Teacher Preparation

Teach For America Facing Recruitment Challenges

By Stephen Sawchuk — December 15, 2014 1 min read
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Teach For America could have a smaller corps in its coming year due to recruitment challenges, potentially falling short of placement demand by 25 percent, the organization said in a letter sent to its partner school districts this weekend.

Last year’s corps numbered 5,300 teachers who work in 50 different regions through the United States.

The decline roughly parallels that seen in enrollments in traditional teacher-preparation programs, and the organization attributes the decline to many of the same causes: a fractious narrative about public education and the teaching profession, the economic recovery, and concerns about teacher pay.

“We’ve felt some of this same polarization around TFA,” co-CEOs Elisa Villanueva-Beard and Matt Kramer write in the letter. “At the same time, the broader economy is improving and young people have more job options than in recent years.”

The immediate fallout: TFA will shutter its New York and Los Angeles Institutes (the summer sites where the group’s intensive five-week training occurs), and teachers working in those regions will be trained at other Institutes. What’s less clear is how potential recruitment shortages will affect numbers in particular regions. Chalkbeat NY reports that the corps in New York will likely be smaller. But TFA officials said its demand has increased in other regions—so, despite a national dip, some could still see growth in corps members.

The group says it will redouble efforts to recruit candidates and is asking its partners to get the word out through social media, newsletters, and editorials.

A TFA spokeswoman said the organization has actually met with 20 percent more applicants than this time last year, but “spontaneous” applicants—those from folks who haven’t been recruited or don’t otherwise have a connection to the organization—are down.

The organization says it won’t lower the bar on its selective-admissions model in order to get more candidates. It also reports that so far its applicant pool is even more diverse than it was last year, when half of recruits identified as people of color.

It probably goes without saying that critics of the organization, who contend that five weeks of training isn’t enough for teachers, and that the organization’s two-year service commitment contributes to high levels of turnover in poor schools, won’t necessarily be heartbroken by the idea of a smaller corps.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.