Teachers close student achievement gap

by Michael Misselwitz

Today, educational inequity is a national epidemic. It is a sad truth that where a child grows up has a strong influence on the quality of his or her education, and a family’s economic prosperity directly effects the trajectory and scope of the child’s future.

According to studies evaluated by Teach For America, children raised in low-income areas are already two to three grades behind peers raised in affluent communities by the time they reach fourth grade. Half of students in low-income communities graduate high school by age 18, and those who do graduate average a performance equivalent to the standard eighth-grade level. Overall, one in 10 students coming from impoverished families will graduate from college.

TFA is a nonprofit organization committed to closing the achievement gap imposed by educational inequity. The program empowers college graduates with the training and conviction necessary to battle this stifling injustice and places these teachers, called “corps members,” among 39 underprivileged regions across the U.S. The goal: to educate the nation’s underprivileged youth at a higher level of academia than they would traditionally receive, to diminish this segregation gap and to level the playing field for every American child.

Michael Milano, a graduate in political science from the University of Michigan, applied to become a member of the TFA because he believes in the program’s mission and strives toward a career as an educator with an outstanding impact.

“I joined the corps to help end this social injustice and fix the problem of unequal education,” Milano said. “All children should receive a quality education, regardless of whether or not they come from an affluent community. TFA is a perfect opportunity to get the experience I need while supporting the cause I believe in at the same time.”

This month, Milano will begin his two-year commitment with TFA working in a low-income community in New Orleans. He will be teaching various courses at the seventh and eighth grade levels and he plans to attend law school upon completing his term.

In addition to the benefits afforded to more than 500,000 students who have received an education from TFA, the program also benefits its corps members with more than teaching experience.

TFA’s current staff of 8,200 teachers receives compensation with varying forms of income, health insurance, retirement benefits, money to repay student loans, exclusive scholarships for graduate students and money for required relocation. Before entering the classroom as a teacher, accepted applicants attend a rigorous five-week training institute involving intensive pre-classroom training, summer school teaching experience with participatory feedback and lesson planning clinics as well as curriculum advising sessions.

Corps members select five preferred locations for their two-year commitment with TFA and are granted a position in one of the five destinations based on availability and demand. Airfare and transportation to these locations is funded by TFA.

The application process is intensively selective and requires extensive leadership experience and a demonstrated desire to eliminate educational inequity.

“My advice for applicants is to pursue as many leadership opportunities as possible before applying,” Milano said. “Get involved in experiences that allow you to lead while working with others toward a common goal that you believe in. That is what TFA is looking for.”

The world’s current state demands an educational revolution, and it must be led by today’s generation. No longer can students think only about themselves, their own prosperity and their own prospects. They must consider the impact of their generation as the pioneering force of a more promising, more sustainable future for humanity as a whole — a goal seeded with the education of the nation’s youth.

Those hoping to participate can find more information about the program and apply online at teachforamerica.org.

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