The August 2012 TEACHNJ Act changed New Jersey’s tenure law, and it ultimately brought a new educator evaluation system to the state’s teachers and principals. But the law also addressed mentoring, requiring that experienced teachers new to a district, as well as those new to the profession, be mentored.
In order to comply with the law, the N.J. Department of Education (NJDOE) proposed amendments to the mentoring regulations at the August State Board of Education meeting. NJEA is disappointed with the NJDOE proposal, calling it a “missed opportunity” to enhance a process that research proves leads to better instruction in classrooms.
The new regulations would change the mentor selection process. Mentors would have to be rated effective or highly effective on their most recent evaluation and would be required to complete a training program. They must have at least three years of teaching experience, and must have had at least two of those years within the five years previous to serving as a mentor.
The department wants to shift responsibility for a district’s mentoring plan. Because the NJDOE eliminated local professional development committees in code adopted earlier this year, the implementation of and accountability for a district’s mentoring plan would now be left to the superintendent.
The proposed regulations, however, provide districts with little guidance on the actual mentoring and induction process.
Francine Pfeffer, associate director of government relations for NJEA, called mentoring “the most critical support experienced practitioners can give novice teachers to get a good start in their careers” in her written testimony to the state board.
Pfeffer called for “a larger conversation about teacher preparation and what it means to be a novice teacher,” adding that “ NJEA is ready to be part of that discussion.”
NJEA has called for mentoring to be just one part of a comprehensive induction program that is properly funded. Mentors should be highly trained and should be given time during the school day to work with their mentees.
NJEA was pleased, however, with the department proposal that mentors now receive their stipend from the district, not the mentee.
These regulations will move through second discussion and proposal levels and are expected to be adopted in early 2014. Educators wishing to provide personal or written testimony on the topic should visit the NJDOE website for instructions at www.state.nj.us/education/sboe/meetings/pubtest.shtml.