The Research Is In

The Case for Mentors Grows Stronger

Providing high-quality mentors to new teachers yields major academic benefits for students, a new study finds.
June 28, 2017
A teacher helps another teacher cross a chasm
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Past research has shown that mentors can help to address the persistent issues of teacher shortages and job dissatisfaction, preventing new teachers from burning out and leaving the profession. Without a mentor, nearly one in three new teachers leave by their fifth year, but with a mentor that ratio drops by more than half, to one in seven.

But a new study from SRI Education suggests a dramatic pass-through effect to students as well: When new teachers are part of a high-quality mentorship program, their students experience major academic gains. In the study, students whose teachers were in the New Teacher Center’s mentor program gained an additional two to four months of learning in reading and an additional two to five months of learning in math when compared to their peers in the control group.

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Mentorships are particularly effective, researchers found, if mentors are well trained and use strategies such as regularly observing classroom instruction and providing feedback to new teachers, and using available student data to identify areas of growth for the teacher.

The study followed over 600 new teachers across two districts, with roughly half randomly assigned to a two-year mentorship and induction program while the other half received “business-as-usual” supports.

Mentors met with new teachers one-on-one almost every week, giving lesson-planning advice and helping to analyze student work. All in all, about three hours a month were spent on mentorship meetings, a relatively small commitment for the gains in student learning.

“When new teachers are better prepared and have the skills to effectively teach, students learn more, and we can work to close the achievement gap and give kids a fair opportunity to succeed,” explains Ellen Moir, CEO of the New Teacher Center.

The takeaway: The case for mentorship is steadily growing stronger. Mentors help prevent teacher attrition and improve job satisfaction—and there’s new evidence that they can boost student learning too.