Breakthrough’s innovative Students Teaching Students model serves two key constituencies—underserved, middle-school students and teaching fellows—high school and college students who teach and advise their middle school peers during multiple six-week academically rigorous summer sessions. A third and critical set of actors are our instructional coaches, professional educators drawn from public and private schools across the country, who supervise and guide teaching fellows as they embark on their first steps as educators. Through a series of collaborative relationships—Students Teaching Students and Teachers Training Teachers—Breakthrough initiates a learning cycle that begins in middle school and extends through adulthood.

Breakthrough addresses the complex network of factors that contribute to poor academic achievement among underserved students, as well as the teacher shortage and attrition of effective teachers in their schools, in three fundamental ways:

  • Accelerated summer programming for students who are almost exclusively underserved and overlooked: 92% are of color; 71% receive free/reduced-price lunch; and 62% will be the first in their family to attend a four-year college. Breakthrough offers underserved youth 240 hours of academic instruction over 6-week, intensive summer programs. Breakthrough students complete three summers of rigorous academic instruction in math, science and literacy, as well as study skills, public speaking and leadership. Students receive individual high school options counseling to help them successfully earn admission to four-year colleges.
  • A nine-week teaching residency for talented college and high school students who aspire to enter the teaching profession. The Breakthrough teaching experience is particularly powerful because it occurs at an early and critical time in a young person’s life—during the formative college years. The result is an enduring and unique experience that reaffirms (and often reveals) a desire to enter education, become a teacher and lead. Outstanding high-school and college students participate in a nine-week residency in which they receive two weeks of intensive training before teaching classes of middle school students during six-week summer sessions. Throughout the summer, teaching fellows are supported by professional teachers who serve as instructional coaches to supervise and guide our teaching fellows on instructional strategies, assessment and classroom management. At the end of the summer, teaching fellows and instructional coaches review student surveys, evaluate their progress and reflect on their learning. 
  • An intensive nine-week residency for professional teachers to observe, coach, and supervise young teachers. Over the span of the summer, coaches learn new teaching, assessment and observation strategies, and hone their skills with a network of like-minded peers. Undergirding the Coaches program is a standards-based system of evaluation and training that ensures that all Coaches acquire and continue to develop the knowledge and skills they need to be teacher leaders.

Breakthrough is still one of the few organizations that provides a pre-professional, hands-on teacher residency. It is through our partners’ reporting that we know that our teaching fellows are accepted at three to four times the national average and are widely regarded as outstanding teachers (at MATCH our teachers are accepted at 10 times the national average); in fact, they do better and stay longer in education than non-Breakthrough peers. In 35 years, we have served over 40,000 students and nearly 16,000 Teaching Fellows, 75% of whom have entered into education.