HD23 - Plan for Strengthening Teacher Education and Induction

Executive Summary:
Throughout the United States, induction programs are being initiated to provide better support and guidance for beginning teachers. A dominant characteristic of these programs is the use of experienced teachers to help new teachers understand the culture of the school and make a smooth transition from understanding concepts to applying them effectively. Often, the support teacher is designated as the "mentor teacher." Responsibilities of the mentor teacher are often broad in scope and may range from helping the new teacher understand the school's academic standards and expectations to providing professional and personal guidance.

The research suggests that novice teachers face dual challenges; they must fulfill their contract obligations to their employing school boards and they must learn and practice the craft of teaching. The assistance of an experienced and supportive colleague during a teacher's earliest classroom experiences has been shown to be very important in assisting first-year teachers' entering their profession. For experienced teachers, serving in the role of a mentor to an inexperienced colleague leads to continued -professional growth and satisfaction.

Linda Darling-Hammond, in the report of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future stated:

"Maintaining an adequate supply of well-prepared recruits is even harder during times of substantial new hiring, because new teachers leave at much greater rates than mid-career teachers, particularly if they do not receive mentoring or support during their first years of teaching. Typically, 30% to 50% of beginning teachers leave teaching within their first five years. Teachers in shortages fields, such as the physical sciences and special education, also tend to leave more quickly and at higher rates. New teachers often leave because they are given the most challenging teaching assignments and left to sink or swim with little or no support. The kinds of supervised internships provided for new entrants in other professions -- architects, psychologists, nurses, doctors, engineers -- are largely absent in teaching, even though they have proven to be quite effective in the few places where they exist." (Linda Darling-Hammond, National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. November, 1994).

Between 1985 and 1990, several programs to support beginning teachers in their earliest classroom experiences were implemented in Virginia. From 1985 to 1988 the Colleague Teacher Project was a required component of the licensure program known as the Beginning Teacher Assistance Program (BTAP). In 1988, the Virginia General Assembly appropriated funds to provide grants to institutions of higher education for the development of pilot Clinical Faculty Programs. Six state and private institutions worked cooperatively to design and implement pre-service and in-service clinical faculty programs from selected public schools. Virginia's last statewide effort to assist beginning teachers was during the 1991-1992 school year. With an appropriation of about $435,000, the Board of Education requested the Department of Education to develop criteria (favoring the less affluent divisions) for competitive grants to fund locally designed programs. Grants were awarded to 31 school divisions and the Southwest Consortium representing 19 divisions in southwest Virginia.

As already noted, House Joint Resolution 629 of the 1995 session of the General Assembly of Virginia requested the Board of Education and the State Council of Higher Education to develop a plan for strengthening teacher education and induction by training and supporting experienced teachers as clinical supervisors for trainees and mentors for beginning teachers. In developing their response to the resolution, the Ad Hoc Committee recognized that support for beginning teachers may be viewed as a continuum which spans the pre-service and in-service periods. The Ad Hoc Committee thus envisions that partnerships between school divisions and institutions of higher education will be formed that allow for collaborative cross training of mentor teachers and clinical faculty.

The recommendations contained in this report are tempered by the reality of restricted financial resources. Recognizing that new appropriations may be limited, the Ad Hoc Committee proposes a plan. to strengthen teacher education and induction in Virginia with three priorities:

1. Establishment of a Mentor Teacher Program for newly hired teachers that will be jointly funded by participating school divisions and the General Assembly:

2. Identification of existing resources to support clinical faculty programs, including an amendment to the Code of Virginia that may allow state-supported institutions of higher education more flexibility in using unfunded scholarships as compensation for clinical faculty: and,

3. A request for General Assembly appropriations to support a Clinical Faculty Program described in Section 22.1-290.1 of the Code of Virginia.

A Mentor Teacher Program to assist newly hired beginning teachers is proposed for statewide implementation during the 1996-98and 1998-2000 bienniums. This will be a voluntary program to allow school divisions to give first-year teachers access to an experienced colleague for one-to-one support. It is designed solely to assist newly hired teachers in making a successful transition into full-time teaching, and will not include an assessment to determine individuals' eligibility for receiving a continuing contract. The plan provides for a program based on a 50-50 funding split -- 50 percent from general funds and 50 percent from resources provided by school divisions volunteering to participate in the program. Funding for this program will allow approximately 4,000 experienced teachers to be trained over a four-year period to serve as mentor teachers throughout the state. Cost for each mentor trained will be $800 for the first year of involvement in the program, including training and administrative costs ($500), and a $300 stipend. For each year a mentor continues to work in the program, the cost is simply $300 for the stipend.

The budget for the Mentor Teacher Program is based on mentoring approximately 4,000 new teachers in the fourth year of the initiative. By training a pool of 4,000 mentors, by 1999-2000 each beginning teacher will be assured access to an experienced colleague for support in their first year of teaching. The table on page v shows the four-year projected budget for 1996-98 and 1998-2000.

The plan to train mentor teachers also may provide an opportunity for training clinical faculty. As a requirement for receiving state funds, school divisions will be required to demonstrate collaboration with institutions of higher education.

To promote establishment or expansion of clinical faculty programs, the Ad Hoc Committee recommends that the General Assembly consider an amendment to Section 23-31 of the Code of Virginia to make it explicit that state-supported colleges and universities may use unfunded scholarships as compensation for clinical faculty. This provision of the Code allows institutions to establish a limited number of unfunded scholarships for designated graduate students. The Ad Hoc Committee recommends that Section 23-31 be changed as follows:

"The number of such scholarships annually awarded by an institution to graduate students shall not exceed the total number of graduate students who are employed as teaching or research assistants with significant academic responsibilities and who are paid a stipend of at least two thousand dollars in the particular academic year[, or who are serving as clinical faculty as described in Section 22.1-290.1, Clinical Faculty Programs]. The total value of all such scholarships shall not exceed in any year the amount arrived at by multiplying the applicable figure for graduate tuition and required fees by the number of graduate students so employed [and paid]. All graduate scholarships shall be awarded and renewed on a selective basis to graduate students of character and ability who are so employed [--strike "and paid"].

Finally, the Ad Hoc Committee recommends that the General Assembly provide an on-going appropriation to initiate the Clinical Faculty Program that is fully described in Section 22.1-290.1 of the Code of Virginia. Over a four-year period, this program will provide training and stipends to approximately 3.600 experienced teachers who will support teachers in their student teaching placements. The budget for implementation of this program is in the table shown on page vi.