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Our History

Teach For America was founded on a belief in the potential of all children and their right to an excellent education. We continue with the same bold vision today.
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1990-1994: A Movement Unfolding

In 1989, Wendy Kopp had a big idea. To address a national teacher shortage and dire academic issues for low-income kids that had not improved in a century, she knew more leaders had to commit to education as their life's work. Her plan—to recruit high-performing college grads to teach in high-need urban and rural schools—was truly innovative.

In December 1989, Wendy gathered 100 part-time student recruiters from 100 universities to begin TFA’s first recruiting season. The first corps kicked off training in summer 1990.

  • 1990


    Teach For America launches with 489 corps members in New York, Los Angeles, Eastern North Carolina, South Louisiana, and rural Georgia. Within three years, the number of corps members and of regions both double.

  • The AmeriCorps logo.


    The federal government establishes AmeriCorps, with Teach For America as one of several charter programs.

  • Teach for America corps members leading the classroom in 1994


    Corps members begin to lead their own classrooms during summer training, rather than serving as student teachers.

  • Photo of kids viewing a laptop together


    Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin (both Houston ’92) launch the Knowledge Is Power Program for fifth graders; the first KIPP academies open the following year in Houston and the Bronx.

    Students taught by the corps reaches 45,000.

1995-2000: Building a Coalition

In 1995, TFA launched its first three-year plan, prioritizing financial stability and strengthening the program. With proofs of concept emerging in regions, preparations get underway for the growth that will occur over the next ten years. During this time, a McKinsey study on the corps member selection process led to a more sophisticated approach.

  • Teach For America's National Board of Directors' first chair Sue Lehmann


    TFA creates its national board of directors, with management consultant Sue Lehmann as the first board chair.

  • Logo for Yes Prep


    Chris Barbic (Houston ’92) launches Project YES at Rusk Elementary School in Houston, which will grow to become YES Prep Public Schools.

  • Students with hands raised in classroom


    90% of principals rate corps members' teaching as “good” or “excellent” in a national survey.

  • First Day at St Johns


    An ambitious five-year plan is launched to double the size of the corps and expand to more than 20 regions.

    Students taught by the corps reaches 80,000.

2000-2013: Growing in Scale and Diversity

In 2001, the Teaching As Leadership framework was developed for corps members to assess their students’ academic growth, based on studies of the most effective corps members. In 2004, research started to prove the efficacy of our methods, including ground-breaking studies out of Mathematica Policy Research, the Urban Institute, and the Louisiana Board of Regents. Statewide studies in Tennessee and North Carolina also ranked TFA as the top teacher-preparation program in each state. 

As the demand for corps members grew, we expanded to 35 regions and launched a five-year growth plan, with help from a federal Investing in Innovation grant and a $100 million grant from four foundations to launch an endowment. We evolved our method of tracking student growth and began an analysis of our operational model, with the goal of making each region more responsive to unique community needs. 

  • Image of Julie Mikuta


    Julie Mikuta (Greater New Orleans ’91) is the first alum on record to run for and win public office, serving as an elected member of the Washington, D.C., Board of Education.

  • Bronx Graduation Image


    Students of the first corps members' kindergarten classrooms graduate from high school.

  • Image of Jason Kamras


    Jason Kamras (D.C. Region ’96) is honored as National Teacher of the Year.

  • The Teach For All logo.


    Wendy Kopp co-founds Teach For All with Brett Wigdortz, bringing our model to other countries facing educational injustices.

  • An image of Michelle Rhee with her hands clasped in front of her on a dark background.


    Michelle Rhee (Baltimore ’92) is named chancellor of D.C. Public Schools—the first large district leader who is a TFA alum. She hires as her deputy Kaya Henderson (New York ’92), who later succeeds her as chancellor.

  • Chief of Diversity Announcement


    29% of incoming corps members identify as people of color, and 23% are from low-income backgrounds.

  • Former Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education and Teach For America alum Kevin Huffman


    Kevin Huffman (Houston ’92) in Tennessee becomes the first alumnus to lead a state department of education, followed by John White (New Jersey ’99) in Louisiana in January 2012.

  • 2012

    The Collective, TFA's national association of alumni of color, is formed and debuts the School Leaders of Color Conference the following January.

    Students taught by the corps reaches 390,000.

2013-2016: Adapting to Unique Local Contexts

TFA's first regional institutes launched in two pilot regions, while additional programs also began: a senior-year training program for corps members accepted as juniors in college and extended support for alumni educators.

In 2013, Wendy Kopp transitioned the role of CEO to Matthew Kramer and Elisa Villanueva Beard (Phoenix '98), who served as co-CEOs. "EVB" became the sole CEO in 2015. 

Also, in 2013, a gold-standard Mathematica study found that corps members significantly boosted students' academic outcomes when compared to non-TFA teachers in the same school. 

  • Image of different regions in the U.S.


    Regions are given more autonomy to prepare teachers to work within specific local contexts.

  • An illustration of the United States with the words "DACA Educators" "Teacher Shortage" and "Remove The Barriers" written over top of the country


    Teach For America places its first two teachers with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. 

  • A Teach For America alumni principal observes a class of students.


    The number of alumni leading schools or school systems reaches 1,000.

  • A group of teachers walking down the sidewalk


    50% of incoming corps members identify as people of color, and 47% are from low-income backgrounds.

  • Image of people from the TFA 25th Anniversary Summit


    Fifteen thousand corps members and alumni gather to celebrate TFA's 25th anniversary in Washington, D.C.

    Students taught by the corps reaches 410,000.

Today: Innovation and Collective Leadership

  • An Expanding Network

    Serving more than 50 regions and with nearly 65,000 people in our alumni and corps member network, our focus has evolved from an emphasis on the individual to an emphasis on the network and collective leadership.

  • Growing Impact

    Approximately 80 percent of alumni report working in jobs that impact education in low-income communities, with 14,900 serving as classroom teachers and 1,350 as principals. More than 270 alumni serve in elected positions around the country, from state representatives to city council members to school board officials. Thousands more are deeply engaged in policy, advocacy, organizing, and politics. And the impact of corps members and alumni at all levels of the education ecosystem is driving meaningful educational progress in communities across the country.

“People who are part of the Teach For America community should be extraordinarily proud of what you’ve accomplished”

Arne Duncan

Former U.S. Education Secretary

Two-Year Commitment. Lifelong Impact.

Two-Year Commitment. Lifelong Impact.

Apply today to be part of the 2023 Teach For America corps!