April 2024
Vol 21 No 4

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About Harry and Rosemary Wong...
Harry and Rosemary Wong are teachers. Harry is a native of San Francisco and taught middle school and high school science. Rosemary is a native of New Orleans and taught K-8, including working as the school media coordinator and student activity director.

Harry Wong has been awarded the Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal. Rosemary was chosen as one of California's first mentor teachers and has been awarded the Silicon Valley Distinguished Woman of the Year Award.

Harry Wong is the most sought after speaker in education today. He has been called "Mr. Practicality" for his common sense, user-friendly, no-cost approach to managing a classroom for high-level student success.

More than a half-million teachers worldwide have heard his message. Because he is fully booked for two years, he has agreed to and has invited his wife to join him in doing a monthly column for Teachers.Net so that more people can hear their message.

About Their Work... Harry and Rosemary Wong are committed to bringing quality and dignity to the materials they produce. For this, they have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO. They have dedicated their lives to leaving a legacy in education and making a difference in the lives of teachers and students.

The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education. Over 2.4 million copies have been sold.

A third edition of The First Days of School has been released and includes an added bonus, an Enhanced CD featuring Harry Wong. The Enhanced CD, Never Cease to Learn, is dedicated to those teachers who know that the more they learn, the more effective they become.

The Wongs have also produced the video series The Effective Teacher, winner of the Telly Award for the best educational video of the past twenty years and awarded the 1st place Gold Award in the International Film and Video Festival.

They have released a new set of CDs, How To Improve Student Achievement, featuring Harry Wong as he speaks at one of his many presentations. He is the most sought after speaker in education and his presentations are legendary.

When the book, video series, and CD are used together, they form the most effective staff training tool for developing effective teachers. Staff developers and administrators who would like to know how to implement the aforementioned book, video series, and CD are encouraged to consult the book, New Teacher Induction:  How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers. Information about these products can be found by visiting the publisher's website at or Best Sellers

The First Days of School
by Harry & Rosemary Wong

$23.96 from
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New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers
by Annette L. Breaux, Harry K. Wong

$23.07 from
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The Effective Teacher (Video Set)
Presented by Harry Wong

8 DVDs, with Facilitator's Handbook in PDF, book The First Days of School, and storage case, $695.00 from (volume discounts available)
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New Item

How to Improve Student Achievement
2 CD set
by Harry & Rosemary Wong

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Pathways: A Guide for Energizing & Enriching Band, Orchestra, & Choral Programs
by Joseph Alsobrook

$12.57 from
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Results : The Key to Continuous School Improvement
by Mike Schmoker

$20.95 from
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Improving Schools from Within : Teachers, Parents, and Principals Can Make the Difference
by Roland Sawyer Barth

$13.30 from
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A First-Year Teacher's Guidebook, 2nd Ed.
by Bonnie Williamson, Marilyn Pribus (Editor), Kathy Hoff, Sandy Thornton (Illustrator)

$17.95 from
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Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education
by Peter M. Senge (Editor), Nelda H. Cambron McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Art Kleiner, Janis Dutton, Bryan Smith

$24.50 from
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The Courage to Teach : Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life
by Parker J. Palmer

$16.76 from
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If You Don't Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students : Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers
by Neila A. Connors

$13.96 from
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Effective Teaching...
by Harry and Rosemary Wong

May 2005

Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple (Part 1)

The concept of school is very simple. Teachers teach and students learn. Improve the teacher and you improve the student.

Ask any CEO of a private company what is the greatest asset of their company and they will tell you – their people.

When school administrators were asked,
what is the greatest asset in your schools?

1. Most administrators answered: money or finances
2. Others answered, their programs
3. A few said, the children or the students

Almost no one answered that their greatest asset is their teachers.

Yet, we all know that teacher quality is the most critical factor by which to improve student achievement or close the achievement gap.

  1. Teacher.  It is the teacher, what the teacher knows and can do, that is the most important factor in improving student achievement.
  2. Instruction.  It is how the teacher instructs, not the program, the size of the school or classroom, or the demographics of the students that determines student learning.

Rather than invest in the comprehensive training of teachers, many school districts invest in programs and structural changes.

Administrators.  The school year may be coming to a close, but it’s not too late to start planning for the next school year.

What are you planning to do this summer: buy another curriculum program, shuffle the school size, and reorganize job descriptions?

And when you review next year’s results, will student learning be lacking again?  We know why!

  • Unsuccessful schools stress programs.  They spend millions of dollars adopting programs, fads of the year, in constant pursuit of the quick fix on the white horse.
  • Successful schools stress practices.  They wisely invest in their teachers and administrators and their effectiveness.  They don’t teach programs; they teach basic, traditional academic content - and they work at improving the instructional practices of their teachers.

So, stop spending millions of dollars adopting programs, philosophies, and fads.

Student achievement has nothing to do with programs and class or school size.

It’s the teacher – what the teacher knows and what the teacher does in the classroom -- that results in student learning.

That’s right.  Improving student achievement is very simple.  It’s the teacher and how the teacher instructs.

When teacher instruction is effective, you will see improved student learning.  In fact, the most effective teachers produce as much as six times the learning gains as the least effective teachers.

New Teachers Need More than a Mentor

Here’s some surprising news, but after some reflection it does make sense.

A new teacher lowers achievement growth by 0.12-0.16 standard deviations.
Hanushek, Kain, O’Brien, & Rivkin (2005)

This is not a statement that is disrespectful of new teachers.  It’s just a fact of life that raw rookies need training and help to become effective.  New baseball players are not inserted into a major league lineup right after they sign a contract.  Every single one of them is sent to a minor league farm club to learn and hone their skills.

New employees in a law firm, a restaurant, or a hardware store all start “from the bottom up” learning all the skills of the profession and the practices of the company.  In fact, new employees all want to learn how they can fit into the company and how they can add value to the company.

In theory, this is reasonable but it does not apply to teaching, because new teachers are expected to take over a class on the first day of school as all the other teachers do, and

they are expected to perform to the same degree of proficiency as all the veteran teachers.

We know this, and it is an important but terrifying experience, but when school starts again in about three months, many new teachers will be, figuratively and literally, dumped into a classroom and told to go and teach.  Many of the new teachers who are hired are not even shown to their classrooms or formally introduced to the staff.  The very person who is the most important factor influencing student achievement begins in isolation and continues the year in isolation.

Oh, but we give the new teacher a mentor, say many administrators.

As this article is being written, baseball season is in full progress.  Bill Carpenter, a recently retired Connecticut elementary school principal, shares that when he graduated from high school he was invited by the then Brooklyn Dodgers to their spring training camp in Florida.  At training camp, he recalls, the camp was crawling with coaches.  They had coaches for pitching, batting, catching, base running, outfield play, infield play, sliding, base stealing, taking signals, and warming up drills, just to name a few.

There is no debating that one of baseball’s most valued skills is batting, especially if you note the salaries of those who can do it well.  However, at a spring training camp, they do not have every player participate exclusively in batting practice.

Yet, that is exactly what many schools and school districts do, and several states have mandated that a new teacher is given a mentor.  There is no question that a mentor is very important to the success of a new teacher, just as good batting is important to a baseball team’s success.  But, mentoring alone does not produce effective teachers.

All baseball teams have a comprehensive, organized spring training program that continues during the playing season and even during the off-season for those who want to continue their training.  They devote their time to all the components needed for a baseball team to succeed.

It’s the same with schools:

  • Some schools do nothing for their new teachers.
  • Others just give the new teacher a mentor, and
  • Others provide a comprehensive, coherent, and sustained professional development program.

The research supports the latter as most successful.

Thomas Smith and Richard Ingersoll have determined the percentage turnover of first year teachers.  Very simply

  • 41 percent of beginning teachers will leave after one year if they receive no induction training
  • 27 percent of beginning teachers will leave after one year if they receive four components of induction training, and
  • 18 percent of beginning teachers will leave after one year if they receive seven components of induction training.

In other words, if all a new teacher receives is a mentor, the new teacher has nearly a 40 percent chance of not making it through one year of teaching.

That’s a tragic loss of human capital!  And the loss is not due to incompetence on the part of the teacher.  It’s due to the school or the district doing nothing to train and support a new teacher.

Components of a Comprehensive Induction Program

It takes four to six years to develop an effective teacher.  Knowing this, effective induction programs are:

Comprehensive:  The components include many activities and people.
Coherent:  The activities and people have an organized purpose.
Sustained:  The program continues for many years, striving to develop effective teachers.

The components of an induction program could include the following:

  • Begin with an initial four or five days of training (in classroom management and effective teaching techniques) before school begins.
  • Offer a continuum of professional development through systematic training over a period of two or three years.
  • Provide study groups where new teachers can network and build support, commitment, and leadership in a learning community.
  • Incorporate a strong sense of administrative support.
  • Integrate a mentoring component into the induction process.
  • Present a structure for modeling effective teaching during in-services and mentoring.
  • Provide opportunities for inductees to visit demonstration classrooms.

    Good induction programs are very structured and have a perfect blend of caring, accompanied with a lot of supervision.

Mentoring Is Not Induction

The terms “induction” and “mentoring” are often incorrectly used interchangeably to describe what happens to a new teacher.  It must be clarified that induction and mentoring are not the same.

Induction is an organized, sustained, multiyear program structured by a school or district, of which mentoring may be an integral component.  Induction is a group process, one that organizes the expertise of educators within the shared values of a culture.  Mentoring is a one-on-one process, concerned with simply supporting individual teachers, but mentoring is not a sustained process.

Most mentoring is done to help new teachers survive, not to thrive.

We must stop trying to portray mentoring as the effective stand-alone method for supporting and retaining teachers.  Mentors are important, but they are an isolated episode for one year or less in a new teacher’s life.  To be effective, mentors need to be a component of the induction process.

The Difference between Mentoring and Induction



Focuses on survival
and support


Promotes career learning and professional development

Relies on a single mentor or shares a mentor with other teachers   Provides multiple support people and administrative support
Treats mentoring as an isolated event   Comprehensive and
part of a lifelong professional
development design
Limited resources spent  

Investment in an extensive,
comprehensive, and sustained induction program

Reacts to whatever arises   Acculturates a vision and aligns content to academic standards
Short-term, perhaps a year
  Long-term, recurrent, sustained

In many school districts,

  • Mentoring is carried out one-on-one, in isolation, with no coherence to any district/school curriculum, plan, goals, or standards, nor is there any evaluation or rigorous monitoring of the process, whereas
  • Good induction programs are comprehensive, last several years, have clearly articulated goals, provide a structured and nurturing system of professional development and support, and are rigorously monitored and evaluated.

Mentoring can’t do it all.  It should be obvious that adequate help cannot be done by another teacher with a full-time load who drops by when time permits or when a problem arises.  Mentors may show up after school begins and may not have been trained, compensated, or given direction or goals to attain.  Many mentors do not consult with other mentors and may never even visit the mentee’s classroom.

We need more than mentors
to develop effective new teachers.

Mentoring is Not the Issue

The concept of mentoring began in 1980.  You know that year as the birth of the personal computer, most notably the IBM PC with 16 kilobytes of memory.  It’s 25 years later and we shake our heads at the thought of 16 kilobytes (KB), because today’s computers commonly come with 1 gigabytes of memory, which in round figures is one kilobyte times 1000 times another 1000 equals one gigabyte of memory.

In 1996, Sharon Feiman-Nemser wrote an ERIC report on her critical study of mentoring programs and said that few studies exist that show the context, content, and consequences of mentoring.  And in 2004, Ingersoll and Kralik stated that the current research did not provide definitive evidence of the value of mentoring programs in keeping new teachers from leaving the profession.

These researchers are politely saying that there is no research to support mentoring as an effective process to use to train and produce effective teachers that will result in student learning.

It is now 25 years later since mentoring came on the scene and some people are still trying to sell it like someone would try to sell an original IBM PC today.

And when you ask these good people how the mentoring process is done, they will tell you that the mentor and the mentee get together when the mentee needs help and they “reflect.”  Yes, they “reflect.”

The mentor may not have been trained, may not teach at the same grade level or academic subject and the mentoring relationship probably has no coherence or collaboration to any state/district/school curriculum, plan, goals, or standards.  Also, the relationship lacks any structure, is not monitored, and has no adequate follow-up procedure.

This should explain why we lose talented new teachers every year.

Despite what has been said, the issue is not mentoring.  The issue is when mentoring is used as an isolated event.  Mentoring can be successful if mentors are a component part of a comprehensive induction program.

It must be understood that mentoring is only one component of a successful induction program.  Without all of the components in place, mentoring by itself will be of little benefit to new teachers.

This is why such districts as

Prince Georges County in Maryland provides 35 hours of training for each mentor, and Forsyth County in Georgia provides 100 hours of training for each mentor.

One purpose of this training is to align the mentoring process with district goals that have as its main focus student learning.

Susan Moore Johnson of the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education says, “Mentoring is all the rage.  There is some sort of deep hope on the part of everyone that if you get the right mentor, your life will be saved and you will be the teacher you remember.  But the truth is that mentoring pairs seldom are anything but haphazard.  They are driven by the schedule.  They are often not pairs of people who really know the subjects that the individual is teaching.”

Can you imagine a baseball team that does not have spring training?  Rather, they assign every new player a mentor and the new player is told to contact their mentor if they need help.  To make matters worse, the mentor may not even play the same position, which is what is often done to new teachers.  That is, new teachers don’t get help from someone in their field; they get someone from “left field.”

In the sports world and the private sector, people are trained continually.  The goal is to achieve success.  For those who achieve exceptional success, they are inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Marines, and a law firm.

You are not mentored into the Hall of Fame, the Marines, or a law firm.

The concept of induction is used in every profession except education.  Doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other professionals must all prove their abilities BEFORE they are allowed to practice their professions independently.  They are not placed in professional settings and told to rely on their mentors, which is what is commonly done in education.

For More information on Induction

New teachers learn best from systematic induction programs.

The aforementioned Susan Moore Johnson at Harvard says, “Our work suggests that schools would do better to rely less on one-to-one mentoring and, instead, develop schoolwide structures that promote integrated professional cultures with frequent exchange of information and ideas across experience levels.”

And John Saphier, writing in Beyond Mentoring says, “We need to provide a comprehensive induction program that involves more than just mentors.  Mentors alone, though a critical part of good induction, cannot hope by themselves to provide the range of input, feedback, and support beginning teachers need.  Well-designed induction programs include specific roles for principals, superintendents, central office personnel, the teachers’ union, parents, school board, and particularly the other staff members where the beginning teacher works.”

This column will be continued next month, June.

For more information on new teacher induction, please go to

In particular, access

Apr. 8, 2005
“New Teacher Induction: The Foundation for Comprehensive, Coherent, and Sustained Professional Development”

Feb 1, 2005
"Significant Research and Readings on Comprehensive Induction"

Jan 21, 2005
"What the World Can Teach Us About New Teacher Induction"

For a printable version of this article click here.

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