Learning Lessons from Teach for America

Teach for America has made a significant impact in Indiana and in states across the country. The now nearly 25-year effort to bolster the teaching profession has adapted to changes in the education landscape and earned the support of lawmakers through proven results. Heartland reports:

As shifting employment opportunities and reform movements alter the U.S. education landscape, one organization has received steadily increasing support from lawmakers.

Teach for America (TFA) began as Wendy Kopp’s senior thesis in 1989. A Princeton University undergraduate, Kopp wanted to improve poverty-stricken urban schools by recruiting young, enthusiastic, and persistent college-educated adults into education. In 1990, 500 new college grads joined the first TFA class as teachers who bypassed traditional teacher education.

Kopp started “a Peace Corps for urban education,” said Alan Borsuk, a senior fellow at Marquette University Law School. “There was a much bigger need then for a shot in the arm for urban teaching, a lot of jobs open, and it tapped into a realistic [desire] that college grads had that they wanted to do something to help.”

Now TFA is active in almost half the states, this year supporting more than 10,000 young teachers. Donations provide 70 percent of TFA’s income, with governments picking up the other 30 percent. TFA recruits heavily from Ivy League and top-rated public universities, and was listed as one of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for in 2013. Corps members commit to a two-year stint in needy public schools.

Study Says
Teach for America has been controversial, however, because its teachers get good results from students with only a summer of teacher training before their two-year placement.

Studies in Tennessee, Louisiana, and North Carolina have found students with TFA teachers learn as much as or more than those with traditional teachers.