Commentary Collection:
Perspectives on TFA in its 20th Year

Teach For America corps member Jennifer Haskell teaches math to children at Scott Montgomery Elementary School in Washington in 2007. Today, she is the managing director of programs in TFA’s Washington regional office.
—Christopher Powers/Education Week-File
In its two decades, Teach For America has dispatched more than 20,000 young teachers to work in some of America’s poorest schools and communities.

The nonprofit organization, which sprang from a thesis that founder Wendy Kopp wrote in college, now provides teachers for some 500,000 urban and rural students each year and is a major employer of recent graduates of elite colleges and universities.

TFA is celebrated by many as an innovative force in K-12 education. But critics question its short-term teaching commitments—two years—and say its recruits, though well educated and well intentioned, aren’t sufficiently prepared for the classroom. In 2011, TFA boasts of ever-more-intensive work in teacher preparation and development and of what it sees as the organization’s long-term impact on policy and practice.

To mark TFA’s 20th-anniversary year, 2010-11, Education Week’s Commentary editors sought out a variety of perspectives on Teach For America and its effects on teachers, students, and schools. For more on TFA, read Education Week's news coverage of the organization.

In its 20th year, Teach For America is working to increase the impact of its corps members in the classroom and beyond, TFA founder Wendy Kopp writes.
March 16, 2011 – Education Week

Creating systems that nurture the teaching profession is crucial to schools and TFA, Linda Darling-Hammond writes.
March 16, 2011 – Education Week

Education Week asked five leaders in the education sector to give their views on Teach For America’s past, present, and future. Randi Weingarten, Steve Zimmer, Jennifer Goldstein, Michael D. Usdan, and Michael L. Cormack Jr. weigh in.
March 16, 2011 – Education Week


Here are some of the organization’s milestones:

  • 1989 | Wendy Kopp proposes the idea for Teach For America in her senior thesis at Princeton University.
  • 1990 | H. Ross Perot grants $500,000 to TFA, which provides enough funding to launch the program.
  • 1990 | Initial corps of 500 members begins teaching 35,000 students in six regions of the United States.
  • 2007 | Wendy Kopp launches Teach For All, a global network of organizations that helps implement and adapt the TFA model abroad.
  • 2008 | Congress passes the Teach For America Act, authorizing annual federal funding for TFA.
  • 2010 | TFA corps membership reaches 8,200 teachers, who will instruct more than 500,000 students.
  • 2010 | TFA receives a U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant.
  • 2011 | TFA receives 48,000 applications, the most in its history.
  • MARCH 2, 2011 | Congress eliminates $18 million in federal aid for TFA in a stopgap spending bill.

SOURCES: Teach For America; Education Week

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