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: Virginia requires that all new teachers receive mentoring. For the first year of employment, new teachers must be assigned a mentor by local district administration "to assist...in achieving excellence in instruction." Mentors and teachers are granted release time to take part in mentoring activities, and the observation of the new teacher in the classroom is mandatory. New teachers are given a reduced teaching load and limited nonteaching duties. Both the mentor program and the participants are evaluated by each district.
Mentor Selection Criteria: Virginia requires local school boards to develop criteria for the selection of mentors. These criteria must include but are not limited to having achieved continuing status and working in the same building as the new teachers. All mentors must successfully complete a training program. It is left to districts' discretion as to whether mentor applicants are required to have "a history of proficient or outstanding performance appraisals" and three years of experience. Mentors may receive stipends, the amount of which is left to the discretion of each district.
Virginia Code 22.1-305.1 Guidelines for Mentor Teacher Program http://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching/career_resources/mentor/program_creation_guidelines.pdf
Set more specific parameters.
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.
Select high-quality mentors.
While still leaving districts with flexibility, Virginia 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.
Virginia 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.