Teach for America To Boost Training & Retention Efforts

For more than two decades, Teach for America has been sending bright young college grads into challenging classrooms with as few as five weeks of up-front training and expecting them to teach for two years. That’s about to change. TFA recently announced a pilot program to give an extra year of training to 2,000 college juniors who plan to join the organization after graduation. During their senior year of college, they’ll receive lessons in pedagogy, cultural competency training, and practical, hands-on experience in classroom management and lesson planning. The organization will also ramp up efforts to encourage more alumni to teach beyond their two-year TFA commitment by offering them ongoing training and mentoring.

TFA has been under fire in recent months from critics who accuse the organization of sending poorly-trained recruits into classrooms and contributing to the overall retention problem in urban schools. In speeches live-streamed from Nashville, TFA co-chairs Elisa Villanueva Beard and Matthew Kramer acknowledged that they are listening.

“With the vitriol that characterizes our public discussion of education these days, many of our most promising prospects are asking whether this is the right path for them, and wondering whether they should join this effort,” Kramer said.

Villanueva Beard made a point of saying that TFA leaders are “acknowledging our shortcomings – and are starting to work to address them.” But she also delivered a fiery defense of TFA. “We are a force for good,” she said. “We will not back down from that, either.”

It seems clear that, a year removed from founder and former CEO Wendy Kopp’s stepping down from direct leadership of Teach for America, the organization is poised to make some changes to accommodate those, both within TFA and without, who have argued that TFA should reconsider its training and support structure.

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