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Project Evaluation

BIENNIAL EVALUATION REPORT LANGUAGE MINORITY TEACHER INDUCTION PROJECT
Executive Summary: 2000 - 2002

Prepared by of Barbara Dole Acosta and Melissa DiGennaro King of George Mason University

This biennial, comprehensive, mixed-methods evaluation provides an assessment of the strengths and limitations of the LMTIP as it completes the fourth year of a five-year grant from the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA). Judgment of quality was determined based on the extent to which the project is making progress on each of its stated goals and objectives, as well as on a set of OELA evaluation guiding questions. The evaluation provides indicators of both processes and products. Data were collected through a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods, including interviews, surveys, and document reviews, and include multiple stakeholder perspectives. The data were collected during the 2001 - 02 school year, with a focus on Years 3 and 4 of the project.

Results of the evaluation clearly indicate that the LMTIP is effectively meeting all of the proposed goals and objectives. Data analysis shows that the LMTIP has resulted in both expected and supplementary positive outcomes. A summary of findings, organized by goals and objectives, is presented below.

    1. GOAL 1: Develop and implement an induction model for teachers of LM/LEP students.
    2. GOAL 2: Provide for the advanced professional development of mentors and beginning teachers.
    3. GOAL 3: The project will result in substantive improvement in language minority education at both the LEA and IHE levels.
    4. Evaluation Guiding Questions

GOAL 1: Develop and implement an induction model for teachers of LM/LEP students.

  • The LMTIP has developed a highly successful teacher induction model. Evaluation data verified that induction teams have effectively served 156 mentee teachers in 12 schools, with leadership provided by 17 mentor teachers.

    Objective 1.1: Form Induction Advisory Committee

  • The original plan for an Induction Advisory Committee with broad-based membership worked well during the conceptual stage of the project. Due to the time constraints of busy professional members, however, it has been difficult to maintain an active committee. Alternative means of communication (other than regular meetings) may be more appropriate.

    Objective 1.2: Identify and select members of each building induction team.

  • The recruitment and selection process for mentor and mentee teachers varied considerably by school. Many teachers were highly motivated to participate in the LMTIP in order to pursue professional growth and learning and to increase their knowledge of LM students. Data indicate that voluntary participation and flexible selection criteria resulted in higher satisfaction than required participation for both mentors and mentee teachers.

    Objective 1.3: Identify participating Mason faculty.

  • Mason faculty support, part of the original project design, was discontinued after the first two years of the LMTIP. The project director decided that funds for faculty members could instead be invested in direct services for more teacher participants at the school level. Data from interviews indicate that this was perceived as a positive step.

    Objective 1.4: Begin induction services.

  • Devoting ample time to the development of team trust during the first semester led to strong collegial relationships, which established a foundation for teacher professional growth and reflection. Mentors and fellow team members provided both moral and practical support, shared ideas, and helped problem-solve. This process helped alleviate stress, increased teachers' confidence in their professional skills, and motivated them to move beyond new teacher "survival" concerns toward the ongoing practice of thoughtful reflection focused on student needs.

  • Teachers reported that participating in induction team meetings, conducting action research, attending professional conferences, and taking part in peer observations were valuable activities contributing to professional growth. The opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with other professionals across various disciplines was also helpful to both mentors and mentees.

  • The most problematic aspect of LMTIP involvement for many participants was time. Many mentee teachers said they felt overwhelmed with the multiple responsibilities of their new roles, and that finding time for meetings, conducting action research, and other professional development activities was difficult. Nevertheless, the majority of participants said that the benefits of participation outweighed the time investment, and most reported that they did not feel their involvement had been burdensome.

  • Response to the induction team experience from both current and former mentee teachers and mentors was overwhelmingly positive.

GOAL 2: Provide for the advanced professional development of mentors and beginning teachers.

  • The LMTIP provided various forms of advanced professional development for mentors and beginning teachers. These included university coursework, action research, professional conference presentations, publications, and mentor leadership development.

  • Seventy-five percent of mentee and mentor participants said that they had taken advantage of these opportunities, some to the fullest extent possible. As a result of professional growth activities, LMTIP participants experienced changes in their attitudes and self-perceptions as educators. Professional development opportunities also resulted in increased confidence, enhanced competence, professional pride and satisfaction for mentee teachers.

  • Mentors experienced professional growth through the development of leadership skills as they applied their expertise and experience to coaching mentee teachers.

  • Some mentors and mentees said that participating in the LMTIP had inspired them to pursue graduate studies.

  • Action research was an important part of professional development. The action research helped beginning teachers develop reflective practice and a focus on meeting student needs.

  • Flexibility in both process and product has been an important and desirable aspect of the action research component that is well supported by studies of teacher research. Nevertheless, LMTIP mentors and mentees expressed a need for some basic structure and guidelines for conducting research. This would help lead to improved monitoring of student outcomes, a task made difficult by the variability in the quality and content of the action research reports produced to date.

GOAL 3: The project will result in substantive improvement in language minority education at both the LEA and IHE levels.

Objective 3.1. Language minority students of the beginning teachers in the project will demonstrate significant improvement in literacy and academic achievement as measured by standardized test scores and classroom assessments.

  • As a result of the implementation of the LMTIP, it appears that the education of language minority students has improved in three school districts. Analysis of a sample of action research reports indicated that students of LMTIP participants improved in literacy, academic achievement, cross-cultural understanding, behavior, and attitudes toward learning.

    Objective 3.2. The beginning teachers in the project will demonstrate significant improvements in instruction.

  • Data indicate that elementary, middle, and high school mentee teachers developed improved instructional methods and pedagogical skills, increased their understanding of the needs of language minority students, and improved their effectiveness in the classroom. The positive project impact has persisted for mentees from previous years, with some continuing to conduct action research and engage in reflective practice after their induction team experience ended.

Evaluation Guiding Questions

Collaboration among IHEs and local schools

  • Central office staff in participating school districts contributed to the development of the conceptual framework for the LMTIP and initially played an active role. They are enthusiastic about the goals and objectives of the LMTIP, but many have been unable to regularly attend meetings and are unfamiliar with project advances. Additional mechanisms for communication and coordination would be helpful for these important support people.

  • Principals at LMTIP participating schools were perceived as quite knowledgeable about project goals, activities and advances. Although not all principals had the time to attend LMTIP meetings, many were supportive of induction team activities. Principals said that the LMTIP had benefited their schools, and hoped that project funding would continue in the future.

    Teacher recruitment and retention

  • The LMTIP was not designed to recruit teacher candidates and evaluators did not collect data pertaining to teacher recruitment. The project appears to have had a positive impact on teacher retention. Participating teachers report that the project has influenced them to remain in their profession by providing needed support, a sense of professionalism and a feeling of belonging. Ninety-seven percent of 2001-02 participants said they plan to continue in the teaching profession.

    Improvement of Mason's capacity to prepare teachers of LEP students

  • The LMTIP was conceived in accordance with research-based principles developed as part of the university's teacher preparation program. The project has benefited Mason through the involvement of university faculty members. Mason faculty who served as induction team advisors during the first two years of the project grew professionally from increased reflection and collaboration with teachers in local schools, and this involvement has influenced them to modify their philosophical views and pedagogical approaches to working with pre-and in-service teachers.

    Improvement of Mason professional development for teachers of LEP students

  • LMTIP is a professional development project that differs considerably from traditional staff development programs for in-service teachers. Through this project, Mason has verified the effectiveness of the conceptual principles stated in the project proposal:
    • the formation of "communities of learners" through induction teams;
    • support of principals as "committed leaders;"
    • a team approach to development;
    • development of mentor relationships between experienced and new teachers;
    • action research;
    • organizational partnership;
    • flexibility to individual school contexts and specific concerns of beginning teachers.

In conclusion, this evaluation finds that the LMTIP is a well-implemented and effective project for the induction and professional development of beginning teachers of language minority students. Involvement in the project has promoted continual growth as educators and the advancement of teacher professionalism; stimulated enhanced communication networks (within schools, between schools, and across school districts); provided a common focus for collaborative efforts and a proactive approach to problem solving; and advanced the concept of lifelong learning among educators.

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