Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Teach for America Applications Fall

Applications for Teach for America, a prominent post-graduate opportunity that places students in disadvantaged school districts, dropped nationally for the second year in a row after criticisms of the agency, though Georgetown University alumni are still well-represented in the organization.

Application totals have declined by around 10 percent compared to the same time last year. According to The New York Times, the organization anticipates its teacher corps to decline by approximately 25 percent this year, leading to the closure of two of its eight summer training sites in Los Angeles and New York City.

Teach for America is a nonprofit organization that enlists college graduates to teach in low-income communities in the United States for at least two years as a means of decreasing educational inequality by providing more teachers in weak school districts. Prior to the past two years, the program had become a popular post-graduate option for college seniors but is facing declining interest because of external factors, including an improved economy and possible dissatisfaction with the program.

Cawley Career Education Center Executive Director Mike Schaub noted that because of its relationship with community service, Teach for America has always been a popular option for Georgetown students after graduation.

“Teach for America provides our students with an opportunity to continue their commitment to service upon leaving the Hilltop. Graduates who work with Teach for America develop a unique skill set that is valuable to their careers,” Schaub said.

Schaub explained that despite the program’s popularity, the time commitment of Teach for America could deter students from joining.

“Some college students would rather not make the two-year commitment that is required of Teach for America members,” Schaub said.

Kyla McClure (COL ’14), who graduated in December and who plans on joining Teach for America in 2016 to teach high school math in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, also hypothesized that the declining interest could be indicative of a negative perspective toward teaching as a profession.

“I think it is primarily due to factors outside of the organization, namely a decreased interest in the teaching profession in general,” McClure said. “Teaching has received a large amount of media attention lately for the changes that are being made, including high stakes testing environments and in some counties large numbers of teacher layoffs. The message that this may be sending is that teaching is no longer a very stable career to enter.”

According to McClure, one of the main draws of TFA is its promise of a stable job. However, with an improving economy, students could also have more opportunities in other professions with higher starting salaries.

“As the economy strengthens and more opportunities open for graduates in finance, business and other sectors, the draws of a guaranteed job with TFA or another teaching program decreases,” McClure said.

April-Michelle Thomas (COL ’15), an incoming 2015 Corps Member placed in Newark, N.J., to teach English as a second language for K-12 and general education for K-6, agreed that salary plays a large role in deterring many graduates from the organization, but added that people may be having ideological doubts about the program, which has recently drawn social and economic criticisms.

“[There have been criticisms] such as the extremely short training window before being placed alone in a high-need classroom in an under-resourced school,” Thomas said.

She added that students could feel like they are taking away positions from more experienced teachers.

“They believe that they are taking valuable teaching positions from veteran teachers who can better serve some of the nation’s most underserved students,” Thomas said.

According to The Washington Post, an internal survey conducted by TFA revealed that criticisms of the program were a factor for 70 percent of potential applicants who ultimately decide not to apply.

Despite the criticisms, Thomas claims that Georgetown’s Jesuit tradition encourages Georgetown students to continue to turn to Teach for America as a viable option.

“I believe that Georgetown’s identity as a Jesuit institution and the values it upholds really encourages students to want to do work like TFA after graduation,” Thomas said. “I think that a large number of Georgetown students are more aware of what TFA actually is, more educated about the realities of the communities TFA works with and are overall relatively well-positioned to see past some of the criticisms of TFA to the heart of the work that the TFA strives to accomplish.”

Accordingly, Schaub said that graduating seniors at Georgetown continue to turn to service programs in nonprofit organizations, including TFA, as viable post-graduate options.

“Teach for America, Peace Corps, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, KIPP D.C. and other organizations focus on service to those who live in underserved communities,” Schaub said. “Graduates who enter these organizations develop skills such as working with diverse groups of individuals and adapting quickly to new situations that are useful in any career field.”

McClure distinguished Teach for America from the other service organizations because of the relationship it builds with its volunteers after they complete their two-year term.

“I think it is easy to conflate TFA and the Peace Corps and put them in the same general category of post-undergraduate experience, but they have very different visions,” she said. “TFA offers you the opportunity to become a lifelong educator, and invites you to stay in the movement for education equity even after you decide your teaching experience is over.”

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