Teach For America Partners With The Knight Foundation To Offer SIEL Accelerator Fellowship Through Miami EdTech
August 31, 2018
TFA Miami-Dade's goal to build an equitable, diverse and innovative education ecosystem in Miami is made possible through the support of partnerships like the Knight Foundation and Miami EdTech. Read the story below to learn more about our approach to this work and the recent success of the Miami EdTech SIEL Accelerator for TFA teachers, alumni and local educators.
At Teach For America, we recognize that educational inequity, the opportunity gap that exists between students from different racial and income backgrounds, is a systemic problem that calls for a systems-level solution. This means we need a collective force of leaders across a variety of institutions, united around a common purpose and working together to influence change at all levels in Miami-Dade. We inspire our network to pursue leadership pathways that have the greatest potential to push us closer toward One Day when all students willhave equal access to an excellent education. Then, we mobilize our leaders by providing the support and opportunities they need to raise educational outcomes to new heights in new, bold, creative ways.
One area in which TFA Miami-Dade is strategically offering leadership development is social innovation and entrepreneurship. Since 2012, we have partnered with various leading tech organizations throughout Miami including 01, Caribou, Hero K12, the Knight Foundation, Nearpod, and Venture Hive in order to develop more individual and collective action across Miami’s education technology space. Most recently, our first cohort of TFA Miami-Dade corps members and alumni completed the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurial Leadership (SIEL) Accelerator, a fellowship program launched in partnership with the Knight Foundation through Miami EdTech. This program, which was brought to life by TFA Miami-Dade alum and Miami EdTech participant, Dave Ostergren, guided ten teachers through the process of developing and pitching innovative EdTech solutions.
For four intensive weeks, ten educators developed their own mission-driven initiatives to provide a full spectrum of support to students living in Miami’s most underserved communities. Their ideas addressed a variety of student issues including, graduation rates, school-community relations, access to food and nutrition, mental health, parent relations and engagement, LGBTQ+ rights, disabled student advocacy and college, and career readiness.
In week one, participants learned Market Strategy: how to identify your core purpose and assess key audiences for market validation. In week two, they discovered Iterative Learning: how to refine your core product based on market validation results and build a landing page. In Week three, they developed a functional prototype with a focus on user experience and modern interface design.
Finally, in week four, participants progressed to the stage of accessing capital for their projects. On August 2nd at SIEL Pitch Night, Miami-Dade educators pitched their solutions to some of the biggest challenges in education to a panel of EdTech experts and investors:
Meet the Cohort and learn more about their innovation projects below:
John Manuel Aba-Cerritos (Miami-Dade ‘16)
Mr. Aba-Cerritos pitched a new method of disrupting the traditional after school model by digitally surveying students and parents in school communities. His vision of an afterschool program would leverage the student insights gained through these surveys to create a program that allowed students to become active participants in building a strong culture that would address holistic growth in students lives.
Yaw Asante-Bio (Miami-Dade ‘14)
Mr. Asante’s pitch addressed the lack of parent involvement in M-DCPS. His research shows that only 31 percent of black and latino parents and 27 percent of low-income student parents volunteer at their child’s school. Furthermore, 19 percent of parents of M-DCPS students only have a high school diploma or did not graduate from high school. To solve these engagement problems, he created Access Students, a platform advocating for parent relationships and involvement. His web app will provide data tracking and personalized resources for parents and students and will also incorporate his existing student-to-student video tutoring tool, a concept he developed during TFA’s Innovative Educator Fellowship last school-year. The app can be licensed to individual teachers and school districts nationally.
George ‘Andy’ Caesar (Miami-Dade ‘15)
Mr. Caesar was tired of seeing his students sick and tired, so for his accelerator pitch, he developed B&G Smoothies, a social business venture to provide students in Miami-Dade with a healthy breakfast. Students in underserved schools are oten lacking essential nutrients and vitamins required for proper brain and body function. Subsequently, they are underperforming in schools and experiencing a higher rate of diet related illnesses. For every smoothie purchased, Caesar's business model will donate a breakfast smoothie to a student living in a food desert, a community with limited access to affordable, healthy food options. B&G Smoothies currently provides catering, sells locally at pop up events, and delivers on weekends.
Delabat pitched an app called SUBX, which helps teachers request substitute teachers. Her goal with the project was to create an Uber-like app to save fellow teachers time, reduce stress and efficiently manage their classroom. Teachers will pay a yearly or monthly licensing fee through their district or private school to use the app. Both teachers and subs will be charged a percentage of the transaction fee
Natalia Montero and Theodore Swett (Miami-Dade ‘16)
Ms. Montero and Mr. Swett pitched an idea for Village App, an app to rethink the way parents and teachers communicate. Their app addresses four problems commonly experienced by teachers working with parents of students in M-DCPS: 1) non-native English speaking parents desire to be involved in their child’s education, yet a language barrier keeps them from participating; 2) technical difficulties such as lack of phone service, constantly changing phone numbers and school database errors, which make consistent communication difficult; 3) parent time constraints such as parents busy with young children or irregular work hours; 4) large class sizes. These issues make fostering meaningful engagement between parents and teachers challenging. Motero and Swett’s app would solve these challenges by offering easy-to-use translation and interpretation service, digital access to parental contact information, a modernized way to communicate, materials and ideas to plan effective engagement activities, and automated tracking of parental contact and engagement. Ultimately, their research shows, this app will lead to better student behavior and emotional well-being, improved attendance and classroom outcomes.
Alyx Ramsay (Miami-Dade ‘17)
Ms. Ramsay’s pitch addresses the lack of a chosen name policy for transgender students and teachers in M-DCPS. Currently, students and teachers are able to use an alias in the school, but must have a legal name change for the name to reflect in any official records, including their district email address. This requires legal support, which is not a financially feasible option for most transgender students and teachers. Ramsay’s research revealed that LGBTQ students had higher truancy rates, lower grades and higher expectations that they would not finish high school. Victimization and bullying play a role in creating these differences between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ youth. Not being able to use their self-identified names fosters an environment of non-inclusiveness and feelings of discrimination. For her pitch, she presented a chosen name policy that would allow transgender students and teachers who want to add their chosen name to submit a name request form to be approved by their school or the district. This new policy would directly benefit academic performance and align with MDCPS core values: Excellence, Integrity, Equity, and Citizenship.
Maeva Renaud (New York ‘14)
Ms.Renaud is a special education teacher and founder of The People’s Cafe, whose mission is to engage and advocate for diversity and inclusion in segregated schools. The Peoples' Cade does this through engagement, advocacy and direct service programs. For her pitch, she developed a mobile application idea with the purpose of informing and empowering parents on policies and resources that affect children with disabilities. “After speaking to many parents and educators, accessing information from school district sites and other web portals are not easy to navigate. A parent said to me, ‘I feel like the system is set up to make you give up.’ Across the board, they have all voiced a concern on finding the solutions for specific students need. The disconnect is real.” Ms. Renaud’s app will address this disconnect by offering easy access to resources for students with disabilities and their parents.
Madeline Rice (Miami-Dade ‘16) and Courtney Wynne (Miami-Dade ‘17)
Ms. Rice and Ms. Wynne’s pitch helps parents better understand and analyze the complex data that M-DCPS offers. For their solution, they created DATACHAT, an app that compiles complex student data into one, user-friendly application. The app then accesses, analyzes and processes every student’s data so teachers, students and parents can easily visualize and comprehend it. DATACHAT will automatically group students based on appropriate data for a given class period, allowing teachers to efficiently curate curriculum to meet students’ individual needs, streamlining efforts, and maximizing results. Parents will have a clear picture of where their child is in terms of proficiency, while also tracking their growth. Their business model would charge teachers a small annual fee each and would offer a free 1-month trial.
Stay tuned for more inside looks into each of our participants projects as they unfold.