Teach for America Expands to Tulsa

Teach for America, a national corps of recent college graduates turned public school teachers, announces its expansion to Tulsa.
Steve Mancini, Teach for America spokesman, said Teach for America will bring 50 teachers to Tulsa’s most underserved public schools in August. Fifty more will be added in 2010 and 2011 for a total of 150 teachers in three years.
The Tulsa expansion was made possible by philanthropic commitments by some of Tulsa’s foremost foundations: The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, which donated $2 million; the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which donated $1 million; and the Williams Foundation, which donated $300,000. QuikTrip Corp. and Tulsa Public Schools also made significant contributions.
Mancini said Tulsa courted Teach for America, asking to be one of the 29 communities the organization serves, and it was because of the leadership of Mayor Kathy Taylor, TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard and the donor foundations that Teach for America saw Tulsa fit for its program.
“We want to come to places where there is a lot of momentum for education reform,” Mancini said. “Here we found a galvanizing effort for new ideas and an effort to close the achievement gap between low-income and high-income students.”
“Increasing student achievement is our number-one priority at Tulsa Public Schools, and that work starts and ends with outstanding teachers,” said Ballard in a release.
There are 6,000 Teach for America teachers working in 29 communities and 14,000 alumni. Teach for America received 14,000 applications this year and will likely accept about 14 percent of those into its program.
Corps teachers commit to two years in underserved public and rural schools. Mancini said that roughly 10 percent of college graduates who enter Teach for America states a desire to pursue a career in education, but two-thirds of them stay in education.
Corps teachers undergo a five-week training institute before entering the classroom and continuous professional development.
According to Teach for America, in Oklahoma, one in five children lives in poverty and only 17 percent of high school graduates are college-ready. Within TPS, less than half of black, Hispanic and low-income students are proficient in reading, compared to 80 percent of their white and high-income peers.
An Urban Institute study published in 2008 found that high school students taught by Teach for America teachers outperformed their peers, even those taught by fully-certified teachers. Mancini credits the corps teachers’ training.
Mancini said Teach for America will open an office in Tulsa at a yet-to-be-determined site. The organization will hire a local executive director to oversee its local efforts.
TPS will determine in which schools the corps teachers coming to Tulsa will be placed. Those sites and the teachers will be announced in May.

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