Teach For America announced this week a record number of incoming recruits for fall placement in low-income schools across the country. 3,700 new teachers will make a two-year commitment to urban and rural public schools, almost a 30 percent increase over previous years of the organization’s 18-year history. The 2008 corps was selected from a record 24,718 applicants, many of whom graduated from America’s most selective universities.
Low-income communities nationwide urgently need enterprising teachers and leaders committed to giving all students the education they deserve. Teach For America recruits on more than 400 college campuses, seeking applicants from all academic majors, career interests, and backgrounds who demonstrate a record of outstanding achievement, persistence in the face of challenges, and a strong focus on achieving results.
Teach For America attracted a significant percentage of graduates from the nation’s top universities. At more than 90 colleges and universities, more than 5 percent of the senior class applied, including 16 percent at Spelman College, 11 percent at Morehouse College and Yale University, 10 percent at Georgetown University, 9 percent at Harvard University, and 7 percent at the University of Michigan.
“The large numbers of highly qualified candidates allowed us to increase our 2008 corps considerably over the last year,” said Elissa Clapp, Teach For America’s senior vice president for recruitment. “The applicants we select have a track record of leadership as undergraduates. The screening process is extremely rigorous because we expect so much of our corps members, both in the classroom and as alumni.”
Students Perform Better
A new study that looked at the impact of Teach For America corps members on high school students found that, when compared with non-Teach For America teachers, including those who are fully certified in their subject areas, “students performed better when they had an inexperienced Teach For America teacher than when they had a veteran educator at the blackboard.” The full study is available at The Urban Institute
Teach For America will place its 2008 corps members in 26 existing urban and rural regions, as well as three new areas (Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and Kansas City). In Greater New Orleans, where Teach For America has been placing teachers since 1990, the entering corps will number about 250, a 123 percent increase from last year.
“We are engaging in a historical effort to rebuild public education in New Orleans,” explains Paul Vallas, superintendent of the New Orleans Recovery School District. “Teach For America is providing us not only with highly effective teachers, but also building a new generation of leaders who will help bring systemic change to the region.”
Teach For America focuses on recruiting top college graduates who share the racial and/or socioeconomic backgrounds of the communities its teachers serve. Some 28 percent of the incoming corps are people of color, including nearly 10 percent who are African-American—double the African-American enrollment at America’s 400 top colleges, where Teach For America primarily recruits. Some 26 percent of the 2008 corps are Pell Grant recipients.
“Teach For America is bringing a new and vibrant generation of teachers to schools serving low-income black and Latino kids. Teachers who have a powerful command of content and the relentless commitment to help kids learn are central to giving these kids a chance to break out of poverty and develop themselves fully,” said Michael Lomax, the president and CEO of UNCF–the United Negro College Fund. “This extraordinarily talented and diverse 2008 corps are among the nation’s best college graduates and they are now doing our nation’s most important work.”
An ambitious five-year growth plan calls for expanding the current 5,000 corps members across 26 sites to 8,000 across at least 33 regions by 2010. In the 2008-09 school year, Teach For America will place its corps members in 29 urban and rural regions in more than 100 school districts in 23 states and the District of Columbia.
In addition to expanding the ranks of quality teachers for the next two years, this increase in corps members will also have a long-term effect, as Teach For America’s alumni are proving to be a powerful force in reforming public education. According to the latest alumni survey, two-thirds of Teach For America alumni are still working or studying full-time in education, including 4,000 classroom teachers. More than 300 Teach For America alumni serve as school principals or superintendents, including two-thirds of the leaders from the nationally recognized KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) and Achievement First schools. Teach For America alumni are also helping to eliminate educational inequality in other fields. For example, over 200 alumni are working in government or policy, and 14 are serving as elected school board members.
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