Last week a letter signed by a small group of Teach For America corps members and alumni was sent to Lindsay DeFrancisco, Teach For America-Phoenix. The letter asked the region not to accept a $500,000 appropriation included in Arizona’s state budget. Pass The Chalk sat down with Lindsay to learn more about what’s happening on the ground.

Tatiana Soto grew up in the Dominican Republic and the Bronx, became President of the Caribbean Student Association at Hobart & William Smith Colleges, worked in Harlem as an advocate for literacy, and just made the decision to teach in Houston as a 2015 Teach For America corps member. During his time at Yale, Seth Kolker supervised community development projects in four rural communities in Nicaragua. In a few months, he’ll be leading a classroom in Rhode Island. Cesar Nije is a senior at UCLA, where he leads an organization charged with cultivating and mentoring students of color. He’ll be teaching this fall as well.  With the close of our final application window last week, these three are among the more than 44,100 people who applied to join our 2015 corps. 

Molly France

In the Fall of 2008, a friend told me about an AmeriCorps team she was working with that allowed her to visit a neighborhood preschool twice a week and work with students during their first years in a classroom. I decided to tag along, and this AmeriCorps Week (March 9-13) I’ve been thinking about all the ways in which that visit has impacted my life.

Working with the Jumpstart program at The Catholic University of America and St. Anthony’s School in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, D.C. allowed me to see, first hand, the impact that deliberately teaching literacy and social-emotional skills can have on a child’s ability to interact with their classmates and to make decisions in the world around them. Research shows just how large of an impact these sorts of early interventions can have on a child’s long-term educational prospects, and thus, their lifelong achievement. The research also shows that maintaining a highly effective level of instruction is key to sustaining a child’s ability to excel in school and in life.

Brett Jenkins

Service is hardly a new concept to me. I grew up as an Army Brat and spent my childhood moving around the country and the world as my father was reassigned every two or three years. There was no expectation that my sisters or I continue the military tradition, only that we put service to our country and our families before ourselves.

As we mark AmeriCorps Week (March 9-13), I’ve been reflecting on my own continuum of service—from teaching in our country’s high-need schools to flying Blackhawks in support of our country’s ground forces. AmeriCorps has afforded me the distinct opportunity to grow personally and professionally, serve others, and pursue my passions. My story might follow a different path from others you’ve heard, but the overall leadership and service lessons are hardly unique.

Pass the Chalk

This April, when you visit TeachForAmerica.org, you’ll see a brand-new community for education advocates, one created by and for the people who matter most: teachers, students, parents, administrators—and other engaged citizens just like you.

We’ve designed our new home on the web with your preferences in mind. You told us what you want, and we’re delivering: stories you can’t forget, information at your fingertips, and most importantly, easy actions you can take to support and impact your community.

Our new website will connect you with everything you need to help make educational inequity a thing of the past.

Every now and then I read something that strikes a chord in me so strongly that I feel the need to add my voice to the online conversation, even though I’m an infrequent blogger, at best. Yesterday’s post from RiShawn Biddle about the recent EducationNext cover article is one such piece.

A quick recap: The EducationNext cover is a twist on Grant Wood’s classic painting American Gothic, featuring a black woman holding an infant, and a black man fading out of the image. The story revisits a 1965 report from Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, opining that single motherhood in the Black community was the primary obstacle to racial equality. In his piece, RiShawn discusses the inflammatory cover, and the story’s missed opportunity to “discuss how the nation’s education crisis fosters chronic poverty in which unwed motherhood is a feature.” He writes:

Put simply, the struggles of children from single-parent homes have less to do with some natural deficit resulting from lack of personal responsibility, but from the reality that many single mothers have been poorly educated by failing schools, and given that they are dropouts or merely earned a high school diploma, see no point in delaying pregnancy since they are already out of school and in the adult world, the natural stage that comes before starting families.

The Friday Five is Teach For America's weekly roundup of education news, stories, and links that made us think. 

Pamela Inbasekaran

At the age of five, I learned I wasn’t white. According to my kindergarten classmate in the little town of Midland, Michigan, I was black, and she couldn’t play with me because of it. For most people of color growing up in predominantly white communities, we come to realize our “otherness” quite early. With each visit to my parents’ birthplace of India—home to all my extended family—I would walk away feeling torn. I was embarrassed by the shame I felt about being different from my peers and by my lack of knowledge of my family’s culture.

Erica Swanson’s (GNO ’14) ninth graders know exactly how they’re doing in her class. Her students’ lives are full of uncertainty—but they know that if they bring in their homework each day, it gets noticed. When they show good work on an end-of-class exit ticket, it gets noticed. When they stay focused and avoid distraction—it’s noticed. Erica’s classroom at Bonnabel High School in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, is full of all types of information, feedback and data. This helps her kids feel affirmation and see where they need to grow—but it also helps Erica make the greatest impact for every single one of them.

At Teach For America, we do the same thing. As the largest preparer of teachers for low-income communities nationwide, it’s important that we understand both our strengths and the areas in which we need to get better. Much of that comes from listening to our students, families and partners in communities, and turning their feedback into action. But hard data and formal evaluation are also essential.

We recently got the results of an independent study on our pre-K and elementary teachers, and the data confirm other evidence we’ve seen so far—Teach For America is having a positive impact on kids. 

Vincent Mo

Vincent Mo is an engineering manager at Google and friend of TFA alum Gary Cheng (Houston '04). Vincent recently reached out to a prospective corps member and engineering major to discuss the benefits of giving back and gaining real-world experience in the classroom as a programmer. His note is excerpted below.

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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.

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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. 

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