Ellen Moir

A bill sits on Governor Brown’s desk that not only has the potential to support the development of a world-class teaching force for California’s students, but to right a wrong currently imposed by the state on many new teachers.

The bill, Assembly Bill 141, is focused on making sure beginning teachers – who face a steep learning curve and low salaries in their first years – get the mentoring support they need to truly improve student learning, without having to pay for it themselves.

Once new teachers have completed a teacher preparation program, California policy requires them to participate in a two-year mentoring program in which they get support from more experienced, skilled coaches. They need to complete this in order to convert the preliminary credential they are first issued to a “clear” or permanent credential within five years.

But while California requires teachers to enroll in such a program, it doesn’t require districts or schools to actually provide it – or pay for it. The state once gave districts dedicated funds to underwrite these programs but essentially eliminated this support in the budget cuts during the Great Recession. As a result, in some districts teachers actually have to pay out of their own pockets – sometimes as much as $2,500, or more than 5 percent of the average starting salary – to meet this state requirement.

As someone who has helped school districts meet the needs of their newest educators for more than two decades, I can tell you that highly effective mentoring programs are critical to student achievement. Just as doctors benefit from medical residencies after earning their degrees, beginning teachers also need further guidance through on-the-job mentoring from an accomplished, well-prepared peer. This is also referred to as “teacher induction,” as teachers are inducted into the profession via regular mentoring. Mentors provide them with relevant feedback and counsel when they need it most. When new teachers receive support via a sustained, rigorous and individualized mentoring program focused on helping them become more effective more quickly, students benefit.

This type of support is vital for the growth of our new teachers and the success of their students, but it’s unacceptable that some districts are asking teachers to pay for it themselves. In other states that require new teacher mentoring and induction programs, the cost is typically covered by the district and/or the state, not by individual teachers. At a time where teachers are underpaid, housing costs are increasing and California has intense teacher shortages, we should be doing more to help teachers succeed. AB 141 takes a modest step in that direction by prohibiting districts from charging beginning teachers to participate in a required program – and Gov. Brown, who has consistently spoken out on behalf of teachers, should sign it.

Teacher induction and mentoring benefits educators, students and taxpayers through increased student achievement, reductions in teacher turnover and reductions in district recruitment costs. So this expense must be borne by our educational system, not placed on the backs of our newest teachers.

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Ellen Moir is founder and chief executive officer of the New Teacher Center, a national nonprofit organization working to improve student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders, especially in underserved areas.

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  1. Eric Premack 2 years ago2 years ago

    With due respect to Ms. Moir's fine work in the teacher induction area, this important topic begs a bit of context and could benefit from "upping the policy periscope." Context: California has ridiculously-complex and overwrought teacher preparation and credentialing requirements. The Credentialing Commission's "Administrator Assignment Manual" is 159 pages long and has a 46-page update and revisions appendix--these merely summarize the complex mess that California has established to credential teachers. The induction mandate … Read More

    With due respect to Ms. Moir’s fine work in the teacher induction area, this important topic begs a bit of context and could benefit from “upping the policy periscope.”

    Context: California has ridiculously-complex and overwrought teacher preparation and credentialing requirements. The Credentialing Commission’s “Administrator Assignment Manual” is 159 pages long and has a 46-page update and revisions appendix–these merely summarize the complex mess that California has established to credential teachers. The induction mandate is one hurdle among many that prospective and new teachers must clear. And we wonder why we have a teacher shortage? Julie Sheldon’s comment regarding the actual impact of AB 141 is spot-on.

    When the state originally imposed the induction program mandate, the law specifically provided that the induction mandate applied only if the state provided funding to support the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) categorical funding program. In essence, the state promised it would fund most of the mandated program–and if it didn’t, the mandate would automatically disappear.

    When the state cut funding for BTSA, however, it also deleted the provision calling for the mandate to automatically disappear when funding is cut. Very clever. Fast forward several years and now the induction mandate advocates want to dump the cost back on districts. While it may not be fair to dump the cost on teachers, it’s no more fair to dump the mandate on districts.

    Up Periscope: Even if one assumes that induction programs are as beneficial as Ms. Moir believes, is the model currently mandated by the state the best? Or should schools and districts be allowed to craft their own programs, free of red tape and perhaps a lot more economical and effective? The feedback I hear from teachers and principals regarding the effectiveness of these programs is mixed–some think the induction programs are very good, some find the programs a waste of time and money. Many school leaders would prefer to craft their own induction practices and be offered the funds to do so. As California faces a growing shortage of “qualified” (at least on paper) teachers, the entire Byzantine credentialing mess begs a complete re-examination and overhaul–including, but not limited to considering the role of state-mandated induction requirements (if any).

    AB 141 provides an interesting litmus test of Governor Brown’s commitment to “local control.” The bill is a textbook example of “veto bait.”

  2. Julie Sheldon 2 years ago2 years ago

    I agree that, in it's original form, this bill would have created the opportunity for all new teachers to have access to induction programs at no cost, and would have eased the significant financial and logistical burden that so many new teachers face when trying to complete induction to clear their credential. I also agree that a quality induction experience is key to making sure that new teachers receive the support and guidance in effective … Read More

    I agree that, in it’s original form, this bill would have created the opportunity for all new teachers to have access to induction programs at no cost, and would have eased the significant financial and logistical burden that so many new teachers face when trying to complete induction to clear their credential. I also agree that a quality induction experience is key to making sure that new teachers receive the support and guidance in effective teaching practices in those first critical years of teaching.

    However, AB 141 was amended shortly before it arrived on the Governor’s desk, and the mandate for all districts to give their new teachers access to an induction program was removed from the bill. Sadly, without that mandate, the districts who don’t offer induction to their teachers will have no motivation to do so, especially if they have to shoulder the cost, despite the new Teacher Effectiveness funds. In addition, the districts and county offices who charge teachers just to keep their programs open will then simply close their programs rather than use district funds to support it.

    If these things happen, thousands of new teachers will have no other option but to turn to the universities to complete induction, which cost two or three times the current fees charged by district or County Office programs. In addition, many of the university programs do not offer timely and individualized support, and many are completely online, which only adds to the burden of stressed and overworked new teachers.

    In it’s current form this bill will actually add to the burden and inequity of support for way too many of California’s new teachers.