Jayda Batchelder had already enrolled in Tulane University’s graduate program when she was accepted to Teach For America for a two-year assignment in Dallas. Thinking she’d return to New Orleans after, she requested a leave of absence.
“It’s so funny how you make plans for yourself, but you don’t realize there’s definitely a much greater plan,” Batchelder said.
Batchelder taught eighth-grade science and saw improvement in students’ test scores. She visited those students the next year to prepare for her second year of teaching.
“I realized they didn’t understand the value of an AP course,” Batchelder said. “The academic content and mastery that you arm students with must be coupled with the knowledge and skills to navigate through high school.”
Batchelder searched online for a “how-to” guide to high school and called high-performance school districts, but nothing matched what she sought. So she called her Teach for America colleagues.
“We’re devoted to students and academic success, yet we’re doing them a disservice by not coupling that with the knowledge and skill they need to navigate through to college,” Batchelder said to her fellow corps members.
FUN FACT: As of 2014, the Roadmap to Success program was being used at 25 different sites by 175 teachers and had impacted 4,500 students.
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Bringing in their own experiences, they compiled a manual. In 2011, all nine authors used Roadmap to Success in their classrooms. And with that, Batchelder said goodbye to her previously solid plan.
“I felt called to stay,” Batchelder said. “So I [called] the dean of the graduate school and said, ‘I’m not coming back.’”
Batchelder incorporated this knowledge into her third year of teaching. The following spring, she was named one of Texas Instruments STEM Teachers of the Year, earning a cash prize of $5,000.
“I used that $5,000 to quit my job and founded Education Opens Doors, a nonprofit with the mission of empowering students to navigate through high school by scaling the Roadmap to Success program through partnerships with various schools and nonprofits around the city,” she said.
Education Opens Doors opened its own doors to schools in 2013, partnering with nine schools initially. They focus on students in grades 6-10, or the “forgotten middle” as researchers call it.
The organization employs impact managers who train teachers to have college-readiness conversations with their students. The majority of Education Opens Doors’ partners are middle schools and high schools in Dallas ISD, as well as a few charter and private schools. Roadmap to Success is now a comprehensive program with lesson plans, PowerPoints, activities, and data and evaluation material to support teachers.
Prior to working with Education Opens Doors, Ann Richards Middle School had nine eighth-graders accepted to an early college or alternative high school. The year of the partnership, that number grew to 72.
“That was an eight-fold increase,” Batchelder said. “We’re empowering them to make choices for themselves as they enter high school.”
Timothy Hise, principal at Ann M. Richards at the time, was sold. He saw high expectations become more important to his students thanks to the Roadmap to Success. Now the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson feeder pattern, he still shares the benefits of the program with his principals.
“The Roadmap curriculum was created by Dallas ISD teachers and is delivered to students through Dallas ISD teachers,” Hise said. “The Roadmap and Education Opens Doors has reinforced for me a notion that I’ve always believed: teachers make the most difference in our students’ lives.”
Today, Education Opens Doors partners with 25 schools. The goal is to one day reach the nation, one teacher at a time. Meanwhile, the organization is seeking funding and partnerships to grow the program and enhance curriculum with a technology platform and a program designed for parents of first first-generation college students.
Yet, Batchelder takes it all one day at a time.
“It’s just given me hope that there’s broader change coming,” Batchelder said. “If it’s something that’s meant to work out, then it will.”