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Social Capitalists: Teach For America

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner

Teach For America

Wendy Kopp, CEO
New York, New York
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Who We Are: Teach For America is the national corps of outstanding recent college graduates of all academic majors who commit two years to teach in underserved urban and rural public schools. Our mission is to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting our nation’s most promising future leaders in the effort.

Since its founding in 1990, Teach For America has become the nation's largest provider of teachers for low-income communities. Teach For America alumni work across the country in every sector, emerging from the corps as engaged citizens committed to influencing their local communities and resolving issues of educational inequity. Our current corps members and alumni embody our vision that one day all children in America will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education. dations, three nutritious meals a day and an elaborate support network.

What we do: At Teach For America, we believe the gap in educational outcomes that persists along socioeconomic and racial lines is our nation’s greatest injustice. Educational disparities are greater in our country than in almost any other industrialized nation. In America today, nine-year-olds in urban and rural areas are already three grade levels behind kids in wealthier suburbs. Just half of these students will graduate from high school, and those who do graduate often read below basic levels.

Teach For America is building the movement to expand educational equity by enlisting our nation’s most promising future leaders in the effort. In the short run, our corps members work relentlessly to ensure that more students from the nation’s lowest-income communities have the educational opportunities they deserve. In the long run, we build a force of leaders who, with the insight and added conviction that comes from teaching in a low-income community, influence civic consciousness from inside education and other professions. Our alumni are a powerful leadership force working to effect the fundamental, systemic changes necessary to ensure educational opportunity for all.

Over the past 17 years, Teach For America has built a network of more than 18,000 corps members and alumni. Last year, more than 18,000 outstanding recent college graduates applied to Teach For America—including nearly 11 percent of the senior classes at Amherst; nearly 10 percent of those at University of Chicago, Duke, and Spelman; and nearly 8 percent of graduating seniors at Princeton. Currently, 5,000 corps members reach approximately 440,000 students in 26 urban and rural communities profoundly affected by the achievement gap. A recent study by Mathematica Policy Research found that Teach For America corps members make more progress in both reading and math than would typically be expected. At the same time, our more than 12,000 alumni, still in their twenties and thirties, are already assuming significant leadership roles in broader reform efforts. They are running some of the most acclaimed schools in urban and rural areas, advising governors and senators on education policy, spearheading initiatives to promote economic development and public health in low-income communities, and winning the highest acclaims teachers can win. In fact, the 2005 National Teacher of the Year was a Teach For America alumnus, as was one of four finalists for the 2007 award.

Fueled by a sense of urgency to do more, we are in the midst of an ambitious plan to grow in scale while increasing our corps members’ short-term and long-term impact. Reaching our goals will provide hundreds of thousands more disadvantaged students with teachers who will make a real difference in their lives. At the same time, we will influence the quality of future civic and educational leadership and the consciousness of our country.