Teach for America, the program that places recent college graduates in underserved schools, has seen a drop in applications for the third year in a row: applications for the 2016–17 school year are down 16% from just one year ago.
According to The Washington Post, the numbers were announced in a letter from Elisa Villanueva Beard, the organization's CEO, to supporters of Teach For America.
“Our sober assessment is that these are the toughest recruitment conditions we’ve faced in more than two decades,” she wrote. “And they call on us all to reconsider and strengthen our efforts to attract the best and most diverse leaders our country has to offer.”
In the letter, Beard assures supporters that the program will not lower its admission standards (they typically accept 10% of their applicants) in order to maintain steady levels of teachers.
Beard blamed the "toxic" debate about education in the U.S. as well as an improving economy as the biggest factors for the drop in enrollment. Since 2013, when Teach for America received 57,000 applications, to 2016, the overall number of perspective teachers has fallen 35%.
For as much praise and credit the program has received over the years, as theThe Post points out, there are equally valid criticisms: teachers are given only brief training (a five-week intensive program known as "institute" in Teach for America circles) and are beholden to just two-year commitments. Teach for America has been blamed "for creating instability in troubled schools that could benefit from sustained efforts with more experienced educators."
The organization's national office announced it was laying off 15% of the staff at its national office in New York City in February in an effort to shift more responsibilities and decision-making to 52 regional offices around the country.
Teach for America is not alone: According to U.S. News and World Report, teacher prep programs across the country—including, California, North Carolina, Texas, and New York—have reported falling application numbers since 2010.
In response to changes at the national level, Teach for America reports that beginning in 2017 all incoming New York City teachers will be trained by New York staff, as opposed to national office staff. This is part of a growing trend: 11 other local offices will handle training this year, according to a spokesperson for the organization, up from nine the year before.
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