The Achievement Gap and Middle School Math

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 28 2012

Next year

Instead of returning to my placement school for next year, I will be joining City Year Orlando (more on that later).

Instead of renewing my contract for next year, which usually happens pretty much automatically, I was told by my school that I could reapply as a new applicant to the district and find out maybe sometime over the summer whether they would rehire me for next school year. This was not directly due to the ever-present budget problems at the school, but rather because I was not very good at my job.

Instead of reapplying and waiting an indefinite amount of time to see if I would be rehired, I decided to start applying to other programs. It is likely that my second year would have gone better than the first, but since the first year was pretty miserable and since my school didn’t really want me back (as evidenced by not immediately renewing my contract), I’m going to try something new for next year, with the hope that I’ll be able to have as much or more of a positive impact on kids.

Next year, I will be a City Year corps member in Orlando. I’ll be working in a middle school or high school doing tutoring, mentoring, classroom support, afterschool programs, etc. I am very excited to have the opportunity to continue working to change students’ academic trajectories in this new way. I’ll be working one-on-one and in smaller groups with kids, which is a more natural setting for me, and will help me develop deeper relationships with my students, which was a struggle for me last year with 100+ students who I saw for only 50 minutes a day (in groups of ~28 at a time).

It is sad to say goodbye to TFA, but I am excited to now be doing work which I feel prepared for, which feels more natural, and which seems more likely to enable me to actually impact a large group of kids in a significant way.

More information on my City Year experience can be found at my new blog (which will also be a bit broader in scope, including not just my City Year experiences, but also some commentary on lots of other things I’m thinking about):

Thanks for everyone’s ongoing support, and I look forward to seeing you at the new blog!


P.S. The only thing I am dreading about City Year is the endless icebreakers and hand signals. Sigh. So far, everything else about City Year seems pretty wonderful!

3 Responses

  1. I’m sorry your TFA placement didn’t work out, but congrats on finding something that will be a good fit for you and will allow you to do good work :) I’m very curious about City Year, so I hope you’ll continue this blog.

  2. This is a very cool development. I’m biased, since I am now working for City Year Boston, but I think the organizations have a lot of parallels (and are starting to converge [] ). I will be interested to hear your perspective as a CM in both programs how BTA/training compares for you to TFA institute. My professional development as a staff member has been crazy better than TFA, but it has a different context so it’s difficult to directly compare. Moreover, two years with TFA equipped me very well to take on this role with City Year, so I have perspective I wouldn’t have had without TFA…. keep blogging!

  3. zacksg1

    It is interesting to read to your post @TonyBontheMIC. I sent an email to some of the TFA higher-ups a few months ago with some thoughts about my experience and some ideas for future directions TFA could take (see below). One of the points I made was almost the same as yours! I wonder from how many other directions TFA is starting to hear these same things!

    Here’s the snippet of that email I sent:

    While applying for City Year, I’ve been thinking about how TFA might be able to steal some of City Year’s ideas to make TFA corps members more effective. I’m wondering about the possibility of some kind of hybrid that could take the best of both models to create potentially better results. The details could certainly be changed, but here are some thoughts: instead of institute in the summer, TFA corps members could do a year-long program in schools their first year (somewhat like City Year). Part of this time would be spent learning (like institute), part would be spent teaching, and part would be spend doing other helpful work at the school: supporting teachers, doing tutoring/mentoring, working with small groups in classes, etc. Corps members could also be working on their certification programs during this year (which would take some of the pressure off the next year AND they would have actually gone through a year-long certification curriculum before getting their first class next year). This would also give corps members much more time in classrooms before they get their own students next year which gives the corps members helpful insights and experience (and also blunts the common TFA-criticism of too-limited student teaching time).

    City Year people get a biweekly stipend from Americorps (much smaller than a starting teacher salary), but possibly the money TFA saves from not doing institute could supplement this a bit. Anyway, I know that for myself, in high school and college, it has typically taken about a year for me to get comfortable enough in a new context to really start leading effectively–I don’t know if this is universal or just me. Hopefully something like this could help TFA corps members to start that next year feeling (justifiably) like they really do know what they are doing and take a bit of the pressure off that first year of lead-teaching. All of TFA wouldn’t instantly need to change to this model…..maybe a quick pilot study in one city?

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Closing the achievement gap with middle school math

Metro Atlanta
Middle School

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