Who is Teach For America in Austin? – a response to the recent Austin Chronicle article

5 Dec

TFA Logo_Color

Who is Teach For America in Austin?

by Lindsay Perlmutter Fitzpatrick

I am compelled to write this because I was disappointed by the tone of the recent article in the Austin Chronicle last week, “Reforming AI$D,” by Richard Whittaker. There was a lot in the article, but what I want to address is the limited characterization of Teach For America. Whittaker’s article reduced TFA alumni who are dedicated public servants to a false stereotype and did not honor their contributions to our community.

I grew up in Austin, attended Austin ISD schools, did my student teaching at Austin High, and taught Social Studies for seven years – two in the Bronx, four at Akins High School, and one at the Austin ISD In-District Charter IDEA Allan. I was a member of teachers’ unions/organizations for the majority of my seven years, including Education Austin. I serve on the AISD Boundary Advisory Committee and I am a proud TFA alumnus.

Our alumni are much more than people who teach for two years and go off to law school, as Louis Malfaro described. Of the 537 TFA alumni in Austin, 313 or 58% work in the field of education and 127 of them are teachers.[i] Only 3% of TFA Austin alumni work in the field of law. Alumni like Christine who uses her law degree to advocate for the legal rights of special education students. Another group of TFA alumni law students started and run the Texas Law School Youth Court program, which teaches students at Webb Middle School the power of youth-led restorative justice to prevent students from entering the school-to-prison pipeline and keep them in school where they belong.

TFA alumni in Austin are living out Teach For America’s theory of change. TFA recruits a diverse group of leaders with a record of achievement who work to expand educational opportunity, starting by teaching for at least two years in a low-income community. TFA corps members teach in urban and rural communities across the country (Austin is not an option for these first two years). I am also proud to share that the ratio of current TFA corps members identifying as people of color is 50%, more than double that of teachers nationwide.[ii] After the two years, alumni work to end educational inequity for the rest of their lives through their professional and civic action. Nearly 90% of all TFA Alumni work either in education or with low-income communities full-time.

The TFA alumni who have chosen Austin as their home are making important and meaningful contributions to our schools in Central Texas. Many grew up here or went to UT and have long ties to our community. The hundreds I have talked with are deeply committed to ensuring every single child in Austin has access to an excellent public education, regardless of their zip code. Our alumni are working as teachers, principals, and leaders in Austin ISD, Breakthrough Austin, KIPP Austin Public Schools, Round Rock ISD, Del Valle ISD, Austin Achieve Public Schools, Pflugerville ISD, Montessori For All, the University of Texas at Austin, IDEA Public Schools, Manor ISD, SEDL, the Texas Education Agency, Region XIII, Leander ISD, and many other organizations committed to improving education for all kids in Central Texas.

Additionally, by focusing on the national debate and making grand accusations, Whittaker takes our focus off of the really important questions we need to tackle affecting our students like…

  • How can we close the huge racial and economic gap in college readiness rates that exists in AISD (78% for White students, 27% for African American students, 39% for Hispanic students, and 33% for economically disadvantaged students)? [iii]
  • How can we continue to improve our graduation rates in Central Texas for low-income students (67% in 2003 to 84% in 2013) as we work to ensure that a high school diploma is aligned with college expectations?[iv]
  • How might we open a true dialogue with parents about why they are choosing public charter schools and what traditional public districts can do to better meet the expectations of this group of parents?
  • How can we prepare more low income students for success in higher education? According to the Texas Tribune, only 6% of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds earn a postsecondary certificate or degree within six years of graduating from high school.[v]

I welcome the constructive tackling of the complex education issues facing Austin and just ask that we honor and respect the many committed education leaders, including TFA alumni, who are working tirelessly every day to end educational inequity in our community. The challenges we face are too great and the stakes are too high for us to disparage dedicated individuals who share the same ultimate goal of access to a world-class education for all kids in Austin.

Lindsay Perlmutter Fitzpatrick is on staff at Teach For America leading the group of TFA Alumni that live in Central Texas.

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[i] Working in education is defined as having a (self-reported) profession in education (e.g. working in a school or district/Charter Management Organization) and/or studying education full-time in graduate school. Data reflects 85% of our total alumni population. Data is drawn from alumni surveys and alumni submissions since 2008 and Austin data also reflects information from 79% of the Austin alumni who completed their 2014 Alumni Survey.

[ii] Teach For America

[iii] Texas Education Agency, Academic Excellence Indicator System Report, 2011-2012

[iv] E3 Alliance, D3: Spotlight Central Texas High School Graduation, October 29, 2014

[v] Texas Tribune

Director, Target Graduation; United Way of Central Texas

4 Dec

United Way

United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX)
Job Opportunity: Director, Target Graduation (Exempt)

Who we are: As Austin’s philanthropic backbone, we lead the community to overcome barriers to economic opportunities. We unite individuals, nonprofits, businesses and government agencies with research-based work that ensures resources are invested, so that everyone has access to the promise of Austin.

Who we want: The Director of Target Graduation is an innovative leader with an adaptive management style who is passionate about education, positive youth development and ensuring students stay on the path to high school graduation prepared for success in college, work, and life. As Director, you will drive program strategy, grow and maintain effective community and school district partnerships, and build relationships with diverse stakeholders to create positive educational change in the Greater Austin region. You will leverage the influence, resources, and expertise of non-profit and community partners to sustain and develop youth and education focused initiatives. As a member of the Strategic Programs leadership team, you will work collaboratively with other program teams to identify opportunities for cross-programmatic integration, donor engagement, and organizational growth.

 To apply: send cover letter and resume to hr@uwatx.org.

Learn more: http://www.unitedwayaustin.org/

This position is located in Austin, Texas and reports directly to the Vice President of Strategic

4 Ways to Support Alumni Teachers!

14 Nov

Nominate a Teacher for the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching

Alumni teachers are on the front lines of this work. Since 2012, Teach For America has presented this annual award to up to 10 outstanding alumni teachers in recognition for their leadership, classroom practice, and their unwavering belief in the potential for all children to succeed. These teachers are transforming the lives of their students and exemplify the core values of our organization. We have stellar teachers in Austin – nominate one of them today!

 

Grading Night

Across Austin teachers are burning the midnight oil to grade and track papers in time for report cards and assessment windows. Dedicate a night (or more) to helping teachers grade and track student work, so they don’t have to miss out on sleep during this very busy time.

If you are a teacher looking for grading help or an alum that wants to help teachers, sign up using this spreadsheet for a “night” (5:30-7:30) between 12/1 and 12/12. Once you have a signed up for a night, volunteers will be meeting teachers at their school site to get their grading on.

Adopt a Classroom

One of the TFA Austin Alumni Association priorities for the year is supporting alums that are still in the classroom. The “Adopt a Classroom” initiative links up alumni teachers with alumni volunteers, based on location, interests and time commitment. Fill out this survey – Alumni TeachersAlumni Volunteers - to express your interest in regularly volunteering in a classroom or your interest in having an alum come volunteer in your classroom.

Holiday Party Supply Drive

Teacher, are there supplies you need for your classroom? If so, add them to this list. If you would like to purchase supplies for a teacher you can sign up for a particular item here! If you requested supplies around our Back to School Kick Off event, but did not receive them, please add them again to this list.  The Alumni Board will try to match every teacher up with an alumni donor.

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Tech and Entrepreneur Reception

14 Nov

Tech Invite

Apply to join the Austin ISD Boundary Advisory Committee

13 Nov

AISD

Austin ISD’s Boundary Advisory Committee advises staff on issues relating to under/over enrollment at schools and shifting boundaries.  The BAC seeks to have representation from people living in every feeder pattern.  Right now following feeder patterns have either no or unequal representation.

Crockett

Lanier

Eastside

LBJ

Reagan

The BAC seeks to be as diverse as the student population in the district, but is currently falling short of that goal. If you are interested in representing your community in this way or just want to know more, please contact admin@tfaaustinalumni.org

Help Perez Elementary build their animal farmyard on Nov. 22!

13 Nov

Perez

Help Perez Elementary build their animal farmyard. We’re having a volunteer day on Saturday, Nov. 22 from 9am – 1pm. We are laying out some pavers around the fence line to keep the animals inside. We’re also laying out pavers to create a foundation for our new shed where we will be storing all the feed and other supplies. Lastly, we’ll be digging out some garden beds to move them outside of the farm.

The school is L.Cpl. Nicholas S. Perez Elementary at 7500 S. Pleasant Valley Road, in SE Austin, TX. 78744, just south of William Cannon.

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Austin Under 40 Awards – Nominate your favorite educator today!

13 Nov

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