BEST Grant Supports New Teachers

BEST Grant Supports New Teachers
Posted on 11/07/2017
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Educational Service District 123 is pleased to once again be awarded the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s (OSPI) Beginning Educator Support Team (BEST) grant for new teachers in their first or second year to enhance their teaching performance. The grant pays for mentoring and professional learning opportunities for novice teachers, in the aim that by developing and supporting incoming teachers, we can improve teaching practices, retain new teachers, and, most importantly, provide equitable education for all students. “It’s all about student learning,” says Mary Kirby, the ELL & Migrant Coordinator for ESD 123.

Last year, OSPI granted ESD 123 $55,000 to pay for mentor stipends and professional learning for new teachers in seven districts: Dayton, Finley, Kiona-Benton, Prescott, Prosser, Starbuck, and Waitsburg. This year, Kennewick School District has joined, bringing many more beginning teachers on board. The budget has increased accordingly to a preliminary allocation of $330,000 to continue supporting the now second year teachers and incoming first year teachers in the districts, as well as strengthen KSD’s existing mentoring program, Peer Assistance and Resources (PAR), and add second year support. Also new this year, OSPI’s Mentor Academy 101, a three day workshop for mentors, is being offered in Pasco for the first time, and is already fully booked for two runs.

The BEST program aims to assist districts in improving overall induction standards, including hiring, orientation, formative assessment for teacher growth, and evaluation of induction program impact, in addition to the mentoring and professional learning supported by the grant. For example, in hiring, BEST encourages districts to consider where novice teachers are being placed. The placement of new teachers in portable classrooms may impair their developing teaching abilities by denying them access to resources in the building such as easy access to other teachers and staff. Likewise, placing beginner teachers in higher need/risk classes may put those students at a disadvantage to their peers. BEST provides a framework for districts to consider these issues, while simultaneously providing support through the grant to develop teachers to the point that these considerations no longer apply to them.

Teacher induction is an important area of development, and we are excited to see the program grow. A May 2017 study conducted by the University of Washington on the BEST grant reported that, on average, districts funded by BEST had improved retention rates for new teachers by four percent (“Examining Beginning Teacher Retention and Mobility in WA State”). In the ESD BEST Consortium, 80% of teachers in ESD 123’s districts returned to the same district for their second year of teaching. Looking forward, Mary Kirby says she would “love to get more districts on board to help support new teacher inductions and retention.”

More information on the BEST program, including the study referenced above, is available at www.k12.wa.us/BEST.

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