State policy has a critical role to play to ensure that new educators are assisted from the first day they walk into their school and classroom in a way that will bolster their morale, keep them in the profession, strengthen their teaching and leadership abilities, and accelerate their impact on student learning. In 2011 and 2012, New Teacher Center had the opportunity to complete a detailed analysis of the state of Colorado's educator induction policies and practices. This final report details our full analysis and state policy recommendations.
Our work in Colorado had three main purposes. First, it aimed to determine the characteristics of a quality induction program; second, to examine current state policies and local practices that align with those quality indicators; and third, to provide recommendations on actions the state can take to increase the effectiveness of induction programs. The specifics of our work involved: a review of Colorado's current laws and policies on induction; a comprehensive review of research-based literature on induction; an audit of more than 200 induction program plans on file at the Colorado Department of Education; and interviews with more than two dozen program leaders, administrators and teachers about induction programs operated by Colorado school districts, BOCES, charter schools and private schools.
Colorado recognizes that the accelerated development and support of beginning teachers and school leaders is an essential component of the state's vision for educator effectiveness. This work is in service of the vision of the Council for Educator Effectiveness to ensure that the state "provides teachers and principals ... with ongoing feedback and support needed to improve performance." It also is directly responsive to the Council's 2011 recommendation that the state strengthen requirements for the renewal and approval of educator induction programs.
Existing induction programs, in Colorado and across the nation, vary in quality from old-fashioned "buddy systems" that provide limited emotional and logistical support to comprehensive, systematized initiatives that utilize carefully selected and trained mentors and provide structured time for interaction focused on improving new teachers' content knowledge, classroom management, and instructional skills. A primary aim for state policy is to establish an expectation that all new educators will be provided a meaningful level of instructional and pedagogical support, especially in those settings where they currently are not.
In Colorado, our analysis found that approximately three quarters of induction program plans communicated design elements that placed them at the basic level of program comprehensiveness. In many cases, it is difficult to suggest that such basic induction or mentoring programs are not doing the minimum required by state policy. From a program effectiveness standpoint, however, these programs are nowhere close to modeling practices that will result in the desired impact on teaching effectiveness. For example, most Colorado induction programs only support first-year teachers. Fifty-eight percent of programs reported a one-year induction period. Only 15 percent of program plans indicated serving beginning teachers for two or more years. Twenty-one percent of Colorado induction programs report providing release time to mentors. Seven percent of programs exhibiting the most extensive provision of time for induction and mentoring, including at least 30 hours of contact time between a mentor and beginning teacher annually.
To increase the effectiveness of induction programs and enhance the likelihood that such programs will accelerate the development and effectiveness of new educators, New Teacher Center recommends that Colorado take the following actions:
1 Develop Statewide Induction Program Standards
2 Provide More Regular and Intensive Induction Program Oversight
3 Assess The Effectiveness and Impact of Induction Programs
4 Strengthen Requirements for Educator Induction Programs (including program duration, mentor quality and frequency of mentoring)
5 Provide Dedicated State Funding to Elevate Induction Program Quality and Enhance Mentor Capacity
6. Establish an Online Clearinghouse of Induction Best Practices and Key Program Tools