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Updated on March 14, 1998
New York -
In 1986 the state legislature established the New York State Mentor Teacher/Internship Program (NYSMT/IP) as one of three efforts to improve teaching. It required that all New York school districts were to have a mentoring program in place by 1993, based on state-defined characteristics of effective mentors. Initially, the state did provide $4 million in funding to support this initiative which was made available through competitive grants to programs who volunteered. The first year about 25 programs were supported. The initial focus was for mentors to provide guidance and support for intern teachers. Funding also supported costs of program coordination, the work of a required district selection committee to search for people with the state's effective mentor characteritics, and released time to a maximum of 20% for the intern and 10% for part-time and 100% for full-time mentors. The selection committees had to include at least 51% members of the teachers associations and grant applications had to be approved by teacher associations before submission to the State. Mentors identified by the selection committee had to be approved by the district superintendent.
A 1988 article describes the approach taken in the City of New York where the United Federation of Teachers and the City Board of Education cooperatively sponsored a state-funded pilot mentoring program for provisionally certified teachers. See Guerrero, F. and Goldberg, P. (1988). "Mentor Teacher Internship Program, 1986-87. OEA Evaluation Report". Eric document ED300380.
State-wide data collected in 1989 on the first three years of the program, showed an increase in attraction and retention of teachers. A number of other benefits for new teachers and their mentors were established from the data, such as that intern made more progress in asuming professional responsibilities as teachers than did othe beginning teachers who were not interns.
A 1990 article confirmed the state's pilot mentoring programs approach was to separate mentoring from formal assessment of the intern for purposes of state teacher licensure. The article states that mentors provide support and guidance, but do not assume a supervisory role with the new teachers. Mentors were described as serving in a collegial relationship that was "privileged and confidential". See Fontana,J. (1990). "Rite of Passage: The Mentor Teacher/Internship Program". The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 57, 31-38. Interesting enough is the fact that there were two New York school districts which took a more evaluative approach and assigned the primary role of the mentor to be that of a "Peer Reviewer". The best known of these is the mentoring system in the Rochester NY schools, in which teachers serving as mentors observe new teachers for the expressed purpose of recommending whether the new teachers should be retained in their job.
During the 1990-91 school year 97 proposals for competitive grants were funded. The state support totaled $14.5 million dollars and helped about 10% of the state's approximately 700 districts to implement the requirement. While larger districts sought and received these grants, smaller rural districts formed consortia, often with a university or BOCES (intermediate service center), to gain increased access to these grants. Concurrently there was discussion at the state level concerning a change in the mentoring program approach to using both an assistance and an assessment model for working with new teachers.
The amount of state funding increased each year to the point of 1991 when the funding had reached $16.5 million and at that time the state was supporting 77 mentoring programs. Ever since the beginning of the pilot programs research studies and evaluations were conducted state-wide to determine the effectivenesss of the mentoring pilots. Dr. Jerry Majors of Syracuse University coordinated much of this research, which found that the mentoring programs were not only effective at smoothing the transition to the new career for the beginninteacher, but that the mentoring support improved the teaching of those same novice teachers, and that the retention of new teachers in the career over time was significantly improved! Another research finding was that, when mentoring programs had a teacher as the program coordinator, those programs were more often sustained and remained stronger than mentoring programs which were led by administrators. Dr. Majors submitted these and other research findings to the NY State Dept. of Education so that they could be disseminated state-wide to inform the work of those with mentoring programs or who were interested in developing mentoring programs. Careful inquiries with New York educators indicates that the research was never released by the State Dept. of Education.
At the end of 1991 all of the program's funding for 1991-92 was completely cut by then Governor Cuomo. During the initial 5 year life of the program over 2000 new teachers had been inducted into teaching and supported by mentors. Districts also reported that mentors and mentor program coordinators had become a wonderful and skillful resource for staff development and other initiatives, and all the research demonstrated the program's purposes were being met. Still, the size of the state, the number of new teachers being hired in NY, and the eventual cost of full implementation led the Governor to halt the entire program, icluding support of program pilots and research into effective program models.
In 1992 while no state funding was available, the requirement for full implementation in the 1993-94 school year was maintained, so many programs continued under local district support. An example of the confusion this caused is found in Fernandez, J.A. (1992). "Mentor Teacher Internship Program". Special Circular # 14, New York City Public Schools and United Federation of Teachers, New York, NY. "The Mentor Teacher Internship Program (MTIP) is being re-introduced in response to the NY State Regulations of the Commissioner of Education (sec. 80.18) after being suspended during the 1991-92 school year. Currently, state regulations require that next year (1993-94), all new teachers, certified and uncertified, will receive an internship through the MTIP." (Fernandez was the Chancellor for New York City Public Schools.)
At the same time, across the state, issues of teacher certification surfaced and proposals for new requirements began to call for completion of an intership year to be done under a mentor as a requirement for new teachers to attain a teaching certificate. These proposals wanted mentors to assume a summative evaluation role in determining a new teacher's fitness for certification. Many induction advocates soundly resisted this direction as counterproductive to the work of the mentor and the necessary risk-taking required for professional discussion of problems and growth.
In 1993 a year-long study of the initial year of the requirement was conducted. The focus of the study was the experience of 15 first year teachers. The study found that informal and formal mentoring was support that the beginning teachers found to be "a necessary learning resource". The study found that teachers go through four phases of adjustment in their new profession and concluded that teacher education and induction programs and practices need to include establishing and supporting a "helping community" of experienced and supportive colleagues for new teachers. See Sanford, M.D. (1993). "The Beginning Teacher's First Year Experience". a dissertation, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY. It strikes me that this study's findings are clearly consistent with many other investigations which have found mentoring to be the most significant step we can take to assure the success of a new teacher, and that mentoring is a very cost-effective strategy to accomplish that purpose.
During the 1996-97 school year the NY State Board of Regents Task Force on Teaching recommended including the requirement for an internship with a mentor, among other things, for all new teachers in New York. This led to state funding of the NYSMT/IP at $10 million in 1997. With the RFP available in October 1997 and due at the SDE in November, funding was really only available for the latter half of the school year. Still, competition for implementation money was very stiff and 92 (11%) of the state's districts were awarded a grant. This RFP described the "Essential Components of the Mentor-Teacher Internship Programs" to be funded, the kinds of mentoring roles allowed, the Mentor-Intern relationship desired, and a requirement that Intern and Mentors teach no more than a 90% load. Mentor Selection Committees were required and selection criteria defined, training was defined, the role of the principal explained, and program management was described so that an effective support system and context would be provided. Finally, the RFP contains the text of the relevant legislation.
As of January 1998, however, the Governor's budget for 1998-99 provides NO state funding for the NYSMT/IP and New York's new teachers will again be left wondering about the state's concern for their success and the success of their students.
A contact person at the New York State Education Department is Nancy Brennan, in the Office of Teaching. Nancy has led the program during five years. Her e-mail is <>. Her phone is 518-474-6440 and her address is New York State Education Department, Room 5 N ED, Albany, NY 12234.
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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