What is Teach for America:
Part of Americorps, Teach for America is a national program for new and recent college graduates where they commit to teach for two years in a low-income school teaching disadvantaged students. The mission of the organization according to their website is "to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting our nation's most promising future leaders in the effort." Since its inception in 1990, 17,000 individuals have participated in this rewarding program.
Benefits of Participation:
First and foremost, participating in Teach for America is a service organization where new teachers can truly make a difference right from the start. Over the course of the two years of involvement, teachers recive five weeks of intensive pre-service training and then ongoing professional development for the course of the program. Participants receive the pay and benefits of a typical teacher for the region where they are working. The program also provides teachers with loan forbearance along with $4,725 at the end of each year of service. They also provide transitional grants and loans ranging from $1000 to $6000.
A Little Bit of History:
Wendy Kopp presented the idea for Teach for America as an undergraduate at Princeton University. At the age of 21, she raised $2.5 million dollars and began recruiting teachers. The first year of service was in 1990 with 500 teachers. Today over 2.5 million students have been affected by this program.
How to Get Involved:
According to their website, Teach for America seeks a "diverse group of promising future leaders who have the leadership skills to change the prospects of students...." Those recruited do not have to have any prior teaching experience. The competition is stiff. In 2007, only 2,900 were accepted out of 18,000 applicants. Applicants must apply online, participate in a 30 minute phone interview, and if invited attend a full-day face-to-face interview. The application is long and requires a lot of thought. It is suggested that applicants spend some time preparing for the application process before submitting.
Issues and Concerns:
While Teach for America is in many ways an excellent program, there are some concerns of which teachers should be aware. While according to studies including a recent one by the Urban Institute, teachers who work with Teach for America are in fact more effective than their traditional counterparts. On the other hand in terms of the experience for teachers, some new TFA teachers feel unprepared to be thrown into such a challenging teaching environment. It is important for any potential participant to fully investigate the Teach for America program and if possible speak with those who have actually participated in it.