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Increasing the Effectiveness of Educator Induction Programs in Colorado

May 30, 2013

State policy has a critical role to play to ensure that new educators are assisted from the first day they walk into their school and classroom in a way that will bolster their morale, keep them in the profession, strengthen their teaching and leadership abilities, and accelerate their impact on student learning. In 2011 and 2012, New Teacher Center had the opportunity to complete a detailed analysis of the state of Colorado's educator induction policies and practices. This final report details our full analysis and state policy recommendations. Our work in Colorado had three main purposes. First, it aimed to determine the characteristics of a quality induction program; second, to examine current state policies and local practices that align with those quality indicators; and third, to provide recommendations on actions the state can take to increase the effectiveness of induction programs. The specifics of our work involved: a review of Colorado's current laws and policies on induction; a comprehensive review of research-based literature on induction; an audit of more than 200 induction program plans on file at the Colorado Department of Education; and interviews with more than two dozen program leaders, administrators and teachers about induction programs operated by Colorado school districts, BOCES, charter schools and private schools.Colorado recognizes that the accelerated development and support of beginning teachers and school leaders is an essential component of the state's vision for educator effectiveness. This work is in service of the vision of the Council for Educator Effectiveness to ensure that the state "provides teachers and principals ... with ongoing feedback and support needed to improve performance." It also is directly responsive to the Council's 2011 recommendation that the state strengthen requirements for the renewal and approval of educator induction programs.Existing induction programs, in Colorado and across the nation, vary in quality from old-fashioned "buddy systems" that provide limited emotional and logistical support to comprehensive, systematized initiatives that utilize carefully selected and trained mentors and provide structured time for interaction focused on improving new teachers' content knowledge, classroom management, and instructional skills. A primary aim for state policy is to establish an expectation that all new educators will be provided a meaningful level of instructional and pedagogical support, especially in those settings where they currently are not.In Colorado, our analysis found that approximately three quarters of induction program plans communicated design elements that placed them at the basic level of program comprehensiveness. In many cases, it is difficult to suggest that such basic induction or mentoring programs are not doing the minimum required by state policy. From a program effectiveness standpoint, however, these programs are nowhere close to modeling practices that will result in the desired impact on teaching effectiveness. For example, most Colorado induction programs only support first-year teachers. Fifty-eight percent of programs reported a one-year induction period. Only 15 percent of program plans indicated serving beginning teachers for two or more years. Twenty-one percent of Colorado induction programs report providing release time to mentors. Seven percent of programs exhibiting the most extensive provision of time for induction and mentoring, including at least 30 hours of contact time between a mentor and beginning teacher annually.To increase the effectiveness of induction programs and enhance the likelihood that such programs will accelerate the development and effectiveness of new educators, New Teacher Center recommends that Colorado take the following actions:1 Develop Statewide Induction Program Standards2 Provide More Regular and Intensive Induction Program Oversight3 Assess The Effectiveness and Impact of Induction Programs4 Strengthen Requirements for Educator Induction Programs (including program duration, mentor quality and frequency of mentoring)5 Provide Dedicated State Funding to Elevate Induction Program Quality and Enhance Mentor Capacity6. Establish an Online Clearinghouse of Induction Best Practices and Key Program Tools

Cultivating Effective Teachers Through Evaluation and Support: A Guide for Illinois Policymakers and Educational Leaders

February 25, 2013

Reform of educator evaluation, in Illinois and around the nation, is intended to more accurately identify effective and ineffective teachers and to inform teacher development. The reality is that more effort and attention has been focused on how to rate teachers within such systems than on how to design these systems to provide regular and useful feedback on teaching. If the 2010 Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) is to achieve its aims in Illinois, it must help teachers to learn and improve on the job.For beginning teachers, the challenge is more pronounced. On average, new teachers are less effective than their more experienced peers. Improvements in individual teaching practices tend to occur during these early years in the classroom, when teachers are applying lessons learned during preparation and developing their own pedagogical approach. While beginning teachers should not be held to a different performance standard, they do require more intensive support and more frequent feedback to grow into highly effective practitioners. This is one reason why highly structured, intensive new teacher support is prized by beginning teachers -- and strengthens their teaching.If PERA is to accelerate new teacher effectiveness, beginning teachers in Illinois will require more feedback and support than what is provided by this law alone. An aligned system of high-quality induction -- featuring regular contact with a mentor, frequent classroom observation, on -- going opportunities to engage in reflection and self-assessment, and actionable, "real time" feedback to inform instructional improvement throughout the school year -- would provide the necessary intensity of instructional support. To accomplish this, Illinois should design and articulate a comprehensive talent development system with teacher learning at its center.Illinois is well-positioned to succeed. Its deep commitment to successful PERA design coupled with a gradual approach to implementation has put the state on the right track. Its existing induction program standards and new induction rules lend important tools to the effort to address the unique learning curve of beginning teachers.This Guide explores how the state can solidify PERA's role in informing and supporting new teacher development. In this effort, we have identified two main priorities for Illinois policymakers and PERA implementers.Design a comprehensive educator effectiveness system that encompasses both evaluation and robust instructional feedback and support. For new teachers, this system must include induction support aligned with PERA's evaluation requirements.Encourage and enable teacher leaders to serve as teacher mentors and as peer evaluators. Instructional improvement is a collective responsibility and is too critical and time-intensive an endeavor to leave solely to school administrators.

Review of State Policies on Teacher Induction

February 16, 2012

Outlines criteria and recommendations for state policies on providing mentoring support for new teachers and administrators, including universality, program standards on design and operation, mentor quality, program delivery, funding, and accountability.

New Teacher Excellence: The Impact of State Policy on Induction Program Implementation

November 1, 2010

Focusing specifically on state policies on supporting new teachers, it dispels the notion that policy itself is a cure-all. It takes a more expansive view of policy -- including not just legislation and regulations, but also funding, evaluation and program infrastructure -- and concludes that, in the case of teacher induction, while comprehensive state policies may increase the likelihood that intensive induction programs will take root in schools and districts, it is also dependent upon a range of contextual factors, including leadership support, stakeholder commitment and a collective vision. This report has implications for public policies beyond simply those focused on new teachers.