SELMA, AL - Teach For America announced Wednesday that it will expand to Alabama, outlining plans to bring 30 top college graduates to teach in some of the state's highest-need schools for the 2010-11 school year and 30 additional teachers in each of the following two years. The organization will place teachers in public schools in Selma and in Hale, Lowndes, Marengo, Perry, and Sumter counties.
The program will not take place in Montgomery County as the school board voted down Superintendent Barbara Thompson's recommendation in January.
Teach For America is the national corps of top college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years in under-resourced schools and become lifelong leaders in the pursuit of educational equity. This year's 4,000 new corps members earned an average GPA of 3.6, and 89 percent held undergraduate leadership positions. They were selected from a record pool of 35,000 applicants, which included more than 200 college seniors in Alabama.
"Providing every Alabama student with an excellent education is essential to ensuring their success and our state's future prosperity," said Selma City Schools Superintendent Austin N. Obasohan. "Teach For America will help us put more outstanding teachers at the heads of Selma's classrooms. I look forward to seeing the contributions these dedicated young people will make in our schools and in our communities."
"The most important factor in a student's education is teacher quality, which is why I am pleased to welcome Teach For America to the Black Belt," said Hale County Superintendent Frank Stegall. "I know these bright and enthusiastic teachers will do whatever it takes to help students reach their potential."
Teach For America selected Alabama as its newest site based on the state's compelling vision of how the organization's presence will help to close student achievement gaps; the existence of a feasible alternate route to teacher certification; district partners' commitment to placing a critical mass of corps members across the range of subject areas and grade levels; and community support that will enable Teach For America to fund the site in a sustainable way.
"We're looking forward to building on Alabama's ongoing efforts to expand educational opportunity and excellence for all children," said Wendy Kopp, chief executive officer and founder of Teach For America. "We are tremendously grateful for the support we have received from state and community leaders and local philanthropists. Their generosity will enable us to establish a new pipeline of dedicated teachers and education leaders for the region."
A broad coalition of supporters made Teach For America's expansion to Alabama possible. Gov. Bob Riley, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, Sen. Hank Sanders, Rep. Richard Lindsey, and Mike and Gillian Goodrich are among those who contributed strong support.
"Putting more outstanding teachers in our state's classrooms is one of the most important investments we can make in our children's future," Gillian Goodrich said. "My husband Mike and I are excited about Teach For America coming to Alabama, and we look forward to seeing the impact the organization's teachers will have in our schools and communities."
Teach For America's local certification partner will be The University of Alabama. All area Teach For America corps members will enroll with the university to obtain their state teaching certification, and they will have the opportunity to pursue a master of arts degree in teaching.
"While well over 90 percent of the teachers in Alabama have come through traditional routes, Teach For America has pioneered a quality alternative that is putting teachers in some of our hardest-to-staff schools," said Dr. James E. McLean, dean of the College of Education at The University of Alabama. "We are proud to be their Alabama higher-education partner."
Beyond their impact as corps members, Teach For America alumni continue to advocate for children and families in low-income communities as public school teachers, principals, and leaders across all professional fields. Some two-thirds of the 17,000 Teach For America alumni across the country are working full-time in education, and one-third continue as excellent classroom teachers. Nearly 450 Teach For America alumni serve as school principals or superintendents, more than 500 work in government or policy, and almost 30 serve as elected officials.
Teach For America is the national corps of outstanding recent college graduates who commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders in expanding educational opportunity. Today, 7,300 corps members are teaching in 35 regions across the country while 17,000 Teach For America alumni continue working from inside and outside the field of education for the fundamental changes necessary to ensure educational excellence and equity. For more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org.
Remarks from Local Leaders
"Alabama has made incredible progress in education during the last few years. Our innovative reforms in reading, math, science, pre-K, and distance learning have gained national acclaim, and we are excited to partner with Teach For America to accelerate our efforts to ensure that there is a highly effective teacher in every classroom in Alabama."
—Gov. Bob Riley
"It is great news for Alabama that Teach For America is expanding its operations into our state. Through this program, students will learn from some of the best teaching talent produced by our nation's top universities. It is my hope that this will be a successful partnership that will be replicated throughout Alabama."
—U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby
"I am proud to welcome one of the great success stories in public education—the Teach For America program—to the Black Belt. The young professionals who participate in Teach For America will have their eyes opened about the Black Belt, and they will see that the desire to excel and advance is just as familiar in Demopolis, Marion, and Livingston as it is in any other corner of our state."
—U.S. Rep. Artur Davis
"Educational inequity is the greatest civil rights issue facing our nation today. We simply cannot live up to our ideals of equality unless all of our children have access to an excellent education. Teach For America's talented and dedicated teachers will be a welcome addition to the efforts of schools in Selma and the Black Belt to expand educational opportunities for their students."
—Sen. Hank Sanders
"Increasing the number of outstanding teachers in Alabama's classrooms is crucial to ensuring that all of our children have the opportunity to learn at the highest level. I look forward to welcoming Teach For America's educators into our schools and communities."
—Rep. Richard Lindsey
"The most important factor in a student's education is teacher quality, which is why I am pleased to welcome Teach For America to Alabama. With its long and distinguished track record in rural and urban communities across the country, Teach For America will serve as a vital source of committed teachers and leaders working to level the playing field for students in our highest-need communities."
—Dr. Joe Morton, Alabama State Superintendent of Education
"The College of Education at The University prepares educators who improve student learning and positively impact schools and communities. Teach For America corps members are committed to improving student achievement and connecting with families and communities. Integrating our common missions will provide a powerful new avenue to increase learning opportunities for more students in some of our most challenging schools."
—Dr. B. Joyce Stallworth, Senior Associate Dean, College of Education, The University of Alabama
"It is essential to the future of our state that Alabama children receive the best education possible. I am honored to have been a part of bringing Teach For America to Alabama, and especially to the Black Belt, where I grew up and graduated from public schools. This wonderful organization will have an incredible impact on the lives of our students and make Alabama's future brighter."
—Terri Sewell, attorney
"Teach For America is coming to Alabama thanks to the hard work and vision of our superintendents, pastors, business owners, and so many other community leaders. It has been an honor working with them. I know we are all excited to see the impact that Teach For America's teachers will have on our children."
—Michael Lynch, real estate agent at Bill Mackey Real Estate