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Teach For America Wins $3-Million Challenge Grant

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Teach For America, the privately organized teacher corps that places recent college graduates in rural and inner-city classrooms, last week announced the receipt of a three-year, $3-million "challenge" grant from Philip Morris Companies Inc.

The grant is the largest yet received by the nonprofit group, rounded in 1989, and the largest ever awarded by Philip Morris to a single education organization, officials said.

The donation, which is contingent on being matched dollar-for-dollar by other donors, will help fund Teach For America's recruitment of members on more than 200 college campuses as well as its eight-week teacher-training program.

The funds will also support new methods of evaluation of the program and a computer system that could help the group better match the qualifications of prospective teachers with the needs of school districts, said Christine Thelmo, a Teach For America spokesman. "The grant from Philip Morris gives us a real boost," the program's founder, Wendy S. Kopp, said in a statement. "It will now enable us to do a lot of things that we have had on the drawing board."

Teach For America, which Ms. Kopp conceived of three years ago in an undergraduate thesis at Princeton University, recruits college graduates to teach for two years in disadvantaged areas plagued by teacher shortages. It has come under fire from some teacher-education experts for its brief, unorthodox approach to training teachers. (See Education Week, July 31, 1991 .)

'Long-Term Stability'

Including $1 million of the Philip Morris grant, this year's Teach For America's budget stands at $7 million, Ms. Thelmo said.

Anne Dowling, the director of corporate contributions for Philip Morris, said that the grant reflected both the corporation's goal of supporting teacher-education programs and company officials' favorable impression of Ms. Kopp's energy and ideas. "We felt she deserved a chance to institutionalize the program and get some long-term stability," Ms. Dowling said.

Philip Morris had previously given $100,000 to Teach For America, which to date has relied entirely on private- sector donations.

Since 1989, the program has placed 1,100 teachers in public schools. It currently has corps members in New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, La., and Oakland, Calif., as well as in rural areas of Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas.

Teach For America officials said last week that they expect to place teachers in Baltimore this fall and have tentative plans to expand to Washington and rural Tennessee.

In addition, the New York City- based group announced two appointments to its national staff. James L. Lerman, a former teacher, principal, and college professor, is the group's director of professional development. Leslie A. Talbot, a former project associate at the Council of Chief State School Officers, will be director of research and evaluation.

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