacher with expertise
in classroom management and instructional skills. There
are presently at least four in each school and their role is to
coach, as their title implies, for skill in classroom management
|The Coach’s Responsibility
- Provides instruction in skills for effective teaching.
- Provides instruction in classroom management.
- Assists in procedures and routines.
- Assists in planning instruction and refining organizational
- Models effective teaching.
- Team teaches.
- Develops intervention plans for struggling students.
- Collaborates with teachers in grade level and vertical
- Demonstrates best practices in instruction and classroom
- Demonstrates organizational skills.
- Models professionalism.
- Observes the new teacher.
- Meets with the principal and goes over assessments,
progress, and suggestions for improvement.
Lead teacher: This is a teacher who can
help with subject matter questions. There are five on each
campus, each specializing in one of five areas—English,
math, science, social studies, and technology. The lead
teachers coach for desired results.
|The Lead Teacher’s Responsibility
- Is knowledgeable in the state Standards of Learning
- Has expertise in SOL test data interpretation.
- Understands the connections within and across disciplines
to support student achievement.
- Identifies the best practices in instruction.
- Models professionalism.
- Reviews scope and sequence of curriculum.
- Reviews Standards of Learning Blueprints and Curriculum
- Reviews curriculum maps.
- Provides resources.
- Provides technical assistance.
- Provides staff development.
- Models lessons.
All of the coaches and lead teachers receive training, teach
in the same building, and receive release time to observe and
assist. Coaches and lead teachers are financially compensated
for attending conferences. They then do follow-up training
on what they have learned.
Administrative Support and Monitoring:
In addition, the new teachers receive assistance from staff developers
and administrators from both the central office and the building
|The Principal’s Responsibility
- Are the instructional leaders for the school.
- Supervise instruction in their building.
- Are pivotal in ensuring that all teachers are effective
at helping their students learn.
- Are responsible for evaluating teachers.
The principals realize the clinical supervision model for
all teachers is an excellent tool to teach, not to rate.
Thus, the new teachers are taught to analyze and reflect on
their own lessons.
|The Central Office Staff’s Responsibility
- Provides coordinators to assist at each site
The assistant superintendent, Linda Hyslop, structures and
coordinates the new teacher induction process and keeps a vision
for the program.
Many Activities to Help You Succeed
In addition to having access to competent people, Hopewell provides
a varied set of activities, such as these:
- Upon signing their contract, new teachers are given a copy
of our book, The First Days of School,
and Robert Marzano’s books, Classroom Instruction
That Works and Classroom Management That Works.
- Four days of orientation and workshops before all staff return.
The first day includes time on core curriculum, special education,
Standards of Learning (SOL) for Virginia Public Schools that
describe the commonwealth's expectations for student learning
and achievement in grades K-12. The second day is devoted
to Skills for Effective Teaching (SET), the Madeline Hunter
Model. The third and fourth days focus on technology training.
- A field trip during orientation takes the teachers around
the community and ends at a historical home where the Historic
Hopewell Foundation welcomes them.
- A "welcome" breakfast is hosted by the Chamber of
- Three years of ongoing, structured training and support is
provided by the SET coaches.
- Selected events from the Pathwise Induction Program, formerly
distributed by the Educational Testing Service, are conducted.
These activities are used with teachers having no experience
to augment the SET program.
- Observations and feedback by SET coaches are provided all
- Opportunities to visit demonstration classrooms of master
teachers over a three year period are arranged.
- A “get together” luncheon is held for the new
teachers and their buddies.
- Support of lead teachers in core content areas and special
education is provided.
- Observation of modeling instructional strategies by lead teachers
- Collaborative planning and sharing of resources with grade
level, team and/or department is conducted.
- Observations and feedback is conducted by Core Curriculum
- Provisions for networking among new teachers are arranged.
- A Celebration is held at the end of the school year to recognize
the new teachers and their supporters.
All of this support is given to a new teacher upon joining
the Hopewell schools. Can you understand why all
the schools in Hopewell are 100 percent accredited?
The Original Question
Let’s return to the question posed at the start
of this column, in which school district would you like to work—District
1 or District 2?
If you picked District 1 (a district offering
no help or just a mentor) because you believe you can succeed
on your own, then consider the data on new teacher attrition.
Studies done by Richard Ingersoll at the University of Pennsylvania
reveal the following:
Support Teacher Receives
Percent Who Leave After 1
Since the one component is most typically a mentor,
it will barely help in reducing new teacher attrition, from 41
percent to 39 percent.
If you choose District 2 (the Hopewell City
Schools) your chance of dropping out of teaching drops to 18 percent.
That is, four out of five teachers will still be teaching.
Hopewell does not attract and keep new teachers with money.
They train new teachers to succeed. Teachers who
succeed do not leave a school district or the profession.
Districts that want you to succeed have an induction
program designed to help you succeed. Before you
agree to work for a district, ask some key questions. These
can be found in a previous column, “Applying for a Job in
a Tight Market, Part 1.” Click
Coaching Has Replaced Mentoring
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (www.ascd.org)
in its Education Topics defines “mentoring” based
on a book by McBrien and Brandt, The Language of Learning.
“Mentoring is when a role model, or mentor, offers support
to another person. A mentor has knowledge and experience
in an area and shares it with the person being mentored.
For example, an experienced teacher might mentor a student teacher
or beginning teacher.”
Mike Schmoker, author of the best-selling book, Results:
The Key to Continuous School Improvement, (an ASCD
publication) says of mentoring,
“So called ‘mentors’ are everywhere these
days, but they aren’t often given release time or a clear,
compelling charge. Research has not been found that supports
the systematic formation of effective teachers solely through
the use of mentors, especially mentors who show up after school
begins and may not have been trained, compensated, or given
direction or goals to attain.”
Ted Britton,Senior Researcher for WestEd (www.WestEd.org),
a nonprofit research, development, and service agency, reports
this about mentors:
“Mentors are more typically assigned to respond to a
new teacher’s day-to-day crises and provide survival teaching
tips. Mentors are simply a safety net for the new teachers.
Mentoring, in and of itself, has no purpose, goal, or agenda
for student achievement, and, thusly, one-on-one mentoring has
failed to provide evidence of the connection between well executed
professional learning communities and student learning.”
Today the best districts coach, not mentor, their
new teachers and place them in learning teams to develop their
teachers to state specified proficiencies.
Hopewell provides coaches and lead teachers who coach new teachers
for proficiency and effectiveness. Mentors have no compelling
charge to produce proficient and effective teachers. What
other districts would normally label as mentors, Hopewell correctly
calls them “buddies.”
Mentors are important in providing emotional support and answering
basic questions for survival. That is their role, whereas
coaches have responsibilities.
Coaches Have Responsibilities
Mentors have Roles.
Coaches have Responsibilities.
The major responsibility of a coach is to help maximize
personal and professional potential, while concomitantly
upgrading their own professional proficiency. Mentors are
under no obligation to upgrade their role as a mentor. Hopewell
financially compensates their coaches and lead teachers for attending
conferences and upgrading their own proficiencies.
Coaching is customized and focused on providing instruction
on what needs to be accomplished. Coaches tailor
support, assess each teacher’s progress with observations,
use interviews and surveys, and have follow-up visits. Teachers
feel more motivated and responsible to act on new skills learned
because coaching is personalized, customized, and ongoing.
Just as a tennis coach, a fitness coach, or an executive coach
has a responsibility, educational coaches have similar responsibilities
of producing proficiency too. Schools often have coaches
for literacy, math, science, and technology. Coaches have
a ‘big-picture plan’ for student achievement.
To accomplish this they suggest or show teachers what to do and
assess for progress.
Tom Guskey, an expert in evaluation design, analysis, and educational
reform, found that coaches focus on student learning goals, identify
small measurable steps to tailor goal accomplishment, and plan
professional development that differentiates for each teacher
based on their needs. The emphasis is on student
learning and coaches coach for learning.
Mentors and Coaches
|Are available for survival and support
||Help teachers improve student learning
|Provide emotional support;
answer singular procedural questions
|Coach to improve instructional skills
on a sustained basis
|React to whatever arises
||Focus on student learning goals
|Treat mentoring as an isolated activity
||Part of job-embedded induction and
staff development process
|Just a buddy
||Have a leadership responsibility
To read more about the responsibility of improving student learning,
here to read “Improving Student Achievement Is Simple,
Part 1” and click
here to read “Part 2” of the same article.
In many districts, the mentors have taken on some coaching
responsibility for teacher proficiency. Proficiency
is essential if there is to be a concomitant improvement in student
learning because the research is very specific. It is the
The more proficient the teacher, the more the students
In these districts, where the mentors are working to improve
instruction skills for improved student learning, by definition,
mentors should be called “coaches.”
What Works with New Teachers
Retaining teachers is not the same as helping teachers become
proficient and effective.
Retaining teachers is another component of a comprehensive induction
program. Once districts invest in coaching teachers to improve
student achievement, they must continue this training over the
tenure of a teacher’s professional career. Supporting
teachers in a variety of ways is crucial to longevity in the profession.
No two induction programs are identical. Just as every
business trains their own employees to their own set of goals,
successful school districts each have their own unique induction
Here are links to school districts and the structure of their
induction programs. Click on each name to be directed to
an overview of each district’s induction program.
Hopewell City Schools,
Penn Hills Schools, Pennsylvania
Clark County Schools,
Flowing Wells Schools,
Islip Public Schools,
Kern County Schools,
What’s Your Game Plan?
If you are a pre-service teacher looking to be hired this fall,
you know the support you’re looking for in a school district.
If you are an administrator dealing with low test scores and
fleeing teachers, you know the kind of support you need to establish
in your school district. Coaches!
If you are a teacher in a non-supportive school district and
want to move, you know what to look for in a caring school district.
Answering the question “In which district would
you like to work?” is a no brainer. Districts
that support and grow you will always score big both in student
achievement and teacher satisfaction. That’s
the victory the school boards, administrators, parents, teacher,
and children what to achieve. It can be done as a community
of professionals working and planning together.
We’ve shared with you the structure for success through
the years. It’s time for you to execute a winning
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