Mentoring takes a blow in the Windy City

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A new study from the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) offers some bitter news on the city's costly teacher induction and mentoring program: It doesn't work.

CCSR concluded that the district's $3 million program has had little effect on improving teacher retention in the city's most challenging schools--though it had some impact on the its better performing schools. The report also reveals that fully one-fifth of new teachers are not even participating in what is supposed to be a mandatory program.

A number of states, including California and Connecticut, are directing millions of dollars towards creating higher-quality mentoring programs in an attempt to improve teacher retention. Recommendations to pour more money into teacher induction should come with a warning tag, however, and states like California and Connecticut, which both pour oodles of money into induction, need to pay particular heed. It's the schools that need the most support that are the least likely to provide the benefits of a good induction and mentoring program. No program, no matter how much it costs, can make up for the failings of poor school leadership. As NCTQ President Kate Walsh warned in a June 2004 editorial, even the most costly of induction programs may be unable to overcome the detrimental effects that the most dysfunctional schools have on new teacher retention. Walsh emphasized, "Induction, highly dependent on the quality of personnel in the school building, is least likely to work where it's needed the most."