Outschool and Teach For America Team Up to Support Families in Need

Apr 27, 2020

Outschool is thrilled to announce a new partnership with Teach For America to support families in Lakota communities in South Dakota through a new fund. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on families everywhere in the US but rural and under-resourced communities have been disproportionately affected. The lack of internet access in Native communities inhibit schools' ability to transition to virtual learning, furthering the achievement gap. We see this as an opportunity to come together and drive transformational change for children in Lakota communities and are proud to establish a fund that supports those already doing this work. It is a preliminary step and we hope to help rural communities across the country.

For every teacher that begins to teach on our live video chat platform via Teach For America (including current teachers and alumni), Outschool will donate to the fund. It is a chance for teachers to teach children all over the world and earn income while supporting Lakota communities. Sign up to teach with Outschool here.

As a marketplace for live online classes for kids, Outschool has seen a surge in demand over the past month, with families seeking ways to engage their students while schools are closed. That surge in demand put us on a path to recruit 5,000 teachers to our platform. To do this effectively, we are partnering with organizations known for recruiting the best of the best to the classroom.

Teach For America is one of those organizations, and we are excited to announce that for every Teach For America teacher who teaches on our platform, we will donate $150 to a fund set up to support families in the Lakota communities of South Dakota. In addition, Outschool will donate $5,000 for every 50 teachers and match individual donations up to $35,000.  Combined we hope to raise $300,000 within the next month so we can get help to families as soon as possible. Click here to donate.

The need for rethinking Native education is both urgent and longstanding. Currently, only five out of every 100 students who start high school on the Rosebud Reservation will earn a secondary degree within 10 years. Four-year graduation rates have hovered around 50% for decades, compared to 90% for white students in South Dakota. In addition to the issues that plague districts across the country -- such as teacher shortages, lack of internet access in the home, and underfunding -- students in Indian Country face the additional burden of being forced into a system that was not designed for them.

Indian boarding schools -- the most famous of which was Carlisle Indian Industrial School -- were literally created with the motto of “Kill the Indian, save the man.” These schools, which were often affiliated and operated by religious institutions under the direction of the US government, punished students for speaking their Native languages or practicing their traditional way of life. Many of these boarding schools had cemeteries on-site due to the horrific mortality rate of students. These types of institutions have left a deeply entrenched legacy on Native education which still lingers today (The Jesuit boarding school on Rosebud remained open until the 1970’s).

One of the many tragic side effects of boarding schools has been the decline in the number of Native language fluent speakers. Surveys of citizens of Rosebud identified approximately 500 fluent Lakota speakers, only three of whom are under the age of 30. The vast majority of fluent speakers are part of the at-risk population for COVID-19, which makes the work of revitalizing the language even more urgent.

Despite the challenges, there are tremendous efforts being put forth to ensure that self-determination for all Lakota students becomes a reality. Sicangu Community Development Corporation, the recipient of this fund, has several initiatives aimed at strengthening local communities, and is leading the local charge to reclaim and reimagine Native education. In the fall of 2020, Wakanyeja Tokeyahci Wounspe Tipi (Children First Learning Center) will open its doors to its first class of students who will be taught entirely in Lakota. The robust curriculum will center around Lakota identity and values, while also adhering to state standards. Additionally, Teach For America has been working with Lakota communities since 2004, establishing a productive collaboration between tribal leadership and a non-Native organization. Teach For America helps not only to recruit teachers to address the local shortage but also provide resources for districts to improve college access and create rigorous, culturally-relevant curriculum.

About Outschool: Outschool offers live online classes for kids ages 3-18. Classes meet in small groups with learners and teachers from all over the world. Independent teachers offer over 10,000 topics from one-time interest-based classes to semester long core courses.

About Teach for America: There are more than 16 million children growing up in poverty in the U.S., and less than 10 percent of them will graduate from college. These statistics are not a reflection of our children’s potential; we know that children growing up in poverty can and do achieve at the highest levels. Rather, these statistics reflect the systemic lack of access and opportunity for children in low-income communities.

Teach For America’s mission is to find, develop, and support a diverse network of leaders committed to expanding opportunity for children from classrooms, schools, and every sector and field that shapes the broader systems in which schools operate.

Teach For America South Dakota finds, develops, and supports teachers and leaders to partner with Lakota students and families in South Dakota toward their aspirations. Currently, over 100 TFA South Dakota corps members and alumni in South Dakota working to ensure all kids have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

About Sicangu CDC: As Lakota, we believe it is our duty to create a better world for future generations. At Sicangu CDC we do that by empowering people, strengthening families, and building community - Lakota style. We have ambitious initiatives in healthcare, housing, food, and education that are rooted in the wisdom of our ancestors and designed with the prosperity of the next Seven Generations in mind.