Additional Mentoring Benefits New Teachers — and Their Students

Yesterday, Education Week’s Madeline Will reported on findings from a new study that pairing new teachers with high-quality, well-trained mentors results in the equivalent of up to five months of additional learning for their students. The study was conducted by SRI Education and included trials in Chicago and Broward County, Florida. The evaluation compared teacher and student outcomes over a three-year period and compared a group of teachers who received additional mentoring and teachers who received the usual supports provided by the district.  

New Teacher Center CEO Ellen Moir says that while she hopes to do more research, she thinks the difference in student achievement — even while the instructional effectiveness ratings were similar between the two groups — was due to the continuous feedback and student data analysis the new teachers in the program received. Teachers and their mentors are “constantly reflecting on what worked, what didn’t work” after lessons, she said.

Research shows that the first few years on the job are a steep learning curve for teachers and that 12 percent of all public school teachers are in their first or second year. According to Moir, the amount and quality of mentoring that new teachers receive is drastically different depending on location, and too often in high-needs districts it’s a “sink or swim” system. In California, the current tenure law exacerbates this issue by giving new teachers just 18 months to sink or swim in the classroom and then punishing them with a black mark on their record if they don’t hit their stride in this short of period of time. This system discourages new teachers from entering the profession, worsening California’s growing and unsustainable teacher shortage.

That’s why eighty-five percent of unionized California public school teachers support extending the probationary period to give new teachers more time and support to earn tenure. Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) listened to their voices, and at the encouragement of teacher organizations Teach Plus and Educators for Excellence, proposed the Teacher and Student Success Act (AB 1220). AB 1220 will help ensure that California teachers are set up for success in the classroom by providing them with adequate time and support to earn tenure.