Mentors Matter

June 01, 2021 • Cheryl Hoover

Mentors Matter

Approximately 40 percent of new teachers leave the profession within five years, but teachers with mentors are more likely to stay, according to a recent study.

The Institute of Education Sciences study Public School Teacher Attrition and Mobility in the First Five Years: Results from the First Through Fifth Waves of the 2007–2008 Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study examined the benefits of mentorship programs of beginning public school teachers and found those who were assigned mentors stayed in the profession at greater rates than teachers who did not have mentors over a five-year period.

The study revealed 92 percent of new teachers who had a mentor returned to the classroom for a second year compared to 84 percent of new teachers who did not have access to a mentor. After five years, 86 percent of the teachers with mentors remained in the profession compared to 71 percent of teachers without a mentor.

Key components

Education Week staff interviewed experienced teachers, former mentees, and current mentors and identified key components of mentorship programs that give new teachers effective support in their first years.

Their article Mentors Matter for New Teachers. Advice on What Works and Doesn’t found all mentorships are not created equal, and there is no single best system for mentorship but there are key common components.

One of these key components is allowing new teachers to choose their mentor. Mentees typically choose a mentor they feel comfortable with and who matches their teaching field, grade level, subject area, and even race. A mentor who has walked in the mentee’s footsteps can have more empathy for the new teacher, give them a unique understanding of new teacher needs, and make it easier to provide social-emotional support.

Another key element is keeping mentors and mentees close in proximity, making it convenient for observations and frequent discussion of curriculum, lesson planning, school culture, and student needs. Having adjacent classrooms or at least being in the same building is vital.

Ensuring mentors can “guide from the side” and remain impartial are other key pieces of a successful mentoring program. Effective mentors build a confidential and trusting relationship by providing non-evaluative feedback after informal observations. Being accessible, sharing relevant information and resources, and co-teaching to model instructional strategies are additional effective mentor program practices.

Implementing a teacher-directed program by letting new teachers choose their own goals relevant to their current teaching situations is another ingredient of successful mentoring. For example, if a teacher is having difficulty teaching students how to read, it’s ineffective to have them focus on campus or district goals that don’t align with their own instructional practice goals.

Mentor Program Allotment (MPA)

The Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) MPA is an optional program that provides funds to districts to build or sustain beginning teacher mentor programs. The program includes key components of effective mentor programs highlighted by Education Week’s article.

The MPA requires mentors teach in the same school, teach the same subject or grade level as their mentee, and meet all the following qualifications:

  • Complete an approved research-based mentor and induction training program
  • Complete a mentor training program provided by the district
  • Have at least three years teaching experience with a superior record of student achievement and performance
  • Demonstrate interpersonal skills, instructional effectiveness, and leadership skills

Training timelines and requirements must be followed, including no less than 12 hours of meetings between the mentor and mentee each semester (Title 19 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) § 153.1011).

Funds from the MPA can be used for:

  • Mentor stipends
  • Scheduled release time for mentoring activities
  • Mentor training

The next round of MPA applications (Cycle 3) will open in summer 2021. Priority is given to rural districts and districts with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students.

Resources

Mentor resources are available for mentors and districts on the MPA Mentor Resources website. The MPA website lists districts in Cycle 1 and Cycle 2, as well as FAQs. Several participating districts already report anecdotal success in increasing retention rates of new teachers.

Advantages

Providing an effective mentoring program can increase teacher retention and performance of new teachers as well as build leadership capacity of mentor teachers. Districts can access funds, training, and resources through the MPA program or develop their own unique mentorship program to include the key components.


Cheryl Hoover is an HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Cheryl an email at cheryl.hoover@tasb.org.


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Tagged: "Employee performance", Retention, "Teacher onboarding", "Teacher training"