While many Massachusetts students receive the best education this country has to offer, students in communities like Roxbury, Lawrence, and Fall River are struggling to reach minimum state standards.
A robust network of 1,000 alumni and 170 corps members are at the forefront of some of the Bay State’s most active and successful change efforts.
The story of Massachusetts’ vast educational inequity is rarely told but crucial to the state’s future. Since 2009, Massachusetts has ranked first in the country in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), so it’s easy to overlook the thousands of students who are failing to learn the basic skills needed to succeed in college and beyond.
Across the districts where corps members teach, only 23% of students will attend a four-year college—less than half the state average. Those who do go on to college often spend their first few years trying to catch up. The Boston Higher Education Partnership found that half of Boston public school graduates who studied math at a local university were required to take remedial classes, and according to the Boston Globe, “Of the Boston public school graduates who went to four-year colleges, 16% had left by the end of their first year.”
Despite these dire statistics, Massachusetts benefits from a policy environment that invites innovation, a long legacy of nonprofits focused on education, and a generous philanthropic community. When Teach For America officially arrived in Massachusetts in 2009, hundreds of alumni were already working as classroom teachers and school leaders, and across a variety of sectors—a tremendous source of energy and talent that has fueled some of the most exciting initiatives in the region.
For example, in Lawrence, a former milltown that is now one of the poorest cities in Massachusetts, students were struggling to achieve in a deeply challenged system. With the community seeking change, stability, and leadership, the state took over and appointed Jeff Riley (Baltimore Corps ‘93) as receiver of Lawrence Public Schools in January 2012. Jeff is working in partnership with established leaders and an influx of fresh talent to unleash the full potential of the Lawrence community in pursuit of educational excellence for the city’s kids.
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Josh was a national semi-finalist for the Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award, a prestigious honor for Teach For America corps members. He later served as recruitment director for Teach For America at Brown and Harvard. In 2008, Josh took on the challenge of establishing Teach For America’s presence in Massachusetts—first, as director of new site development, then as founding executive director. Josh graduated with honors from Brown University and earned a Master’s in Education from Arizona State University. He sits on local advisory boards for Orchard Gardens Pilot School in Roxbury, Kingsley Montessori School, and on the board of trustees for Salem Academy Charter School.