UMass Dartmouth's Center for University, School, and Community Partnerships (CUSP) in Year 3 of ESE RTTT Project SUCCESS
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) selected CUSP to lead Project SUCCESS (School University Collaboration Committed to the Educational Success of All Students) with funds from the federal Race to the Top program. This "train the trainer" model trains teacher leaders to work as Lead Mentors as they prepare and support their district colleagues in becoming qualified mentors. Each district team also creates an action plan that outlines how the mentoring program will be sustained beyond RTTT and how the district can support novice teachers beyond year 1. The retention of qualified teachers is central to Project SUCCESS and the district plan.
"The interconnection between teacher quality and student outcomes is inherent," said CUSP Executive Director Karen O'Connor. "By preparing Lead Mentors to support beginning teachers, we can help raise the bar of student achievement. There is no better support we can give to a beginning teacher than the best peer mentor there is to offer."
In 2011, the cohort included 60 mentors hailing from 21 school districts. Last year, the cohort included 153 Lead Mentors from over 50 districts across the Commonwealth. This year the cohort includes 122 participants from 32 districts.
Now in its third year, the project is designed to help school districts retain new teachers while increasing skill levels through best practices. The goal of the program is to create a quality mentoring culture to strengthen the teaching profession statewide, ensure new teachers receive the support they need in their beginning years, and give Massachusetts students the best instruction possible. The Massachusetts Standards for Effective teaching practices guide the mentoring curriculum and promote alignment of mentoring conversations with successful teacher evaluation.
"A central goal of the state's successful Race to the Top application was to ensure that every student in every classroom in the Commonwealth is taught by a great teacher," said JC Considine, spokesman for DESE. "Project SUCCESS is focused on improving teacher effectiveness and retaining teachers by providing ongoing support to experienced teachers as they serve as mentor leaders to new teachers."
This comprehensive program prepares Lead Mentors through a nine-month graduate-level course that is taught in 15 on-line modules that include video lectures,virtual office hours, live videoconferencing and phone consultations with instructors. Leadership training is provided to all participants in three face-to-face seminars offered in three regional site locations.
At the end of the program, successful Lead Mentors have the academic knowledge and mentoring skills necessary to mentor new teachers, and train other mentors in their home school districts so they can sustain their own district programs. All Lead Mentors who successfully complete the graduate course will be eligible to participate in the Mentoring in Action Massachusetts Academy, an on-line community where they are able to network and share ideas after their preparation year.
Project SUCCESS Director Carol Pelletier Radford designed the curriculum for the graduate course and leadership seminars with her faculty and staff. This team is responsible for keeping the curriculum current and relevant to district needs. Karen DeRusha, Karen Gannon, Shonna McGrail Ryan, Donna McDonald, and Joanne Mendes work directly with cohort participants and contribute to the success of the program
For photos of cohorts 1 and 2 Lead Mentors as well as resources, videos, and sample District Action Plans go to cuspma.org and click on Project SUCCESS Mentoring in Action Academy.