Teach For America
|Focus||Eliminate Educational Inequity|
|Headquarters||New York, NY|
|Elisa Villanueva Beard
|Slogan||One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.|
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." The organization aims to accomplish this by recruiting and selecting college graduates from top universities around the United States to serve as teachers. The selected members, known as "corps members," commit to teaching for at least two years in a public or public charter K-12 school in one of the 52 low-income communities that the organization serves.
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 first corps was established in 1990, more than 42,000 corps members have completed their commitment to Teach For America. In September 2015, the organization reached a milestone of 50,000 corps members and alumni, who have collectively taught more than 5 million students across the nation.
The first 10 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.
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. Uncertified corps members receive alternative certification through coursework taken while completing the program.
All corps members are required to 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.
Teach For America teachers are placed in public 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.
As of early 2015, Teach For America reported 88% of its first-year teachers return for a second year. The organization also 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. This includes more than 900 school leaders, more than 100 elected union leaders, and 250 school system leaders.
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, Capital Valley (the Sacramento area), Charlotte, Chicago-Northwest Indiana, 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, San Antonio, San Diego, South Carolina, South Dakota, South Louisiana, Southwest Ohio (the Cincinnati area), St. Louis, the Twin Cities, and Washington state.
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 the Organization
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 Policy Research 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. 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. 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. 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.
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." Another study 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.
A study conducted by Georgia's Department of Audits and Accounts in 2015 found that about 85 percent of the students taught by Teach For America beginning teachers in its state met or exceeded the state’s standards compared to 70-74 percent of those in the classes of traditional certified, rookie teachers. Only 77 percent of veteran teachers saw the same achievement in their students. The study countered the long-held belief that the organization's 5-week training lead to poor student outcomes. 
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.
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.
Criticism of the Organization
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. This criticism applies to the vast majority of new Teach for America teachers, though a small percentage may have some previous experience in education and/or advanced degrees. 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.
Teacher Unions regularly critique the organization, often times because they view the organization as a competitor. 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."
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."
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.
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."
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."
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.
Notable Teach For America alumni include:
- Gregg Costa (Mississippi Delta '94), United States District Judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
- Mike Feinberg (Houston '92), KIPP Co-founder
- Bill Ferguson (Baltimore '05), Maryland state senator
- Smokey Fontaine (Baltimore '93), An American writer, music critic and editor
- James Foley (Phoenix '96), Photojournalist killed by an ISIS militant in 2014
- Peter Hermann (New York '90), an American actor
- Kevin Huffman (Houston '92), Tennessee State Education Commissioner from April 2011 to January 2015
- Mike Johnston (Mississippi Delta '97), Colorado state senator
- Jason Kamras (Washington, D.C. '96), 2005 National Teacher of the Year
- Ezra Koenig, Lead singer of indie rock band Vampire Weekend
- Dave Levin (Houston '92), KIPP Co-founder
- Mark D. Levine (New York City '91), New York City Councilmember
- Tim Morehouse (New York '00), Silver Medal winner in the men's sabre as a member of the United States fencing team at the 2008 Summer Olympics
- Michelle Rhee (Baltimore '92), Former Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools and founder of The New Teacher Project and StudentsFirst
- Alec Ross (Baltimore '94), Senior Adviser for Innovation for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
- Zeke Vanderhoek (New York City '98), Founder and Chairman, Manhattan GMAT; Founder and Principal, The Equity Project
- John C. White (2010), Louisiana state superintendent of education since 2012
|Year||# of Applicants
||# of Incoming Corps Members
||# of Regions
°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
In 2013, the organization generated its largest-to-date applicant pool, with 57,000 people applying to the program. The organization selected approximately 6,000 of the applicants, making its acceptance rate less than 11 percent, the most selective corps in its history. Between 2008-2013, acceptance rates hovered around 11-15 percent.
Between 2014 and 2015, the organization maintained a 15 percent acceptance rate despite dropping application numbers.
Receipt of philanthropic funds
Teach for America lists many of its significant contributors on its website. The list includes foundations, individuals, corporations, and public and investor categories.
Among the biggest donors to the organization are the Walton Family Foundation, which has donated to TFA since 1993. In November 2015 the Walton Family Foundation announced a gift to TFA of $50 million over three years to support recruitment efforts and professional development for 4,000 new teachers across the country.
Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock are another big-time donor to TFA. The Rocks are listed as Champion Donors on the organization's website, having donated more than $5 million.
In 2011, 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 Mandel—stepped up and each provided $25 million in matching funds.
- Alternative teaching certification
- Peace Corps
- City Year
- Academy for Urban School Leadership
- NYC Teaching Fellows
- Citizen Schools
- Mississippi Teacher Corps
- Teach First
- Teach First Deutschland
- Noored Kooli
- New Leaders
- Emma, Caitlin (29 September 2015). "TFA’s new solo CEO embraces controversy". Politico. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
- Jacobs, David (9 December 2015). "Teach for America has been educating south Louisiana students, producing community leaders for 25 years". www.businessreport.com. Greater Baton Rouge Business Report. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
- Roy, Kathryn (26 March 2015). "Businesses investing in Teach For America". Hartford Business. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
- Raetz, Mackenzie (14 September 2015). "FSU grads fight for educational equity with Teach For America". FSU.edu. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
- "ML locals join Teach for America’s 25th anniversary corps". The Almanac. 2 September 2015. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
These women join a network of 50,000 corps members and alumni working alongside parents, principals and communities for positive change.
- 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.
- Wolfman-Arent, Avi (10 December 2015). "In Delaware, a growing number of principal prep programs". Newsworks. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
- Tamburin, Adam (8 July 2015). "Teach For America adds summer training from Lipscomb". The Tennessean. Gannett. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
- "Teach for America Corps Members are not prohibited from striking". Chicago Teachers Union. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
- "Our Impact". teachforamerica.org. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- Clark, Melissa. "Impacts of the Teach For America Investing in Innovation Scale-Up" (PDF). mathematica-mpr.com. Mathematica Policy Research. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
- 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.
- "SDP Human Capital Diagnostic" (PDF). Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- "2014 Tennessee Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs". www.state.tn.us. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- 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.
- Urban Institute http://www.urban.org/education/evaluations.cfm?page=2
- Clark, Melissa. "The Effectiveness of Secondary Math Teachers from Teach For America and the Teaching Fellows Program" (PDF). Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- Jones, Walter (10 December 2015). "Teach for America gets better results than colleges". Online Athens. Athens Banner -erald. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
Some critics warned shortcutting teacher preparation would lead to poor classroom results. This study suggests that’s not the case.
- "Teach For America's Role In Effective Educator Development: Identifying, Recruiting, and Preparing Highly Effective Teachers to Serve High-Need Students" (PDF). Ed.Gov. 5 December 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
- Eligibility – Investing in Innovation Fund (i3). .ed.gov (2013-03-27). Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
- Awards – Investing in Innovation Funds (i3). .ed.gov. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
- "I Quit Teach for America". The Atlantic. 2013-09-23. Retrieved 2014-09-15.
- "This took Teach For America 24 years to figure out?".
- Soave, Robby (12 September 2013). "Bad news for teacher unions, good news for Teach For America". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
- Greg Toppo (29 July 2009). "Teach for America: Elite corps or costing older teachers jobs?". USA Today. Retrieved 2009.
- Eaton, Kristi. (2010-01-05) » Teach for America Dropouts | Generation Progress. Campusprogress.org. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
- Counterpoint: Why I oppose Teach for America. Star Tribune (2009-06-29). Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
- Hootnick, Alexandra (15 April 2014). "Teachers Are Losing Their Jobs, But Teach For America's Expanding". The Nation. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
- Wang, Amy. "Slain journalist James Foley remembered as Arizona teacher". AZ Central. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- Childress, Stacey; President and Fellows of Harvard College (2005). "Teach For America 2005". Retrieved 2008.
- BusinessWeek (2005). "Teach for America Profile For Young Professionals". Retrieved 2008.
- Garcia, Ahiza. "Teach for America applications decline again". CNN Money. CNN. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
- Kruvelis, Melanie (18 March 2013). "Seniors vie for spot in selective Teach for America program". USA Today. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
- Johnson, Jenna. "Teach for America 2011 acceptance rate: 11 percent". Washington Post. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- Feeney, Nolan. "Teach for America Welcomes Diverse Corps After Applications Drop". www.time.com. Time Magazine. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
- "Walton Family Foundation to Invest $50 Million in Teach For America". Walton Family Foundation. 4 November 2015. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
- Howell, Cynthia (5 November 2015). "Waltons donating $50M to Teach For America". Arkansas Online. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
- Adeniji, Ade. "hur Rock: How One of America's First Venture Capitalists Does His Philanthropy". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
- "Eli Broad, others pledge $100 million to Teach for America endowment". LA Now. LA Times. Retrieved 27 January 2011.