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By Adam Offitzer March 12, 2012

There have been incentives and expansion

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.

Our Sources

Email Interview, Elliot Krieger, spokesman for Rhode Island Department of Education.

Phone Interview, David Lussier, Executive Director of Educator Quality in Austin Independent School District.

Email Interview, Lillian Lowery, Delaware Secretary of Education.

List of TIF grants, Department of Education.

District of Columbia Year One Report, Race To The Top, Department of Education.

"RESPECT Project Aims to Elevate Teacher Voice," Education Week, 2/16/12.

"Duncan Champions New Teacher Quality Fund," Education Week, 2/15/12.

Race To The Top Program Executive Summary, Department of Education.

"Common Planning Time For Teachers," Delaware Online, 10/27/11.

Robert Farley
By Robert Farley November 9, 2009

States are encouraged to do teacher mentoring programs

President Barack Obama has packed a number of his campaign promises related to education into his "Race to the Top" program, which seeks to encourage innovative approaches to teaching and learning by having states compete for $4.35 billion worth of grants from the Department of Education. The program was funded through the Obama-backed economic stimulus package approved by Congress in February.

In a speech in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 4, Obama announced the criteria for states to win the grants. One of the goals, Obama said, is to create "alternate pathways to teaching for talented young people," and he specifically cited as an example a program in Boston "where aspiring teachers work side-by-side with effective mentors in a yearlong residency."

A notice from the Department of Education inviting applications talks about priority being given to states that provide effective support to teachers, and specifically mentions as examples "professional development, time for common planning and collaboration."

That sounds to us like what Obama promised he would encourage if elected president.
Competition for the grants will be conducted in two rounds -- the first starting this month and the second in June next year -- with winners announced in April and September next year.

But by establishing a competitive grant program that encourages teacher mentor programs and paid planning time for teachers so they can collaborate to share best practices, we think that moves this promise to In the Works.

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