The Evolution of Teach for America

Teach for America alumni could bring a new approach to education reform.

Michelle Rhee, chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C., heads for a meeting with Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Michelle Rhee, chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C., heads for a meeting with Mayor Adrian Fenty.

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"If Teach for America is a drop in the bucket, then I'm seeing a big ripple," Heather Peske, a TFA alum and former director for teacher quality at the Education Trust. At the TFA alumni summit in D.C. this past spring, founder Wendy Kopp said that one of TFA's roles is to make clear paths to the principalship and to encourage alumni to run for elected office. "We're trying to take good ideas to scale," says David Wakelyn, another TFA alum and a senior policy analyst for the National Governors Association. "And that's one of the things that's so exciting about Michelle: Here is someone who's going to be working to scale."

Though nationally prominent, the District is small enough that education reformers could build momentum to create change. Susan Schaeffler says the opportunity has been a long time in coming: "Way back when we were corps members, we used to say, 'If we ran this place, if we were in charge...' And now, 10 or 12 years later, we are in charge, we are the principals, sitting on school boards, working for D.C. public schools. We can no longer turn around...we need to do it."