For more than 20 years, Teach For America (TFA) has taught children in some of America’s toughest schools. In August TFA will have teachers in the Buckeye State for the first time. Last summer Governor John Kasich signed legislation that permitted TFA to place 90 teachers in 14 Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky schools over the next three years. Partner districts and schools include Cincinnati Public Schools, Covington Independent Public in Northern Kentucky, and Dayton-area charter schools (two sponsored by Fordham).
TFA officially launched in Southwest Ohio in late May when over 30 corps members spent the week in Cincinnati and Dayton visiting schools and acclimating themselves to the communities they will be working in. Corps members had the opportunity to meet with parents, teachers, and school leaders from communities in and around Cincinnati and Dayton.
At one orientation event, hosted by Dayton View Academy—a charter which will have two TFA teachers in 2012-13—Dayton community leaders discussed the city’s history, education challenges, and the potential for TFA to be a driving force for educational improvement. Ben Lindy, TFA’s southwest Ohio executive director, led the conversation between the corps members and Daytonians. Community leaders such as Dr. Tom Lasley, former dean of education at The University of Dayton; Dr. T.J. Wallace, current executive director of the Dayton Leadership Academies; and David Taylor, principal of the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) all provided the new corps members perspective about Dayton’s past, present, and future.
Ohio’s city schools need these bright, energetic teachers now more than ever. In 2011, just 39 percent of fifth graders growing up in Cincinnati were proficient in math compared to 91 percent of their suburban peers. The gap is similar in Dayton, where 28 percent of fifth-graders were proficient compared to 84 percent of their peers living Dayton’s suburbs. TFA in Ohio presents a tremendous opportunity to inject new teaching talent into cities that need the energy and new blood.