Teach for America is recruiting the best and the brightest to teach in low-income communities, writes David Gergen.
At Yale, no fewer than 12 percent of the graduating seniors — nearly 1 out of every 8 — applied. At Dartmouth and Amherst, some 11 percent did; at Harvard and Princeton, 8 percent. Hundreds more signed up at Northwestern, Boston College, the University of Texas, and the University of California-Los Angeles. Altogether, over 17,000 seniors applied for 2,100 openings.
While they volunteer for two-year stints, nearly two-thirds of the 10,000 TFA alumni have remained in education jobs, the non-profit says.
TFA alum Jason Kamras, a math teacher in a Washington, D.C., public school, was just named national teacher of the year. Two other alumni, Mike Feinberg and David Levin, founded and now run what is probably the most successful set of charter schools in the country: the KIPP academies (Knowledge Is Power Program). Started in Houston and New York, the academies have become a network of 38 schools in low-income communities that demand extra studies by students, balance that with extracurricular activities like martial arts, music, chess, and sports, and — guess what? — have achieved the largest and quickest improvement in learning around the country. No fewer than 25 principals in KIPP schools are alumni of Teach for America.