Beginning Educator Support Team (BEST) Program Reports Success
OLYMPIA — May 12, 2017 — In the past six years, the number of Washington teachers in their first or second year of teaching has more than doubled.
The data come from a study published this month by the University of Washington (UW) College of Education’s Center of Teaching and Policy. The study compared first-year teacher retention in districts who were fully engaged in the BEST program with those who were not.
With this influx of new teachers, strategies for supporting and retaining those teachers are becoming increasingly important.
The Beginning Educator Support Team (BEST) mentoring program aims to do just that. The program provides sustained and purposeful support to educators in the beginning of their careers.
This is done in the form of information, professional development, resources, mentoring, and grants (as appropriated by the Washington State Legislature). The goals of the BEST program are to:
- reduce educator turnover,
- improve educator quality for student learning, and
- ensure equity of learning opportunity for all students.
“The BEST program is just starting to truly get its feet off the ground,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. “We all want high-quality educators teaching our students, and this is what the BEST program targets through mentoring and other supports.”
Washington school districts who are fully engaged in the BEST mentoring program retain new educators at a four percentage-point higher rate than school districts who do not use the program, according to the study.
“Not only do teachers who have mentoring and training support in BEST stay in teaching at higher rates than those who do not; they also build their instructional skills faster,” said Sue Anderson, Director of Educator Effectiveness at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
“What we do for new teachers, we do for their students. And what we fail to do for new teachers, we fail to do for their students,” Anderson continued.
The UW researchers found that 53 percent of BEST-funded school districts received just one year of funding, and many districts received funding for the first time in the 2015-16 school year.
Figure 2 from the BEST Report: Examining Beginning Teacher Retention and Mobility in Washington State (2017)
This means it is not yet possible for researchers to assess the long-term impact of the BEST mentoring program on a sizable group of teachers.
“The House and Senate budgets both propose cuts to the current funding levels of the BEST program,” Reykdal said. “Cutting funding will hurt the most successful cohort of second-year educators enrolled in the BEST mentoring program yet.”
“As the number of new teachers in Washington shows substantial gains each year, we should fully implement the BEST mentoring program, which has proven to deliver successful outcomes in teacher retention.”
Seventy-six districts were new to BEST funding in the 2016-17 school year. With a cut to funding, this first-year cohort of new teachers will likely not receive the full support of BEST mentoring in their second year of teaching.
More about the study
A school district considered to be fully implementing the BEST program for purposes of the study had:
- at least two years of BEST funding,
- a summer orientation for new teachers that includes at least one day focused on instruction,
- ongoing professional development for new teachers,
- training and ongoing support for teacher mentors,
- mentors observing new teachers and providing written feedback, and
- a district stakeholder group that oversees the program.
“The study verifies what some research has already pointed out,” said Marge Plecki, a UW professor and one of the study’s co-authors. “Comprehensive mentoring makes a difference in teacher retention. If we can improve first-year teacher retention, we can reduce the costs of hiring new teachers.”
Please see the OSPI website for more information about the BEST mentoring program.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Chris Reykdal, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and improve student achievement on behalf of more than one million public school students.
OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.
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