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
Headquarters New York, NY
Key people
Elisa Villanueva Beard
$321 million
(FY 2014)
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 a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is to "enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation's most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence."[1] The organization aims to accomplish this by recruiting and selecting college graduates to teach 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 42,000 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]


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 summer training program to prepare for their commitment. Details vary by region, but typically include a five-day regional introduction, a five to seven week residential institute, including teaching summer school, and one to two weeks of regional orientation.[4] 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.[5]


As of early 2015, Teach For America reported 88% of its first-year teachers return for a second year.[6] In February 2015, the organization reported that more than 11,000 of its more than 37,000 alumni at the time were still teaching and that 65% of its alumni were working full-time in education. Additionally, the organization reported that 84% of its alumni were working full-time in roles impacting education or low-income communities.[7] This includes more than 900 school leaders, more than 100 elected union leaders, and 250 school system leaders.

Geographical reach[edit]

Teach For America's geographical impact has grown significantly over the past 25 years. Originally serving only six regions, Teach For America is active in 52 regions as of the 2015–16 school year. The 52 regions are: Alabama, Appalachia, Arkansas, Baltimore, the Bay Area, Buffalo, Charlotte, Chicago, Colorado, Connecticut, Dallas-Ft. Worth, the D.C. Region, Delaware, Detroit, Eastern North Carolina, the Greater Nashville area, the Greater New Orleans-Louisiana Delta area, the Greater Philadelphia area, Hawai'i, Houston, Idaho, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, the Las Vegas Valley, Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Memphis, the Metro Atlanta area, the Miami-Dade area, Milwaukee, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York City, the North Carolina Piedmont Triad area, Northeast Ohio (the Cleveland area), Oklahoma, Orlando, Phoenix, Rhode Island, the Rio Grande Valley, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, South Carolina, South Dakota, South Louisiana, Southwest Ohio (the Cincinnati area), St. Louis, the Twin Cities, and Washington state.[8]

For the 2016 application season, five regions were classified as "High Priority Regions," or regions with an urgent need for corp members. The five regions are: the Las Vegas Valley, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Eastern North Carolina, and Northeast Ohio (the Cleveland area).

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. Most prominently, a 2015 Mathematica study found that Teach For America teachers produce 1.3 months of extra reading gains in pre-K through second grade classrooms when compared to non-TFA teachers in the same elementary schools. The same study also found that Teach For America teachers across 10 states are as effective as other teachers in math and reading.[9] A separate study by the Calder Center and the American Institutes for Research found that Teach For America teachers provide students in Miami with the equivalent of 3 additional months of math instruction, according to analyses of test score data from state-mandated tests.[10] The Harvard Strategic Data Project found in 2012 that Teach For America teachers in Los Angeles Unified School District produce 1-2 extra months of English and math learning outcomes relative to the gains produced by other novice teachers.[11] Recent studies in North Carolina and Tennessee suggest that Teach For America is consistently the most effective source of new teachers in the two states, according to studies that looked at student achievement across a variety of subjects and grade levels across the states.[12][13]

Research over the years have supported these recent findings. In a study by the Urban Institute and the Calder Center in March 2008, published 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.[15] Another student by Mathematica in 2013 found that students of Teach For America teachers - across eight states - learn 2.6 more months of secondary math compared to students taught by non-TFA teachers.[16]

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.[17][18]

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.[19]

Criticism of educational impact[edit]

Teach For America has been criticized by opponents who claim the program replaces experienced teachers with brand-new employees who have had only five weeks of training during the summer, which are brought in at beginners' salary levels.[20] This criticism applies to the vast majority of all new Teach for America teachers, though a small percentage may have some 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.[21] 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."[22]

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."[22]

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][22]

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."[23]

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."[24]

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.[25]


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.[27][28]

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 4,039 35 $149M
2010 46,359 4,485 40 $193M
2011 47,911 5,031 43 $229M
2012 48,442 5,800[29] 47 $294M°
2013 57,266 5,961[30] 48 $239M
2014 50,276 4,500[31] 50 $321M
2015 44,181 4,100[32] 52

°FY 2013 was a shortened fiscal year as Teach For America shifted to a fiscal year based on the school year. FY 2013 began 10/1/2012 and ended 5/31/2013. Beginning in FY 2014, the fiscal year began June 1 and concluded May 31 of the following year

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%.[33]

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.[34]

The National Honor Fraternity Phi Sigma Pi adopted TFA as its national philanthropy.[35]

Teach for America lists many of their significant contributors on their website, which includes foundations, individuals, corporations, and public and investor categories.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]. Teach For America. Retrieved on 2015-08-07.
  2. ^ name="FSU grads fight for educational equity with Teach For America">[2]. FSU News. Retrieved on 2015-11-2.
  3. ^ Wendy Kopp (2011). "A Chance To Make History: What Works and What Doesn't in Providing an Excellent Education for All". Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Attending Summer Institute | Teach For America". Teach For America. Retrieved 2015-10-02. 
  5. ^ "Teach for America Corps Members are not prohibited from striking". Chicago Teachers Union. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  6. ^ "On The Record". teachforamerica.org. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  7. ^ "Our Impact". teachforamerica.org. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  8. ^ "Where and What You'll Teach". teachforamerica.org. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Clark, Melissa. "Impacts of the Teach For America Investing in Innovation Scale-Up" (PDF). mathematica-mpr.com. Mathematica Policy Research. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  10. ^ Hansen, Michael. "Examining Spillover Effects from Teach For America Corps Members in Miami-Dade County Public Schools". caldercenter.org. Calder National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  11. ^ "SDP Human Capital Diagnostic" (PDF). Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  12. ^ "2014 Tennessee Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs". www.state.tn.us. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  13. ^ Henry, Gary (January–February 2014). "The Effects of Teacher Entry Portals on Student Achievement". Journal of Teacher Education 65 (1): 7–23. doi:10.1177/0022487113503871. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  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.  External link in |work= (help)
  16. ^ Clark, Melissa. "The Effectiveness of Secondary Math Teachers from Teach For America and the Teaching Fellows Program" (PDF). Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  17. ^ Eligibility – Investing in Innovation Fund (i3). .ed.gov (2013-03-27). Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  18. ^ Awards – Investing in Innovation Funds (i3). .ed.gov. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  19. ^ TFA (2012). "Research". 
  20. ^ "I Quit Teach for America". The Atlantic. 2013-09-23. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  21. ^ "This took Teach For America 24 years to figure out?". 
  22. ^ a b c Greg Toppo (29 July 2009). "Teach for America: Elite corps or costing older teachers jobs?". USA Today. Retrieved 2009. 
  23. ^ Eaton, Kristi. (2010-01-05) » Teach for America Dropouts | Generation Progress. Campusprogress.org. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  24. ^ Counterpoint: Why I oppose Teach for America. Star Tribune (2009-06-29). Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  25. ^ /http://www.thenation.com/article/179363/teachers-are-losing-their-jobs-teach-americas-expanding-whats-wrong?page=0,3/
  26. ^ Wang, Amy. "Slain journalist James Foley remembered as Arizona teacher". AZ Central. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  27. ^ Childress, Stacey; President and Fellows of Harvard College (2005). "Teach For America 2005". Retrieved 2008. 
  28. ^ BusinessWeek (2005). "Teach for America Profile For Young Professionals". Retrieved 2008. 
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ https://www.teachforamerica.org/sites/default/files/2013-14_press_kit_updated_08_6_13.pdf
  31. ^ https://www.teachforamerica.org/press-room/press-releases/2014/teach-america-fields-largest-teacher-corps-its-20-year-history
  32. ^ https://www.teachforamerica.org/about-us/media-resources/news-releases/teach-america-welcomes-25th-anniversary-corps-bringing-its
  33. ^ Johnson, Jenna. (2011-08-03) Teach for America 2011 acceptance rate: 11 percent – Campus Overload. The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  35. ^ Phi Sigma Pi National Philanthropy
  36. ^ "TEACH FOR AMERICA: DONORS". Teach For America. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 

External links[edit]