Theme Three: Support Educator Development, Growth, and Leadership

Strategy G: Expand Induction and Mentoring for New Educators

The support that new educators are given throughout their pre-service career and first few years of teaching has a direct impact on their retention as career educators. According to the Learning Policy Institute, key elements of high quality induction that are strongly associated with reduced rates of teacher turnover include: assigning mentors from the same field, common planning time and opportunities to collaborate with teachers in the same subject area, and being part of an external network of teachers.23 Many of the practices regarding collaboration, planning time, and mentor matching are being implemented in SAUs throughout the state. External networks for educators are available based on content area/specialty, interest, or years of teaching.  

Peer support and mentoring is a requirement under Maine’s Rule Chapter 180. Educators new to a SAU, holding a conditional certification, or new to teaching are required to have a peer mentor or coach for a minimum of one year. The rule requires two observations and ongoing opportunities for peer support and feedback. SAUs are provided with flexibility in determining the frequency of support, additional qualifications of mentors, and the ways in which observation and peer support takes place.   

Recognizing the need for certified special education teachers and a significant amount of turnover of new educators, Maine also developed Maine’s Alternative Certification and Mentoring (MACM) program. This program includes coursework and ongoing support from certified special educators for conditionally certified educators. MACM, which began in 2018, has served over 250 educators.   

Actions to achieve this goal include:

G1: Strengthen State and SAU Supports for Mentoring and Induction  

As SAUs navigate legislative changes, many are looking to update their new teacher supports. The Maine DOE should share clear and consistent messaging regarding mentoring expectations and promising practices.   

The Maine DOE, in collaboration with educational leaders from across the state, has updated mentor modules and training. The Maine DOE offers support to mentor trainers with these new modules. A handbook is currently in development to support mentor trainers in customizing these modules to serve their unique context. It is important to note that while Chapter 180 no longer specifies a mandated DOE training for mentors, training for mentors is a best practice. It is crucial that all Maine schools have high quality and well-trained mentors to continue to support new educators. 

The Department could explore virtual and/or in-person convenings across SAUs.  Regional collaborations across the state have utilized collective expertise to hold mentor trainings and discussions around ways to strengthen existing practices.  

SAUs that are considering making changes to existing mentor supports will benefit from tools to guide this conversation. One external resource includes The Southern Regional Education Board’s guide: Mentoring New Teachers: A New Approach. This guide invites districts to rethink existing mentor practices based on the needs of new teachers.   

G2: Scaffolded Induction with Time to Learn 

As SAUs begin to assess the existing practices and policies in place to support new staff, it is important they take into consideration the specific conditions that are in place to provide ongoing and scaffolded support. A common practice and requirement under Rule Chapter 115, Part 1, Section 9 is to provide a formal orientation for new staff. This often takes place before or during the first part of the school year. Many school administrative units (SAUs) have also established monthly check-ins for new teachers to convene, learn, and share their experiences.   

In addition to an initial orientation and access to a mentor, SAUs or regional collaboratives could provide access to coaches, common planning time with mentors, and resource allocation to support success. While resources are often tight, it is recommended that new teachers are given scaffolded support, dedicated classroom space, and course load allocation that would ultimately set them up for continued success. In some cases, substitutes have been utilized to provide additional time for new teachers to meet with mentors or receive additional professional development.   

An example of a strong mentor and induction program is the one that has been implemented in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.  This program offers first, second, and third year teachers a comprehensive system of support through a program called Right Start. Educators are placed with Right Start Advisors who provide instructional coaching and professional learning opportunities for new teachers. Right Start Advisors are master classroom teachers who are released from the classroom to serve in this capacity. In addition to observations and ongoing feedback, educators also have an opportunity to participate in a self-directed PD menu.  

G3: Establish a Network of New Educators for Peer Support 

Maine DOE is encouraged to establish a network or portal for new teachers to convene. By establishing this network, new educators would have the opportunity to discuss issues, share practices, and provide peer support. The Young Education Professionals (YEP) of the Maine Education Association (MEA) is an established opportunity for new educators to build personal and professional relationships through networking, social events, and community service. While there are systems in place to support ongoing convenings of new educators, this may not be happening in every SAU.   

Footnotes Strategy G

23Espanoza, D., Saunders, R., Kini, T., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2018). Taking the long view: State efforts to solve teacher shortages by strengthening the teaching profession. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.

Strategy H: Strengthen Ongoing Professional Support

One way to support educator retention is through high-quality professional learning opportunities.  In Maine, professional learning opportunities are offered at the school, SAU, regional, and state levels.     

As Maine strives to best support educators, professional learning experiences should be designed to reflect elements of effective learning. Linda Darling Hammond describes seven elements of professional development that have been effective in improving the professional practices of educators and increasing student achievement: content focused; incorporates active learning utilizing adult learning theory; supports collaboration typically in job-embedded contexts; uses models and modeling of effective practice; provides coaching and expert support; offers opportunities for feedback and reflection; and is of sustained duration.24 These characteristics should be taken into consideration as professional learning experiences are developed.   

In response to COVID-19, Maine has already adapted many in-person opportunities to a virtual format.  During the Spring of 2020, Maine’s content specialists offered office hours to connect teachers across the state. These office hours have served as an opportunity to not only provide timely and relevant support, but also to bring together educators that may not have had the opportunity to collaborate in the past. Many SAUs have also invested in the hiring of instructional coaches. These coaches can play a critical role in providing timely support to new educators and veteran educators alike.   

The Department understands that for many Maine schools, high-quality professional development costs can be prohibitive. Acknowledging this financial constraint, the Maine DOE is actively applying for grant opportunities to supplement innovative professional learning experiences.  In 2020, the Department was awarded $16.9 million from the U.S Department of Education’s Rethink K-12 Education Models Funding, and the Department continues to engage educators in co-designing units for Maine’s online student learning platform: MOOSE (Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education). Educators involved in creating MOOSE modules continue to provide feedback on the professional growth they have experienced as a result of working in collaboration with colleagues throughout the state to create these interactive, project-based units.  

Actions to further address this goal include:

H1: Identify Local and State Professional Learning Needs

 Data collection and analysis from the state, district, school and classroom level should guide the development of professional learning opportunities. There are numerous sources of this information to consider including, but not limited to, student/family/educator surveys, teacher questionnaires, Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth (PEPG), student achievement data (formative and/or summative) and research from educators’ classroom practice and institutions of higher education. Examination of these data could be used by educators to develop professional development goals, by administrators to plan SAU/building-wide collaborative learning experiences and by the State to develop engaging professional development opportunities that educators may access when needed.  Maine has robust and collaborative educational organizations that can serve as partners in identifying professional learning needs, opportunities, and potential overlaps.  These organizations include, but are not limited to Maine Principals’ Association, Maine Education Association, Maine School Superintendents Association, Maine School Board Association, Maine Curriculum Leaders Association, and Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities, and content-focused professional groups. 

H2: Develop and Promote Engaging Remote, Hybrid and In-person Professional Training, Development and Learning Experiences  

Learning opportunities must be readily available and accessible for all educators in Maine. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Maine has quickly shifted from in person professional development to the use of remote sessions. As the state emerges from this unprecedented time, the use of remote modes of instruction should continue. Ideally, the State would house an extensive online library of engaging interactive courses that SAUs and educators could use when needed in a Learning Management System (LMS). Maine is a large state and utilizing remote instruction would provide educators with equitable access to this content and development.   

Using analysis of the data gathered about educator and student needs, schools, SAUs and the State are encouraged to develop a variety of professional experiences for educators. These experiences could range from training for administrative tasks to long term professional learning opportunities paired with job embedded coaching. 

​Professional learning can be created and implemented by experts in academic instruction, behavioral, and social emotional supports with a whole student focus.  Successful professional learning programming exemplars in the state can be explored and used as models of how to align professional learning with school improvement efforts.  

H3: Develop Coaching Cohorts and Other Opportunities for Educators to Examine Professional Learning as it Relates to Their Practice 

Ongoing coaching strengthens the impact of professional learning.25 Educators take what is learned in professional development sessions and implement it into their daily practice. Coaching provides reinforcement of the learning as the coach and educator engage in dialogue and reflect on classroom practice. Technology should be integrated through both online training and coaching to ensure equitable access to professional learning. 

Groups of educators may also serve as coaches for each other as a form of professional learning as peer coaches. Educators decide an area of their practice they want to focus on, have their colleagues make observations and then discuss action plans. This collaborative job-embedded professional learning has positive effects on educator practice.26 In order for this strategy to be successful, time must be designated for educators to engage in this collaborative work.   


Footnotes Strategy H

24Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., Gardner, M. (2017). Effective Teacher Professional Development (research brief). Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.


 25B. D., & Rosenquist, B. (2019). Relationships Between Instructional Coaches’ Time Use and District- and School-Level Policies and Expectations. American Educational Research Journal, 5, 1718–1768.

26McREL International, Jarvis, R., & Dempsey, K. (2017, September 28). Peer coaching that works: The power of reflection and feedback in teacher triad teams.


Strategy I: Develop and Support High-Quality Teacher Leadership

States across the country are utilizing teacher leadership opportunities to elevate the profession and move student learning forward. Teacher leadership, when well-designed, can support systemic change and academic progress in schools. The Great Teachers and Leaders Center (GTL) at American Institutes for Research (AIR) developed a Teacher Leadership Toolkit 2.0 to help State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) better understand what teacher leadership is, how teacher leadership could be implemented, and what this might look like at various levels of implementation.  Maine has several well-established opportunities for teacher leadership at the state, SAU, and building levels. At the SAU or building level, teachers serve as leaders when mentoring pre-service or new educators. These roles are critical to the retention of new educators. In addition, leadership opportunities range from serving on a leadership team, serving as a committee chairperson, assisting in unit-wide initiatives, and acting as a department head.  

The Maine Department of Education partners with the Teach to Lead initiative. This teacher- led program brings teams of teacher leaders and administrators together to tackle a problem of practice. Using an action planning tool, teams from across the state identify root causes and begin to develop frameworks to address the problem. This professional learning experience is provided at no cost to teams. Maine is encouraged to secure sustainable funding sources to support this initiative moving forward. In Maryland, state activities funds are set aside for each team and used throughout the year to sustain the progress made at the Teach to Lead Summit.   

In addition to Teach to Lead, Maine has a strong cohort of County Teachers of the Year. These educators represent Maine’s sixteen counties during their year of recognition. Professional learning opportunities are in place to support advocacy, teacher leadership, written and oral communications, and more. Since starting the cohort model, almost 100 educators have been supported through this model.   

Maine has a variety of teacher leadership opportunities that are content-specific. Examples include Elementary Literacy, Social Studies, Science, Visual and Performing Arts, and Mathematics teacher leader cohorts. Teachers are essential in their roles on standards review committees, the state literacy team, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Community of Practitioners, and the Professional Standards Board.  Structures are also in place for a Teacher on Special Assignment or Teacher-in-Residency at the Maine Department of Education.   

Actions to further address this goal include:

I1: Statewide Definition of Teacher Leadership with Tools to Support SAUs in Implementation  

A shared definition, description, and understanding of teacher leadership would support the coordination of policies and programs state-wide.  The Teacher Leader Toolkit 2.0 (referenced above) explores key aspects of teacher leadership and provides resources to assist leaders in planning, decision-making, and building understanding alongside stakeholders and colleagues.  

I2: Systematize Teacher-led Professional Development 

Professional learning is one way to strengthen culture, climate, and ultimately student outcomes. Oftentimes, professional development is provided from external organizations or consultants. Educators within a system have the contextual understanding of the needs of their peers, students, and communities. In some instances, rather than bringing outside speakers into a school for professional development, SAUs should consider leveraging the expertise of their staff. Teacher leaders can serve as valuable contributors to action research, critical friends’ networks, professional development, and seminars or conferences. In some states, federal title funds have been set aside to compensate teachers for this work. 

Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers - ECET2 is an example of a professional learning opportunity that was developed for teachers, by teachers. The focus of this conference is to celebrate and elevate the teaching profession. This statewide convening has since been recreated at the local level in both Washington and York counties.    

The Teacher-led Professional Learning hub is one resource for planning, accessing funding sources, and evaluating the impact of such opportunities. Opportunity Culture, an initiative designed to help pre-K-12 districts extend the impact of teachers, principals, and their teams, has a comprehensive resource27 which provides funding source information for teacher-led professional learning.  

I3:Differentiated Career Ladder  

Defining, recognizing, and compensating teacher leadership roles can provide career ladder steps that support teacher retention. Shanghai, Singapore, and British Columbia all have taken systematic approaches to honor the expertise of current educators.28 These countries utilize the content area and pedagogical expertise of the teachers within their systems to build capacity, support new educators, and lead initiatives. As a result, there is a shared ownership of student outcomes and additional opportunities to collaborate. One key element of these teacher leadership opportunities is the process for evaluation based on clear expectations. The teacher leaders are held to a higher standard and their results are based in part on the success of the mentees, programming, or survey data.   

In 2019, think tanks were held at venues across the state to gather input regarding educator recruitment and retention. Teachers across Maine expressed a desire to stay in the classroom, while also sharing their expertise through leadership roles. In order to provide these opportunities SAUs may wish to consider a differentiated career ladder with built in leadership roles. The RESPECT Project, Envisioning a Teaching Profession for the 21st Century offers a model for teacher leadership that progresses from pre-service educator to Master Teacher, Teacher Leader, and/or School Principal. Sample role structures are outlined in a graphic with accompanying descriptions.  

SAUs may also consider ways in which full time equivalent positions could be restructured to incorporate teacher leadership roles.   

I4: Differentiated Role for Cooperating and Mentor Teachers

Cooperating or supervising teachers play a critical role in the development and retention of teachers new to the profession. These educators often take on a significant responsibility which includes support, ongoing collaboration, observation, and goal setting with pre-service educators. Maine currently has fifteen approved education preparation programs that use coopering or mentoring teacher. This creates a great opportunity for rich teacher leadership experience. 

Regional collaboratives such as the Penobscot River Educational Partnership (PREP) are exploring ways to provide strengthened field placements for students while also building a pool of highly qualified new educators. PREP’s Teacher Preparation Committee, composed of SAU leaders and college faculty, is an example of how collaboration can fuel teacher development.   

In Louisiana, all pre-service teachers in education preparation programs are required to complete a year-long residency with a mentor teacher. Mentor teachers are chosen based on their expertise, receive extensive training, and are compensated for their service.   

In most SAUs, mentors are practicing educators with experience working in the SAU. While each SAU may set its own requirements, the minimum expectation for mentors is two observations and ongoing opportunities for feedback and support. In Maine, stipends for mentors varies considerably from SAU to SAU. Some mentors receive no monetary compensation, while others receive up to $1,700. Financial incentives to support mentoring are important, and SAUs may need to consider structural changes.  Allowing flex time, providing shared planning time, and providing release time to mentors are some ways that SAUs could support mentors, in addition to stipends.  Strategy G describes the role of mentoring and induction in further detail.   


Footnotes Strategy I

27Public Impact. (2018). Career paths and pay in an Opportunity Culture: A practical guide. Chapel Hill, NC: Public Impact. Retrieved from Culture_A_Practical_Guide-Public_Impact.pdf 

28Jensen, B., Sonnemann, J., Roberts-Hull, K., and Hunter, A. 2016. Beyond PD: Teacher professional learning in high-performing systems. Washington, DC: National Center on Education and the Economy.


Strategy J: Develop and Support Well-Qualified School and SAU Leaders

School and SAU leaders are essential to the overall culture and climate of a system. School and SAU leaders are tasked with carrying out the mission and vision of the system, while also balancing the day-to-day tasks. Comprehensive strategies to address teacher shortages consider the central role principals play in attracting and retaining talented teachers. According to the Learning Policy Institute’s 2018 report, research demonstrates that a principal’s ability to create positive working conditions and collaborative, supportive learning environments plays a critical role in attracting and retaining qualified teachers.29  

Principals often are expected to serve as instructional leaders, transformational leaders, building managers, evaluators, and disciplinarians. Each of these roles is important, but a great deal of time and expertise is required to carry out each effectively.   

In Maine, there are several established supports in place for educational leaders based on their specific area of leadership. Maine is fortunate to have very active and collaborative professional organizations such as Maine Principals’ Association,Maine School Superintendents Association, Maine School Board Association, Maine Curriculum Leaders Association, and Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities, all of which work closely with leaders to provide ongoing support, policy updates, and professional learning opportunities. In addition, several networks for school and SAU leaders have emerged both regionally and based on area of certification.   

Actions to further address this goal include:

J1: Explore Distributed Leadership and Areas to Reduce/Restructure Workload

School and SAU leaders have experienced increased demands on their time and focus in recent years. One approach to alleviate some of the existing workload is to explore distributed leadership with shared principal and teacher-leader models. In Maine, some schools have moved to a co-principalship model where responsibilities are differentiated.  

J2: Recruit and Prepare Well-Qualified School Leaders

It is imperative that Maine continues to recruit and prepare a diverse and well-qualified leadership pipeline. Maine currently has five Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) that offer educational leadership programs at the Certificate of Advanced Study, Master’s, or Doctoral Degree levels. These IHEs include University of New England, St. Joseph’s College of Maine, University of Southern Maine (USM), Thomas College, The University of Maine, and University of Maine Farmington.  

Regional or SAU models have been established with these programs to recruit and prepare promising leaders. Leaders for Tomorrow’s Schools is a regional cohort model offered at USM. The Maine Educational Leadership Academy is a pipeline program offered through the University of Maine in partnership with Bangor Public Schools. Each of these programs aims to support aspiring school leaders in hands-on, practical ways through a supportive cohort.   

Maine might look to other states in order to strengthen support for those interested in pursuing school leadership. The North Carolina Principal Fellows Program, established in 1993, aims to prepare outstanding candidates for school administrator positions—assistant principals and principals—in the state’s schools. In this cohort model, Principal Fellows receive a competitive, merit-based scholarship loan to attend one of eleven participating UNC system institutions and earn a master’s degree in School Administration (MSA). 

J3: Expand Professional Learning Opportunities and Support Systems for Administrators  

Maine has several programs that support the development of new leaders and the professional network of veteran leaders. While some of these initiatives or collaboratives have been providing support for years, several new supports have emerged in the past five years. It is critical that leaders are aware of the opportunities available to them and are connected to support in a timely manner. Maine may wish to utilize Federal ESSA Title II, Part A set aside to expand leadership development opportunities.   

The Maine Principals Association (MPA) offers The New Administrator Induction and Mentoring Program specifically tailored to meet the needs of new administrators.  These new administrators (protégés) are paired with veteran administrators (mentors) for ongoing professional learning and support.   

In addition to the support offered through the MPA, the Maine Department of Education has established a Transformational Leaders’ Network (TLN). The TLN is intended for principals in Maine SAUs and is designed to improve leadership capacity to help reach school improvement goals. Building on the success of the TLN, the Maine Department of Education established the Maine Leadership Development Program. This program, in partnership with the National Institute for School Leaders (NISL), supports school and SAU leaders in a blended approach. The goals of the Maine Leadership Development Program are to prepare educational leaders to lead for excellence and equity, increase student achievement, foster a culture of high expectations, and enhance teacher recruitment, retention, and quality.  Since starting the program in 2019, Maine has supported two cohorts of educational leaders.   

In addition to the Maine LDP and the TLN, the Maine Department of Education has expanded leadership development opportunities in partnership with experts in the field through both the Leading Early Learning Series.  In fall of 2021, the Leading Early Learning Series was offered as a pilot to Pre-K- 3 building leaders in partnership with the Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network, U-Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies, Maine Association for the Education of Young Children, and Maine Principals’ Association.   Leading Early Learning series was designed to promote knowledge of best practices in early childhood education and leadership abilities to support children, teachers, and families during this pivotal time in children’s development.   

To better support current and aspiring Adult Education Directors, the Maine Department of Education has partnered with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), Adult Education and Research and Technical Assistance Center to provide training in a cohort model.  Participants develop skills and knowledge across four key domains and engage in practice-based leadership in action capstone projects to build and leverage partnerships.  This form of targeted support not only helps support existing directors, but also is critical to supporting the educator workforce pipeline.   



Footnotes Strategy J

29Espanoza, D., Saunders, R., Kini, T., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2018). Taking the long view: State efforts to solve teacher shortages by strengthening the teaching profession. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.