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2017 corps member Eric Smith presenting his theory of change
Inside TFA

Our Theories of Change: 2017 Corps Symposium

Our 2017 corps members reflected on the challenges that resonated most with them from their corps experience and presented their own theories of change in a culminating symposium at our last All Corps Learning Summit.

April 30, 2019

As their two-year corps commitment reaches a close, our 2017 corps members have been reflecting on their experiences leading in the classroom and seeking to address challenges in education that most resonate with them. Through building relationships with students and families, becoming actively involved in their communities, and engaging in differentiated leadership development and learning, they’ve emerged with greater clarity and conviction for their individual roles in the continued fight for educational equity.

In a culminating symposium at our last quarterly All Corps Learning Summit, each of our 2017s shared their distinct theory of the problem and theory of change given their own vantage point and experiences. From early childhood education to workplace culture to policy, the symposium illuminated the diversity of the systemic challenges that exist in our city, and the strength and potential of our collective movement towards change.

Below are a few excerpts from presentations at our 2017 Corps Symposium:

ON COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT

Abi Bouwma
Focus: Serving students’ intersectional identities

  • “Educators must realize that they are teaching unique and complex students with a variety of intersectionalities both seen and unseen.”
  • “It is the job of the educator to use both implicit and explicit curriculum to teach empathy and identity to students.”
  • Teachers must engage in training around specific cultural and academic practices that facilitate high quality, rigorous, and effective education for students.”

Adriana Huerta
Focus: Health disparities negatively affect students’ abilities to reach their full potential

  • “A child who is hungry, tired, does not feel safe or is experiencing trauma will have a hard time learning.”
  • “It is necessary to equip teachers and school leaders with the knowledge and skills to educate students and their families about resources that will help them meet their physiological and psychological needs.”

ON POLICY AND DECISION-MAKING

David Dye
Focus: Holistic education and student ownership of their education and development

  • “I want my students to be well-rounded independent thinkers, but they come to school five days a week, and the focus their entire time in the building is getting them to pass assessments.”
  • “Teachers who teach untested subjects should not be pressured to teach math and ELA skills in their classrooms, but should be fully devoted to growing their students in their designated content area.”
  • “I believe that if a more holistic approach were taken when educating the future leaders of the world then we would be setting them up much more than we currently are for success.”

Bridgette Hildreth
Focus: Addressing deeply rooted, complex social issues as an agent of progress through education

  • “Educational inequity is the fruit that continues to grow from several deeply rooted, complex issues: centuries of oppression, cycles of poverty, lack of access to healthcare and high-quality education (i.e., academic, professional, social), and insufficient qualified educators.”
  • “As an educator…I can use my role to drive essential, uncomfortable, and transformative conversations around topics of support with my school administration, teacher leaders, families, school superintendent, partners in the community, educators, and people outside of education so that teacher support increases, is effective, and is the reality.
  • “Collaborating with others both inside and outside of education is key to large scale change.”

ON PUBLIC OPINION AND ADVOCACY

Allison Apland
Focus: Meeting the needs of English language learning (ELL) students

  • “Students that are already facing barriers to succeeding in school as they attend classes in a non-native language are also facing barriers put up by adult and peer expectations and biases. They are not being celebrated as a part of the school community or recognized for the unique value they add as multilingual, global members of the classroom.”
  • “Helping students to prepare for the future…involves holding them to high academic expectations so they are prepared for their next schools while still providing them the scaffolding for them to access content.”

Amanda Agdeppa
Focus: Systems leadership and different perspectives in informing decisions that impact student experiences and outcomes

  • “Policymakers, board directors, school leaders, teachers, and the communities that they serve all need to have a shared vision on what it takes to provide a great education, and establish values that lead to the decision making. Establishing a shared set of values and creating a shared vision also allows for clearly defining success and the necessary resources needed to achieve that success with any student, regardless of their background.”
  • “Moreover, the voices and opinions of all stakeholders involved should be viewed as equal in any conversation that is held around education.”

Nate Reynolds
Focus: Creating spaces for students to feel successful and combat apathy

  • From the beginning of their education experience, students need to be able to feel successful in their education, and that success needs to be recreated every year that they are in school.”
  • “In order to create a space where students can be successful, the non-academic needs of every student need to be properly addressed. Many students in low-income communities are carrying trauma and difficult life experiences into the classroom…A consistent culture of respect and engagement for school and education needs to be established system-wide in every school.”
  • “Students will be able to feel more success if they have less barriers to overcome when they come to school.”

ON TEACHING AND LEADING IN SCHOOLS

Brianna Stephens
Focus: Trauma-informed education and health services for students

  • “We are working with children who have experienced more trauma than I could have ever imagined. Our students don’t have enough psychologists, counselors, and social workers to accommodate their needs.
  • “We need funding for training on actual restorative justice practices and funding for psychologists, social workers, and counselors.”

Makayla Imrie
Focus: Encourage student engagement and love of learning with more real-world application

  • Today, the United States needs employees who can think critically, creatively, and collaboratively to solve the real-world and pressing problems that we face in the twenty-first century.”
  • Our courses, their content, and our pedagogical techniques still match the teaching and learning style that was implemented more than sixty years ago. It’s no wonder that kids feel disconnected and unengaged in school.”
  • “If students can make the connections between their learning and the real-world, questions like, ‘When will I ever use this?’ will be eliminated and replaced with engaged problem-solving and authentic learning.”

Ruby Arjona
Focus: Adequate provision of remediation practices and programs

  • High school teachers are expected to differentiate classroom content across multiple grade levels, rather than ability levels, for classes full of 30+ students. This unrealistic expectation puts students who are already at an academic disadvantage at a higher chance of falling further behind.”
  • “In order to best serve students who are performing significantly below their grade level, schools need to adopt effective remediation practices and programs.”
  • “By utilizing these programs, schools can ensure that students who are academically behind can get the additional time to practice and enhance their skills, while students who are at or above grade level can simultaneously utilize these programs to enrich their abilities.”

Are you a corps member who would like to be more deeply and actively engaged in any of these and other related topics to further your professional development and learning? Sign up to join an Interest Group.

Responses and reflections on the 2017 corps symposium