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UA in line for $15 million grant

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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