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May 1, 2006

$2.46 million Hewlett grant funds New Teacher Center work in East Palo Alto

By Jennifer McNulty

The New Teacher Center has received its largest-ever grant to fund the expansion of its work in Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto.

Photo: Ellen Moir

New Teacher Center director Ellen Moir

The center's mentoring with new teachers has led to a stunning turnaround in teacher retention at the three participating schools: 84 percent of new teachers returned to the classroom in 2004-05, compared with only 27 percent the previous year. In 2005-06, 87 percent of new teachers returned.

The $2.46 million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation will allow the NTC to expand its work to all seven schools in the Ravenswood District and will increase the scope of support to include the district superintendent, all principals, and veteran and new teachers. More than 3,000 students and 150 teachers will benefit from the expanded collaboration.

The one-year grant is part of the foundation's regional program, which focuses on improving the quality of life in disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Adjacent to some of the most affluent communities in the nation, East Palo Alto has historically suffered from high poverty rates.

Like many urban school districts that serve poor and minority students, Ravenswood has experienced high rates of teacher and administrator turnover as educators seek jobs in more affluent areas with better working conditions.

"The environment prompts many teachers to give up on their dreams of helping students because they simply don't see how they can meet the needs of students who have already fallen behind," said NTC director Ellen Moir. "It's critical that we reverse the situation and address the needs of these teachers and their students."

The NTC aims to improve student achievement by increasing the quality of teachers. Its highly successful teacher-mentoring program provides new teachers with support and guidance from veteran educators for their first two years in the classroom.

"The project has fostered a sense of professionalism and hope in teachers, principals, and the superintendent, and we're seeing the payoff in teacher retention and student achievement," said Moir. "Expanding the program to all seven schools will unite the district and generate further sustainable positive change."

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been making grants since 1966 to address social and environmental problems, with a focus on education, environment, global development, performing arts, philanthropy, population, and disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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