Cool Idea: Can Great Teachers Impact Struggling Schools?
The Houston Chronicle has a great story this week on public school teachers and a new national initiative to study whether teachers who achieve academic gains in strong schools can do the same in low-performing schools. In Houston and six other cities across the country, a federally-sponsored program gives high-performing teachers from strong schools a $20,000 bonus to teach for two years in a district school that is struggling. Nationwide, 63 teachers accepted the challenge. The program, called the Talent Transfer Initiative, will study crucial questions in education: Can effective teachers be just as effective in more challenging school environments? If so, what will make them transfer – and what will make them stay? Why is this on the Aim High blog?* Because a crucial component of the Aim High model is recruiting and nurturing great teachers. In the stories we hear from parents and graduates, the diverse and talented adults and youth who teach at Aim High are cited over and over and the key to our students’ success – the incredible relationships they build, the sense of belonging and safety they foster, and the infectious love of learning they bring to the classroom. Public schools may never have the flexibility to give students the 1:8 classroom ratio they get at Aim High, nor bring high school and college students onto the teaching staff to mentor students, assist teachers, and develop their passion for education and service. Still, there are many ways the public school teaching model can flex to better support the (typically low-income) students in struggling schools and communities, and if this program genuinely leads to more effective teaching, it seems to be a simple (if pricey) strategy that can change the face of urban schools. We hope it works! (Real answer: the Aim High blogger loves Houston and hopes you can overlook its heat and traffic to love its creativity… and Mexican food.)