Teach for America Names Members

Several seniors who applied early to the Teach for America program had cause to celebrate when the first batch of decisions was announced yesterday—one of three waves of acceptances that will be released throughout the year.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” said Alex B. Lipton ’11, a psychology concentrator who was placed in San Francisco to teach high school English. He said he plans to accept the offer.

The large number of early applications submitted by Harvard seniors is not surprising, said TFA campus recruiter Anasstassia Baichorova. “A lot of Harvard students start thinking about what they want to do and how they want to make an impact very early,” Baichorova said.

Although applying early does not increase an applicant’s odds of success, Baichorova said it may confer a sense of security to the applicant. “Early applications give advantage to students who want to know where they’re going after graduation,” she said.

Elizabeth J. Newton ’11, a Social Studies concentrator who had submitted her application at the end of summer, said she applied early to ease the stress of her senior year. “It’s a comfort to know that I have the next two years of my life squared away,” said Newton, who was assigned to teach in Mississippi.

According to data compiled by the Office of Career Services, 19 percent of the Class of 2010 applied to the program last year. OCS Director Robin Mount attributes the popularity of TFA among Harvard students to their desire to bring change to “a system that hasn’t frankly changed that much since the turn of the [20th] century,” said Mount.

“Many people are thinking it’s time for new ideas,” she said. TFA, which accepts students regardless of their intended career paths, has been criticized for grooming two-year teachers rather than training lifelong educators.

Indeed, only one in six participants profess a long-term desire to teach, according to Baichorova. But she said that the goal of TFA is not to recruit permanent classroom teachers. “TFA isn’t a teacher placement program,” she said. “We’re trying to close the achievement gap, and it will take leaders from all fields—business, law, medicine—to do that.”

Baichorova added that 65 percent of participants have remained in education-related fields. Mount said students should remember that TFA is not the only pathway to pursue a career in education, citing alternative programs such as Teach for India, Citizen Schools, MATCH Corps, and Uncommon Schools.

“There are a lot of really great programs out there,” she said. “TFA is just one way of infusing energy and enthusiasm into the education system.”