California

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Updated March 15, 1998


California - Some of the earliest state-supported work in mentoring and induction took place in California. The Hughes-Hart Education Reform Act of 1983 (SB 813) contained about 80 reform provisions, including expanded rewards and opportunities in teaching, seeking both to attract and to retain capable teachers and to expand the resources supporting staff development and school improvement in the state. That law created the California Mentor Teacher Program (CMTP) which provided an annual stipend of $4000 for a mentor, and an additional $2000 was provided to create released time, substitutes, training and other resources. When the law was implemented in January 1984, it allowed districts to designate up to 5% of their certified staff as mentors (1:20) although funding was not sufficient to support that many mentors. Actually about 2% of teachers were funded to serve as mentor teachers. See Bird, T., St. Clair, G., Little, J.W., and Shulman, J. (1984). "Expanded Teacher Roles: Mentors and Masters" an Interim Report on Mini Case Studies in Ten California Districts Implementing the Mentor Teacher Program. Far West Labs, San Francisco, CA.

In fact, the 1984-85 appropriation was only enough for districts to appoint about one teacher in 50 as a mentor. The law also stated that mentors could only be released from teaching to mentor up to 40% of the time. All of this was in response to a state-wide sense of need for new teacher support, but especially to the needs of urban schools whose hiring of "alternatively certified" teachers to fill classrooms created a huge need to support these teachers and to ensure that they were doing an effective job. The law required district mentor selection committees be established and that a majority of members had to be teachers.

In 1985 an article described the tentative nature of the California Mentor Teacher Program after one year. At that point about 5,100 mentors had been named in 740 school districts. See Wagner, L. (1985). "Ambiguities and Possibilities in California's Mentor Teacher Program". Educational Leadership, November 1986. ASCD, Reston, VA.

While the law saw the primary purpose of mentors as working with new teachers, it also saw mentors providing staff and curriculum development leadership to experienced teachers as well. In fact many "mentors" were assigned by their districts to do curriculum development and other such projects exclusively. A 1986 report by the Far West Labs, "California's Mentor Teachers: Two Years of Learning", cited a number of situations where it was clear that districts or mentors themselves were searching for a purpose. The research found that during the first two years of the California program mentors worked mostly alone. In another case 200 San Diego mentors were used to plan and host a one-day conference for 400 teachers. Other problems found were lack of clarity in leadership and helping roles between mentors and principals, concerns about excessive time away from students, use of implementation funds for many things with only an indirect effect on instruction, and that the egalitarian nature of schools created a dilemma for mentors. That dilemma is that to be an effective mentor required a counter-culture assertion that a mentor can only make a difference by assuming a very different role from the mentor's own peers.

The Far West Labs study found that this dilemma led most mentors to downplay their roles and status as mentors to minimize the discomfort and distance they felt with their colleagues. Naturally, this result was less teacher leadership by mentors. Further the Labs study found that the problems of implementation had been underestimated. The role of the mentor was a new, unprecedented role, one for which teachers had little preparation. The study argued for more time for the lessons of the first 2 years to take hold and to shape different actions by mentors and school districts, because it found the concept of teacher leadership an important way of tapping human resources for school improvement.

The 1987-88 state funding level was enough to support 8,273 mentors, but it should be noted that that was only 4% of the state's teachers. See "Program Advisory: Mentor Teacher Program" August 1987, James Smith, Deputy Supt. Curriculum & Instructional Leadership, CSDE.

An outstanding 1988 dissertation by Rita King looked at mentors as instructional leaders. King found that new teachers who worked with mentors learned new teaching techniques, and felt more positive about themselves and about teaching. King found that mentor training did result in changed norms for teacher work and for teacher-principal relationships. Mentoring, it was found, also helped the mentors to improve their own classrooms as well. Mentor/protege on-going relationships built on rapport and trust, and the protege's perceptions of the mentor's teaching skills, were two key factors discovered. This study indicates that, at least in the school district studied, (San Diego County Schools) the CMTP was attaining many of the desired effects for which the program was created. (See King, R. (1988). A Study of Shared Instructional Leadership by Mentor Teachers in Southern California. University of San Diego, 388 pages.)

Another 1988 study found that, in 5 districts, the CMTP did not result in improved teacher retention rates, and that program variations across the 5 districts did not yet produce differential results. Eight recommendations were asserted from the study, including need to provide released time, to adjust a mentor's other work responsibilities, to ensuring a significant difference in experience between mentor and protege, to a greater focus on instructional support for new teachers and less time on curriculum and other such projects, to an increase in monitoring of mentors. These differing results point out the wide range of training, expectations, and on-going support given to mentors.

At the same time (1988) California initiated, through the Bergeson Act (SB 148) a more concerted effort to study and to capture what was being learned in induction programs across the state. To ensure broad stake holder involvement the law called for a panel of educators representing California educational institutions to serve in an advisory role throughout the pilot. This California New Teacher Project was begun to test out different induction, mentoring and assessment program models which targeted novice teachers and to define the benefits and results attained. That extensive study led to reports in 1992.

In 1991 a survey of state policies on beginning teacher programs places the number of pilot induction programs in California at 37 projects. These 37 pilots were the members of the California New Teacher Project, and represented a wide diversity of approaches and results. See Sclan, E. & Darling-Hammond, L. (1992 ). "Beginning Teacher Performance Eval.: Overview of State Policies". ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Educ. The California Commission on Teacher Credentials (CTC) and the Calif. Dept. of Education (CDE) were sponsoring pilot "professional practice schools" to restructure teacher education and induction and to create a school environment that was friendly to professional development for all learners..

A four year long study conducted between 1988 and 1992 by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing closely investigated the four year California New Teacher Project which was a pilot program. That analysis found that the relationship between the new teacher and an experienced mentor ("support provider") was the most effective of all the strategies across all of the diverse range of approaches to supporting the success of novice teachers. The document also clarified the widely perceived need for a "framework" that could provide focus and direction for provision of support and use of assessment in the induction and development of novice teachers. Initial drafts of a framework, of preliminary standards and rubrics, for example, were included to stimulate the desired state-wide conversation. See California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (1992). "Success for Beginning Teachers: The California New Teacher Project". Sacramento: Calif. Dept. of Education. The significance of the findings in the "Success" document was not wasted on the California legislature. In 1992 they passed SB 1422, allocated $4.898 million, and created the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Program (BTSA). 1993 funding was set at $4.83 million.

The law itself affirms the earlier studies and lessons learned, and codifies the cost effectiveness and the impact of induction and mentoring on teacher performance and student learning. Local districts were encouraged to develop and implement BTSA programs that would incorporate the findings and lessons of the earlier pilots. Further, the legislature directed the CCTC and the SDE to create the desired framework, standards for teaching and induction program quality, and to review and revise teacher certification system to better align with the findings of the assessment portions of the previous pilot programs.

A 1993 study of teachers in 2 southern California counties examined the effect of working conditions on new teacher job retention. Among the working conditions studied were mentoring relationships, content of induction program, and more typical conditions like classroom management assistance, communication with parents, time management, and administrative supervision. Mentoring relationships were found to have the strongest effect on beginning teacher decisions to remain in the profession. Clearly, California's mentoring efforts have had an impact and need to be supported. See Raymond-Burch, C. (1993). "A Study of the Conditions Affecting Retention of Beginning Teachers", a dissertation, University of LaVerne.

In December 1994 CCTC and the SDE published another paper reporting on the implementation of the BTSA Program from its start in 1992 to 1994. See Bartell, C. and Ownby, L. (1994). "Report on Implementation of the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Program: 1992-94". California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the State Department of Education. Sacramento, CA. The report includes:

Of all the documents listed in this summary, this one is the best for reviewing the history and process of the development of the California program.

In Spring 1995 a series of pilot studies were undertaken to try out and to collect information about the usefulness of the "Draft Framework" and its standards. Later that same year the CCTC and the SDE issued "Beginning Teaching in California: Expectations for Teacher Development". This was an revised draft of the Framework of expectations for beginning teachers and draft standards for "quality and intensity" for Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Programs.

In January 1997 the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the State Department of Education published the document "California Standards for the Teaching Profession". In this work the Commission described their on-going effort to create "developmental scales" (rubrics) for the standards to allow teachers to self assess where they are relative to the California standards. Copies of the January 1997 "California Standards for the Teaching Profession" document and the most recent version of the "Standards of Quality and Effectiveness for Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Programs" (adopted July 1997) are available on the web at <www.cccoe.k12.ca.us/coe/curins/sbtsa/publications/> or you can access an order form to acquire hard copies through the US Mail. The BTSA program standards document is the product of work begun in the California New Teacher Project and refined from the experience of state, higher education, and local program leaders in over 30 BTSA programs for at least 8 years. Each BTSA standard contains 1. the standard, 2. a rationale for the standard, and 3. a series of criteria to be used by program evaluators or designers.

This group also has been working on performance-based, formative assessments, including portfolios and observation criteria, which would be linked to the state teaching standards. Clearly, this program has a comprehensive vision of a well-supported professional growth effort that is focused on the pursuit of quality teaching. What is most heartening is the parallel effort to provide the support necessary for beginning teachers to succeed in this complex work.

Unlike some other states, the findings cited here, and many others similar to these, have led California to invest heavily in providing the support of mentors to new teachers. The California Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Program (BTSA) was state-funded in 1997 to the level of $10 million for mentoring. That mentoring (and related administration/training/sub costs) costs $5,000 per mentor, and yet California has investigated the value of that investment. It has been determined that this approach is financially effective, for it reduces the teacher attrition rate and saves money on recruitment, rehiring, and retraining. See California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (1992). Certainly, there are other very significant benefits for both new and mentor teachers as well as their student, which exceed the financial benefits described here. The August 18, 1997 statement by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Eastin states "Statistics shows that beginning teachers who are able to utilize BTSA provide more quality instruction and are more likely to stay in the teaching profession.". See "Eastin Resonds to the 1997-98 State Budget" available under "Press Releases" on the SDE web site.

The current California BTSA program does provide money to support 74 school district mentoring programs and about 5,487 new teachers. However, because of the size of the state and its teacher population, this number represents only about 16% of the novice teachers in California as of this point. It is estimated that a similar number of teachers are supported by locally funded mentoring programs. As of February 1998, the Governor is reported to be very supportive of BTSA and is proposing increase state funding to allow work with about 40% of the state's new teachers. Also California has recently let contracts with Educational Testing Service (ETS) for refinement and use of a portfolio system to document new teacher development and to guide the conversation between mentors and these new teachers. The most current information about the California BTSA program, about the individual BTSA programs, and other BTSA info is available on the web at <www.cccoe.k12.ca.us/coe/curins/sbtsa/>.

The work in California over the past 15 years has proven exciting. This brief review should illustrate the power of a state-supported effort to support new teachers while, at the same time, to hold teachers and programs accountable for progress, to capture the most effective practices, and to use those findings to inform state-level policy making and direction. When we compare the work on similar programs in many other states we come away wishing that those other states had the insight and long-term commitment of California to discovering and using experience to plan for a better future.

In 1987 Ms. Jane Holzmann was the contact person at the CSDE, phone 916-322-0870, Calif. State Dept. of Education, 721 Capital Mall, Sacramento, CA 95814.

In 1998 Steve Henderson is the CDE legislative representative for the BTSA program, along with other responsibilities. His e-mail is <>.


If you are aware of incorrect statements in this material OR if you can add authoritative new information concerning mentoring and induction in the various United States, please contact Barry Sweeny with that information. His e-mail is

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