Mentoring and Student Achievement - Steve Barkley

Mentoring and Student Achievement

I recently spent an afternoon with the mentor teachers at St Mary’s County Public Schools in Maryland. Prior to my presentation Jeff Maher, the director of professional development, reviewed the results of a recent survey of beginning teachers regarding the time, type of activities, and quality of mentoring they were receiving. Jeff celebrated the results which showed increased positive finding across the past few years. I sent Jeff a few questions to understand the investment and commitment the system had made to the mentor program. Here is the information Jeff sent back……

St. Mary’s County Public Schools (SMCPS) is located in St. Mary’s County Maryland about 100 miles south of Washington, D.C. on the western peninsula in Southern Maryland. SMCPS serves approximately 17,000 students and 1,500 certificated staff; 94.2% of which are highly qualified. Generally we hire between 150 & 175 new teachers each year.

Our school system is large enough to offer a wide variety of academic programs and services, and small enough to maintain an atmosphere of friendliness, helpfulness, and personalized service. As a school system, we are focused on student achievement and assuring that our students meet rigorous standards; at SMCPS all children can and will learn. In fact our mission statement says it all:

“Know the learner and the learning, expecting excellence in both. Accept no excuses, educating ALL with rigor, relevance, respect, and positive relationships.”

Mentoring in SMCPS involves experienced teachers paired with novice teachers, providing coaching, support, and guidance as the new teachers transition in their first two years. Mentoring is a key component of our long-range Teacher Induction Program.
Our induction program includes:
New Teacher Orientation:
· Day 1 & 2 – Optional Content Sessions
· Days 3-5 Required Professional Development on content, curriculum, classroom management, and system orientation. One-half day is devoted to demonstration classroom visits with monthly follow-up sessions.
· Electronic Learning Community forum
· Peer mentors are provided release time for peer coaching.
Induction Support includes:
· For 1st year teachers – Monthly New Teacher Seminars, Weekly Teaching Tips via email, Financial Seminar, New Teacher Socials and Annual Spring Re-Energizer with mentors
· For 2nd year teachers – Classroom Management that Works! course
· 3rd year – collegial partners

We request that all mentors are trained. Twice a year we offer a 1-credit course entitled Skills for Coaching and Mentoring. This course is based on the Performance Learning Systems’ course: Conferencing Skills for Mentors & Coaches and Steve Barkley’s book Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching.
Throughout the course, participants:
· Develop effective coaching and communication skills to build rapport among colleagues, create positive instructional change, and enhanced self-esteem for new teachers.
· Learn a prescriptive process for communicating with a colleague in a pre and post classroom observation.
· While observing instruction, become skilled at the use of several data collection instruments.

We attribute our positive results to the adage: Communicate, communicate and communicate. Weekly, new teachers, along with their mentors, receive a Teaching Tip via email. Mentors receive a monthly newsletter, The Mentor News.

Contact information: Jeff Maher,

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