For more than 20 years Teach for America has been working to help teach children in some of America’s toughest schools. Yet, this school year will be the first time TFA will have teachers in the Buckeye State. Last fall Governor Kasich signed legislation that paved the way for TFA to place 90 teachers in 14 schools in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky 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 last week when over 30 corps members spent the week in Cincinnati and Dayton visiting schools and getting to know the communities they will be working with. Corps members had the opportunity to meet with parents, teachers, and school leaders from the neighborhoods where their students reside.
As part of their Dayton visit corps members met with area students and local high school and university educators. They also participated in a half-day discussion hosted by Ben Lindy (TFA Executive Director) that took place at Dayton View Academy– one of the charter schools that corps member will be working in this fall. The meeting brought together well respected and knowledgeable members of the Dayton community for a discussion on Dayton’s history, education challenges the city faces, and how TFA can be a driving force in change that is so badly needed. Community leaders such as Dr. Tom Lasley, former Dean of Education at The University of Dayton; Dr. T.J. Wallace, long time Dayton educator and current Executive Director of the Dayton Leadership Academies, David Taylor, principal of the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) and a parent of child enrolled in Dayton View Academy were all present to give the new corps members a flavor of Dayton and the education challenges facing the city.
Educators and parents in attendance expressed excitement about the potential of these bright and energetic young teachers. Their excitement and energy are needed in Dayton and Cincinnati now more than ever. In 2011, just 39 percent of fifth graders growing up in the city of Cincinnati were proficient in grade-level 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 neighbors growing up in higher income households. The challenges are immense it and will not be an easy road but when children are held to high expectations they can rise to the occasion. Teach for America in Ohio presents a tremendous opportunity to inject new teaching talent into communities with some of the oldest teachers (the average age for a Dayton Public School teacher is 49). This mix of new and experienced teachers should help improve education for our neediest kids.