More than sixteen million children in the US grow up in poverty. By twelfth grade, students in high-poverty schools read at the same level as eighth graders in high-income schools, and half of the students in the biggest cities across the country will not finish high school. By driving college graduates to teach in under-resourced classrooms, Wendy Kopp’s (EG ’91) Teach For America program has fueled a movement towards eliminating these educational inequalities. Launched in 1990 with five hundred corps members teaching 35,000 students across the country, the organization has grown to receive a record 48,000 applications in 2012. Now, 10,000 corps members instruct nearly 75,000 students around the U.S.
Nick Ehrmann is a 2010 Echoing Green Fellow and, like many of our Fellows, he is also a Teach For America alum. He is the Founder of Blue Engine, one of the first organizations to be incubated through TFA’s social entrepreneurship initiative. It has been remarkable for us at Echoing Green to watch so many thoughtful leaders emerge from TFA go on to find new ways to expand their contributions to education. And it only continues to remind us of the value of networks and collaboration that we heard from so many in our community at the 2012 All Fellows Conference.
A Legacy of Impact
Blue Engine is now in its third year of operation and builds on the TFA model not only by bringing highly-motivated, talented individuals into classrooms, but also by addressing the critical issues of academic rigor and college completion. Blue Engine Teaching Assistants, or BETAs, partner with teachers to help students master core academic skills and to prepare them for advanced coursework.
In New York City, over forty BETAs support geometry, literacy and social cognition for 775 students. With a rigorous focus on data collection, Blue Engine tracks its students in real-time, providing live feedback to teachers during class so that adjustments can be made immediately. In Year Two, their partnerships with schools increased college readiness on NY State Regents Exams (across three subjects) by 186 percent.
Charting the Path
Blue Engine’s recently released impact infographic gives us a chance to deep dive into not only how the organization is measuring success, but what data they are collecting to do it. From the characteristics of students they are reaching, to the ratio of students to BETAs, to the marked shift in test scores over the past two years, the report uses a mix of compelling visuals and strict numbers to give us a picture of the impact Blue Engine is achieving.
Data collection is becoming more and more important for non-profits and hybrid organizations as funders seek out results to measure their investments. Liza Mueller, Echoing Green’s resident data expert, indicated that data can be a powerful tool to help organizations mark milestones and to make adjustments quickly. Can you put together an infographic to easily represent the impact your organization is creating? Embrace numbers and use them to help you do better—and if you don’t know how or what to do with them, then seek out collaborators who do.