This paper describes a study of mentoring programs for beginning principals in two different urban school districts. In both settings, the goal of mentoring was said to be support for instructional leadership behaviors by novice principals. This represents an alternative to traditional mentoring schemes designed solely to ensure that first year principals “survive” their first year of service by demonstrating mastery of managerial skills.

Interviews of twenty mentor principals were carried out on location in two school districts. All mentors were selected by their districts because they had demonstrated strong instructional leadership skills while serving as campus administrators. All individuals were asked to describe the ways in which they believed they had or had not achieved success in working with newly appointed colleagues who were acquiring skills related to instructional improvement.

The goals of the two mentoring programs clearly noted that mentoring was directed mostly toward helping inexperienced administrators develop skills associated with instructional improvement. It was also noted that, for the most part, new principals were mostly focused on the need to gain confidence and a personal sense of competence related to their abilities to perform managerial duties before devoting time and energy toward instructional goals.

The paper concludes with a discussion of the findings as a way to promote further investigation of issues that need to be understood about the career development of school principals as the foundation for further efforts to improve the value found in mentoring activity.