Associate Editor — OGFJ
Teach For America, a program that brings together recent high-ranking college graduates with low-performing schools in an effort to break the cycle of educational inequity, is in jeopardy due to anticipated state budget cuts in Texas. The ExxonMobil Foundation, as part of its ongoing quest to help advance science and math education, has donated $500,000 to the Teach For America program in four regions across the country to help recruit, train, and support science and math educators.
Exxon's $125,000 grant to Teach For America-Houston was awarded Feb. 8 at HISD's Dowling Middle School where a group of 6th grade students received a hands-on math lesson from math teacher Imani Gooden, herself a Teach For America teacher, and the president of ExxonMobil Exploration Co., Stephen M. Greenlee, a geoscientist.
Gooden is among a record 300 new Teach For America teachers welcomed into Houston schools recently. Today, there are over 500 Teach For America teachers in Houston classrooms impacting more than 38,000 students, including nearly 14,000 secondary math and science students in Houston's highest-need schools.
"Innovative and highly skilled math and science teachers are vital to the next generation's success. Teach For America teachers step up to go into schools in most need and help students prepare to meet and exceed the challenges of college and careers that await them," said ExxonMobil's Greenlee.
Terry Bruner, executive director at Teach For America-Houston details what the grant means to the program. "ExxonMobil's grant will help recruit and train talented math and science teachers to Houston's low-income middle schools. From professional development to one-on-one mentoring and more, the training for our teachers will be invaluable to support them in the classroom."
Teach For America works to break the cycle of educational inequality in classrooms around the country. Photo courtesy of Jean-Christian Bourcart
As happens too often around the country, a child's zip code or family income determines his or her educational outcome.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, there is a 27-point gap in math skills between low-income students and their higher income peers in the eighth grade.
Founded by Texas native Wendy Kopp in 1990, Teach For America aims to close that gap.
Independent research has repeatedly shown that Teach For America teachers have a positive impact on their students' achievement, particularly in math and science.
In its latest principal survey in Houston, 97% of principals report that Teach For America teachers' training was as good or better than other teachers in their school and 96% reported the Teach For America teachers made a positive impact in the school environment.
In the program, recent college graduates commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders in expanding educational opportunity. For their efforts, they are eligible to receive loan forbearance and interest payment on qualified student loans, as well as an education award of $4,725 at the end of each year of service through AmeriCorps, the national service network.
Across the country, nearly 8,200 members are teaching in 39 regions while 20,000 Teach For America alumni continue working from inside and outside the field of education for the fundamental changes necessary to ensure educational excellence and equity. In Texas alone, over 1,000 members are teaching some 76,000 students.
The ExxonMobil Foundation realizes the wide reaching impact of the program and has offered grants of $1250,000 each to the programs in Dallas, Washington DC, and South Louisiana.
"Our corporate, foundation and individual funding partners are particularly important in these difficult economic times and we're grateful for their continued support," said Teach for America's Kaitlin Gastrock.
To ensure the program can continue its impact and reach an even greater number of children in Texas, state funding must be maintained at its current level of $8 million over two years. "During these challenging economic times, it's even more important for states to invest in high-impact programs like Teach For America to ensure that public dollars are going further to create educational opportunity for students," said Gastrock. And support from corporations, like these from ExxonMobil, is critical. If you'd like to help, or for more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org.