Teach for America supports local schools

Gina Zanutto
Teach for America teachers paint Donaldsonville High?School. Angela Abiodun (Avoyelles Parish Schools), Jessy Miller, Abby McCann, Lindsay Enriquez, and Caitlin Connor (Donaldsonville Primary), Meredith Eckard (Lowery Elementary), Patricia Friederich (Lowery Middle School).

Teach for America, an organization dedicated to supporting “high-need” schools by supplying qualified education professionals, has arrived in Ascension Parish after previously existing in the capitol area for 20 years.

“We began conversations with Ascension Parish over a year ago about ways we could be a partner to moving all students forward in the district,” said new Executive Director Michael Tipton. “Teach For America recognizes there is incredible need in our existing partner areas but is always open to working with new partners as we can be a strategic partner.”

A school is classified as “high need” when a certain percentage of the student population is growing up in poverty. Tipton explained that “students attending such schools are facing the additional challenges of poverty which lead many to fall behind their more affluent peers academically.”

“Our goal is to ensure that every student receives an excellent education,” Tipton said.

Teach for America recruits top students from high schools, colleges and professional sectors around the country and places these individuals in a localized training program. The average recruit has a 3.6 GPA, received a 30 on the ACT and held a variety of leadership positions. Approximately 30 percent of recruits are minorities, and 40 percent are from low-income backgrounds.

“We work closely with the district to assess their hiring needs so we can provide qualified candidates for their open positions,” Tipton said. “We also need to ensure we have the necessary financial support from public, private, foundation and corporate sources to support our corps members training and ongoing professional development.”

In America, Louisiana included, nearly 15.5 million children are currently growing up in poverty and are experiencing setbacks at lower grade-levels. According to Tipton, half these students will not graduate from high school.

“As a Louisiana native, I care deeply about ensuring that all children get a great education in our state and that this becomes a place where young people can thrive, where businesses and opportunities can grow and where kids and grand-kids can return to,” Tipton said. “My hope is that by building the work of Teach For America together with our partners, we can build an education for all students that will make this future possible.”

Because Teach for America recruits are employed by individual schools in Ascension, they receive the same salaries and benefits as other teachers in the area. However, Teach for America teachers receive an additional two years of training, and the majority of those trained remain in the educational arena for the remainder of their individual careers.

“The state conducted a study of teacher preparation pathways here in Louisiana and found that Teach For America corps members in Louisiana were outperforming other new teachers and were as effective as veteran teachers across the state in math, science, reading, and language arts,” Tipton said.

More information about Teach for America is available at www.teachforamerica.org.