Teach for America in Memphis
Dan Eyer, Anna Herzog, and McKenzie Byrd started the year in a seemingly untenable position – in 2007 only 45% of students at Kingsbury High School passed the state’s Algebra I state test with only 13% scoring on the advanced level. By comparison, in Williamson County (one of the wealthiest communities in TN), 93% of the students passed the Algebra I exam, with 71 percent scoring at the advanced level.
There are some who say the achievement gap is simply an outgrowth of poverty and that kids cannot do better as long as there are single-parent homes, poor health care and endemic crime. This sentiment, though well meaning and seemingly logical, is misinformed. We believe that when given the opportunities they deserve, our students in Memphis can achieve at the highest level; McKenzie, Dan, and Anna proved this in their work at Kingsbury High School.
At several points in the year this trio wondered whether the work they were doing was making a difference and whether they were actually leading their students to significant academic progress. They worked before and after school for the entire year, sought feedback on their performance, and believed in their students. When the results came in at the end of the year, 92% of their students passed the Algebra I state test with 59% scoring on the advanced level.
This story is merely a snapshot of what is possible. For the past three years, with the support of FedEx, Teach For America has recruited our nation’s most outstanding future leaders to help close the achievement gap in Memphis City Schools. Our corps members come from colleges and universities across the country, have an average GPA of 3.6 and are often campus leaders. Their profiles are impressive but what makes these individuals more impressive is their unwavering belief that their students deserve the highest possible expectation; not because having high expectations is the right mindset but because our students are capable of reaching them.
*FedEx Citizenship guest post provided by Brad Leon, executive director of Teach for America in the Memphis area*