Research shows

Teacher mentoring program improves test scores

Teachers who received two years of comprehensive induction services boosted student test scores in reading and math more than teachers in a comparison group who didn’t receive such support, a recent study released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education finds. The comprehensive mentoring program produced results that are large enough to lift a student scoring at the 50th percentile in both subjects to the 54th percentile in reading and the 58th percentile in math.

Conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, a well-regarded evaluation firm based in Princeton, N.J., the study compared outcomes for teachers who received a comprehensive induction program with those who received less intensive, informal new teacher supports provided by their local school district. Using the gold standard of research designs, random assignment, the study randomly placed more than 1,000 elementary school teachers across 17 districts nationwide into either a treatment group (comprehensive teacher mentoring) or a control group (informal teacher mentoring).

Comprehensive teacher mentoring programs provide intensive supports to beginning teachers that are delivered by experienced, trained, full-time mentors. These programs also usually include professional development sessions, opportunities to observe veteran teachers and classroom observations followed by periods for constructive feedback.

The researchers also discovered, however, that the comprehensive services didn’t impact teacher retention. The comprehensively mentored teachers were neither more likely to stay in their schools, districts or the profession than were the teachers mentored with a less intensive program — nor did the groups differ in feelings of preparedness.

These retention findings, while significant, do not indicate that mentoring does not affect teacher retention. Rather, they are simply the effects that resulted from this study’s programs. Previous research on retention nationwide and in New York City found that mentoring does improve teacher retention.

In a study of 52,000 elementary and secondary school teachers in 2003, University of Pennsylvania researcher Richard, Ingersoll and Columbia University economist Jonah Smith found that providing a somewhat comprehensive mentoring program significantly reduced the odds of a teacher leaving his or her school. More recently, Rockoff examined a mentoring program in New York City and found that retention was higher in cases where the mentors had experience working in the mentee’s school. He concluded that an important part of mentoring may be school specific knowledge. He also found evidence that student achievement was higher for teachers who spent time with a mentor.

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