This study took place in 5 urban school districts in the state of Alaska.
Among the participating teachers in the sample, all teachers were first year teachers, and more than three-forths (78.2%) were female. The majority of the teachers had at least bachelor's degrees (61.7%) and about one-quarter had master's degrees (25.6%). Nearly two-thirds of the participating teachers received their teaching degrees in Alaska (62.9%). The large majority (85%) did not relocate to Alaska for their teaching job. Among students in the sample (in Year 2), about half the sample was White (48%), 5% were African-American, 12% were Alaska Native, 10% were Asian, 10% were Hispanic, 5% were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 10% were two or more races, and less than 5% were American Indian. About half of the student sample was female, and about two thirds (68.4%) of the student sample qualified for free or reduced price lunch. About one-fifth (20.7%) of the sample were English language learners. About one-fourth of the sample (23.7%) were special education students.
The Alaska Statewide Mentor Project (ASMP) Urban Growth Opportunity (UGO) Program provided professional development for early career teachers in five high-need district in Alaska, and offered two years of support from fully released, highly trained mentors. Full-time mentors had a caseload of no more than 15 early career teachers. Mentor qualifications were having at least eight years of teaching experience in Alaska, having recent classroom teaching experience or other relevant work in education (within past two years), having strong content knowledge in core subjects, and recognition as an excellent classroom practitioner. Over the two years, mentors participate in intensive professional development which included: 1) 2-days per year of orientation, 2) 3 days per year of Wrap Up sessions, 3) four academy-style training sessions for mentors, 4) participation in at least ten Friday Forums, 5) monthly communication with coach, 6) participation in two shadowing sessions with coach in Year 1, and at least one shadowing session in Year 2, and 7) utilization of mentor formative assessment tools during coaching. Early career teachers communicated with their mentors at least weekly, and mentors provided at least 3.5 hours per month of face-to-face interaction for each Early Career Teacher.
The Formative Assessment tools for mentors included: 1) documentation of conversations through the Collaborative Assessment log, 2) use of formative assessment tools to support teachers and gathering of classroom data, and 3) support for reflective practice through an Individual Learning Plan, Mid-Year Review, and Professional Growth Reflection.
While the intervention teachers were mentored for 2 years, the comparison group did not receive mentoring or had formal mentoring typically offered in their district. In two of the five participating districts, the districts offered formal district mentoring which varied in quality and duration/intensity of support, which was a typical service. In three of the five participating districts, no formal mentoring was offered to the comparison group. The comparison group services would be considered "business as usual."
Support for implementation
The Alaska Statewide Mentor Project (ASMP) Urban Growth Opportunity (UGO) Program was funded by a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) validation grant. Support for project implementation of this two-year mentoring program for early career teachers came from earlier implementation of the ASMP in Alaska's rural school districts. The New Teacher Center (NTC) model formed the foundation for the ASMP program structure and professional development curriculum. The program was adapted for the state of Alaska and and serving a high proportion of Alaska Native students, many of whom live in rural/bush communities. The model was adapted for Alaskan urban settings which involved less interaction with principals, more district coordination, and greater flexibility to meet with Early Career Teachers more often and for shorter periods of time. The program builds from research on teacher professional development practices, mentoring practice, mentoring qualifications, and the use of formative feedback in educative mentoring.