The Richmond City Council meeting on July 17 reaffirmed a basic truth that I have come to understand deeply as a teacher and resident in Richmond: We are passionate about education and working in partnership to do what's best for kids.
We understand that despite budget cuts, we must act in the best interest of our collective future and meet the responsibility of providing every child -- no matter their ZIP code or skin color -- with a world-class education.
It requires hard work, leadership, collaboration and communication. It must come from individual classrooms, from the larger education system, from those working in other fields addressing poverty, and from civic-minded leaders across sectors.
At the council meeting, more than 20 community members, including veteran educators, parents, school leaders and students, turned out on behalf of Teach For America, the organization I am proud to lead here in Richmond, to support partnership and collaboration between the West Contra Costa Unified School District, the United Teachers of Richmond and Teach For America.
The support from our community to act in the best interest of students and of all classroom teachers was deeply moving and ultimately resulted in the council's resolution to write a letter to Superintendent Bruce Harter encouraging increased communication.
Since 2006, Teach For America has been part of our city's efforts to ensure every child has access to an excellent
We are encouraged by multiple studies that show Teach For America teachers have a positive impact on student achievement. The two most recent studies conducted by the University of North Carolina and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission on the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs in their respective states found Teach For America to be the most effective teacher preparation program for two consecutive years.
We believe this is in large part due to our partnerships with parents and communities.
Locally, we're also seeing the positive impact of collaboration. For example, in partnership with the district, seven Teach For America corps members and four alumni were among the staff at Lincoln Elementary who wrote and won a grant for $3 million in funding to implement powerful changes to the school's structure.
This team of educators worked together to revamp the school's curriculum and engaged parents in the process by organizing evenings to speak with parents about how to help their children increase their reading and math skills.
Through collaboration between the staff and community, Lincoln Elementary is setting a new bar of excellence for all its students. It is currently one of the fastest-improving schools in the district.
Our teachers, like all teachers in the district, have been impacted by the current budget challenges and many of our second-year teachers received pink slips this year. Our new teacher candidates are applying alongside other educators for the district's open positions.
Like the dedicated educators throughout West Contra Costa Unified School District, our teachers and alumni leaders are committed to this work for the long haul.
Here in the Bay Area, 550 alumni are still working in schools. At the same time, many alumni have pursued diverse roles across the education system and in other fields to support educators and our students.
Of the 28,000 Teach For America alumni nationally, two-thirds are working full-time in education and nearly 75 percent work directly on issues facing schools and low-income communities.
The city of Richmond, United Teachers of Richmond, WCCUSD, and Teach For America share a common dream: that all of our kids will attain an excellent education. I was heartened and inspired by the outcome of the City Council meeting that focused on partnership and communication.
We want to walk humbly with all of our partners in this community to strengthen our schools for the incredible, precious young people who walk into our classrooms each and every day.
Tyler Hester is senior managing director, Richmond at Teach For America.