Guest post by Hope Moffett (MBA ’14)

Before I began my internship with Education Pioneers this past summer, I knew that approximately two-thirds of the achievement gap in reading between middle and low-income students stemmed from the summer drop, which is the stagnation and loss of learning over the summer break among low-income students. During the summer, I had the opportunity to work through large student data sets in order to turn that knowledge into action.

At the district and the school levels, identifying students most at risk for summer learning loss allows for proactive intervention. I worked with the initial hypothesis that students who dropped over the summer would make up ground quickly as they refreshed their knowledge. However, the data indicated that students whose reading ability drops over the summer struggle to catch up with their classmates and grow less than average in the coming school year. By analyzing correlations between student demographics and learning loss and by building tracking tools for ongoing data collection, I identified students needing targeted support to prevent them from falling behind. Watching this and other data projects I completed being used to make organizational changes was a strong validation for my decision to come to Darden.

My summer was made possible in large part due to the Darden Nonprofit Internship Fund (DNIF). While Education Pioneers provided a summer stipend, a grant from DNIF made living and working in Washington DC feasible and allowed me to use the skills I’ve honed at Darden to pursue work that I am interested in.

Darden MBA students
Darden MBA students

Path to Business School

I joined the education sector through Teach For America in 2008. Because I was a student in Title 1 (low-income) schools, and I am a sister to four siblings who didn’t finish high school, educational equality is an issue of personal resonance.

Teaching in Philadelphia felt like home to me, but while my classroom was a sanctuary, systemic issues constantly battered individual and team successes at the school level. In my third year as a teacher, I paid more attention to macro issues in the field and what was happening in my area.

In 2011, I authored a letter to the editor supporting community opposition to an irregular no bid takeover of the school where I taught English Literature and Language. Three days later, I was removed from my classroom, given a gag order, and assigned to “teacher jail.” My case entered into federal court; the NAACP offered their team of lawyers in my defense; and two Philadelphia City Council members sponsored a resolution calling for my return to the classroom.

Thousands rallied, I became the subject of a local street art campaign, and the Philadelphia Daily News had a running front page feature “Hope Held Hostage: Day –.” The District’s allergy to subpoenas reinstated me, but my classroom would exist within the District for just three more months.

Increased scrutiny by the press uncovered contracting scandals, forensic evidence of wide-scale cheating and unethical backroom deals. Unfortunately, much of the damage had already been done.

A few months later, after attending the last public meeting before the disgraced superintendent was ousted and 75 percent of the school board stepped down, I walked down the street to take the GMAT. I applied to Darden because of its commitment to rigorous education and in hopes of becoming a principled leader in a world of practical affairs.

What is DNIF?

Darden Nonprofit Internship Fund is a program funded by both students and the Darden School that helps First Year students defray summer living expenses while pursuing low-paid internships with nonprofit organizations. Many excellent opportunities exist for MBA internships in the nonprofit and public sectors. Unfortunately, many of these organizations do not have the resources to pay an MBA candidate adequately. This is where the DNIF can help by supplementing pay.