Policy Matters: Teacher Induction Programs: Trends and Opportunities

Picture2The American Association of State Colleges and Universities published the following Policy Matters article over 10 years ago. The question is: Does participating in induction programs matter?… The answer is YES. It mattered 10 years ago, and it matters today. We need to move faster to make more significant progress in this area. Over the past couple of decades, the number of beginning teachers has ballooned and so has the number of beginners eligible for induction in any given school. These are the people educating our future leaders, so why are we not providing these people with more systematic support to succeed professionally.

State-level policy support for teacher induction programs can help teachers realize their full potential, keep them in the profession, promote greater student learning, and save money. Higher education institutions and school districts must work together to provide high-quality and well-designed induction programs.


The traditional “sink-or-swim” model for beginning teachers has not worked very well. Facing challenging work conditions and insufficient support, nearly half of new teachers leave the classroom within the first five years. Among those who stay, it can take years to develop the skills they need to be most effective in the classroom. These factors have a negative impact on student learning, particularly in poor and lowperforming schools where new teachers are often assigned. The financial cost of teacher turnover adds to the problem, draining resources from already tight budgets.

In order to remedy these problems, there has been a rapid growth of teacher mentoring and induction programs in recent decades: more than 80 percent of new teachers participate in some kind of program, up from 40 percent in 1990-91. “Mentoring” refers to one-on-one assistance and support given by an experienced professional to a novice. “Induction” State-level policy support for teacher induction programs can help teachers realize their full potential, keep them in the profession, promote greater student learning, and save money. Higher education institutions and school districts must work together to provide high-quality and well-designed induction programs. refers to a more comprehensive program. The Alliance for Excellent Education identifies the components of comprehensive induction as high-quality mentoring, common planning time and collaboration, ongoing professional development, participation in an external network of teachers, and standards-based evaluation.

Though states have increasingly been involved in mandating and funding induction programs, there is by no means consistency across districts and states, nor adequate services for all novice teachers. Far too often, what have been called “induction” programs have been limited to one-on-one mentoring designed to help teachers “survive” their first year. There has been a lack of ongoing support, and mentors may be under-trained and over-extended. Funding is often inadequate and unstable.

If teachers are to become the skilled professionals they need to be and if they are to stay in the field, stakeholders need to take coordinated action to expand and improve induction programs and to make them more universally available.


During the past two decades, new thinking about induction has emerged nationwide and there are several promising comprehensive induction models.

Leading the field is the New Teacher Center (NTC) at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The central element of the NTC Induction Model is one-on-one mentoring by a carefully selected and highly-trained mentor. Additional components include participation by all first- and second-year teachers, a network of support for both new teachers and mentors, mentors being released from teaching duties to assist new teachers, formative assessment, linkages to pre-service education, program evaluation, and other elements. This model promotes the expectation that teaching is collegial and that learning is a lifelong process.

The Educational Testing Service has developed the Pathwise Framework Induction Program, a comprehensive mentoring and support program for beginning teachers. This program provides training and support for mentors and structured tasks through which beginning teachers, with the assistance of a mentor, can develop and hone their skills. An online component, including discussion boards, courses, mentor refresher, and resource pages, enhances communication.

The Teachers for a New Era Project of the Carnegie Corporation of New York is attempting to strengthen K-12 teaching by developing state-of-the-art programs at schools of education. One guiding principle is the establishment of teaching as a clinical profession. Exemplary teacher education programs will consider the first two years of teaching as a residency period requiring mentorship and supervision. During this induction period, faculty from the higher education institution will confer with, observe, and provide guidance to the new teacher to improve practice.

There is growing evidence of the positive impact of induction programs on teacher retention, costs, teacher quality, and student learning.

Evidence from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Schools and Staffing Survey suggests that participation in comprehensive induction programs can cut attrition in half. Many smaller studies have corroborated the finding that participation in mentoring and induction programs has a positive impact on teacher retention, though the size of the impact varies by study.

There also is evidence that induction programs save money for school districts. It has been estimated that for every $1.00 invested in induction, there is an estimated payoff of nearly $1.50.

An evaluation study in California in the early 1990s showed that teachers participating in induction programs, compared to other new teachers, used more complex and challenging instructional materials, were more successful in motivating students and setting high expectations for students with diverse backgrounds, and made greater use of state curriculum frameworks. Teacher attrition was reduced by two thirds, and the programs were especially successful in supporting minority teachers. This work laid the foundation for development of subsequent induction programs.

Investigating the impact of induction programs on student learning is a growing area. Research by the Educational Testing Service has found some impact of these programs on student achievement. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Services began a five-year evaluation study that will examine the effects on student achievement of two programs, the NTC Induction Model and ETS Pathwise. More research is needed to sort out what aspects of induction most affect teacher quality and retention, which, in turn, affect student learning and district costs.

Though many states require teacher induction, current state policy leaves much to be desired.

Recent studies have found that 30 or more states have some form of mandated mentoring program. Merely requiring this mentoring, however, does not assure that programs are comprehensive and effective, or that funding is secure.

Education Week reports that only 16 states require and finance mentoring for all new teachers. Only five states provide a minimum of two or more years of state-financed mentoring, down from eight in 2003. More in-depth data collected by Education Week in 2003 indicate that nine states specified a minimum amount of time for mentors and new teachers to meet; eight required mentors and teachers to be matched by school, subject, and/or grade; nine required mentors to be compensated for their work; and seven required release time for mentors.

Some states have made strides toward developing comprehensive induction programs, but limited and uncertain state funds challenge this progress.

Two years ago, a partnership between the University of Alaska and the Alaska Department of Education began the Statewide Mentor Project that was based on the NTC model. Data have supported the effectiveness of the program in increasing teacher retention and the legislature approved funding for a state-wide program.

California’s New Teacher Project funded and evaluated several induction models in the late 1980s. The project’s success led to legislation that provides for Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment programs throughout the state.

New Jersey has been involved in mentoring programs for two decades, but funding has been uneven. Currently all districts are required to have a Mentoring for Quality Induction plan in place, but they vary widely from district to district.

Legislation enacted in Michigan more than a decade ago mandated the New Teacher Induction/ Teacher Mentoring Program requiring three years of mentoring. The state Department of Education has developed guidelines and tools for districts as well as program standards. There is currently an effort underway to foster a network of support among teacher preparation institutions.

Virginia mandates mentoring for all beginning teachers and funds about half the costs for this program. The state Department of Education developed guidelines for effectiveness, and with federal funding, supports 20 pilot induction programs across the state.

In Georgia, higher education institutions have been involved in developing resources for new teacher support. Albany State University, the University of Georgia, and Valdosta State University founded the Georgia Systemic Teacher Education Program in 2000 which has a BRIDGE (Building Resources: Induction and Development of Georgia Educators) component. This is a peer-reviewed, interactive online resource and mentoring site for teachers.

Other notable state programs include Connecticut’s Beginning Educator Support and Training and Louisiana’s Teacher Assistance and Assessment Program.

There is evidence from several states that competition for funding has led to reduced state support for induction programs. Some states depend on foundation funding or the U.S. Department of Education Title II teacher quality grants. Without a steady source of funding, these programs remain in precarious situations.


As states increasingly hold their teacher preparation programs accountable for the success of new teachers, higher education institutions need to work with school districts to ensure that induction is high quality and well-designed. They need to work toward greater alignment between what is taught in schools of education and what occurs in the classroom. They need to evaluate programs to document their effectiveness and ensure their quality.

Long-term policy support for teacher induction programs and adequate funding at the state level can help teachers realize their full potential, keep them in the profession, promote greater student learning, and save money. Mentoring and induction can bridge the gap between pre-service education and the classroom, and higher education institutions must be an important part of this picture.

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