Thursday, April 07, 2011

Teach for America Expanding into Applachia


National Nonprofit Joins Local Effort to Expand
Educational Opportunity in Eastern Kentucky

This from Teach for America:

Teach For America announced today that it will expand to Appalachia, with plans to bring at least 30 top college graduates to teach in some of Eastern Kentucky’s highest-need schools for the 2011-12 school year. The organization also outlined plans to bring at least 30 additional teachers in each of the following two years. Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and supporters from across the state joined a press conference at the Kentucky Department of Education to announce the organization’s 41st region. Teach For America recruits, trains, and supports outstanding recent graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years in under-resourced schools and become lifelong leaders in the pursuit of educational equity.

“We have great teachers in Eastern Kentucky, and I’m excited that these new educators are joining their ranks,” said Lieutenant Governor Mongiardo. “I am confident the excitement and enthusiasm these young teachers bring will be contagious for our schools and I thank Teach for America for its part in helping to improve the lives of Eastern Kentucky school children.”

“I’m very excited to welcome Teach For America to the Appalachian region,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “One of the key recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on Transforming Education in Kentucky was to recruit high-quality individuals to increase the pool of talented teachers. Teach For America, with its emphasis on recruiting from a variety of backgrounds, majors and professional experiences, will help us answer that call and improve educational opportunities for children.”

Launching its 20th-anniversary year last May, Teach For America fielded 4,500 new corps members from an applicant pool of more than 46,000. Among the 8,200 current corps members teaching in urban and rural school districts across 31 states and the District of Columbia, some 85 are from or attended school in Kentucky. Teach For America received nearly 48,000 applications for its 2011 corps, including more than 600 from individuals in Kentucky.

“Teach For America has been working to find the right entry point into Appalachia for a number of years, and we’re grateful for the leadership of the state legislature and the Education Professional Standards Board in reaching this point,” said Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach For America. “We're excited to join the region’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its education system and look forward to recruiting and developing individuals who will work alongside other committed educators to expand educational opportunity for Eastern Kentucky's children.”

Teach For America selected Appalachia as an expansion site for the coming school year based on interest from state and school district leaders in partnering with the organization to provide an additional pipeline of effective teachers to address the region’s significant achievement gap. Another determining factor was state legislation enacted last year that enables Teach For America corps members to obtain teacher certification.

Teach For America corps members will apply for open positions in high-need schools in the Floyd, Knox, and Martin county school districts, and the organization will open a central office in Hazard. Teach For America will continue to pursue partnerships with additional school districts over the coming weeks.

During today’s announcement, Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear delivered a video message welcoming Teach For America to the state. “Governor Beshear and I are delighted to welcome Teach for America as a partner in our state’s effort to improve educational outcomes for all Kentucky students,” Mrs. Beshear said. “For more than 20 years, Teach for America has harnessed the energy of thousands of our nation’s most promising young leaders in the effort to close the achievement gap that negatively impacts students growing up in poverty. Teach for America is a valuable resource for many of Kentucky’s most impoverished communities that complements the work of other great educators across our state.”

A broad coalition of supportive community groups, corporations, local philanthropists, and school leaders made the Appalachia region of eastern Kentucky an ideal location for Teach For America. Lead investors include Kentucky River Properties, Inez Deposit Bank, the Kentucky Department of Education, and philanthropists Edith Bingham, Molly Bingham, Eleanor Miller, and Paul Chellgren...

A revised 2009 Urban Institute study found that high school students taught by Teach For America teachers outperformed their peers, even those taught by fully certified teachers. The study used cross-subject student and school fixed effects models to estimate TFA effects.


Anonymous said...

I believe in Teach For America (TFA), and I'm not threatened by non-traditional teachers in the classroom. However, I am simply unconvinced that these TFA teachers are any better than any other enthusiastic, well-educated Kentucky teacher who makes herself available outside of class to help students succeed.

With daily review and guided in-class practice and a great classroom management sytem (along with the support of principals when it comes to discipline) most teachers can help most of their students succeed.

There will, however, always be that crowd of students who are not interested in school, who refuse to do homework, who refuse to abide by the rules. I'm unconvinced that even Teach for America teachers can change those students. But I have no objection to the offspring of Barry Bingham paying to send these modern-day Annie Sullivans into the classrooms and let them try!

Richard Day said...

Good for you.

Teach for America seems to be built on one idea: that the best teachers were the smartest students.

There is some evidence to support the idea that student achievement is greatest when the teachers' own test scores are high. The average GPA of Teach for America folks in 2008 was 3.6. Then they send their recruits to work with the most needy children after a training program that has been widely criticized for being too short.

This would seem to be resume padding and American missionary work for many participants.

Anecdotal information from a few former Cassidy students leads me to conclude that the work for these ideological and enthusiastic kids is just as hard for them as it is for every other teacher. The difference is that in most cases, the Teach for America folks are soon gone from the profession.

A 2008 study reported that only 43% stayed more than two years and 35% past four years.

It's hard to predict what long-term results will accrue from this revolving door-style personnel policy.

Jonathan Sizemore said...

I actually heard about this recently in my car on the radio. I really like this idea. Teach for America seems to be a great organization. However, I believe we need the best and brightest in EVERY county in eastern Kentucky. I am from the southeastern Kentucky area and while I did not attend a public school, I heard stories about pitiful teachers who considered pushing play on the DVD player an education. I am not generalizing about teachers in that area, and I am sure that there are lousy teachers everywhere, but many times in school systems in small communities it is politics before qualifications. I also think that for eastern Kentucky in particular we should be looking within our communities for community members who are going to become educators, as opposed to getting teacher from outside. There needs to be more incentives for the best and brightest to come back home as opposed to moving to the county over because there is "more to do" there. In my opinion, the education you receive early in school impacts your mindset for the rest of your life, and teachers cannot take that lightly.

On another note, I'm curious as to why they are opening their central office in Hazard, but won't have a presence in the Perry County school.