All Articles Tagged "teach for america"

Discussing Race and Education: From Plessy to Today

January 9th, 2013 - By Kimberly Maul
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Linda Brown Smith at the South Carolina State House on the 25th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education case. At right, Bejamin Hooks, the executive director of the NAACP. AP Photo

Linda Brown Smith at the South Carolina State House on the 25th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education case. At right, Bejamin Hooks, the executive director of the NAACP. AP Photo

On Tuesday evening, Teach for American Outreach hosted an online discussion about race and education, looking at the historical context as well as the implications of current issues including No Child Left Behind and the Franklin v. University of Texas Supreme Court case.

Moderated by Teach for America manager of professional recruitment Christie Clark, “Civil Rights in the Classroom: The Past, Present, and Future of Race and Education in the U.S.” featured Dr. Sheneka Williams, assistant professor of educational administration and policy at the University of Georgia, Saba Bireda, policy and legal advisor for EducationCounsel LLC, and Justin Reid, associate director at the Civil Rights Movement-related Moton Museum in Virginia.

The event was part educational and part for recruitment, as Teach for America is still accepting applications for fall of 2013, with the final rounds of deadlines on January 11 and February 13.

The panelists looked at the historical context of Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, with an eye toward how these decisions impacted the current state of education in the US.

“Start with Plessy and think about how segregation in public facilities was seen as an OK practice at that time,” Williams explained. That led to  “separate but equal” in the education system, which eventually led to Brown v. Board of Education.

Reid discussed how the NAACP spent years filing suits against “separate but equal” in schools. However, they realized that “in order to really make American schools equal, they had to be integrated.” Brown v. Board of Education was an “integration suit, which was at first a class action suit involving hundreds of plaintiffs saying we want integrated schools.”

“Brown really informed our whole understanding of what equal opportunities in education really means,” said Bireda. “After Brown, there was a transformative movement in education and Civil Rights. While progress to integrate was slow, there was a transformative effect on education.”

With the background laid out, the trio also discussed the recent achievement goals in Florida and Virginia, which seemed to include lower goals for black and Latino students compared to their white and Asian counterparts. Virginia has since revised its goals.

“If you set the bar differently for different races, are we saying that for poor little Johnny who is black or Latino, that this is the best he’s going to do? Let’s set the bar where he is and keep it there because it’s not likely he’ll get farther?” Williams said. “It’s the perpetuation of the achievement gap that we have. We need to think about how this would translate in the classroom. How will people respond to these students? There is a trickle-down element here.”

And the panel looked at the current Supreme Court case on race-based admissions, Fisher v. University of Texas, highlighting that Teach for America has joined with 100 other organizations to sign an amicus brief in support of the University.

“What is at stake here is the future of our economy and the future of the opportunities in this country,” Bireda said. “That has implications for what our workforce looks like and whether or not we’re going to be competitive globally.”

The panelists also answered attendee questions, including advice for first-time teachers. Answer: check your biases at the door and get to know the students without pre-judging.

“If we don’t get education right, we enter a new generation of slavery of sorts,” Williams said. “I know everybody cringes at that word, but we have to understand that we are a diverse country and what has been the norm is no longer. We have to embrace that and start there. Everyone deserves a chance at equal educational opportunities. If we don’t get this right, long-term, there is a trickle-down effect and we might never get out of this economic situation in this country.”

Entrepreneur Corps Could Be Headed to a City Near You

July 29th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Inc) — Andrew Yang believes entrepreneurs can help save cities, especially those whose economies have been ravaged by the recession. Yang gave up a law career almost immediately after he started, realizing the mega-firm life was “a less than ideal use of a lot of smart people’s time.”  He founded Stargiving.com, a celebrity affiliated philanthropic fundraising site in 2000, right at the end of the dot.com bubble. About a year and a half later that business was washed out to sea with many others. Yang still had a six-figure law school debt to square away, but had been bitten by the start-up bug. He decided to apprentice himself out to other entrepreneurs to learn more about starting businesses.

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Why We Need To Reform Teach For America

February 9th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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by Joe R. Rogers, Jr.

This Friday, February 11th, Teach For America (TFA) will kick off its 20th Anniversary Summit in Washington, D.C. Thousands of TFA teachers, alumni and supporters from across the country will converge on our nation’s capitol for three days of celebrating, networking and hearing CEO and Founder Wendy Kopp’s vision for this much-celebrated organization’s future. At this auspicious moment, low-income communities of color and allies in the movement for educational equity are joining in a petition addressed to Ms. Kopp demanding that she announce the long overdue reform of her teacher preparation program.

Currently, TFA systematically assigns brand new teachers with only five weeks of summer school training to teach Black and Latino children in low-income communities. In addition, few TFA teachers remain in the classroom beyond TFA’s two-year requirement, depriving our children of experienced educators. These are bold injustices in a perpetually unfair education system that denies our children the critical resources they deserve and need to reach their full potential. The status quo educational inequity that assigns well-prepared teachers to middle class and wealthy White children and inadequately prepared teachers to our children must end.

Specifically, we call upon Teach for America to:

1. Adopt a 12-14 month, clinically based teacher preparation model (which might begin with their current five-week summer preparation program) and require that all prospective TFA teachers commit to teach for a minimum of four years (including the full year of preparation) in the district in which they were prepared

2. Use the $50 million of our federal tax dollars they received in 2010 to plan and implement the evolution of the five-week model to a yearlong model

3. Invest in research and development geared towards recruiting academically accomplished undergraduates and mid-career professionals, including increased percentages of Black and Latino candidates, who will make a minimum four-year commitment to serve in the districts in which they are prepared

4. Immediately stop exporting its current training model to low-income communities in developing nations through TFA spin-off Teach For All. Children in those communities are just as valuable and worthy of well-prepared teachers as our children.

Why is this important? 

Studies show that, on average, it takes TFA teachers at least two years to catch up to their traditionally certified peers. However, just as they are hitting their stride, most TFA teachers leave the classroom. The oft-cited statistic that two-thirds of TFA alumni are working in other positions in or related to education is little consolation. Certainly, we need education advocates in a range of professions, and advocates with classroom experience offer an indispensable (though often disregarded) perspective. But every education advocate’s agenda should include well-prepared, experienced, highly effective teachers so more of our children are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to become the primary advocates for their own schools and communities.

Clearly, the challenge of preparing teachers to serve low-income communities of color well is not TFA’s alone. Many other institutions, such as The New Teacher Project/Teaching Fellows and myriad university-based programs, would better serve our children by adopting a rigorous, extended clinical preparation model offering intensive ongoing support. (The Urban Teacher Residency model of preparation, now seeded in cities across the nation, provides a promising alternative that TFA should consider adopting or adapting.)

But Teach for America, an organization that has received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, that seeks to portray itself as the vanguard of educational equity and civil rights in low-income communities and communities of color, and that exclusively targets our communities, bears a heightened obligation to offer our children only the highest quality educational services.

TFA’s emphasis on recruiting teachers who have themselves succeeded in the classroom as students is commendable. Our children deserve teachers with strong academic skills, and certainly there are teachers working in our schools whose academic skills (and ability to impart those skills) are lacking. But if cultivating and recruiting academically accomplished new teachers who understand the value of a rigorous, extended clinical preparation program and a commitment to teach more than two years presents a major challenge, let us not lower the bar for preparation, but instead focus our resources and energy on more equitable incentives and supports such as free or heavily subsidized preparation programs, career ladders and improved working conditions.
Our children will no longer be denied the educational resources they need to reach their full potential. Please sign our petition and help send a strong message to Wendy Kopp that the status quo of educational inequity has no place in our schools.

Joe Rogers, Jr. is a New York City-based education organizer, advocate and policy analyst focused on educational equity.  He launched Communities For Well-Prepared Teachers, a grassroots movement, in February 2011 to call attention to the systematic assignment of unprepared and inexperienced teachers to low-income communities of color.