NORTH DARTMOUTH -- Kristen Kilcommins trained through Project SUCCESS to mentor fellow teachers in the Boxborough school district.

Project SUCCESS is designed to help school districts retain new teachers while increasing skill levels through best practices. The program creates a quality mentoring culture to strengthen the teaching profession statewide, ensure new teachers receive the support they need and give Massachusetts students the best instruction possible.

This is the third year the educators at the UMass Dartmouth's Center for University, School and Community Partnership are training some of the state's top teachers to mentor their colleagues in "high-need" areas like special education, English as a Second Language, science and math. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education selected CUSP to lead Project SUCCESS (School University Collaboration Committed to the Educational Success of All Students) with funds from the federal Race to the Top program.

Mentors are trained through a nine-month graduate-level course, 15 online video lectures, virtual office hours, live video-conferencing and phone consultations with instructors, and three face-to-face seminars in three regional site locations in Taunton, Marlboro and Chicopee.

"The interconnection between teacher quality and student outcomes is inherent," said CUSP Executive Director Karen O'Connor. "By preparing Lead Mentors to support beginning teachers, we can help raise the bar of student achievement.


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There is no better support we can give to a beginning teacher than the best peer mentor there is to offer."

In 2011, the cohort included 60 mentors hailing from 21 school districts. Last year, the cohort included 153 Lead Mentors from over 50 districts across the Commonwealth. This year the cohort includes 122 participants from 32 districts.

"A central goal of the state's successful Race to the Top application was to ensure that every student in every classroom in the Commonwealth is taught by a great teacher," said JC Considine, spokesman for DESE. "Project SUCCESS is focused on improving teacher effectiveness and retaining teachers by providing ongoing support from experienced teachers as they serve as mentor leaders to new teachers."

At the end of the program, successful Lead Mentors have the academic knowledge and mentoring skills necessary to mentor new teachers and train other mentors in their home school districts. All Lead Mentors who successfully complete the graduate course will be eligible to participate in the Mentoring in Action Massachusetts Academy, an online community where they are able to network and share ideas after their preparation year.

Project SUCCESS Director Carol Pelletier Radford designed the proposal and partnered with school district superintendents across the Commonwealth to customize training to fit local needs. For more information about this program, go to cuspma.org and click on Project SUCCESS Mentoring in Action Academy.