By Monica Higgins, Wendy Robison, Jennie Weiner and Frederick Hess
Question: What do former D.C. Public Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, KIPP Academy cofounders Mike Feinberg and David Levin, and Colorado state senator (and author of that state’s nationally noted teacher-quality legislation) Mike Johnston have in common? Answer: They’re all alumni of Teach For America.
While much of the debate around Teach For America (TFA) in recent years has focused on the effectiveness of its nontraditional recruits in the classroom, the real story is the degree to which TFA has succeeded in producing dynamic, impassioned, and entrepreneurial education leaders. From its inception as Wendy Kopp’s senior thesis project at Princeton more than two decades ago, TFA has sought to bring more teaching talent to some of the nation’s most disadvantaged communities and create a corps of change agents like Rhee, Feinberg, Levin, and Johnston. How well has TFA fared on that second score? Here, in a new line of research, we seek to answer that question.
Since its founding in 1989, TFA has placed more than 24,000 high-achieving college graduates in some of America’s neediest schools. This has produced an alumni network populated by impassioned former educators. TFA aims, proclaims the web site, to turn these alumni into “lifelong leaders for fundamental change, regardless of their professional sector.” Its efforts include keeping close connections with alumni and providing a variety of opportunities to volunteer at schools, join education-oriented political campaigns, advocate, and connect with a wide-reaching education network. (Read the complete article in Education Next)