Does Mentoring Improve New Teachers?

June 25, 2008 | Blog

Even though I’m sitting 1000 miles away in Madison, Wisconsin, my sources inform me that an event is happening as I write at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. It features a presentation and discussion of a new paper on urban teacher mentoring by Columbia University economist Jonah Rockoff.

Rockoff looked at teacher mentoring in New York City, including the impact on student learning and teacher retention. The New Teacher Center worked with NYC to launch the mentoring program back in 2004. The city dismantled the program after 3 years — not due to lack of positive impact — but as part of its effort to devolve authority and decision-making from the central office to school principals.

Some key findings in Rockoff’s paper include:

  • Student achievement in both reading and math were higher among teachers that received more hours of mentoring, supporting the notion that time spent working with a mentor does improve teaching skills.
  • Teacher retention within a particular school is higher when a mentor has previous experience working in that school.
  • Strong relationships between measures of mentoring quality and teachers’ evaluations of the impact of mentors on their classroom success.
  • Additional supports for new teachers (e.g., common planning time, professional development workshops, reduced teaching loads) beyond mentoring alone helps to increase retention, consistent with the research of Tom Smith and Richard Ingersoll (2004).

For those interested in the impact of high-quality, robust support for new educators, Rockoff’s paper is well worth a closer read.

For those of you with a specific interest in teacher mentoring in New York City, a recent policy paper from the New Teacher Center (NTC) is also worth reading.

Also, here’s what the NTC has to say about high-quality mentoring and induction practices and the cost effectiveness of investments in such programs.

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