week, and year, as kids came before and after school for extra
tutoring, joined her for learning on Saturdays, and worked on
summer assignments. She provided extra learning opportunities outside her classroom—for example, taking students on
a trip to Ellis Island as part of their study of immigration.
To recalibrate her own vision of excellence after her first
year, she worked over the summer at a high-performing
school, returning reinvigorated and even more outraged about
the opportunities denied to her students.
Gillette had convinced her principal to let her loop with her
4th graders through 5th grade. At the beginning of her second
year, she surprised her students by removing the desks from
the classroom, requiring each student to “earn” a desk by
demonstrating effort and progress on class assignments.
By the spring of 5th grade, Gillette’s students had grown,
on average, four and one-half years in reading in their two
years with her. Every individual student
passed the state’s English language arts
exam, and, collectively, her students
ended the year with an average mastery
of 90 percent on state math objectives.
Studying High-Performing Teachers
At Teach For America, we believe that teacher effectiveness
is a key element of the quest to end educational inequity. To
open doors of opportunity that have too often been closed,
teachers must lead low-income students to dramatic academic
and personal growth. And we know that teachers who successfully lead their students to such meaningful achievements
are more likely to become lifelong advocates and leaders for