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April 16, 2015

Teach for America struggling to find new teachers

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The Teach For America program, which sends recruits into under-resourced districts to teach, is facing a low number of volunteers this year.

Since its founding in 1990, TFA has sent more than 33,000 people to schools around the country. It trains volunteers, typically recent college graduates, with a five-week course before placing them in classrooms.

One reason for fewer recruits: graduating students are being pulled away from teaching to higher-paid industries, explained Josh Anderson, the Executive Director in Chicago.

“In this post-recession moment, we’re seeing, especially for top talent on college campuses, greater and greater competition for folks out there,” he said.

Robert Lee, who trains future teachers at Illinois State University, said that teaching has also become a less attractive profession in the wake of increased standardized testing.

But the program has faced criticism from educators who say that its brief training periods are not enough to prepare teachers for the classroom.

“When your larger message is, you only need five weeks to become a teacher…it oversimplifies what it is that teachers ought to be doing and what they do,” said Eleni Katsarou, who directs elementary education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

If current application trends continue, TFA will fall short of its recruitment goal, Anderson said.


Warm up questions
  1. How does someone become a teacher?
  2. What are some pros and cons of being a teacher?
  3. What kind of preparation do teachers need?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why do some graduating college students choose to join Teach For America?
  2. TFA volunteers normally teach in low-income communities. What challenges do the teachers and students in those communities face?
  3. Do you think five weeks is enough time to prepare to be a teacher?
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