Teach For America Houston Launches Tutoring Program to Help Students Address Learning Recovery

The Ignite Fellowship Provides Tutors to Support 3rd and 8th Grade Houston Students Through Small Virtual Cohorts

Style Magazine Newswire | 1/25/2022, 9:46 a.m.

Teach For America Houston announced the launch of its new tutoring program, the Ignite Fellowship, which is focused on helping 3rd through 8th grade Houston students address learning loss from the pandemic.

The Ignite Fellowship was first developed by Teach For America Phoenix and has expanded to six communities where Teach For America works, including Houston. The Phoenix pilot, during the 2020-2021 school year, showed incredible results, particularly in third grade literacy and eighth grade math. Students at one school achieved an average of fifty-three percent growth in their middle school math assessments, and forty percent of students in another school exited third grade reading remediation after engaging in the Ignite program for eight weeks. Through the program, Teach For America recruits college and graduate students to serve as small-group learning fellows who partner directly with local schools and students. Each fellow is leading a cohort of 2-4 students, meeting in virtual learning communities during school hours. This school year, 185 fellows are working across 14 Houston schools in Houston Independent School District and Aldine Independent School District to support students.

The learning loss experienced by students last school year was severe. In late June, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released the results from the 2021 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). According to the TEA, the percentage of 3rd through 8th grade students meeting grade-level expectations dropped by 4% in reading and 15% in math; these drops were significantly more pronounced in students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. This was a trend found nationwide, according to the NWEA.

“While this is an incredibly difficult time for students, families, and teachers, we cannot let it be a year of unfinished learning,” said Tiffany Cuellar Needham, executive director of Teach For America Houston. “Given the needs of our students, we’re thrilled to bring about this program and grateful to our Fellows, who are stepping up to support learning in pursuit of educational equity and excellence for all children.”

"When Teach For America approached us about the Ignite Fellowship, we were immediately interested in the concept,” said Meagan Edwards, principal at Fondren Middle School in Houston ISD. “Addressing learning loss from the pandemic is a collective effort between teachers, students, schools, and community partners. To that end, we were excited to have a partner reach out with an additional, research-backed method to support student growth. We look forward to launching this program together."

Research shows that tutoring, particularly in-school tutoring, is one of the most effective tools available to improve students’ academic outcomes. Teach For America is focusing on 3rd grade reading and 8th grade math based on the predictive power of those outcomes as they relate to future academic and life opportunities. The Ignite program is also layering in an additional focus on social-emotional learning priorities for students, including growth mindsets, relevancy, belonging, and self-efficacy. Fellows will receive ongoing training from TFA, partner organizations, and their schools to accelerate student learning, and Teach For America will measure students’ academic and personal growth through school-based assessments and surveys.