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Teach for America creates educational equity in San Diego

January 11, 2016

Teach For America works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Founded in 1990, the nonprofit organization recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding college graduates and professionals to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity. Today, 8,600 corps members are teaching in 52 urban and rural regions across the country, while more than 42,000 alumni work across career sectors to ensure that all children have access to an excellent education.​

Teach for America San Diego, one of the organization’s youngest chapters, has a specific focus on showing students that the most reliable path into solid, middle class jobs is within San Diego’s innovation economy. “We are really focused on preparing our students for the innovation economy that is unique to San Diego,” says Executive Director David Lopez. “Teachers own the daily learning experience of their students, introducing the importance of secondary education through university or vocational programs, and exposing them to a variety of careers.” Additionally, Teach for America San Diego’s Innovation Consortium for Education provides a direct link between the classroom and the innovation economy. Students are connected with innovation economy companies through employee speaking engagements, education and career pathways information and on-site tours.

On average, San Diego Teach for America teachers achieve 1.5 years of student academic growth within just one academic year, with STEM teachers averaging two years of growth within the same time frame. This rapid progress is imperative in the success of the students looking to reach equal footing with their counterparts. “The reason our teachers are able to do this is because they understand students are facing challenges, but they know that the students can be successful and they will hold them accountable to that success,” says Lopez.

One example of this is Ms. Ferreira, a Teach for America Teacher at the Charter School of San Diego. Since Ms. Ferreira arrived at the school three months ago, she’s held her students accountable to complete their work and leaves no room for excuses when they don’t. The results of her work are already showing in not only her own students, but the school as a whole, which has seen more students overall completing their credits on schedule since she arrived. This infectious attitude of empowerment is what makes Teach for America’s work so impactful.

Another San Diego teacher, Ms. Morgan, works with special education students in the San Diego Unified School District. Before she arrived, her 5th grade class were all scoring below proficient on exams. Through her encouragement, her students received their first-ever scores at proficient or above, leading them to begin journaling their successes and setting goals for the future — achievement began to snowball.

Lopez says these examples are ones he sees a lot. “Teachers help the students shift their own story from ‘I’m not good at school. I can’t do this’ to ‘Actually, I can do this and I can be successful,’” he says.

There is another big benefit of the program — most Teach for America alum continue on in careers that support education and service for underprivileged youth. “There are so many great people in San Diego doing awesome stuff,” says Lopez. “Many of our alum got started in education on behalf of students through Teach for America and continue that work through their career.”

For more information on Teach for America San Diego, visit sandiego.teachforamerica.org.

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