Grants help new Federal Way teachers adjust

Federal Way Public Schools’ well regarded Beginning Teacher Assistance Program (BTAP) will continue to function at a high level, thanks to a $194,500 grant awarded from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

The district announced Sept. 29 that without this additional funding in 2011-12, the “program would have had to operate with a much smaller budget and only support first-year teachers.”

A news release from the district indicates that the grant is a highly competitive one, with only five entities, two districts and three consortiums being awarded money from OSPI.

In 2009-10, Federal Way schools received approximately $499,000 from OSPI, while in 2010-11, the amount was $158,200. The varying amounts are due to the continued budget issues at the state level, according to the district.

The district notes that the grant is rewarded on program design and no other elements, such as free or reduced lunch participation — meaning it’s money that’s awarded on merit, and not necessarily need.

“We know that the most influential element in the classroom is the teacher, and the more we provide purposeful, individual job-embedded support and appropriate professional development to educators, the more we improve learning,” said BTAP program administrator Francine Oishi.

According to the district, national statistics show that 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within the first five years. Here in Washington, that rate is only 25 percent, the district said, because of programs like Federal Way’s BTAP.

Outside of that, teacher retention is incredibly important because it costs “$45,000 to hire a new teacher and get them established in the classroom,” according to the district.

Besides the financial costs, hiring and then quickly losing new teachers causes stress throughout school districts, making it difficult for districts to have a comprehensive and coherent “multiyear improvement plan,” while also making it difficult for meaningful relationships between teachers, students and their families.

Federal Way’s BTAP “supports early career educators in their first two years of teaching and this year can also support third year teachers who are in a new teaching assignment,” thanks to the OSPI grant. New teachers are supported by BTAP by mentorships with experienced teachers, classes specifically tailored to new teachers, and the opportunity to collaborate with those just setting off on their teaching careers, according to the district.

“The classes helped me enormously,” said Truman High School teacher Cristy Ticeson. “Being in a group of ‘newbies’ helped me realize I was not alone…They put me with a mentor who learned about me, and I learned about him. He was there for me — for any challenge I may have had. His classroom was right next door to me. He would come by and give me encouragement and praise.”

Lake Doloff teacher Stephanie Simmons said monthly BTAP classes during her first year (2010-11) were invaluable, and that she looks forward to the help the program provides as she moves into her second year.

“I am constantly learning,” she said. “And BTAP will be there to guide me through my foundational years as a teacher.”


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