President Barack Obama"s rhetoric on education has consistently called for the expansion of mentoring programs in schools across the country. Have his policies matched his words?
We found that mentor programs have been a factor in multiple competitive grant programs implemented by the Obama administration. Nine of 12 states chosen as Race To The Top winners included some form of mentoring program in their proposals.
Rhode Island, for instance, has established a program with "17 induction coaches working with 262 beginning teachers," said Elliot Krieger, a spokesman for the state"s Department of Education, in an email. Rhode Island"s program is "fully funded" by its Race to the Top grant. "We intend to continue our mentoring program and to expand the program next year to include second-year educators in some districts," Krieger said.
Additionally, the re-established Teacher Incentive Fund incorporated mentoring programs as criteria for grant winners. At least 37 of 62 TIF recipients in 2010 specifically mentioned mentoring initiatives in their grant proposals.
In the Austin Independent School District, TIF funding has helped expand an innovative full-time mentor program. While schools with full-time mentors are "definitely less typical," according to the district"s Executive Director of Educator Quality David Lussier, he said other districts -- including Boston, Chicago and Hillsborough county in Florida – are trying to create similar programs. "Which is a lot more effective, obviously," Lussier added, since the mentors "actually have the time to be supportive of those novice teachers."
Along with his promise about mentors, Obama promised incentives for schools that provide teachers with more planning time. Although this is part of the administration"s $5 billion RESPECT (Recognizing Education Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching) initiative, RESPECT hasn"t been adopted yet.
Race to the Top, which received stimulus spending, also called for increased planning time in its criteria, saying applications with plans for "professional development, time for common planning and collaboration" would be prioritized.
However, the only substantial instance of Race to the Top-funded teacher planning time we found was in the Delaware school system, which established a weekly 90 minutes of collaborative planning time in its schools.
"Teachers are now required to assemble each week with assigned data coaches to peruse data, identify areas of strengths and opportunities for growth," said Delaware Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery in an e-mail.
In its year one report, the District of Columbia's school system says it"s planning to create shared planning time in the years to come.
The Obama administration lived up to its promise to "provide incentives for more planning time" by including it as criteria in Race To The Top. As for the promise to "expand mentoring programs," mentor programs have indeed been expanded or created as a result of the administration"s policies. We rate this a Promise Kept.