This success hasn't come cheap. Urban teacher academies cost more upfront than most other pathways to teacher certification. The turnaround schools receive federal and state funds, but AUSL must raise private funds to support the teacher-training academies. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is contributing $10 million over four years to AUSL. There is also no definitive research linking urban teacher academies with improved student performance. But supporters, including Obama, who has proposed creating 200 such teacher residency programs nationwide, say the investment is worthwhile. "If you want to make a fundamental change in the lowest-performing schools, you need to have dedicated and capable teachers who have high expectations and are willing to go the extra mile," Feinstein says.
At Howe, students say the new teachers are making a difference. The school was recently abuzz with excitement over the wrestling team's win at the city championships. A new teacher introduced the program at the beginning of the year to help students cope with anger and keep them motivated in school. "Last year we had no core values," says Devonte, an eighth grader. "Now, we got rules and teachers who want you to learn." Kimyatta, the student who returned to Howe after leaving last year, interrupts, summing up perhaps the biggest change at the school, "There are other students who care."