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This article was printed from Teachers.Net Gazette,
located at https://teachers.net.
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 itself.
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 an
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
Then, the staff helps you, the new teacher, set up your classroom!
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
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 program,
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 they leave.
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 and effective.
Proficient: possessing knowledge and skills Effective: able to produce results
Every new teacher in Hopewell has access to the following complement of people:
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
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 and instruction.
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 skills.
Models effective teaching.
Develops intervention plans for struggling students.
Collaborates with teachers in grade level and vertical team meetings.
Demonstrates best practices in instruction and classroom management.
Demonstrates organizational skills.
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 (SOL).
Has expertise in SOL test data interpretation.
Understands the connections within and across disciplines to support
Identifies the best practices in instruction.
Reviews scope and sequence of curriculum.
Reviews Standards of Learning Blueprints and Curriculum Framework.
Reviews curriculum maps.
Provides technical assistance.
Provides staff development.
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 site.
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
A "welcome" breakfast is hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.
Three years of ongoing, structured training and support is provided by the
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 new teachers.
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
Support of lead teachers in core content areas and special education is
Observation of modeling instructional strategies by lead teachers is arranged.
Collaborative planning and sharing of resources with grade level, team and/or
department is conducted.
Observations and feedback is conducted by Core Curriculum Supervisors.
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
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
Support Teacher Receives
Percent Who Leave After 1 Year
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
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
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.
Differences Between Mentors and
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, click
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 teacher.
The more proficient the teacher, the more the students will learn.
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
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 programs.
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
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. Coaches!
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.
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. Coaches!
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 game plan.