2017 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy
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: Nebraska requires that all new teachers receive mentoring. The state mandates that new teachers participate in a mentorship program for the first year of employment. Unfortunately, however, the state reported in 2009 that this program has not been funded for several years. If the program were funded, an evaluation component would be required to assess effectiveness.
Mentor Selection Criteria: If the program were operational, mentors would be required to be experienced and certified, but a minimum number of years of teaching experience would not be mandatory. The mentor/teacher program guidelines recommend, but do not require, that the mentors and new teachers share endorsement fields and grade level, and the program would have to provide training as well as time for the pair to observe each other in the classroom. Compensation would be recommended, such as release time, stipends or professional growth points.
Nebraska Department of Education Title 92, Chapter 26 Sections 003; 004; 005
Set more specific parameters.
While still leaving districts with flexibility, Nebraska should articulate minimum guidelines for a high-quality induction experience. The state should set a timeline by which mentors are assigned to new teachers, ideally soon after the commencing of teaching, to offer support during those critical first weeks of school. The state should also set guidelines on the frequency and amount of time mentors and new teachers should meet.
Select high-quality mentors.
Nebraska should articulate minimum guidelines for the selection of high-quality mentors. It is particularly important that the mentors themselves are effective teachers. Teachers without evidence of effectiveness should not be eligible to serve as mentors.
Prioritize funding for induction program.
Nebraska is commended for articulating a policy to support new teachers. However, because the state indicates that funding has not been available for several years, NCTQ encourages the state to prioritize funding for its induction program.
Nebraska recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
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.