Thursday, October 25, 2007

Great Expectations: Why big donors back Teach for America

An interesting article about Teach for America:

That kind of thinking has paid off. This year's 2,900 new teachers were picked from 18,172 applicants—an acceptance rate of only 17 percent.  Ninety-eight percent of those accepted chose to join the program, a remarkably high "yield," and the corps members are steadily more  impressive <>  than they were before. But the goal isn't to attract the  teachers who were the best college students, it's to pick the ones who will be  most effective in the classroom. Comparing its reasons for selecting corps  members to their performance as teachers, TFA refines its selection methods  based on what it learns by cross-referencing. The organization's goal is really to improve performance and the likelihood that its corps will stay committed.
Which gets to a number that regularly raises eyebrows, though no academic  study has challenged it frontally: the scale of the would-be movement. While  TFA is careful to say the number is based on an extrapolation from the  three-fifths of former corps members who responded to a questionnaire, it  reports that 67 percent of its alums, or more than 8,000 people spanning 15  years, remain in education—half as teachers, the others in various roles. At  last count, 285 were running schools as principals. In three networks of  charter schools that are especially effective in serving low-income  students—Achievement First; Uncommon Schools; and the Knowledge is Power  Program, founded by two TFA alums -- 60 percent of the principals are TFA alumni.  TFA alums are also spread through  the  administration of the Washington, D.C., school district.
What makes TFA so influential, Heather McLeod Grant and Leslie R. Crutchfield explain in the Stanford Social Innovation Review , is this kind of  leverage.


Philanthropy: Who's giving, who's getting.
Great Expectations: Why big donors back Teach for America.
By Lincoln Caplan
Updated Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, at 7:30 AM ET

"The Mother Theresa of U.S. Preppie Do-Gooders," a blogger recently styled Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America. It's Teresa, actually, and Kopp went to public school in Dallas, not to Groton, but the 40-year-old is definitely an icon of the Gen Y quest for meaning. In the nonprofit world, and increasingly outside it, the story of Kopp and TFA twinkles like a fable. It's about "one naive college kid with a big idea," as Kopp said in her 2001 book, One Day, All Children … <> .

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