Teach For America wraps up year one in Ohio

Teach For America (TFA), the demonstrably effective teacher placement and preparation program, is wrapping up its first year in the Buckeye State. In 2012-13, TFA placed 34 teachers in schools and pre-K centers in the Cincinnati-Dayton-Northern Kentucky area and another 50 in Cleveland-area schools. (Six TFA teachers taught at Dayton Liberty Academies, Fordham-sponsored charter schools, and Fordham has supported TFA’s start-up efforts in Southwest Ohio financially.)

A series of articles (accessible here, here, here, here) by reporter Jessica Brown of the Cincinnati Enquirer kept tabs on three of Ohio’s inaugural class of TFA teachers: Sarah Theobald, Paige Fryer, and Tierra McGee. Theobald taught preschool at Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency, Fryer taught first grade at Impact Academy, a charter school, and McGee taught seventh grade at Holmes Middle School in the Covington (KY) School District.

What do the Enquirer articles tell us about TFA teachers? Three characteristics are apparent:

1.)    They’re resilient – Theobald, the pre-K teacher, reported the challenge of having three Spanish-speaking students in her class. With the help of her peers, she’s managed to integrate them into her classroom—and she’s also made learning Spanish a priority.  

2.)    They learn fast – Fryer, who teaches at Impact Academy, reported how she quickly learned on-the-job teaching tricks. One was as simple as giving students clear instructions. McGee, who teaches at Covington, found that role-playing engaged her students, so she adapted her lessons accordingly.

3.)    They achieve results –Fryer, for example, achieved 1.5 years of learning or more for most her students—the school’s “Big Goal.” McGee’s principal said of her: “She’s a keeper, and we intend to keep her,” while Covington’s superintendent told the Enquirer that “The TFA teachers had an outstanding first year…they have met the very high standards that we see for our teachers.”

True, resilient, quick-learning, and results-driven sound like keywords plastered on a recent college-grad’s resume. But these TFA teachers are living out what’s written on their resumes. (TFA teachers’ resumes, by the way, are very good.) Next year, roughly 45 new TFA teachers will enter into Cincinnati-Dayton-Northern Kentucky classrooms, including up to 8 teachers in Dayton Public Schools and 5 in Cincinnati Public Schools. (See our recent blog from former Fordham staff member, Bianca Speranza, who will be part of next year’s corps.) If the first-year results are anything of a predictor, it looks like better days ahead for a few of Ohio’s neediest classrooms.

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