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Report Scrutinizes States' Teacher-Induction Policies

Even as there are more and more novice teachers in the ranks of the profession, states' teacher induction policies are generally piecemeal, contends a new report by the New Teacher Center.

The report by the Santa Cruz, Calif-based group, which works to help districts institute induction systems, is billed as the first comprehensive examination of states' teacher-induction policies. States were reviewed against 10 standards, which include such factors as how mentors are selected and trained, induction program delivery, and whether there is dedicated funding for the mentoring.

Among the group's findings:

• Though 27 states require some form of teacher induction, only 11 require it for two or more years.
• States are much less likely to require induction for administrators; only 17 states require it to some degree.
• Twenty-nine states state who is eligible to serve as a mentor teacher, with criteria generally based on holding a professional license and years of experience. Fewer require demonstration of teaching effectiveness;
• Only nine states' policies specify the following three delivery criteria: minimum contact hours between mentor and teacher, the collection of data on teacher practices based on standards, and classroom observation; and
• In 2010-11, 17 states provided dedicated funding for induction.

The report acknowledges that the presence or absence of these standards in state policy doesn't necessarily mean that states and districts will or won't have a good induction program. But it asserts that those states that have a clear roadmap in policy are more likely to ensure that new teachers receive on-the-job help.

There's a lot more detail in the report, so check it out.

It's interesting to note that many of the report's findings parallel the teacher-evaluation discussion. For instance, the report notes that state policies are often very unspecific about content or delivery of training for mentor teachers. Teachers' unions have raised similar concerns about the principals and other observers who are to perform formal observations for the purposes of teacher evaluation.

The kind of mentoring NTC envisions is not all that different in theory from evaluations. Both systems include observations keyed to a teaching framework and the sharing of feedback with teachers, with the main difference being that evaluation carries stakes and induction doesn't.

More funding for induction could be a heavy lift in this economy, especially given that research has found that it takes more than two years for high-quality induction to have an impact on student achievement. Costs include the training, release time for mentor teachers, and the hiring of replacements.

For my two cents, this review raises a lot of cost-benefit questions for policymakers and key supporters of induction, including teachers' unions. Where should induction fall in the list of budget priorities? Is preserving and strengthening these programs the role of states or districts? How should it be weighed in comparison to other budget items, such as professional development, curricula, and salaries?

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