Alabama Welcomes Teach for America

Taylor Holland

Teach for America, an organization focused on eliminating educational inequality by placing highly effective teachers in disadvantaged public schools, announced last week it will expand into Alabama.

The organization plans to bring 30 graduates to teach in Alabama’s highest-need schools in Selma, Hale, Lowndes, Marengo, Perry, and Sumter counties for the 2010-11 school year. Alabama will receive 90 of these teachers throughout the next three years.

According to information on Teach for America’s Web site, 91 percent of the students in these school systems are considered low-income, and out of every five low-income eighth grade students in the state, one is considered to have exceeded grade-level standards in reading.

“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,” said Alabama State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton in a news release. “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.”

Officials said Alabama was selected because of its vision for closing the student achievement gap and the support from many government and school district leaders statewide.

“Educational inequity is the greatest civil rights issue facing our nation today,” said Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, in a news release. “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.”

The teachers assigned to the Black Belt counties will all enroll at the University to earn their state teaching certification. They will also have an opportunity to obtain a master’s degree in teaching.

This year’s participants, mostly college seniors, have an average GPA of 3.6. Members were chosen out of 35,000 applicants, and they will begin their two-year stint of teaching in under-resourced school systems upon completion of their certification.

Once the two years have passed, almost two-thirds of the program’s alumni opt to continue working in education. Currently, the program has more than 7,300 first- and second-year teachers nationwide.

Kerci Marcello Stroud, spokeswoman for TFA, said she thinks the program’s corps members who hail from Alabama will choose to be placed in the spots in the six counties.

“Our teachers choose where it is that they want to teach,” said Stroud. “I’m sure many teachers from the state of Alabama and the South in general wish to remain there. We’ll know who is teaching where by May of this year.”