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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 6, 2006

55 national teaching corps recruits arrive in Islands

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

Fifty-five new public school teachers recruited through the national teaching corps Teach For America arrived in Hawai'i last night to begin a one-week introduction here, plus other training, before stepping into classrooms for the coming year in one of Hawai'i's highest-need areas the Wai'anae Coast and Leeward O'ahu.

After a week in Hawai'i, they'll fly to Houston for five more weeks of intensive teacher training.

Of the 55 new teachers recruited through the national service corps, 10 are newly minted college graduates originally from Hawai'i who are returning home to serve for two years in an area that often struggles to find enough teachers.

All 55 earned college grade point averages of 3.5 or better, with 95 percent holding leadership positions in their schools or communities.

More than that, they are part of a group that carries a powerful reputation for academic success among students they teach.

According to a statement from the national Teach For America office in New York, an independent study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research showed that students of Teach For America corps members made greater gains than expected in both reading and math. In math alone, students made 10 percent more progress than expected.

Teach For America is committed to placing teachers in disadvantaged communities with the goal of closing achievement gaps.

"The commitment, enthusiasm and leadership qualities that Teach For America corps members bring to the classroom will be a great benefit for our students," said state schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto, in a statement.

"They represent the role models that connect with the generation of tomorrow our future."

Each year, Hawai'i needs about 1,500 teachers because of retirements and other losses, and often ends up several hundred short. Rural teaching posts are especially difficult to fill.

"Partnering with Teach For America is an important step to ensure students from economically disadvantaged communities have the educational opportunities they deserve," Hamamoto said.

The state Department of Education has committed $577,000 over the next four years to support this new corps of teachers who bring a two-year commitment to their teaching posts. As well, support also is coming from private fundraising and corporate donations.

The teachers with bachelor's degrees will receive salaries of $37,507 the first year, with an additional $1,200 the second year.

Hamamoto has said the long-term goal is to encourage these young teachers to stay in Hawai'i.

Nationally, that often occurs. Although college graduates from all majors join the corps, they often go on to gain teaching credentials and remain in the educational field.

These teachers will continue to receive coaching from Teach For America staff, and also will attend classes at the University of Hawai'i to earn their teaching certification and master's degrees.

Teach For America is the brainchild of Princeton University student Wendy Kopp, who envisioned a national teaching corps in her senior college thesis. Since its founding in 1989, Teach For America has put 14,000 teachers in hard-to-fill positions across the nation, affecting more than 2 million students.

Mitch D'Olier, chief executive director of Kane'ohe Ranch as well as the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, and a member of the Hawai'i Business Roundtable, has been one of the forces behind this endeavor, along with Hamamoto and the Hawai'i State Teachers Association.

"I can't believe this all happened this fast," D'Olier said yesterday, on the eve of the teachers' arrival. "Everybody saw the need and this opportunity for the benefit of our kids."

In a statement, Diane Robinson, executive director of Teach For America-Hawai'i, said the organization is "excited about being part of the solution to close the achievement gap in Hawai'i's public schools."

Teach For America has an ambitious growth plan to expand its current 3,500 corps members annually to 7,500 at 30 sites by 2010.

According to the education services company The Princeton Review, Teach For America offers one of the best entry-level jobs for new college graduates.

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com.