Lipscomb, Teach For America partner for summer institute

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Teach For America corps gets more time to get acquainted with Nashville, and Nashville school kids get enhanced summer instruction

As many as 1,000 Nashville school children have access to enhanced summer instruction this year thanks to a partnership among Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, Lipscomb University and Teach For America that brought the Nashville Teach For America corps to town six weeks earlier than usual.

Teach For America, the national organization that recruits and trains enthusiastic college graduates to become classroom teachers, required each recruit to attend an intensive six-week training over the summer to prepare for the classroom and obtain their transitional license.

Since Teach For America came to Nashville in 2009, that training institute has been held in other locations, but this year the organization decided to train the Nashville corps in Nashville, and contracted with Lipscomb to host the 113 new teachers.

Principals at Cole Elementary as well as McGavock and Glencliff middle and high schools, where the Teach For America corps is teaching this summer, said their students would not have access to in-classroom summer instruction without this institute.

In years past, Nashville’s summer school was only offered at a few schools or online, said Robbin Wall, principal at McGavock. Being able to offer instruction in the building where students are comfortable makes a big difference in retention, he said.

Chad High, the outgoing principal at Cole, said school officials surveyed parents about their needs and a place to send their children during the summer came in as the top priority. The school partnered with TFA and was able to offer more than 200 children instruction to combat summer learning loss and enhance English skills in the diverse student body.

In 2009, TFA picked Lipscomb University as its partner to provide licensing instruction for the Nashville corps. Now, six years later, Teach For America has expanded that partnership, contracting Lipscomb to serve as the host location for the corps, who are living in The Village Apartments and Johnson Hall on campus from June 1 to July 11.

“They get to know the community and schools better and can begin to really become community members by exploring the city and hunting for their permanent housing,” noted Julie Simone, Lipscomb’s full-time liaison with the Teach For America program in the College of Education. TFA corps members commit to teach in the school where they are placed for at least two years. “Holding the institute here reinforces our partnership with TFA and makes them a part of the student body from the start. They get to know the campus and feel more a part of campus life.”

In the first week of the institute, TFA corps members go through induction, where they learn about the culture, history and government of Nashville through field trips and guest speakers. Throughout the rest of the training, corps members teach highly structured, supervised lessons, with constant feedback from local veteran teachers and TFA coaches. At night they receive additional professional development.

“We have found that the institute program is really good at growing teachers,” said Kyle Ali, TFA’s managing director for pre-service training. “Corps members will develop an understanding of Nashville's unique educational context and the communities in which they will work and live.”

The program has proven highly successful in Nashville and is among the most highly regarded programs in the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s annual teacher effectiveness report card. So far, 56 percent of the TFA Nashville corps have stayed in the Nashville school system after their two-year commitment.

While TFA corps members are required only to take the courses needed to earn their transitional teaching license in Tennessee, many go on to earn their apprentice license or their teaching master’s at Lipscomb.

This summer, 115 of the 2012 and 2013 TFA Nashville corps members will advance to apprentice teaching licenses, making it possible to teach beyond their second year, and 42 are expected to earn their master's degrees from Lipscomb.