A nonprofit founded in 1992

Michael F. Shaughnessy of EducationNews.org interviews BELL CEO

An Interview with Dr. Tiffany Cooper Gueye

Michael F. Shaughnessy - BELL programs are provided at schools in under-resourced communities. Within these high-need schools, we work with principals and teachers to reach out to those students who can most benefit from academic and social support.

Tiffany Cooper Gueye, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, brings much expertise and internal perspective to BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life). Dr. Gueye holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a doctorate in Educational Research, Measurement and Evaluation, both from Boston College. Before becoming CEO, she held other BELL responsibilities and assisted Senator Obama's office in developing legislation to provide federal funding toward summer learning opportunities for high-need children (STEP UP Act). She also sits on the board of the Boston College Alumni Association and the National Afterschool Association.
Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico
1) Dr. Cooper, I understand that you are going to be conducting an "after school program "in Detroit. How did this come about?
Yes, we are thrilled to deepen our collaboration with the Detroit Public Schools in such a tremendous way. This past summer, we partnered with the district through an RFP process to educate more than 4,000 K-8th grade children at 15 district-selected "turnaround" schools. Our work together produced phenomenal results. While children can lose 2-3 months of skills when not engaged in structured learning over the summer, our students gained 5 months' of reading and math skills. This meant that on the first day of school this year, thousands of children in Detroit walked into the classroom more ready to learn.
With such results, more than 90% of teachers and parents reported satisfaction with our program, and many principals asked BELL to return to work with their students for the rest of the school year. We were also thrilled to have been selected by the State of Michigan through a competitive process as one of a handful of organizations approved to work in schools tapped for turnaround and receiving School Improvement Grants. With all this support, we are on track to provide intensive after school tutoring to close to 2,000 students at 15 high-need schools.
2) How will these students be chosen?
BELL programs are provided at schools in under-resourced communities. Within these high-need schools, we work with principals and teachers to reach out to those students who can most benefit from academic and social support.
3) How do you and BELL propose to narrow the "achievement gap"?
BELL combines a proven curriculum based on current education research; educators who receive comprehensive training and support; and effective strategies for helping children struggling in school achieve proficiency and mastery in math and reading. BELL's learning goals, curriculum, and assessment methods are designed to meet state and city standards, with the overarching objective of helping all children move toward higher achievement and, thereby, schools toward making Adequate Yearly Progress. Our staff collaborates with school academic teachers to review student progress, share daily lesson plans and feedback from both the day and after school teachers, review school benchmark data, and to identify areas to target and strategize around providing additional support to students. We also train staff in helping children develop social and self-efficacy skills that are so critical to their long-term success in school and beyond.
4) How are you going to be evaluating the success of this program?
BELL utilizes rigorous evaluations to measure our success for every program we run. We will track and review the academic and social gains achieved by students; parent and teacher satisfaction; and the quality of program operations. We utilize pre- and post- program Stanford Diagnostic Tests to assess the performance of every one of our students. During the program, quizzes that map to state learning standards help staff develop individualized learning plans. A host of student, parent, and teacher surveys help determine our impact on students' social skills development, such as attitudes toward learning and self-confidence.
5) What about children with special needs- kids with learning disabilities, mental retardation, and developmental delays- how will they be assisted?
BELL has a tradition of building an inclusive environment for students with diverse learning needs. Approximately 20% of our students have Individual Education Plans, and so our policies, training, and practices for academic support, parental engagement, and behavior management are designed to address the needs of all of our students. Our training includes modules on the challenges and strategies for reaching children with delayed skills, and teachers are trained on differentiating their instruction to help students at all levels learn with success. Our sensitive, individualized approach to children's education is a cornerstone of our success in moving so many "at-risk" children toward proficiency and better. We of course promote a culture among our students that values collaboration, support, and respect.
6) What is the time frame for this project- when will it begin and end?
We have already been hard at work training teachers, reaching out to students and families, and providing programming. We will work throughout the school year providing tutoring in after school and then begin our summer programming.
7) How have your past endeavors been evaluated? How have the results been measured?
BELL and the Detroit Public Schools have one common goal: to accelerate student achievement. This summer, our partnership together achieved this with resounding success, with children gaining an average 5 months grade-equivalent reading and math skills, and moving up in their percentile rank scores for math and reading, according to standardized tests. We shared with the principals of each school, reports on every student showing pre-test and post-test data, and how student performance improved during the summer against specific Michigan standards. This kind of data sharing allows teachers to develop student-specific plans right at the start of the school year and helps drive instruction throughout the year.
Ultimately, our students are our success, and we measure the success of every one of our programs by the gains they yield for the children whose lives we work to transform.
8) Have you worked with the Detroit School system before?
Yes, we taught more than 4,000 students at 15 schools this past summer. We look forward to being an integral part of the District's goal to improving academic achievement across the city.
9) What have I neglected to ask?
Our work with Detroit Public Schools marks the eighth time a major urban school district partnered with BELL to deliver our transformative summer learning program for high-need students. This kind of public-private venture represents a very exciting and promising way that schools and nonprofits can collaborate to enable student learning - with remarkable results and efficiency. We are thrilled to be working with Detroit Public Schools on this scale, and we look forward to the work we will do together for the children of Detroit for years to come.