Michael Tipton

Michael Tipton

Michael Tipton grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and graduated from Louisiana State University, where he majored in political science and history.  He joined Teach For America in 2005 and taught in New York City. There, he was a founding teacher at Mott Hall Bronx High School where he taught 9th grade humanities and helped pilot the school’s service learning and student government programs. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Michael was offered the opportunity to move home to Louisiana to lead Teach For America’s efforts in the region. He is now the executive director of Teach For America - South Louisiana. When not working, Michael likes to read about politics and watch college football. His team? The LSU Tigers.

All Posts by Michael

In a time of sequester, streamlining and of scrambling to do more with less, and even as increasing competition, expectations and demands put the pressure on communities to seize all opportunities for progress, we are missing an incredible opportunity as a country. There are tens of thousands of college-ready students who, for lack of access and because of pervasive low expectations, graduate high school without gaining entry to the training programs, community colleges and universities for which they are eligible. 

This is the provocative conclusion of a largely unmentioned study conducted by Sarena Goodman of Columbia University and University of California at Berkley.  Picked up by only a few education blogs and publications in the last four months, the study looks at the effects of mandatory ACT testing in states that have implemented the test as a graduation exit requirement.

Some conclusions aren’t surprising: in states where mandatory ACT testing is in place, the number of test takers increased (particularly among those who historically had the least access to the exam). On the flipside, the average school/ district/ state scores decreased as more historically low-achieving students took the exam.

Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid via WikiCommons

It pays to be popular. Literally.

In a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers found that a student’s popularity correlates to how much he or she makes later in life.

According to Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Derby, “Quantifying something that is as ephemeral as popularity is a tricky proposition for the researchers.”  Rather than measuring what a person may have thought about their popularity, the role of family income or other influencing factors, the study measures popularity by looking at social connections and the ability to form friendships.

Photo by Tulane Public Relations via WikiCommons

I like to win. So does my alma mater—Louisiana State University (LSU)—where suffice it to say, our 90,000+ fans in Tiger Stadium expect the LSU Football Team to be Southeastern Conference champions ever year … and if we had our way, national champions every year as well. You can expect that we will absolutely demand to win when we play Alabama this November 3rd; both because we always plan to beat Alabama, and because of a recent national championship game for which we intend to be vindicated.

LSU football. Photo by JustDog (via WikiCommons).

How does LSU football win? The team recruits the best players, holds those players to the highest standards, and demands continued performance from them day in and day out. Everyone works together to build a team that can deliver against opposing teams—who are made up of the best athletes held to those same high standards from all across the country. In short, LSU football raises standards for performance daily.

I met Megan Scelfo while I was an undergrad at LSU. She was from Franklin, Louisiana—a small community near the coast in St. Mary Parish. She was also a year younger than me, a dancer, and very passionate about her beliefs. Megan was the first person I ever met who had been taught by Teach For America teachers.

One of Megan’s high school teachers was Brent Maddin, a TFA corps member and science teacher who held study sessions at the Franklin McDonald’s and who pushed students like Megan to excel and take on leadership roles. For Megan, this meant following her interest in the arts and in community service. By the time I met Megan, she was a student in the LSU Honors College, and so was I.

Megan Scelfo (front row, in purple) and Trey Smith (center back, in black) at a meeting of the Rotaract Club of Philadelphia. Photo courtsey of Michael Tipton.

I grew up in Baton Rouge and had never heard of Teach For America until I got to college. Now, I was considering applying for TFA myself. Meanwhile, Megan, her friend Trey Smith, and another friend of theirs worked to start a program called FOCUS (Focusing on College and Ultimate Success)through the Honors College. FOCUS hoped to extend some of the arts and service opportunities that Megan had experienced through Brent to students in other low income communities in Louisiana. Megan and Trey successfully started the program, and FOCUS continues to do great work to this day.

About Us

We believe education is the most pressing issue facing our nation. On Pass the Chalk, we'll share our takes on the issues of the day, join the online conversation about education, and tell stories from classrooms, schools, and communities around the nation.

Learn more about Teach For America


The thoughts, ideas, and opinions expressed on Pass the Chalk are the responsibility of individual bloggers. Unless explicitly stated, blog posts do not represent the views of Teach For America as an organization. 

Read more »