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Teacher-support program wins President's Medal

April 15, 2010

Education reform leading to higher student achievement is leveraged through excellence in leadership and quality teaching. Research shows that the greatest factor in producing quality teaching is effective professional development.

The BEST (Building Educator Support Teams) program, an initiative of ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership (CTEL), offers multiple forms of support through university/district partnerships to induct new teachers into the profession, enhance their teaching skills and practice, provide ongoing professional development for career teachers, train mentors and instructional coaches, and provide shared leadership models for systemic support across educational communities.

For its positive impact on K-12 education, not only in the Valley but across Arizona and the United States, BEST has received the President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness.

“Our goal is to help teachers and administrators reach their full potential throughout the lifecycle of their careers in education, doing so with evidence of impact to student learning and success," said Sharon Kortman, BEST team leader and director.

The Scottsdale Unified School District’s involvement with BEST is an important recruitment tool, according to Andi Fourlis, the district’s director of recruitment and professional development.

“One of the first questions prospective teachers ask is whether we have a mentoring program,” she said.

BEST doesn’t limit its outreach to teachers who are just starting out. “The program goes beyond establishing a system of mentors, workshops, coaching and additional support for first and second-year teachers,” Kortman said. “It provides the framework and resources for a district or school system to establish an on-going, comprehensive support structure of professional development linked to student achievement.”

The program includes the following components: Induction Professional Development – BEST for Beginning Teachers; BEST Standards in Teaching; On-going Teacher Professional Development in content-specific and professional practice areas; Teacher Leader Professional Development – BEST for Mentor Teachers; BEST Instructional Coaching; BEST Teacher Leadership; and Leadership Professional Development – BEST Administrator Support; and BEST Shared Leadership. Some school districts incorporate all components, while others choose to adopt individual components based on their specific needs and goals. But in every case, it is a joint partnership capitalizing on the strengths of the university and the school districts, building leadership capacity from within the systems servicing teachers and students.

"I wholeheartedly applaud the selection of BEST as one of the recipients of the President's Medal for Social Embeddedness," said Superintendent of the Avondale Elementary School District Cathy Stafford. "Avondale Elementary School District has been a partner since 2006. We can testify that Dr. Sharon Kortman and her team have truly 'walked their talk' in providing a high quality and relevant program for our teachers."

During the past academic year, BEST worked in partnership with 125 Arizona schools in 10 districts and systems from Avondale to Apache Junction and to locations as remote as Lake Havasu City. Since its establishment in 1998, the program has spread to numerous states across the nation.

Last year, BEST leadership, teacher leaders, and administrators facilitated 294 professional development sessions for teacher and leadership development, and conducted more than 3,000 standards-based instructional coaching visits in K-12 classrooms.

Among the most popular seminars delivered were “Creating Positive Interactions with Students and Parents” for new teachers and “Strengthening Teacher Practices” for mentors. In the coming year, BEST will be partnered with an additional 16 districts across AZ in the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant to target comprehensive education reform.

Team members:
Sharon Kortman, College of Teacher Education & Leadership
Joanna Law, College of Teacher Education & Leadership
Nicholas Appleton, Mary Lou Fulton Institute & Graduate School of Education
Mary Anne Duggan, College of Teacher Education & Leadership
Joanna Gorin, Mary Lou Fulton Institute & Graduate School of Education