by Nick Ferentinos
JEA Mentoring Committee

Nick Ferentinos

I left the New Teacher Center’s annual symposium on Feb. 8 and 9 with two strong impressions: Measuring teacher effectiveness has become a key point in the discussion about teacher quality, and technology is rapidly changing the way we mentor new teachers.

The Center, arguably the leading organization in the country in what it calls “new teacher induction,” the first two years of teaching, held its 12th annual Symposium this week in San Jose, Calif., attended by nearly 700 educators, support providers, policy makers, mentor teachers and administrators, among others.

From 2002 until 2008, I worked as an outreach consultant for the Center after two years of mentoring and 35 years in the classroom, conducting mentor trainings around the country. This was my ninth Symposium, and, as usual, I left inspired.

The Center once addressed the issue of creating what it called “quality mentoring.” Today, that term has been replaced with “teacher effectiveness.” All it takes is a glance at recent issues of Education Week to learn that the concept has taken hold.

At the Symposium, the first keynote speaker, renown educator Linda Darling-Hammond, formerly from Columbia University’s Teachers College and now at Stanford, addressed the question, “What do Effective and Equitable Teachers Know and Do?” The old paradigm, she said, was “Know content,” but that’s not nearly enough today, she added.

Some of what Darling-Hammond identified as key factors in determining teacher effectiveness included:

  • standards that are made concrete.
  • appropriate and timely evaluation and feedback.
  • looking at student achievement from many perspectives.

That last point was something we heard about time and time again at the event:

Educators have long resisted using data about student achievement to determine the quality of teacher performance, but that’s no longer the case. We heard frequently that the profession has rapidly shifted with away from that resistance to embrace the Department of Education’s “Race to the Top” and the vast incentives the federal government is offering states that qualify for grants.

Next time: A look at how we’re using technology to improve how we mentor new teachers.