Reading and Math Targeted by Miami's 'Teach for America'
Jan 25, 2012
Can inexperienced yet enthusiastic teachers find success where their seasoned counterparts have struggled? In Miami, Florida, the lowest-performing schools are seeing an influx of instructors from Teach for America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving education for less-privileged students. This year, these instructors are hoping to raise reading and math scores. Can they succeed?
An Admirable Mission
It all began with a senior thesis.
In 1989, Princeton University senior Wendy Kopp developed an idea to combat educational inequity for her senior thesis. She began the nonprofit Teach for America the following year.
The mission of the organization is to recruit 'future leaders' to commit to teaching in high-need areas for two years. Teach for America focuses on recent college graduates and even working professionals to fulfill their mission.
Teach for America hopes to overcome what seems to be the norm: low-income students scoring poorly on assessments and other tests. In 2011, for example, less than 20% of low-income eighth-graders were proficient or better in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams.
One way Teach for America hopes to reach its goal of improving math and reading scores in Miami is to focus on the recruitment of more Latino teachers. Currently, less than 10% of Teach for America instructors are Latino, while 40% of students taught by these instructors are of Latin-American descent. It is thought that if these students could be taught by more diverse staff, they might be more inclined to attend class and thus improve test scores.
But are enthusiasm, cultural diversity and federal grant money enough to make the changes needed in these schools? Some believe it's at least a start. Before Teach for America, the lowest-performing schools were getting teachers with even less experience than those being used now. So in that sense, things are certainly moving in a positive direction.
'The Jury is Out'...Or Is It?
Are Teach for America educators doing an effective job and making a difference? That seems to depend on who you ask. About 95% of principals across the United States say Teach for America instructors are as effective as any other beginning teacher, while others remain skeptical.
As one Harvard professor put it, 'I think ultimately the jury is out.' Critics of the program cite not only inexperience but turnover rates and training limitations as reasons why Teach for America educators simply are not the answer when it comes to teaching America's poorest students.
These novice instructors are unfortunately placed in the most challenging classrooms, so of course that can have an impact on their effectiveness. Many simply may not be up to the challenge. The Education Trust president Kati Haycock, though a supporter of Teach for America, told Fox News Latino in November, 'Nobody should teach in a high poverty school without having already demonstrated that they are a fabulous teacher.'
Still, results from Miami are encouraging. Since 2003, the first year Teach for America instructors began working at Miami schools, a typical student over a one-year period has generally advanced 1.5 reading grade levels and received improved scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), which measures abilities in reading, math and science.
Other Blog Posts You May Be Interested In
A question for parents: would you allow your children to play outside without keeping an eye on them? Many would likely say no. Well, the same mentality should be used when your kids use the Internet; in other words, kids should not be allowed to roam the vast world of the Internet unsupervised and without fully understanding its...
If you have a child in elementary, middle or high school, then you've likely heard plenty of stories about bullying. Even if your child is not the target of bullying, he or she could still be affected by it. As a parent, you'll certainly want to make your kids aware of this persistent and growing problem in schools across the...
Let's face it: moving from kindergarten to first grade can be an overwhelming experience; so can transitioning from elementary school to middle school, or middle school to high school. In many ways, kids can be totally unprepared for what to expect as they move from one grade level to the next. So how can parents help with this...
Is it too early to begin thinking about your child's future career? Whether you have a toddler, tween or teen, it's never too early to begin cultivating interests that might one day turn into a career. So what can you do to steer your child in what is hopefully the right direction?
Are you worried that your child will not be intellectually stimulated during the summer months? While the season should be a time for fun and relaxation, it certainly doesn't hurt to slip some learning in during summer break. So sure, hit the beaches and amusement parks...but consider the following suggestions for activities that are...