Written by Candi Peterson
So it seems that there was another round of DC teacher positions eliminated by the District of Columbia Public Schools. Inside sources report that ten teachers were excessed on July 16, 2011 from the DCPS Mentor Teacher program (formerly known as the Helping Teachers program).This leaves approximately fifteen DCPS teachers to mentor first and second year teachers citywide in the District.
Given that there is research and literature documenting the importance of mentor teachers, DCPS could not have picked a worse time to reduce their already scanty mentor teacher department. The Center for Inspired Teachers cites a 2006 New Teacher Center report that shows that students whose teachers received strong mentoring support make bigger gains in reading than those in un-mentored classrooms. The New Teacher Center report also found that in a comparison of approximately 100 new teachers in three school districts, students of teachers who received two years of support from mentors, made gains comparable to those of students of veteran teachers.” See the following link for more information: http://www.newteachercenter.org/pdfs/NTC_Policy_Brief-Hill_Briefing.pdf
Are you wondering what those in charge of DCPS could be thinking? I know I am. As such, I asked a DCPS mentor teacher how these cuts to DC’s mentor teacher department would affect new teachers. This recently excessed mentor teacher who requested anonymity due to fear of reprisal, had this to say: “New teachers will now have limited support and will not have that one-to-one professional and technical guidance that a mentor offers such as organizing teacher classrooms, understanding instruction and data, getting through a typical day and classroom management skills, etc. Our students will suffer in the long run.”
Now that data is available from the US Department of Education’s (DOE) Office on Civil Rights, we can see educational trends across school districts in the U.S. Based on 2009 DOE data, 42% of teachers in the District of Columbia have two years or less of teaching experience while only 10% of teachers have less than two years in Fairfax County Public Schools and Montgomery County Public Schools, which are much larger school districts. I would venture to guess that other school districts like our suburban counterparts recognize the importance of teacher mentoring programs and would fight to the death to keep these types of programs in place even during a tight economy.
If we want real transformative change in public education, then we must first be honest about what is happening in our public schools. We must stop supporting knee-jerk administrative decisions to cut valuable programs which are not in the best interest of teachers or students. Let's start by standing together with other Americans in the national Call to Action Rally to Save Our Schools on July 30, 2011 on the Ellipse. We hope to see you there. For more information visit: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch.org