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

TFA Head Calls for School Reform

Teach For America Founder and CEO Wendy Kopp stressed the need to restructure the American public school system to a packed Copley Formal Lounge in an informal discussion Wednesday night.

“There is something daunting about that, but it’s why people who have figured out how to build whole schools that are much more sustainable give me hope,” she said.

The event, organized by the Center for Social Justice, was moderated by Jane Genster, Senior Counselor to the President and the Interim Executive Director of the CSJ.

The TFA founder visited the university in order to support student interest in the program and push for more recruitment from Georgetown.

“I’m interested in hearing where Georgetown grads minds are … to recruit all the more of them,” Kopp said in an interview with The Hoya.

Kopp’s passion for education began in college, when she proposed the idea of Teach For Today in her senior thesis.

“I somehow got into Princeton without realizing the depth of education inequity in this country,” she said.

The educational disparities across the United States became apparent to Kopp as she watched her freshman-year roommate, who attended high school in the Bronx, N.Y., struggle academically after inadequate schooling.

Kopp argued that fixing the American school system is crucial to reducing low urban graduation rates and providing better educational opportunities.

“These kids are showing up at schools that really were not built to meet their needs,” she said. “What you have to do with kids in that context takes super-heroic efforts.”

Kopp suggested a new mission for schools: that all students will be prepared for college. She believes this can be achieved through creating a culture that fosters passion for one’s education and provides extra academic assistance. She also called for the development of more charter schools, which she credited with giving students the tools for future success through their intensive structure.

Kopp focused on the importance of investment in the development of TFA teachers and the recruitment of well-qualified teachers, particularly those who share the ethnic and economic backgrounds of their students.

“When you do share their backgrounds, there is a potential power with that,” she said.

She challenged the perception that TFA volunteers are quick to become discouraged and that few become teachers as their permanent career.

“I actually don’t think it would be accurate to say that our people burn out,” she told The Hoya. “It’s a challenging experience, but it’s a motivating experience.”

Kopp argued that many students who leave the program choose other means to address problems in the educational system.

“There is really something indispensable about teaching in this context to creating change later on,” she said. “What we essentially need in the end is leaders in all of our schools, and in all levels of policy and in all sectors who know what you know after time in these schools.”

Students who attended appreciated the opportunity to better understand the problems in the American education system and pose their personal questions to Kopp.

“What she talked about was applicable for us in what we need to do to make this a better country,” Christine Park (COL ’12) said. “Basically, she laid out what’s wrong and where we come in.”

The members of TFA have a serious impact in their individual schools, but there is more work to be done, according to Kopp.

“The real question at the end of the day is: Are we changing the system?” she said. “It’s definitely too early to claim victory to that. Render no illusion that we can do that alone.”

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