Jul 24, 2011

No Mentor Teacher For You !

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

© Candi Peterson 2013


james boutin said...

42% of teachers having two years of experience or less is outrageous. Is there data on what that statistic was ten years ago?

Anonymous said...

A a former new teacher I didn't think much of the mentoring program. For mentors to be effective they have to be good at mentoring and have some experience with your subject matter ; I hear they've added new lead teacher roles at schools and instructional positions - I think that is preferable to a roving mentor who isn't that clued in to your particular teaching experience. In addition, the mentor would always come at inconvenient times because they didn't know what was going on at the school, seeing someone once in a blue-moon is a waste of time. In my case my mentor also had no experience with high school. I think I saw a mentor teacher 4 times last year, it was a very ineffective program during my time at DCPS. I head it used to be a good program, but I think there are better options available.

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely insane! The majority of teachers in D.C. now are in their twenties. How are these young teachers supposed to raise test scores in when they have no mentor teachers, no administrative support, and no access to technology??? Young teachers, if you are smart, leave DCPS A.S.A.P!

Candi Peterson said...

the link to the US DOE site where this information came from is as follows:


Anonymous said...

What a mess!

Anonymous said...

DC has always needed more Mentors then the system hired. A Mentor focuses on best practices for all teachers. DC used to have Content Specialist and they focused on the specific content areas. Where as the mentor focused primarily on good teacher practice, lesson planning,and understanding pedigogy etc. Each teacher has a different experience with their Mentor. The DC Mentor Program never had the numbers it was designed to have. Each year the Mentor Teacher program was supposed to increase the number of Mentors. That never happened. They begin to spread themselves very thin trying to support the numbers of teachers needing support. Lead Teachers are not new to DC. Just a different name. If a teacher has a class along with this extra responsibility it will become very diffiicult to continue. That is why the concept of Fully Released Mentors was concieved. DC never lived up to the expectations of the program. The cycle continues, because we are not learning from pass mistakes. I'm very sorry to see this happen to this program. Teachers and students will be at a disadvantage next year.

Linguaphile said...

DCPS is not only hiring less-experienced teachers but it's not trying to retain them so that they can become great, experienced teachers. Some will leave and enter other lines of work, but some will just move to other school systems, after getting their practice on in DCPS. They will become good teachers somewhere else. That's the travesty.


Anonymous said...

Although I criticized the mentor program I wasn't' criticizing the mentors it was just that we didn't have much interaction and they did not have experience in my content area. I agree the program should be expanded and every new teacher should have access to a mentor or content specialist.

Anonymous said...

What happened to the post with the open letter to Randi Weingartne? I was just checking back to get an update on whether your pay had been reinstated but I can't find that post???

Peter said...

In my experience, the mentor teacher program in DC has never worked. When I started in DCPS five years ago, I was assigned a mentor teacher who actually made my life worse. When she was in my class she would fall asleep or answer her cell phone. She'd show up in the middle of a lesson, walk over to me, and say "How can I support you?" Uh, you can stop interrupting my lesson? I (along with 7 other new teachers in the building who were being "supported" by her) wrote a very accurate and scathing review of her. But she was back again the next year causing disruption in new teachers' classes. As of last year, she was still working as a "mentor."

I know that one bad apple does not mean the whole program was terrible, and obviously the research does say that strong mentoring can be powerful. But I know lots of relatively new (5 years or less) teachers in DCPS, and I've never heard anyone speak about their mentor teacher with anything better than polite disinterest -- and I've heard a lot of frustration. It seems to me that it might make more sense to build up the teacher lead positions, give department chairs more planning time to support new teachers, and change the instructional coach position to be more of a site-based mentor teacher and less of a mini-administrator. Mentoring works, but the DCPS Mentor Teacher program does not.