This summer marks a crucial turning point for PMP. As the program continues to grow, Abouelnaga has changed the business model from fully philanthropic to a more sustainable fee-for-service approach. He's hoping this will allow PMP to expand and reach areas where its services are most needed. He just oversaw the July 27 triathlon, a fundraiser that began on a whim and has now ballooned into a massive annual event. Abouelnaga recently spoke to The Atlantic about Practice Makes Perfect's growth and the state of education in America.
This is the fourth summer for PMP. How has the program changed over the years?
It is too surreal. I still feel like it was just yesterday when I picked up the report on the achievement gap in college. When we originally started working on PMP, we were thinking of national expansion — almost too early. We quickly learned how difficult it is to do our work and are still working to set reasonable expectations of growth.
This summer we made changes to our business model. Now we have a more sustainable fee-for-service model that works more closely with individual schools to share data and drive longer-term change. We also had the most selective college-internship process, accepting about 5 percent of the college students who applied to teach in our classrooms. For the first time, we partnered with a charter network, Friendship Charter Schools in D.C., to bring our first pilot program out there, and we piloted a program with an independent charter school in New York City.
This summer, we are also working a lot more closely with the New York City Department of Education to support the work we are carrying out in East New York, Brooklyn, and Jamaica, Queens — two of the most struggling neighborhoods in New York City.
What do you see as the program's greatest accomplishment?
This year, our first group of mentors applied to college, and there were 22 of them. Collectively, they got into 120+ universities across the United States, including Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, and NYU. Their college acceptances to some of the most competitive and resource-rich institutions is tangible validation of the impact we are having.
What has been the greatest challenge?
I am 22 years old. As obvious as it may sound, I still have a lot of learning to do. There is a long road of personal and professional development that I still have to travel down.
What have you learned about the summer achievement gap since you first read that report back at Cornell?
When I started PMP, I thought the summer learning loss was limited to the 3.5-month loss over the summer. I have since learned that teachers spend another 1.5 months teaching old material and reviewing content at the beginning of every year. Thus, the aggregate losses are closer to five months, or half a school year.