Teach for a number of reasons
Letter to the Editor | Sunday, February 15, 2009
As a former Teach For America corps member, I felt compelled to respond to Brad Blomstrom’s Viewpoint piece, “Teach for amateurs” (Feb. 11). Following my graduation from Notre Dame in 2004, I joined Teach For America and taught kindergarten, first grade and special education inclusion in Houston, Texas for two years. As a first year teacher, my kindergarten and first grade students made significant academic gains in the classroom by achieving a year and a half of growth in reading and math in just nine months. As a second year teacher, my kindergarten students placed fifth in the district on the Stanford 10 Achievement Test and had learned an average of 95 sight words. After two years of teaching in Houston, I moved back to South Bend and taught Kindergarten for two more years at Coquillard Primary School. I am currently at Harvard Graduate School of Education pursuing my Masters in Education and I hope to return to the classroom. Nearly five years later, I remain dedicated to Teach For America’s mission of providing educational opportunity for all.
Perhaps the most significant and exciting aspect of Teach For America is that the impact I was able make is far from unique to my classroom. Independent research has consistently shown the effectiveness of corps members in our nation’s highest-need schools. For example, in 2008, a study published by the Urban Institute found that high school students taught by Teach For America teachers outperform their peers, even those taught by fully certified teachers, and the positive difference of having a Teach For America teacher was three times greater than having a teacher with three or more years experience. To me, that data serves as a testament to the effectiveness of our selection model and the training which corps members receive, as well as a powerful reminder of the growth in achievement that is made possible by top recent college graduates in classrooms across the country. Spending the past four years in the classroom with students, who never thought they could attend college, let alone an institution like Notre Dame, has driven me to dedicate my life to influencing public education in our nation for the better, well beyond my two-year commitment. My experience has profoundly changed me, as it does my fellow Teach For America alums. That’s why 67 percent of former corps members remain in the field of education, while 93 percent of Teach For America alums remain in positions that directly impact low-income communities in some way. There are a number of reasons why I teach for America – Sebastian, Mary, and Jay’Den are just a few – but none of them remotely resemble Blomstrom’s suggested motives.
Lucy Patranella Dubon
class of 2004