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The Ignite Fellowship Tutoring Program Lights the Way for St. Louis Students

February 17, 2023

Launched by Teach For America in 2020, the Ignite Fellowship is a community-based initiative designed to address the nationwide learning loss suffered by many students during the COVID-19 pandemic. TFA St. Louis launched the Ignite Fellowship locally during the 2022-23 school year and the virtual tutoring program that recruits exceptional and diverse college students to engage in small group academic intervention with students has already garnered positive results in St. Louis.

In Fall 2022,TFA St. Louis launched Ignite at two partner schools focused on third grade reading: KIPP Wisdom Academy (Principal Justin Schulze, Houston ‘12)  and St. Louis Language Immersion School (Superintendent Meghan Hill, STL ‘11). Both schools had approximately 10 tutoring fellows who served roughly 30 students over a period of 12 weeks. Christina Salmo, Reading Interventionist at KIPP Wisdom Academy (STL ‘14) and Hannah Stout (STL ‘14), Assistant Principal at SLLIS, served as local trainers, a school-based role that position where they also receive training and a stipend from the Ignite program to help support the development of Ignite tutors and coordinate the program on the ground.

Altogether, students received 1,440 hours of instruction in 3rd grade reading. Based on those tutoring sessions, post data results show that KIPP students achieved 95.7% growth toward their goals, while SLLIS students achieved 116% growth toward their goals.

“Our kids have enjoyed Ignite!,” Hannah Stout said. “It feels special. These are our students who are furthest from grade level proficiency - they have had experiences already where they’ve failed. [But now] other students are envious that they get to do this….other kids are asking to join. It’s been a great support as we build out our tiered support.”

In addition to offering high impact academic intervention, another important component of Ignite is to foster a stronger  sense of belonging among students. Those participating voiced satisfaction with this aspect of their experience, as 88% of KIPP students said they felt like they mattered during the Ignite sessions, and 90% of SLLIS students felt valued.

“Ignite made a huge impact on the confidence and joy that kids have. It is formative to say you’re going to sit with a college tutor, someone who is not me or another adult in the building. It has built their confidence and instilled this joy and excitement to come to school.”

Christina Salmo

STL Corps Member 2014

Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from Ignite. Besides the advantage of tutors–college students across the country–getting hands-on exposure to teaching and mentorship, over 70% of fellows based in St. Louis are returning for the spring semester. The strong retention of fellows from one semester to the next indicates their commitment to Teach For America’s work to increase educational equity. The Ignite Fellowship also offers college students an early glimpse into what it is like to be a teacher and the impact they can have on students. 

This spring, TFA St. Louis is launching Ignite in a third school, where the focus will be on math intervention. In addition to KIPP and SLLIS, the program will be at Brittany Woods Middle School where Assistant Principal Cate Pautsch (Charlotte ‘04) will be the trainer for 6th grade math. Across all three schools, approximately 28 tutors will serve nearly 80 students combined. Across all three schools, approximately 28 tutors will serve nearly 80 students combined, and students are expected to receive 2,160 hours of tutoring this semester.

“Given the predictive power of 3rd grade reading and 8th grade math, I’m thrilled that TFA St. Louis has been able to bring the Ignite Fellowship to local schools and am proud to see that the program is already showing strong results for St. Louis students said Elizabeth Bleier, Executive Director of Teach For America St. Louis. “We’re grateful  for the support of our school partners, along with our knowledgeable trainers and Ignite tutors, who all help us move the needle in real-time to improve the academic and social experiences of students in our region.”

TFA St. Louis appreciates the groundbreaking efforts of our network to ensure the improvement of student outcomes. Our region’s commitment brings us closer to TFA’s goal to double the number of students excelling in 3rd grade reading and 8th grade math by 2030. If you haven’t yet, see the Ignite Fellowship in action around the country and learn more about its impact through the voices of students and educators here.