Teach For America: The Philosophy and the Facts
In a nation with a growing economic divide and declining social mobility, education is a critical path to greater equity. For too many low-income and at-risk children, however, the system is falling short. Reaching the day where every child receives an excellent education will take a community effort -- great teachers and principals and bold leaders partnering with students and families. Teach For America offers high-achieving college graduates and professionals an accelerated pathway into a field that is desperately in need of new talent and innovative thinking, particularly as baby-boomer educators retire. Studies affirm the value of our approach to recruiting and supporting first and second-year educators, but we know we must keep getting better in order to increase our impact and deliver on the promise of a quality education for all children. Ultimately, improving education is an issue of social justice and we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with hardworking educators across America who give their hearts and souls to this work in order to make a difference for children.
Below we address questions some have asked about our approach. If you have questions not addressed on this page, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
. In addition to updating this page when new information is available, sometimes we may answer a new question on our blog
1. Who do we recruit and how long do they stay in education?
We recruit professionals and recent graduates from over 400 colleges and universities who have demonstrated the commitment and leadership ability needed to teach for at least two years in low-income public schools. We provide our almost 11,000 teachers with intensive training and support which begins with a 7-week training program during the summer and includes two years of 1:1 coaching, professional development, and frequently graduate-level coursework. While only 15% of corps members considered a teaching career prior to their Teach For America experience, about a third of our 32,000 alumni continue to teach and another third continue to work in the field of education.
2. Are corps members racially and economically diverse?
Fifty-five percent of the newest corps (2013) grew up in a low income community or identify as people of color. Measured separately, 39% identify as people of color. Thirty-one percent of our alumni are also people of color. We are among the country’s largest providers of African American and Latino teachers. You can read about our commitment to diversity
and our core values
. We also work to accommodate requests from corps members seeking to return to teach in their home town.
3. Is our training and support model effective?
Our accelerated pre-service training paired with intensive ongoing support is by no means the only approach to training teachers, but a growing body of rigorous research shows corps members are, on average, more effective than comparably experienced teachers, especially in math. Between 2009-2012, statewide studies in North Carolina, Tennessee and Louisiana have concluded that Teach For America is among their states’ top preparation programs. In independent surveys conducted every two years the overwhelming majority of principals say that Teach For America corps members make a "positive difference" in their schools. Numerous Teach For America teachers have been honored as state teachers of the year and one, Jason Kamras
, was named the 2005 National Teacher of the Year.
4. Do our corps members take jobs from veteran teachers?
Our teachers apply for open positions in high-need communities based on non-binding agreements we have made with school districts. In all places, school and district officials decide who to hire for their schools. In cases where districts are reducing teaching positions, no one replaces veteran teachers; the jobs are eliminated. Teach For America recruits are no different than any other first or second-year teacher. Our approach is to bring the best possible people into the field but no one is obligated to hire our teachers. Principals and administrators decide who to hire in accordance with local labor agreements.
5. Do we create a revolving door of teachers?
Unfortunately, teaching in high needs schools in America is already a revolving door, regardless of how teachers have been prepared. Nearly half of all teachers leave the classroom within five years – with a disproportionately high number leaving from high-need schools. If more veteran teachers were choosing to stay in these schools there would be less demand for Teach For America. In fact, our teachers are more likely to stay in the classroom during the first two years than traditionally-trained teachers. Specifically, 92% of our first year teachers return for a second year compared to 82% of first year teachers in high poverty schools and 86% of all new teachers. Although we only require a two-year commitment, 61% of our teachers return for a 3rd year and a full third of Teach For America’s 32,000 alumni are still in the classroom today. Many of those who leave the classroom continue to be strong advocates for education, both within the field and outside. School leaders tell us that they value having multiple teacher pipelines to choose from. All told, Teach For America corps members and alumni account for less than one percent of America’s current classroom teachers.
6. How do we determine the corps size for a region?
Each year, regional teams work in collaboration with school districts and, in some communities, charter school partners to understand their hiring needs for the upcoming year. In any given region in a given year, corps size may grow, shrink or remain the same. Our goal is to provide quality teachers where they are most needed.
7. Who are our funders?
Funders include school systems and governments at the local, state and federal level, as well as a mix of public and private organizations and individuals. About 68% of our revenue is raised privately. Ninety-four percent of our regional operating budgets are raised in the regions in which we work. No private donor represents more than 5% of our annual revenue. Our largest funder is the federal government. Read more in our annual report
8. How do we spend our money?
We spend about $47,000 per corps member over three years, starting with the recruitment year; most of the money is spent on training, mentoring, professional development and ongoing support. For 12 years running, we have received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator for efficiency, transparency and reporting of funds, ranking us among the top 1% of non-profit organizations nationwide.
9. Why does Teach for America continue to fundraise so aggressively when you have hundreds of millions of dollars in existing funds?
TFA is an organization serving over 11,000 active classroom teachers and 32,000 alumni. We're in 35 states and 48 regions. We invest heavily to recruit, train and support people. Most of our $419 million in "net assets" is money we either don't yet have -- future grant commitments and anticipated donations -- or assets we cannot spend: office furniture, computers, etc. and an endowment that generates investment income which helps support operations. Finally, consistent with standard accounting practices, we keep cash reserves on hand to cover about three months of expenses. The bottom line is that -- like many non-profits -- we need to continually raise money in order to fulfill our mission and we are grateful for every dollar we receive.
10. Is Teach For America part of an effort to privatize public education through the expansion of charter schools and other means?
While Teach For America has a long history of working with innovative and effective charter school systems, we do not have a preference toward any one mode of school governance. In fact, by about a two to one ratio, more corps members work in district schools than in charters. Many of our district teachers and even some of our charter teachers are also dues-paying members of teacher unions. Our only focus is on helping schools be great. We do believe school leaders need significant autonomy in order to exercise leadership, and we applaud efforts to support that leadership in charters and districts alike.