Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Transformational Change in the United States

Today I learned that 60% of adults in Detroit are functionally illiterate, meaning that they operate with on a first or second grade reading level.

The average literacy level in the United States is eighth grade.

Eighth grade.

I am dumbfounded. How is it possible that, in one of the most developed nations in the world, we still have adult citizens who can't read? How does this happen? How could we let this happen?

We are barraged with facts like that all day, and they are sobering. For all our highly set goals and ambitious plans, there is still so much work that must be done.

Needless to say, I left my Literacy Specialist session today feeling a little overwhelmed.

But then at dinner, I got to thinking. While the challenge is monstrous, the need is extreme and this Institute alone is contributing significantly to the solution.

My Numbers...*
*A rough, hazy estimation done in my head over the dinner table.
*Not to be taken as fact. I haven't looked anything up. Yet.

There are about 800 corps members here at Delta State (I don't remember the exact number, so I'll pick a nice even number for prettier results).

Then, let's say that out of the 800, about 5% of us aren't really good teachers and actually completely bomb it in the classroom (a high estimate, just to be on the safe side).

That leaves 760 teachers.

Out of the 760, about 30% of us might be just good, average teachers, doing well but not making significant gains. That's about 280 people, leaving 480 excellent teachers. Four hundred eighty exceptional, ambitious teachers.

And that's just one institute.

There are eight institutes training teachers across the country this summer, so multiply eight by 480. That gives me 3840 top-notch new teachers training this summer across the United States.

That, my friends, means that there will be almost 4000 transformational new teachers entering classrooms this fall, joining older TFA corps members and veteran educators in the fight to end educational inequity.

And when 4000 teachers each significantly influence the lives of their 50 students (a rough average), that gives us a stunning 200,000 children who will be touched by new corps members ALONE in the coming year.

Lives changed, transformed by the power of an excellent education and the opportunities that will open from that. That's not even counting TFA alum and other non-TFA veteran educators who have been fighting this fight for looooong before TFA even existed. And it's already a powerful number.

I think I'm going to need to write those numbers down to remind me in the tough times these coming weeks that I am not even close to alone in this fight. Because one person cannot possibly change the status quo alone, but as a collective, we can push this movement forward and create lasting, transformation change in the world of education and in our students' lives.

Bam. If that doesn't give me a sense of purpose, I don't know what will.

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... A few thoughts to pass the time...