by Heather McLoed Grant and Leslie R. Crutchfield
In fewer than two decades, Teach for America has gone from a struggling start-up to a powerful force for education reform in the United States. Launched in 1989 by college senior Wendy Kopp on a shoestring budget in a borrowed office, the organization now attracts many of the country’s best and brightest college graduates, who spend two years teaching in America’s neediest public schools in exchange for a modest salary. In the last decade alone, Teach for America has more than quintupled in size, growing its budget from $10 million to $70 million and its number of teachers from 500 to 4,400. And it aims to double in size again in the next few years.1
But rapid growth is only part of New York-based Teach for America’s story. Although its success can be measured by such tangibles as the number of teachers it places or the amount of money it raises, perhaps the organization’s most significant accomplishment is the movement for education reform it has created. Although some education leaders are critical of the nonprofit’s teacher-training program, and how long these teachers stay in the classroom, using such measures misses the larger, intangible impact the organization has had. Teach for America has challenged how many Americans think about teacher credentialing, shaken up the education establishment, and, most important, created a committed vanguard of education reformers.