Teach For America

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Teach For America, Inc.
Teach For America Logo
Founded 1989
Founder Wendy Kopp
Type Nonprofit organization
Focus Eliminate Educational Inequity
Key people
Wendy Kopp – Founder and Chair of the Board
Matthew Kramer – Co-CEO
Elisa Villanueva Beard – Co-CEO
$229 million (FY 2011)
Slogan One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.
Website http://www.teachforamerica.org

Teach For America (TFA) is an American nonprofit organization whose mission is to "eliminate educational inequity by enlisting high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach"[1] for at least two years in low-income communities throughout the United States.


The organization was founded by Wendy Kopp based on her 1989 Princeton University undergraduate thesis. Members of the founding team include value investor Whitney Tilson, former U.S. Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service Douglas Shulman and Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) President and CEO Richard Barth. Since the charter corps was established in 1990, more than 28,000 corps members have completed their commitment to Teach For America.[2] The first ten years of the organization are chronicled in Kopp's book "One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach For America and What I Learned Along the Way" . In January 2011, Wendy Kopp released her second book, "A Chance To Make History", which outlines what she has learned over the last 20 years working in American education.[3]

In its first year, Teach For America placed 500 teachers. The organization received more than 48,000 applications for its 2012 corps, resulting in 5,800 new corps members in 46 regions. Of these first-year corps members, 38% identify as people of color, including 13% who are African American and 10% who are Hispanic. 23% are the first in their family to earn a college degree. Among colleges and universities, UC Berkeley contributed the greatest number of graduates to the 2012 teaching corps with 88 graduates.[4]


Three Teach For America corps members at the 2008 Houston institute.

Teach For America recruits recent college graduates and professionals to teach for two years in urban and rural communities throughout the United States. The goal of Teach For America is for its corps members to make both a short-term and long-term impact by leading their students to reach their full potential and becoming lifelong leaders for educational equity. Corps members do not have to be certified teachers, although certified teachers may apply.

Unlicensed/uncertified corps members receive alternative certification through coursework taken while completing the program. Corps members attend an intensive five-week summer training program to prepare for their commitment.[5] Teach For America teachers are placed in schools in urban areas such as New York City and Houston, as well as in rural places such as eastern North Carolina and the Mississippi Delta. They then serve for two years and are usually placed in schools with other Teach For America corps members.

Teach For America teachers are full-fledged faculty members at their schools, receiving the normal school district salary and benefits as well as a modest AmeriCorps "education voucher" (which can be used to pay for credentialing courses, cover previous student loans or fund further education during or after the two-year commitment). They do not automatically join a union, but are not prohibited from doing so. They may join union strikes even if they are not union members, at the cost of losing pay.[6]


As of 2011, Teach For America reported that more than 7,000 of its 24,000 alumni at the time were still teaching and that 64% of its alumni were working or studying in education full-time.[7]

Geographical reach[edit]

Teach For America's geographical impact has also grown. Originally serving only 6 regions, Teach For America is active in 46 regions as of the 2012–13 school year:

As of 2014, regions classified as High Priority Regions, or regions with an urgent need for Corp members are: *Las Vegas Valley, *Oklahoma, *Memphis, *Mississippi Delta, and *Detroit.[8]

Support for positive educational impact[edit]

Classroom led by a Teach For America corps member during the 2008 Houston institute

Since the founding of the organization, several independent studies have been conducted to gauge the effectiveness of Teach For America corps members relative to teachers who entered the teaching profession via other channels. Recent teacher pathway studies in three states — Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee — suggest that Teach For America corps members have a greater impact on student achievement than new teachers from more traditional certification programs.[9][10][11] Additionally, Teach For America won the largest grant out of nearly 1,700 applications to the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition in 2010. The i3 scale-up grants required applicants to provide demonstrated evidence of success through objective, methodologically sound studies (e.g., experimental and quasi-experimental research designs) of student achievement.[12][13]

In a study published by the Urban Institute and the Calder Center in March 2008, and forthcoming in the Journal of Public Policy and Management, the authors found "TFA teachers tend to have a positive effect on high school student test scores relative to non-TFA teachers, including those who are certified in-field. Such effects exceed the impact of additional years of experience and are particularly strong in math and science."[14]

Mathematica Policy Research also addressed this question in a study published in June 2004 using random assignment of students to teachers. The study compared the gains in reading and math achievement made by students randomly assigned to Teach For America teachers or other teachers in the same school. The results showed that, on average, students with Teach For America teachers raised their mathematics test scores 0.15 standard deviations more than the gains made by other students. This is equivalent to students having received one extra month of instruction. In reading, students with Teach For America teachers performed similarly to students with other teachers.[15]

According to an independent study by Policy Studies Associates in 2011, almost 90% of principals who work with Teach For America teachers reported high levels of satisfaction with Teach For America and noted that corps members are as effective as, and in some cases more effective than, veteran faculty in their schools. Additionally, 87% of principals said Teach For America corps members’ training is at least as effective as the training of other beginning teachers, and 53% found corps members’ training to be more effective.[16]

Criticism of educational impact[edit]

Teach For America has been criticized by opponents who claim that the program replaces experienced teachers with brand-new employees who have had only five weeks of training during the summer and are brought in at beginners' salary levels.[17] However, this criticism does not apply to all new Teach for America teachers as some have previous experience in education and/or advanced degrees. Also, Teach for America has responded to critics of its training program by introducing a new program that encourages juniors at undergraduate universities to complete education courses in their senior year before setting foot in the classroom.[18] John Wilson, executive director of the National Education Association, sent a memo in May 2009 stating that union leaders were "beginning to see school systems lay off teachers and then hire Teach For America college grads due to a contract they signed." Wilson went on to say that Teach For America brings in "the least-prepared and the least-experienced teachers" into low-income schools and makes them "the teacher of record."[19]

USA Today reported that in March 2009, Peter Gorman, the superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina schools told board members that because of a commitment made to the program, 100 Teach For America teachers would be retained in spite of the fact that hundreds of other non-Teach For America teachers in the district would be laid off. However, Teach For America spokeswoman Kerci Marcello Stroud says it would be a mistaken notion to say that Teach For America corps members are displacing experienced teachers. "In every region where we send teachers, we're just one source," she says. "Once they land, corps members must interview for jobs just like everyone else."[19]

Critics of Teach For America have also cited the results of Mathematica Policy Research's 2004 study as an indication of Teach For America’s lack of efficacy (see Educational Impact). These critics claim that while the study shows that students taught by Teach For America teachers perform better in mathematics than those taught by non-Teach For America teachers, the improvement is very small, and that furthermore there is no difference in reading performance between the two groups.[15][19]

A 2010 article published by Campus Progress suggested that "TFA’s breakneck training course leaves TFA teachers—or 'corps members,' as they’re called—with insufficient classroom experience, before throwing them headfirst into some of the most disadvantaged school districts in the country."[20]

In a 2009 editorial for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Deborah Appleman, a professor of Educational Studies at Carleton College, wrote "Implicit in Teach for America's approach is the insidious assumption that anyone who knows a subject and is willing to be with kids can teach – with little training." She also challenged TFA's "elitist" structure. "The story of TFA becomes a kind of master narrative, a story of heroic and altruistic young people that focuses much more squarely on them than it does on the lives of the children they are committed to serve. There is an elitist overtone to the structure of TFA, a belief that the best and the brightest can make a difference in the lives of children who are less fortunate, even when they are not professionally prepared to do so."[21]

In 2011, Kopp spoke on a Seattle radio station, saying that people often misunderstand the function of TFA. “We’re a leadership development organization, not a teaching organization,” she said. “I think if you don’t understand that, of course it’s easy to tear the whole thing apart.” Critics claim this comment shows TFA exists more to advance the career of its recruits than of the students it claims to help.[22]


Notable Teach For America alumni include:

Organizational growth[edit]

Teach For America has witnessed sustained growth over the course of the past two decades. The chart below reflects this growth by highlighting the changes in various performance indicators.[23][24]

Year # of Applicants
# of Incoming Corps Members
# of Regions
Operating Budget
2003 15,708 1,646 20 $29.8M
2004 13,378 1,626 22 $34.0M
2005 17,348 2,181 22 $38.4M
2006 18,968 2,464 25 $55.6M
2007 18,172 2,895 26 $77.9M
2008 24,718 3,614 29 $122.3M
2009 35,178 4,065 35 $153.4M
2010 46,359 4,493 40 $176.0M
2011 47,911 5,066 43 $229M
2012 48,442 5,800[25] 46 $244M
2013 57,000 6,000[26] 48

Acceptance rate[edit]

In 2010, 46,366 candidates applied and 5,827 were initially admitted, making the acceptance rate 12.6%. However, that number does not include those who earned eventual acceptance into the program from the waitlist of 932 candidates. If all on the waitlist were given acceptance, the acceptance rate would be 14.6%. Since some but not all were accepted from the waitlist, the exact 2010 acceptance rate is unknown, but it ranges from 12.6–14.6%. The acceptance rate for 2011 corps members was less than 11%.[27]

Special initiatives[edit]

Teach For America has launched special initiatives to help address urgent priorities within the education system.

Early Childhood Education Initiative[edit]

In 2006, Teach For America created the early childhood education initiative because research has shown that the achievement gap begins before kindergarten. Teach For America started the ECE program with 20 ECE corps members in the D.C. Region. As of today, nearly 300 corps members are focusing on ECE in 22 regions.[28]

So far, the ECE program has placed over 1,100 teachers in schools and community organizations across 22 regions. It has also emphasized the importance of cultivating the different social, emotional and physical developments of children by developing several different methods of instruction to accommodate all types of students.[28]

Math and Science Initiative[edit]

The Math and Science Initiative was developed in 2004 to provide students across the United States, specifically those in low income areas with more math and science teachers. In the 2011–2012 school year, according to the statistics provided by Teach For America, more than 3,200 first and second-year corps members are teaching math and science. This initiative recruits graduating college seniors, graduate students, and professionals with math, science and engineering expertise, and provides Teach For America math and science teachers with training and support.[29]

The Native Achievement Initiative[edit]

Launched in 2010, the Native Achievement Initiative was created to directly impact and address the educational inequity that affects Native children in the United States. The goal of this initiative is to expand educational opportunity in schools serving predominantly Native American and Native Hawaiian students by providing 1,500 Teach For America corps members to Native community schools by 2015.[30]

Receipt of philanthropic funds[edit]

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation was the first philanthropic organization to commit to the endowment fund with a pledge of $25 million and called upon other funders to match this figure. Three additional philanthropic donors—the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Robertson Foundation, and Steve and Sue Mandel—stepped up and each provided $25 million in matching funds.[31]

The National Honor Fraternity Phi Sigma Pi adopted TFA as its national philanthropy.[32]

Teach for America lists many of their significant contributors on their website, which includes foundations, individuals, corporations, and public and investor categories.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tenney, Garrett (10 January 2010). "Obama pal Bill Ayers calls Teach for America 'a fraud'". Fox News. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Fueling Long-Term Impact. Teach For America. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  3. ^ Teach For America (2011). "A Chance To Make History: What Works and What Doesn't in Providing an Excellent Education for All". Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  4. ^ Announces The Schools Contributing The Most Graduates To Its 2012 Teaching Corps. Teach For America (2012-09-05). Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  5. ^ TFA (2006). "Summer Institute". TFA. Archived from the original on 6 May 2006. Retrieved 29 August 2006. 
  6. ^ "Teach for America Corps Members are not prohibited from striking". Chicago Teachers Union. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  7. ^ http://www.teachforamerica.org/sites/default/files/Annual.Report.FINAL_.pdf
  8. ^ "Teach For America: Where We Work". Teach For America. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  9. ^ http://www.nctq.org/docs/TFA_Louisiana_study.PDF
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ http://www.tn.gov/thec/Divisions/fttt/12report_card/PDF%202012%20Reports/2012%20Report%20Card%20on%20the%20Effectiveness%20of%20Teacher%20Training%20Programs.pdf
  12. ^ Eligibility – Investing in Innovation Fund (i3). .ed.gov (2013-03-27). Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  13. ^ Awards – Investing in Innovation Funds (i3). .ed.gov. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  14. ^ Urban Institute http://www.urban.org/education/evaluations.cfm?page=2
  15. ^ a b Decker, Paul; Mayer, Daniel; Glazerman, Steven: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (2004). "The Effects of Teach For America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation" (PDF). MPR. Retrieved 29 August 2006. 
  16. ^ TFA (2012). "Research". 
  17. ^ "I Quit Teach for America". The Atlantic. 2013-09-23. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  18. ^ "This took Teach For America 24 years to figure out?". 
  19. ^ a b c Greg Toppo (29 July 2009). "Teach for America: Elite corps or costing older teachers jobs?". USA Today. Retrieved 2009. 
  20. ^ Eaton, Kristi. (2010-01-05) » Teach for America Dropouts | Generation Progress. Campusprogress.org. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  21. ^ Counterpoint: Why I oppose Teach for America. Star Tribune (2009-06-29). Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  22. ^ /http://www.thenation.com/article/179363/teachers-are-losing-their-jobs-teach-americas-expanding-whats-wrong?page=0,3/
  23. ^ Childress, Stacey; President and Fellows of Harvard College (2005). "Teach For America 2005". Retrieved 2008. 
  24. ^ BusinessWeek (2005). "Teach for America Profile For Young Professionals". Retrieved 2008. 
  25. ^ To Bring A Record 10,000 Teachers To Nation’s Highest-Need Classrooms In 2012. Teach For America (2012-06-19). Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  26. ^ https://www.teachforamerica.org/sites/default/files/2013-14_press_kit_updated_08_6_13.pdf
  27. ^ Johnson, Jenna. (2011-08-03) Teach for America 2011 acceptance rate: 11 percent – Campus Overload. The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  28. ^ a b Early Childhood Education Initiative. Teach For America. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  29. ^ Math and Science Education Initiative (STEM). Teach For America. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  30. ^ Native Achievement Initiative. Teach For America. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  32. ^ Phi Sigma Pi National Philanthropy
  33. ^ "TEACH FOR AMERICA: DONORS". Teach For America. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 

External links[edit]

Similar Programs[edit]

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  • Citizen Schools – Citizen Schools is an educational non-profit that operates campuses in eight states (MA, NY, NJ, NC, TX, NM, CA, IL). The organization partners with low-income middle schools to expand the learning day for students with additional direct instruction, academic support, family communication and culture building. Students participate in ten-week "apprenticeships," such as video game design, Girl Scouts, and "off-campus" programs (such as Mock Trial or Forensic Accounting) that partner students with lawyers and business leaders in their professional offices. Each apprenticeship culminates in a WOW!, a school-wide showcase where students teach back their mastery to the community.
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  • Teach First – An affiliate of Teach For All, Teach First is a UK program based on Teach For America. It places graduate students in inner city teaching positions. The scheme also gives participants the opportunity to gain a management and business qualification, through the form of a 'mini' MBA at Tanaka Business School. Teach First is now the largest trainer of teachers in the United Kingdom.
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  • Noored Kooli – An affiliate of Teach For All, Noored Kooli is an Estonian program started in 2007 and based on Teach For America and Teach First. It places graduate students in teaching positions in Estonian Schools.
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  • Teach For China – A Teach For All affiliate, Teach For China pairs US and Chinese teachers in under-resourced schools in rural China. Launched in 2008, has largely expanded capacity since.
  • Teach For India – Teach For All's Indian affiliate
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  • Enseña Peru – Teach For All's Peruvian affiliate
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  • Teach & Inspire – Backed by a Transition to Teaching grant from the U.S. Department of Education, ABCTE's Teach & Inspire Scholarship Program recruits, certifies, and supports highly effective new teachers of diverse cultural and professional backgrounds for high-need schools and subject areas. Participants are awarded a scholarship to earn certification through ABCTE's program and are eligible for a $1000 stipend. Participants must commit to teach in a high-need school and subject for three years.
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