Innovating teacher mentorship models in Texas
Mentoring new teachers to improve instruction and retain early-career educators represents an essential, proven component of teacher induction. Research into teacher mentorship in Texas highlights the need for an inclusive approach as well as increased investment from the state.
Research About Mentoring
Traditional approaches to teacher mentorship foreground the philosophy of “teaching in isolation” (Thompson & Schademan, 2019, p. 2). Generally, high-quality mentorships provide mentees with guidance and feedback for effective instruction and classroom management. Such mentorship also supports novice teachers’ ongoing professional learning and increases the likelihood of their retention in the profession. High-quality mentoring also serves as a vital piece of the puzzle to fill in the gaps for preparation of teachers from intern and non-licensure routes to the profession (Bland, Wojcikiewicz, Darling-Hammond, & Wei, 2023).
While the current approach to mentoring provides targeted benefits, we must shift our approach to maximize benefits for the entire school community. Historically, teacher mentorship programs offer limited opportunities for student-teachers to collaboratively reflect, engage, and inquire about the field (Thompson & Schademan, 2019). Research shows that drawing on the strengths of student teachers can enable a culture of collaboration, inform inclusive mentorship as well as agency, and support reciprocal relationships between mentors and mentees (Gardener et al., 2020; Serafini et al., 2023; Strom & Martin, 2022; Thompson & Scharderman, 2019).
An essential component to disrupting traditional notions of teacher mentorship is the acknowledgement of diverse student, parent, and community needs and expertise (Albert et al., 2023; Gardner et al., 2020). Recognizing that teaching is a collective act among the entire school community can dissociate mentorship from unequal power relationships and position each individual as an expert in the field (Ambrosetti & Deckers, 2010; Hayashi, 2022; Thompson & Schardeman, 2019). Empowering collaboration across school communities is necessary to connect theory to practice, teachers to communities, and mentors to mentees (Ambrosetti & Deckers, 2010; Hayashi, 2022; Thompson & Schardeman, 2019).
Inconsistent State Support
Texas state policy has a history of supporting teacher mentorship, but at a small scale and inconsistently throughout the years. To date, Texas law does not require all new teachers to be mentored during their first years. Individual school districts may run their own mentoring programs, but they are not guaranteed state funding, nor does the state provide free mentoring resources to all schools and teachers.
However, it does seem, the state recognizes the value of mentorship and developed a limited mentor program with the potential to grow. The Mentor Program Allotment (MPA) was adopted as part of House Bill 5 in 2019. Funded at only $3 million per biennium, the program supports roughly 1,000 teachers per year for a two-year cycle. The program has served a total of 3,300 teachers since its inception, approximately 10 percent of the beginning teacher corps in Texas, and only one percent of all Texas teachers.
Districts that apply for and receive this optional grant are eligible for $1,800 per mentee to be used toward mentor teacher stipends, training, and other associated costs. Participating districts must use commissioner-approved training. The Texas Education Agency’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force recommends the state develop standard training for cooperating and mentor teachers to ensure quality. They also recommend increasing state funding for the MPA to scale the program and increase the number of new teachers served.
Individuals certified through traditional university programs receive guidance from a cooperating teacher during their student teaching semester, and some universities offer a year-long residency program. Candidates certified through alternative certification programs are assigned a mentor during their first year as teacher of record with no student teaching required. There is little oversight around the mentorship, however, and teacher candidates are not guaranteed high-quality mentoring from an experienced teacher in the same subject area with regular face-to-face interactions and guidance.
Rethinking mentorship for the future
Despite the benefits to individual teachers and the teaching corps, Texas has yet to invest in a state-supported, high-quality mentorship program for all new teachers. Additionally, state guidance for high-quality mentoring does not include essential components regarding inclusive mentorship and diverse student, parent, and community needs and expertise.
To effectively address this crisis point in the teaching profession, Texas must increase investment in statewide mentoring programs to provide high-quality mentoring to all new teachers and employ mentoring as a retention strategy.
Leaders in the field of mentoring, school districts, and the state must also rethink our approach to traditional mentoring by empowering collaboration across school communities. Strengthening the collective act of teaching by building on the school community’s diverse expertise and needs will benefit the teaching profession as well as the students in our public schools, today and long into the future.
Albert, M., Scott, C. E., & Rincon, M. (2023). Can even one adult please just listen to me? Rethinking the mentoring of beginning teachers by positioning secondary students as guides. Teaching and Teacher Education, 128.
Ambrosetti, A., & Dekkers, J. (2010). The interconnectedness of the roles of mentors and mentees in pre-service teacher education mentoring relationships. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 35(6), 42–55.
Bland, J. A., Wojcikiewicz, S. K., Darling-Hammond, L., & Wei, W. (2023). Strengthening pathways into the teaching profession in Texas: Challenges and opportunities. Learning Policy Institute.
Gardner, R. P., Osorio, S. L., Carrillo, S., & Gilmore, R. (2020). (Re)membering in the pedagogical work of Black and Brown teachers: Reclaiming stories as culturally sustaining practice. Urban Education, 55(6), 838–864.
Hayashi, A. (2022). Teaching expertise in three countries: Findings and policy implications from an international comparative study in early childhood education. Comparative Education, 58(3), 315-327.
Serafini, A., Calderone, S., Lozano, M., & Martinez, M. A. (2023). A critical safe, supportive space: a collaborative autoethnography of a woman’s academic mentoring circle. International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 12(1), 47–61.
Strom, K. J., & Martin, A. D. (2022). Toward a critical posthuman understanding of teacher development and practice: A multi-case study of beginning teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 114.
Thompson, M., & Schademan, A. (2019). Gaining fluency: Five practices that mediate effective co-teaching between pre-service and mentor teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 86.