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teach for america

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  • teach for america is badass
    and for the first time in their history, they've opening the kimono on how they got that way
  • Since 1990, Teach for America has been placing college grads (most with little-or-no formal teaching experience) in 'challenged' schools across the country with the goal of closing the knowledge gap between the kids in those schools & their counterparts in more affluent neighborhoods.

    It is a tough gig, but one that TFA teachers tend to excel in - an extraordinary achievement made all the more so when you realize that they've gone from zero-to-front-of-class with only a summer's worth of training.

    The secret sauce of this alchemical summer is a knowledge base/rubric called 'Teaching as Leadership'.  It is the work of the wonderful Steven Farr, TFA's Chief Knowledge Officer, and is the product of years of field work, observing & scoring what principles distinguish good teachers from the truly extraordinary ones.

    In January 2010, TFA and Steven published this knowledge base in a book called Teaching As Leadership:  The Highly Effective Teacher's Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap.  I, leading a small GMMB team that was wonderfully augmented by the talented Whitney Hess and Todd Spiewak, did the research & design that informed the v1.0 build of Teaching as Leadership Online.  This site was initially launched to support the book, but it is (as importantly) an online resource fo TFA teachers, whose progress is rigorously evaluated against this rubric over the course of their 2 year commitment.

    From the point of view of corporate marketing, this is a very simple & unremarkable site.  From the point of view of the ongoing challenge of how to make better teachers - both within TFA and outside of it - it is pretty damn wonderful.

    So while I wouldn't say that this is a crowning design achievement, it is one of several public-good projects I am super proud of.