Boston's Mentor Program Operating Model

(October, 2001)


“What teachers know and can do is the most important influence on what students learn.”

What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future
1996 Report of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future

Student learning is directly related to teacher competence. To maximize their impact on student learning, all teachers need to continually enhance their professional knowledge and instructional skills. Effective mentoring launches beginning teachers on a career-long course of professional development and growth. To this end, the Boston Public Schools bases mentoring on a combined vision of good teaching and understanding of teacher learning, while striving for a professional culture that values collaboration, inquiry, and reflective practice for all teachers.

Mentor Program Goals

Continuous improvement in teaching and learning is the expectation for every school and teacher in the district. What teachers know and can do is essential in accelerating the academic achievement of students. The overarching purpose of the Mentor Program is to rapidly develop the professional skills, knowledge, and expertise of beginning teachers for improved teaching and learning.

The goals of the program include:

To successfully induct beginning teachers into the profession, district, and schools and thereby to retain promising, qualified beginning teachers;

To assist beginning teachers in developing and refining the pedagogical skills, content knowledge, and professional expertise needed to fulfill the district’s expectations for teachers and to work effectively in an urban, diverse, and multicultural district;

To offer personal support and encouragement to beginning teachers and to prevent teacher isolation;

To promote teacher autonomy and career-long learning and to foster norms of collegiality, collaboration, and reflective practice among teachers;

To enhance the career opportunities and professional development of excellent, experienced Lead Teachers through assignment as mentors.

Mentor Program Description

The BPS Mentor Program helps beginning teachers successfully enter the profession of teaching, the district, and their schools. The program matches first-year teachers with Lead Teacher/Mentors who guide their induction and support their professional development. The school principal/headmaster is also centrally involved in beginning teacher support.

Mentors work one-on-one and in complete confidentiality with the beginning teacher. Mentors share their knowledge and skills, offer beginning teachers school-based collegial support and advice, and provide guidance with classroom management, lesson planning, standards-based instruction, and subject-specific instructional practices.

Mentors and beginning teachers work together in a variety of ways, including:
- weekly meetings for sharing and problem-solving
- reciprocal classroom visits for observations, demonstration lessons, and co-teaching, as well as visits to the classrooms of other colleagues
- collaborative development of the beginning teacher’s Professional Growth Plan
- accessing the resources of the New Teacher Support System

In sum, the Mentor Program supports beginning teachers through the challenges of the entry year and sets a course of professional development which is rooted in collaboration, inquiry, and reflective practice.

Boston Public Schools Teacher Standards

BPS Teacher Standards serve as the foundation for mentoring beginning teachers, setting expectations, assisting the beginning teacher in establishing goals for professional growth, measuring progress, and providing a common language about teaching.

The BPS Teacher Standards are contained in the Teacher Performance Evaluation instrument and are summarized below:

A. Knowledge of Subject Matter, Currency in the Curriculum and Knowledge of Child Development
B. Setting the Stage for Learning
C. Classroom Management
D. Effective Teaching
E. Monitoring, Assessment, and Follow-up
F. Promotion of High Standards and Expectations for Student Achievement
G. Professional Responsibilities Outside the Classroom

Criteria for the Selection of Lead Teacher/Mentors

The Mentor Committee has developed criteria for the selection of Lead Teacher/Mentors which Personnel Subcommittees of School Site Councils need to use in selecting Lead Teacher/Mentors.

The role of mentor is prestigious and must be awarded only to those who possess outstanding credentials and who meet the following demanding criteria:

Professional Teaching Competence and Experience
- deep knowledge of content and associated curriculum standards and frameworks
- deep knowledge of pedagogy and a variety of instructional practices that make learning accessible to all children, and willingness to model and to share these practices
- ability to create a positive climate for learning, to hold high expectations for all students, and to reflect on and share approaches in these areas
- skill in lesson planning that incorporates standards, learning objectives, and assessments
- demonstrated success in effective classroom management
- knowledge of and experience with a variety of ongoing formative assessments and expertise in the use of performance data to inform instruction
- expertise in using summative, standardized assessment data (e.g., SAT 9 and MCAS) to inform curriculum and instruction

Interpersonal and Communication Skills
- ability to listen reflectively with empathy to better understand the needs of beginning teachers and to discern how, when, and what support is needed
- commitment to sharing expertise and to support beginning teachers
- ability to analyze instruction and to provide helpful feedback to beginning teachers on instructional strategies

Personal and Professional Qualities
- open-mindedness, accessibility, and acceptance of different philosophies of education and instructional strategies
- positive attitude toward school and colleagues, flexibility, respect from peers, and a commitment to maintaining confidentiality
- demonstrated enthusiasm and commitment to the profession of teaching and one’s own professional development and knowledge
- willingness to advocate for the needs of beginning teachers and to help them access available resources

Guidelines for Selecting and Matching Mentors by Personnel Subcommittees

Beginning teachers with less than one year of teaching experience are eligible for full mentoring. Second and third-year teachers are eligible for support from Lead Teacher/Mentors working with beginning teachers, as time permits.

1. In the spring, the Center for Leadership Development provides principal/headmasters with a list of Lead Teachers at their school who have applied to mentor during the following school year.

2. When there is a need for mentors, the Personnel Subcommittees of School Site Councils first determine that prospective Lead Teacher/Mentors on the CLD list meet the mentor selection criteria. Subcommittees then pair eligible beginning teachers with Lead Teachers whom they have qualified as mentors. Teaching the same subject and/or the same/similar grade level are important criteria to use in making matches. Matching should be completed within 2 weeks of the hiring decision. Using these criteria, Personnel Subcommittees may also match a Lead Teacher/Mentor with a second beginning teacher.

3. The Personnel Subcommittee should also match the Lead Teacher/Mentor with 2nd and 3rd-year teachers, using the criteria of same subject and/or the same/similar grade level.

4. If there is not an appropriate Lead Teacher/Mentor in the school, the principal should alert the Center for Leadership Development to identify appropriate Lead Teacher/Mentors from outside the school.

5. If the Center for Leadership Development cannot identify an appropriate Lead Teacher/Mentor from outside the building, the Personnel Subcommittee may post the
assignment in the school. The Personnel Subcommittee may then select a non-Lead Teacher who meets the selection criteria and who can be matched according to subject and grade level guidelines. If selected for the assignment, the non-Lead Teacher must agree to seek Lead Teacher status in the current school year.

Terms of Lead Teacher/Mentor Assignment

By contract, the assignment ratio is 1 mentor to 1 beginning teacher. Mentors are compensated 7% of their base salary for mentoring one beginning teacher and are expected to devote 3-3.5 hours weekly to the assignment. During this time, mentors are engaged in regularly scheduled meetings with the beginning teacher, classroom observations, support of 2nd and 3rd year teachers, mentor professional development, program meetings, and other mentoring tasks.

At their discretion, Personnel Subcommittees may match a mentor with two beginning teachers following the matching guidelines for subject and grade level. Lead Teachers who mentor two beginning teachers are compensated 14% of base salary and are expected to devote 6-7 hours per week to the assignment.

Role and Responsibilities of Principals and Headmasters

The commitment of principals and headmasters to new teacher support is powerful modeling for the faculty and essential to the successful induction of beginning teachers.

Principals and headmasters can best support beginning teachers and their mentoring in the following ways:

Match the beginning teacher with a qualified Lead Teacher/Mentor within two weeks of hiring in collaboration with the Personnel Subcommittee. Use the selection criteria, matching guidelines, and their sense of the needs, background, and preparation of the beginning teacher in making matches.

Structure a reasonable first year for novice teachers. Consider the following:
- Give beginning teachers a classroom of their own rather than a floating classroom.
- Avoid assigning beginning teachers the most difficult students and schedule.
- Schedule beginning teachers with a manageable number of preparations
- Provision beginning teacher classrooms with adequate materials and textbooks.
Take care not to overload beginning teachers with extra responsibilities and duties.

Ensure beginning teachers are oriented to school policies, procedures and building facilities and introduced to the faculty, students, and community.

Strive to coordinate time through the master schedule for reciprocal classroom visits, classroom observations, and coaching during the school day by the mentor and beginning teacher (e.g., different planning periods and occasional release from duty assignments).

Meet together with the Lead Teacher/Mentor and beginning teacher 2-3 times during the year to collaboratively review their work, problem solve and plan.

Confirm that the mentor/beginning teacher relationship is working by touching base with the mentor and beginning teacher individually and communicating concerns to the Center for Leadership Development if a match is not working.

Explicitly identify faculty-wide support and ownership of beginning teacher success as a high priority of the school.

Encourage teachers to regularly interact with the beginning teacher.

Coordinate the work of the mentor with other individuals who may be working with the beginning teacher, such as transitional specialists, coaches, and literacy coordinators.

Supervise, evaluate and monitor the work of the Lead/Teacher Mentors.

Participate in mentor program evaluation and provide feedback for program improvement and revisions.

Role and Responsibilities of Lead Teacher/Mentors

The expertise and commitment of Lead Teacher/Mentors is the centerpiece for school-based support of beginning teachers. In fulfillment of their role and responsibilities, mentors effectively support beginning teachers in the following ways:

Introduce and orient beginning teachers to their schools in collaboration with the school principal/headmaster and colleagues.
Assist beginning teachers in developing classroom rules and routines, setting up and provisioning the classroom, and planning lessons.

Convey district expectations for teachers as expressed in the BPS Teacher Standards, as well as expectations relative to standards-based instruction, the system focus on literacy and mathematics, and whole school improvement plan.

Collaborate with the beginning teachers in identifying their needs and in developing and implementing their Professional Growth Plan for addressing those needs.

Devote 3-3.5 hours weekly to the assignment which includes contacts and regularly scheduled meetings with the beginning teacher, support of 2nd and 3rd year teachers, mentor professional development, program meetings, and program reporting requirements.

Establish and keep a mutually agreeable schedule for regularly scheduled, one-on-one meetings with the beginning teacher, for approximately 1.5 - 2 hours weekly, primarily during out-of-school hours, as part of the 3-3.5 hour commitment.

Observe the beginning teacher’s classroom instruction, model “best practices” and arrange for visits to classrooms of highly accomplished teachers.

Introduce beginning teachers to colleagues, sponsoring their entry with the faculty and involving colleagues in the shared task of beginning teacher support.

Assist beginning teachers in translating curriculum standards and frameworks into student learning objectives, meaningful daily instruction and appropriate assessment to drive instruction.

Provide collegial and emotional support while maintaining a professional relationship based on confidentiality, trust, mutual regard and respect.

Meet together with the principal/headmaster and beginning teacher 2-3 times during the year to collaboratively review their joint work, problem solve and plan.

Provide support to 2nd and 3rd year teachers as time permits.

Participate in mentor professional development, program meetings and activities.

Fulfill reporting requirements for logs, reports, and other documentation as requested.

Participate in the evaluation of the Mentor Program and provide feedback for program improvement and revisions.

Role of Beginning Teachers

The Boston Public Schools is fully invested in the successful entry of beginning teachers into the profession, the district, and their schools. The needs of beginning teachers during their crucial first year drive the mentoring relationship. In order to take full advantage of the Mentor Program, beginning teachers are encouraged to undertake the following activities:

Complete the New Teacher Information Form on the BPS intranet.

Participate in district and school orientations for beginning teachers.

Develop and implement a Professional Growth Plan with the assistance of the Lead Teacher/Mentor, and review and revise the plan periodically during the school year.

Participate in regularly scheduled, one-on-one meetings with the Lead Teacher/Mentor focused on problem solving and support, for approximately 1.5 - 2 hours weekly, primarily during out-of-school hours.

Participate in professional development activities through the New Teacher Support System and school-based programs, which address needs and goals outlined in their Professional Growth Plan, as well as activities related to district priorities.

Meet together as a team with the Lead Teacher/Mentor and principal/headmaster 2-3 times during the year to review their joint work, to problem solve and to plan.

Invite the Lead Teacher/Mentor to observe their classroom according to program protocol and undertake reciprocal visits to the mentor’s classroom and those of other colleagues.

Play an active role in the mentoring relationship by offering critical reflections on their own practice and identifying areas in which assistance is needed.

Attend Mentor Program meetings for beginning teachers.

Participate in the evaluation of the Mentor Program and provide feedback to guide program improvement and revisions.

Mentor Professional Development

The mentor role is demanding, requiring specialized skills and knowledge. To prepare mentors for their responsibilities, the program offers extensive professional development, including the BPS Mentor Training Course presented by Teachers21 and Understanding Teaching I presented by Research for Better Teaching. Both are 36-hour courses and mentors have the option to earn 3 graduate-level credits for successful completion of either course.

The BPS Mentor Training Course is the initial course for new mentors. In order to address the wide range of professional development needs of mentors, the BPS Mentor Training Course is being redesigned to be competency-based and organized into modules. The course focuses on the requisite skills and understandings for effective mentoring.

The BPS Mentor Training Course includes the following modules:

A. Role of Mentor
B. Communication Style
C. Differential Conferencing
D. Developing Beginning Teacher’s Planning Skills
E. Advocacy
F. Monthly Action Plans
G. Influencing the Belief Systems of Beginning Teachers
H. Role of Mentors in Comprehensive Induction Programs
I. Working with Administrators and Mentor Leaders

Understanding Teaching I is the second course undertaken by mentors. In this course, mentors study a research-based framework of effective teaching; expand their own professional repertoires; experiment with and share strategies and principles for classroom practice; analyze videos of teachers in action; and, experience effective collegial dialogues, problem-solving and observations. The course equips mentors with a potent framework to structure their support of beginning teachers in developing their professional skills as classroom teachers.

Lead Teacher/Mentors also develop their skills through mentor support groups. Small groups of 8-10 mentors meet periodically to share experiences and to receive and to give advice on issues that emerge in mentoring. Finally, mentors are assisted and guided in their work by Lead Mentors who are very experienced and skilled at mentoring beginning teachers.

Mentor Program Evaluation

The Mentor Committee oversees, monitors, and refines the program during the school year. The committee is also developing a plan for program evaluation through analysis of data collected by surveys, interviews of program participants, and review of program documentation.