Teach For America puts teachers in schools where achievement levels are low and education needs are great. These are young college graduates willing to spend two years helping children become high achievers. Several dozen college seniors from across the country are in town observing and taking notes in elementary classrooms in the Houston and Alief ISDs. Teach For America Houston Director Ann Best says they're here to see what teaching is really like out where the rubber meets the road.
"They see the schools, they get to meet students, and really get a sense of what struggles students really face attaining an excellent education in low income communities. And then secondly, it's an effort on our part to really help grow the Houston region. We currently have 285 corps members and we're in the process of trying to grow to 500 teachers here in Houston by 2010."
Best says the hope is that many of the seniors will decide to join Teach For America, and come to Houston to teach. She says they're observing in some of the lowest performing schools hoping to see what, if anything, they can do about it.
"Many of their students are up to three grade levels behind in reading and math, and our corps members are really working to help those students make dramatic gains in student achievement and such that we are really catching kids up in school, and we believe, thusly, setting them on a very different life track as a result of having academic success."
Ada Esedeba is a senior political science major at SMU in Dallas, and she's observing another Teach For America teacher at Bonner Elementary in the Houston ISD. She's learning the ropes of classroom teaching, and seeing first hand how hard teachers have to work to motivate children to want to learn more, and not just slide by. She hasn't made up her mind on joining Teach For America, but this experience isn't scaring her away.
"Oh no no I've been mentoring and tutoring since I was in high school. I love kids, I'm one of six children, my family is huge and I've always been around the younger children, teaching and mentoring, so this experience definitely didn't scare me away."
Teach For America now has about 4400 teachers in over a thousand schools across the country, and more than 12 thousand alumni working inside and outside the field of education to elevate student achievement and teaching standards. There's more information on the website KUHF dot org. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.