Teach For America got its start in 1989 when its founder, Wendy Kopp, was still a student at Princeton University and wrote her senior thesis on inequity within America’s public education system.
Low-income kids weren’t performing nearly as well as their richer peers, she wrote, and educators couldn’t figure out how to make up for the deeply entrenched economic and social barriers holding them back. Plus, there was a nationwide teacher shortage at hand.
We needed a plan.
The solution Kopp pitched was simple but revolutionary— that is, bold, rebellious, and destined for controversy.
She would recruit top college graduates to teach for two years in needy school districts, forming a corps of smart young teachers with a passion for ending education inequality.
The schools would have more teachers available for hire, the college graduates would get an indepth look at the plight within America’s education system, and the students would get to be taught by top-notch college graduates.
She called her new project Teach For America, called her bright young teachers “corps members,” and launched TFA in 1990 with 384 recruits.
Since then, Teach For America has been lauded and admired, doubted and despised. Could it fix West Virginia’s broken education system?