3 years into KIPP’s teacher pipeline plan, students are thriving | Louisiana News

By MARIE FAZIO, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Twelve years ago, Alyana Jefferson was a kindergarten student in Cherelyn Poe’s KIPP Central City class, learning to read and do basic math.

Now a senior at Booker T. Washington High School, Jefferson has a different role in the same class: she helps teach Poe’s students, who Poe calls her “crimson crawfish.”

Last year, teachers at Jefferson identified her as a potential candidate for teaching: she is dedicated, has strong leadership skills, and is respected and trusted by her peers. So she enrolled in an education course where she spent the first few months of the school year learning to become a teacher and thinking critically about equity in education.

Afterwards, Jefferson and his classmates were sent to the streets in the classrooms of KIPP Central City.

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“I didn’t want to be a teacher,” Jefferson said. “But once you take the course and teach by doing, you realize it’s about the kids. You don’t have to be a doctor to make a difference, to save someone’s life.

Three years ago, KIPP New Orleans launched the Alumni Teachers Group, a first-of-its-kind program in New Orleans that selected high school students to teach younger students. The program has since expanded to include approximately 15 students from John F. Kennedy High School who teach at Hynes French Immersion – UNO, in addition to students from Booker T. Washington.

After graduating from college, students are guaranteed employment at KIPP, creating a pipeline back to KIPP.

A similar program is being piloted this year at Warren Easton High School, where students teach elementary students at Morris Jeff Community School and a few have chosen to teach younger grades at Warren Easton, institutionalizing an already widespread tradition of former students returning to teach at the end-school of knitting, said Andrea Spreter, who runs the program.

Many students in the first grade weren’t interested in teaching, but moved on to a curriculum that emphasized teaching as an agent of social change, she said. Five juniors from the promotion have chosen to take it up again next year for an internship credit.

Scarlet Cornelius, director of post-secondary strategy and programming at KIPP, says the program could help solve the teacher shortage in New Orleans.

“I sincerely believe this is the solution to retaining teachers,” she said.

The five KIPP alumni who began teaching at KIPP schools in 2018 are still there, a feat that defies the statistical likelihood of teachers dropping out of the profession between their first and third year in the job, Cornelius said.

“We want to get to the point where we hire 20 new teachers a year, not 125,” she said.

Cornelius said the program could also help retain veteran teachers by giving them new purpose in training the next generation.

One recent morning, a group of kindergarteners sat intently on a rug as Jefferson drew cookies on a whiteboard. They counted the cookies in unison – there were 17 – then pondered what would happen if someone named “David” ate six.

In a classroom down the hall, Kierra Daniels sat at a table with four students and helped them use their fingers to calculate sums. And upstairs, Amanie Scott used flashcards to quiz a student on vocabulary.

“They can go to the other side of the curtain after being behind the desk,” Cornelius said.

This year, 28 seniors from Booker T. Washington and John F. Kennedy attended the teaching course. At the start of the program, only about ten of them were determined to become teachers after university. But in a mid-year survey, that number doubled. The goal is for 40% of participants to go into teaching, Cornelius said.

Next year there are more interested students than available places, Cornelius said.

Grant funding allows students to be paid to work as summer teachers at KIPP before and after graduation from high school.

Cornelius also helps students going to college out of state find classroom work in those states. Jefferson said she will be attending Texas Southern University in the fall to study finance and education and plans to teach for a few years after college, hopefully at KIPP.

Cornelius said she was confident that any number of current high schoolers could be New Orleans’ “next great teacher.”

“The program debunks the myth that New Orleans public school students aren’t ready for certain things,” she said. “They are ready, we just have to give them the opportunity.”

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