|(a) Definitions. The following words and terms, when used in this section, shall have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. (1) Agency--Texas Education Agency. (2) Beginning teacher--A classroom teacher who has less than two years of teaching experience in the subject or grade level to which the teacher is assigned. (3) Beginning Teacher Induction and Mentoring Program--An annual grant program established in accordance with the Texas Education Code (TEC), §21.458, under which a school district may receive funds to establish a mentoring program at each eligible campus where a mentor teacher is assigned to each classroom teacher who has less than two years of teaching experience. (4) Classroom teacher--An educator who is employed by a school district and who, not less than an average of four hours each day, teaches in an academic instructional setting or a career and technology instructional setting. The term does not include a teacher's aide or a full-time administrator. (A) For a school district, a classroom teacher, as defined in this subsection, must hold an appropriate certificate issued by the State Board for Educator Certification and must meet the specifications regarding instructional duties defined in this paragraph. (B) For a charter school, a classroom teacher is not required to be certified but must meet the qualifications of the employing charter school and the specifications regarding instructional duties defined in this paragraph. (5) Commissioner--Commissioner of education. (6) Mentor teacher--A classroom teacher in Texas who provides effective support to help beginning teachers successfully transition into the teaching assignment. (7) School district--For the purposes of this section, the definition of school district includes open-enrollment charter school. (8) School district board of trustees--For the purposes of this section, the definition of a school district board of trustees includes a charter holder board. (b) Program implementation. A beginning teacher induction and mentoring program must be a research-based mentoring program that, through external evaluation, has demonstrated success in improving new teacher quality and teacher retention. Programs must be approved by the commissioner in a process to be determined by the Agency. Such a program must provide orientation and mentoring specifically tailored for beginning teachers that includes the following: (1) a process for the recruitment of mentor teachers; (2) a structured mentoring component based upon research in: (A) teacher induction; (B) beginning teacher development; and (C) quality professional development; (3) regular teacher observations and standards-based assessments; (4) continuous support and ongoing professional development tailored to the needs of beginning teachers that includes: (A) collecting and analyzing student performance data; (B) classroom management; and (C) pertinent topics related to pedagogy and student achievement; (5) continuous support and ongoing professional development tailored to the needs of mentor teachers that includes topics listed in paragraph (4) of this subsection and scheduled release time in order for a mentor teacher to fulfill mentoring duties as described in this section; and (6) training for administrators on implementing and supporting an induction and mentoring program. (c) Qualifications of a mentor teacher. To serve as a mentor teacher, a teacher must: (1) have a minimum of three years of teaching experience with a superior record of assisting students in achieving improvement in student performance; (2) complete a research-based mentor and induction training program approved by the commissioner; and (3) complete a mentor training program provided by the district. (d) Assignment of a mentor teacher. Each school district may assign a mentor teacher to a beginning teacher. (1) In order for a teacher to be assigned as a mentor teacher, in accordance with the TEC, §21.458, the teacher must: (A) to the extent practicable, teach in the same school; (B) to the extent practicable, teach the same subject or grade level, as applicable; and (C) meet the qualifications specified in subsection (c) of this section. (2) The organization may elect to use funds to employ retired teachers or other instructional personnel who meet the definition and qualifications of a mentor teacher described in this section. (e) Duties of a mentor teacher. A mentor teacher must: (1) participate in beginning teacher orientation; (2) meet weekly with the beginning teacher; (3) maintain documentation of mentor/beginning teacher activities; (4) attend regularly scheduled campus mentor support meetings and trainings; (5) provide support to new teachers in collecting and analyzing student data, classroom management, curriculum planning, and other activities related to pedagogy and improved student achievement; (6) conduct observations and assessments of the beginning teacher; and (7) complete all requirements of the school district's beginning teacher induction and mentoring program. (f) Allocation and use of funds. In accordance with the TEC, §21.458, funds may only be used for the following: (1) mentor teacher stipends; (2) release time for mentor teachers and beginning teachers to meet regularly for conferencing, observations, networking sessions, shared professional development, and other mentoring activities; and (3) mentoring support through providers of mentor training. (g) Audit of funds. The Agency may audit, disallow, and recover grant funds. A decision to award, audit, disallow, or recover funds by the commissioner or commissioner's designee is final. (h) Program review. School districts awarded grant funds must agree to submit all information requested by the Agency through periodic activity/progress reports. Reports will be due no later than 30 days after the close of the reporting period and must contain all requested information in the format prescribed by the commissioner. A final evaluation report must include: (1) the total number of beginning teachers and mentor teachers who actually participated in the beginning teacher induction and mentoring program; (2) the use of funds and activities conducted; and (3) any other pertinent information deemed appropriate by the commissioner.