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$15 million grant would assist teachers in four districts, expand popular teacher mentor model


UA in line for $15 million grant to assist teachers in four districts;
Project would expand successful rural model to urban Alaska

The Alaska Statewide Mentor Project, a partnership between the
University of Alaska and the State Department of Education and Early
Development, could support an additional 850 early career teachers and
an estimated 46,000 students thanks to a $15 million grant from the
U.S. Department of Education.

The five-year grant would assist first- and second-year teachers in
the Anchorage, Fairbanks, Mat-Su and Kenai school districts. The
Statewide Mentor Project already helps 320 teachers in 48, mostly
rural, school districts each year. The grant would expand that program
to the four new urban regions if the university is successful in
securing a required $1.5 million match from private donations.

The goals of the mentor project are to reduce teacher turnover and
improve student achievement. While some research on the effectiveness
of mentoring to achieve these goals has been conducted throughout the
United States already, more is needed. Part of the $15 million federal
grant would allow that additional research, and would include both the
existing rural and new urban partners.

The U.S. Department of Education received nearly 600 applications for
Investing in Innovation grants, known as “i3.” The Alaska Statewide
Mentor Project’s grant application was one of just 23 selected for
funding, contingent on the match.

“The Alaska Statewide Mentor Project has evidenced success in teacher
effectiveness and retention around the state for many years,” said
Deena Paramo, superintendent of the Mat-Su Borough School District.
“With the award of i3, the university can now reach out to larger
districts and parallel these successes. We look forward to the
partnership and to the good work that will result.”

The grant is contingent upon UA raising the private matching funds by
Dec. 9, an ambitious deadline. Over the next few weeks, the university
will talk to companies, individuals and foundations interested in
helping expand the mentor project.

Dale Cope, a grant writer with the UA Academic Affairs office who led
the effort to secure the grant, said well-trained early career
teachers are a critical element for improving student achievement in
Alaska. “This grant will also allow us to do the necessary research to
validate the effectiveness of a very good mentoring program – one
worth replicating in other locations.”

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