Archive > January 2013

January 31, 2013

As a native of New York City and an alumna of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I’ve seen my fair share of die-hard sports fans. On any given day in New York, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a person walking down the street sporting a Yankees fitted cap, a Mets t-shirt, or a Carmelo Anthony Knicks jersey. I even own a “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” Nets t-shirt. I spent most of my undergraduate career seeing others in Carolina blue, whether at a basketball game, a house party or in class.

But none of my experiences in New York or Chapel Hill braced me for “Purple Fridays” at my school, aka the capital of Ravens Nation. I had never witnessed such loyalty and devotion to a sports team within a community, until I started teaching here in Baltimore City. On any given Purple Friday, I see kids in all grades, from Pre-Kindergarten through eight, sporting a Ravens jersey, hoodie, t-shirt, or a purple accessory (like a bead necklace or bracelet) to display their support for their hometown team. At my school, the most important names on Monday mornings are Lewis, Flacco, Rice and Smith.

Photo courtesy of Olubunmi Fashusi

Joe Duran
January 30, 2013

My two years as a Teach For America corps member presented me with an understanding that is both a gift and a powerful burden, one that I carry with me everyday. This understanding is that our country contains within its first-world borders millions of individuals who cannot meet the daily demands of 21st century life, whether that means paying the utility bill, landing a job that pays a living wage, or finding an excellent education for their children. 

Today, millions of hard working, low-income Americans find themselves trapped on the lowest rungs of our socio-economic ladder, unable to traverse an increasingly impassable wealth gap. A 2011 study by the Economic Mobility Project found that the United States has a lower rate of social mobility than most developed countries. Empirically speaking, the American Dream may be more attainable elsewhere.

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Christina Torres
January 29, 2013

This post was originally published on TeacherPop and has been reprinted with permission.

“There are few things in my life that are certain. I don’t know how much I’ll pay for a gallon of gas or milk next week, I don’t even know how much I’ll have to pay to finish school next semester …There is one thing that I am certain I want to do:  I want to teach.”

That was the opening statement of my letter of intent in September 2008, when I was applying for Teach For America. I wasn’t being facetious either. I had been planning on teaching high school English since I was 16. When I was placed at a charter school teaching high school English. I figured I was in this for life.

Life has a funny way of working, though, and a year and a half later, I found myself weighing the options of either staying and seeing my students (many of whom would be seniors) graduate, or combing theTFANet JOB board (which is amazing, by the way) for a new position after finishing my second year.

Photo by Jonathan Billinger via WikiCommons

Erin Teater
January 28, 2013

In the heart of Chicago’s Homan Square stands an historic power house. Built in 1905, it provided electricity and heat for the massive Sears, Roebuck & Company world headquarters on the city’s West Side. In 2009, the building was transformed into a school for the kids of North Lawndale, a neighborhood on the west side of Chicago that has experienced a disproportionate level of poverty and violence.  Power House High’s recent history, while far from exemplary, demonstrates community and district leaders’ willingness to look for what works (whether from a traditional or charter model - because we know there are bright spots in both), and to insist on high student achievement above all else.

Photo by Seth Anderson via WikiCommons

January 25, 2013

Five links that made us think this week:

Ever heard Beyonce’s song that says “Who runs the world? Girls.” Well, Beyonce got it right. According to The Girl Effect campaign, girls are the most powerful force for change on the planet. Studies have shown that investing in the education of young girls leads to a reduction in child marriage and pregnancy, a reduction in poverty and violence, and increases the health and well-being of families (by reducing the risk of HIV). Created by the Nike Foundation and in collaboration with other foundations, The Girl Effect campaign aims to give girls around the world the power they need to contribute to their community and society at large.

Photo courtesy of Carolina Cromeyer

January 25, 2013

This is the fifth and final post in a Pass the Chalk series on the term "achievement gap."

I have had a long-standing pinch with the term achievement gap, though I struggled to articulate why – until I read a recent post by my fellow TFA alumna Camika Royal (Baltimore ’99), which helped me more fully explore that discomfort.   

The term “achievement gap” first showed up in academic papers in the 1960s.  It referred specifically to gaps in educational achievement between White and Black – then called Negro – students during desegregation in New Jersey. In coining the term, researchers were highlighting the need to expand educational opportunities for Black children, which was no doubt a good intention.

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Matt Barnum and Lauren Buller
January 24, 2013

This is the fourth post in a Pass the Chalk series on the term "achievement gap."

In education, the language we use matters – our word choices indicate our perceptions and, sometimes, our misperceptions.

In recent years, some educators have argued that the phrase “the achievement gap” contributes to one such misperception. The debate came to a broader audience a couple of months ago in a pair of blog posts—one published by GOOD magazine and a follow-up on Diane Ravitch’s blog—by educator and historian Camika Royal (Baltimore ‘99). Dr. Royal criticizes the use of the phrase “achievement gap” as racist and inaccurate.  We’re glad she brought more attention to this conversation. But we also believe that the education community needs to be able to recognize and discuss the gap in outcomes—with an understanding that the gap results largely from underlying, systemic disparities in opportunity.

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January 24, 2013

This is the third post in a Pass the Chalk series on the term "achievement gap."

There is a gap, yes, but not an achievement gap. More like an opportunity gap. With the right resources, there is no gap. Resources do not have to be material things such as money for proper textbooks. The best resource for a student is a teacher.

There are two types of teachers in the world, a teacher who cares about their students’ performance and a teacher who could care less about students’ performance. I was fortunate to have gone to a KIPP middle school where the teachers never underestimated us. The majority of the students at KIPP: Nashville when I attended were African Americans from North and East Nashville. Teachers knew our potential when we didn’t. At KIPP, we didn’t have any math textbooks, but that didn’t stop us from learning in our Math class. We didn’t have a proper library, but that didn’t stop our English teachers from sectioning off a quarter of their classroom for a ‘mini-library’ so we could still read books.

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January 23, 2013

This is the second post in a Pass the Chalk series on the term "achievement gap."

You don’t know what you don’t know.  This acknowledgement fueled my initial response to an article by Camika Royal, someone I know and respect, as I made the connection to David Foster Wallace’s insight that “we are all like a fish that doesn't know it's in water; we're so surrounded by it, that it’s impossible to see.” On March 3, 2004, as a first year Teach For America corps member, I led my 8th grade students in reading an article from the Chicago Sun-Times, “50 years after Brown, Blacks still lag in education.” Reading Phillip Jackson’s post, we learned about the achievement gap. I’d been introduced to this terminology in college and introduced it to my students as such.

Photo by Adam Jones, Ph.D., via WikiCommons

January 22, 2013

This is the first post in a Pass the Chalk series on the term "achievement gap."

Before the holiday season tempted me with her wily ways—turkey and latkes, egg nog and counting down to the New Year—there was a resurgence of discussion among TFA staff members about the validity of the term “achievement gap.”  This conversation wasn’t new, but the candid reflections of Dr. Camika Royal (Baltimore ’99) had launched a new wake of reactions, including an excellent post from a group of my fellow staff members reflecting less on the privilege inherent in the phrase “achievement gap” and more on the privilege of some of the emotional responses to Dr. Royal’s post. 

For my own part, I’ve been a fan of Dr. Royal’s since I first heard her speak, at TFA’s 20th Anniversary Summit, and when I saw her reflection (and the follow-up posted on Diane Ravitch’s blog) I had one main reaction: YES.

My discomfort with the term “achievement gap” came to a head several years ago, at a panel discussion in New Haven, Conn., on the topic of education and the media. The panelists were local education reporters and the audience was composed of teachers, students, and community members, including a fair number of TFA corps members, alumni and staff.  Toward the end of the discussion, a brave young man who attended one of the schools where TFA corps members teach raised his hand and asked what the panelists meant when they kept saying “achievement gap.”

Photo by Ente75 via WikiCommons


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