Teach For America: Background information when reading Reading with Patrick

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Reading with Patrick

A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship

by Michelle Kuo

Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo X
Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2017, 320 pages
    Apr 2018, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis

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About this Book

Teach For America

This article relates to Reading with Patrick

Print Review

Teach for AmericaWhile finishing her undergraduate degree in 2004, Reading with Patrick author Michelle Kuo connects with a recruiter from Teach For America (TFA), which led her to teach in rural Arkansas. Each year, Teach For America places more than 5,000 pre-K – 12th grade teachers in high-need rural and urban schools across the United States through a network of 53 regional centers.

Teach For America began in 1989 as founder Wendy Kopp's undergraduate honors thesis, which articulated the possibility of creating a national teaching corps by recruiting recent college graduates. TFA affiliated with AmeriCorps in 1993. The programs are modeled after the Peace Corps and follow the legacy of John F. Kennedy who, in 1961, encouraged young Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country."

TFA recruitment is highly selective, offering placement to fewer than 15% of the more than 30,000 recent college graduates and career changers who apply annually. This compares to acceptance rates at competitive colleges. Qualities of leadership, persistence, achievement, and a commitment to diversity are likely markers of success in the classroom.

Diversity is a core value and people of all backgrounds are encouraged to apply, including those with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status. DACA was passed in 2012 to temporarily shield undocumented young people from deportation if they meet certain requirements. Those who qualify for DACA status may continue with higher education, receive employment authorization, pay taxes, earn drivers' licenses and otherwise come out of the shadows. The program is administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Intensive training is required the summer before placement; then all TFA members participate in year-round professional development activities (sponsored by their school districts and/or by TFA). The program is specifically for those who do not already hold a teaching credential, but offers fast-track certification if certain milestones are met during the two-year TFA term. TFA has been criticized for placing inadequately prepared teachers in schools, and the debate continues even while the organization grows. Other perks include full salary and benefits based on the employing district's guidelines. Intangible benefits include life-changing leadership experience, ability to make a difference in the life of a child, and building deep relationships with peers, students, mentors, and community members. TFA also offers a way to live and work in a new and different part of the country. Challenges include coping with classroom stress, disciplinary nightmares, and everyday situations related to work in high-needs schools.

Each experience is unique and the organization is dedicated to supporting all corps members to make meaningful impacts with their students – and during their future careers. More than 45,000 Teach For America corps members have gone on to jobs in education, public service, and social innovation. Others have returned to graduate and professional studies in fields ranging from business to science to medicine. The vibrant alumni network provides ongoing mentorship and networking opportunities. More than 1,000 TFA alumni have risen to become school principals or district leaders. Ten TFA alumni were recently recognized as Forbes "30 Under 30" notables.

In 2007, TFA founder Wendy Kopp launched Teach for All, with goals to expand student access to quality education globally.

Can a single person make a difference? Teach For America is a highly-respected program that – not without controversy – is dedicated to creating access to an excellent public school education for all children. One teacher at a time.

This "beyond the book article" relates to Reading with Patrick. It originally ran in August 2017 and has been updated for the April 2018 paperback edition.

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