Letters to the Editor

Gratitude for Villanova SPO

On behalf of the board and staff of Special Olympics Pennsylvania, I would like to extend our gratitude to the Villanova University community for once again supporting Special Olympics Pennsylvania athletes at the 18th annual Fall Festival held last weekend.

This year we welcomed over 2,000 volunteers who served a number of roles. From assisting with games to cheering on athletes, Villanova University provided a positive, energetic and dedicated group of volunteers, which allowed athletes, families and coaches to feel supremely welcomed at the University and within the surrounding communities.

In addition to the Villanova University volunteers who signed on for last weekend, I would like to extend heartfelt thanks and praise to the Villanova University Special Olympics Student Committee. Your dedication is awe-inspiring and refreshing. By working months in advance, you delivered a tremendous weekend! Your commitment to our mission is to be lauded, your energy is contagious and we look forward to what’s in store next year.

Thank you, Villanova University, for your generous hospitality. We look forward to coming “home” again next autumn for the 19th annual Fall Festival event.

Janine M. Cesare President Special Olympics Pennsylvania

Teach for America helps students, corps members

I am writing to clarify some of the misinformation presented in Amy Recupero’s article on Teach for America (“TFA needs long-term commitment,” Oct. 27). I could not agree more with the commonly shared belief that transforming our country’s public education system hinges upon profound systemic change, but the rest of Ms. Recupero’s claims are leveraged without basis.

As both a former Teach For America corps member and an educator who taught for three years in one of the lowest-performing middle schools in the South Bronx, I have a unique conviction rooted in experiential practice that affirms my belief in the effectiveness of Teach For America. But don’t take my word for it. The impact our 17,000 corps members and alumni have both inside and outside the classroom is direct and measurable, and it will be the force that ultimately changes the pervasive ideology and priorities of our country.

The accomplishments of our corps members and alumni are as tangible as they are compelling. In a survey last year, three out of four principals in schools where Teach For America corps members work reported that corps members were more effective than other beginning teachers. And nearly all of those principal – 95 percent, to be precise – said that they would hire another Teach For America teacher if given the opportunity. Furthermore, reading and math scores for students taught by Teach For America teachers were higher than the scores posted by students of other teachers in those schools, according to a highly-regarded 2004 Mathematica Policy Research study funded by the Carnegie Corporation, the Hewlett Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation.

Our emphasis at Teach For America is on student achievement – our mission, after all, is that all children, regardless of where they are born, receive an excellent education. But their experience in the classroom clearly changes our corps members’ lives, too. Two-thirds of Teach For America corps members stay in the realm of education beyond their two-year commitment, dedicating their lives and their skills to ensuring educational opportunity for all children. Those who choose to pursue a different avenue carry with them the first-hand insights that charge them to be advocates for reform outside the classroom setting. To truly level the playing field in our country, it is equally paramount that we have leaders in business, politics and medicine working to affect change in the larger arena. I see no other societal ill as grave as educational inequity. And yet, as far-reaching as this problem may be, I also see no other force as strong as Teach For America fighting these stark injustices on the ground level.

We are activists building a social consciousness and closing the achievement gap in classrooms across the country. And our children deserve nothing less. I invite all Villanova students to see first hand what they can personally do to be a part of the solution.

Emily Bobel Recruitment Director Teach For America