With the goal of realizing educational equity and diversity, we maximize our impact through a unique two-pronged strategy:
Close opportunity gaps for highly-motivated, educationally underserved middle school students and build a diverse and talented educator workforce.
THE BREAKTHROUGH IMPACT
IMPACT ON MIDDLE SCHOOL SCHOLARS
28 Years and 1,500 Scholars
Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia helps launch motivated middle school students on a path to top choice high schools, setting a critical foundation for college and career success. In its 28-year history, the program has supported the aspirations of 1,500 students throughout Philadelphia.
Consistent and Crucial Support
Breakthrough’s program is designed to provide crucial and consistent support to middle school students, a period on the education journey when many students grow disillusioned with school. Research conducted in Philadelphia showed that students begin to disengage at the start of the middle school years and that disengagement reduces their likelihood of high school graduation (Balfanz et al 2007). Furthermore, academic underperformance among students entering middle school in Philadelphia has been exacerbated by pandemic learning loss (Children First PA, 2022).
Demonstrated Growth and Achievement
Breakthrough’s track record reflects the pivotal work of the program in filling a void in Philadelphia, a city where 23.3% of the population live in poverty and only two-thirds of Philadelphia School District students graduate high school. 97% of the most recent 8th grade class surveyed at Breakthrough attended a non-neighborhood high school (i.e., select, independent, charter, parochial). There was also a demonstrable growth in students’ math and literacy skills.
Breakthrough is aware of the many challenges students face to pursue meaningful educational opportunities, and these can only be overcome with the commitment of families as well as the students. To this end, Breakthrough partners with families to help them identify high schools that will best support the students’ goals and prepare them for future academic and career achievements.
IMPACT ON TEACHING FELLOWS
Opportunity and Advancement
Thanks to its unique model, Breakthrough also develops future educators by hiring outstanding college students to teach during the summer (9-week residency) and school year (Saturdays). We endeavor to recruit fellows who reflect the demographics of our students, in particular, men and women of color. We also seek to build the next generation of diverse, talented educators to address teacher shortages seen nationwide.
Invaluable, Hands-On Experience
Over 425 college students have participated in the program as Teaching Fellows since 1995, many of whom have become teachers. As Fellows, they work under the guidance and supervision of education professionals (including several faculty members at GFS and teachers in the School District of Philadelphia) and acquire first-hand teaching experience as lead instructors in a classroom of 10-15 students. This experience has a marked positive impact on the Fellows, often inspiring them to make a deeper commitment to the field of education.
Role Models and Mentors
In the long run, the recruitment of underrepresented Fellows and the development of college students’ professional skills helps to ensure that our schools have professional, dedicated educators that reflect diversity of students and embody a DEI-mindset. The Teaching Fellows make an invaluable contribution to the program as role models, showing Scholars that hard work, dedication and focused planning can lead them to success.
3 out of 4 Teaching Fellows in our Summer 2022 cohort said they were extremely/likely to pursue a career in education. That is the result of true immersion in school life provided by the program. Teaching Fellows learn best teaching practices that engage, inspire, and challenge their students across four core content areas and beyond. Fellows also practice lesson design and implementation, restorative classroom culture strategies, and engage in weekly observations and reflections to grow as pedagogs. Our ultimate goal is to inspire lifelong learners and educators who understand the challenge and amazing opportunity of teaching.
BRINGING TOGETHER SCHOLARS AND TEACHING FELLOWS
When Breakthrough brings these two special groups together – middle school scholars and college student teaching fellows – the learning environment transforms and the energy is palpable and contagious! As scholars often remark, it is their Teaching Fellows who leave a lasting impression, serving as near-peer role models and cheerleaders, and making Summer/Saturday academic lessons interesting and impactful. Teaching Fellows often share similar sentiments as they reflect on this unique opportunity to be lead teachers in a classroom, work closely and collaboratively with students and peers, and consider their careers in education.