The state should require effective induction for all new teachers, with special emphasis on teachers in high-need schools. This goal was reorganized and not graded in 2017.
Mentoring for New Teachers: Iowa requires that all new teachers receive mentoring through the Iowa Mentoring and Induction Program. The state mandates that every beginning teacher in the first or second year of the profession participates in a two-year induction program. Beginning teachers are assigned a mentor to "observe teaching and provide feedback." Minimum requirements for induction programs include release time for mentors and beginning teachers to plan, demonstration of classroom practices, observation of teaching, and feedback.
Mentor Selection Criteria: Iowa requires mentors to have at least four years of teaching experience and "demonstrated skills in classroom training and coaching." Mentors receive training during the initial year, which includes specialized training on district expectations. Each mentor earns $1,000 for their participation in this program.
Set more specific parameters.
Iowa indicated in its response to NCTQ's analysis that it is currently changing the rules that govern its Iowa Mentoring and Induction program. As it develops requirements for mentoring and induction beyond 2017, Iowa should ensure that it articulates minimum guidelines for a high-quality induction experience. The state should require that mentors are assigned to new teachers early in the school year. Iowa should also ensure that approved plans specify that contact between mentors and new teachers is of sufficient frequency and duration as well as describe a method of program performance evaluation.
Select high-quality mentors.
As Iowa develops requirements for mentoring and induction beyond 2017, the state should articulate minimum guidelines for the selection of high-quality mentors. It should not approve plans that do not require evidence of effectiveness as a prerequisite for serving as a mentor.
Iowa recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. Iowa also added that based on 2017 legislation, it is changing the rules in Iowa Administrative Code 281.83.3 to remove the mentoring and induction requirement and the associated state allocation. Mentoring and Induction plans will be identified solely in a state- approved Teacher Leadership and Compensation plan. These changes should be approved by April 1, 2018. The legislature website listed does not yet contain the updated code language.
Too many new teachers are left to "sink or swim" when they begin teaching, leaving most new teachers overwhelmed and under-supported at the outset of their teaching careers. Although differences in preparation programs and routes to the classroom do affect readiness, even teachers from the most rigorous programs need support once they take on the myriad responsibilities of their own classroom. A survival-of-the-fittest mentality prevails in many schools; figuring out how to successfully negotiate unfamiliar curricula, discipline and management issues, and labyrinthine school and district procedures is considered a rite of passage. However, new teacher frustrations are not limited to low performers. Many talented new teachers become disillusioned early by the lack of support they receive, and, particularly in our most high-needs schools, it is often the most talented teachers who start to explore other career options.
Vague requirements simply to provide mentoring are insufficient. Although many states recognize the need to provide mentoring to new teachers, state policies merely indicating that mentoring should occur will not ensure that districts provide new teachers with quality mentoring experiences. While allowing flexibility for districts to develop and implement programs in line with local priorities and resources, states also should articulate the minimum requirements for these programs in terms of the frequency and duration of mentoring and the qualifications of those serving as mentors.