ETL: Wendy Kopp, Teach For America’s CEO and founder

Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders hosted a Wendy Kopp seminar 12 January 2011. We listened to the audio podcast (via our iTunes subscription to the ETL series). When we get depressed about the sad state of American K-12 public schools it is cheering to hear of the progress the Teach for America is making.

Altogether there are 20,000 in the TFA network, including 6,200 Teach For America corps members currently teaching in 29 urban and rural areas of the U.S. TFA is beginning to have some political impact because some of their alumni have committed themselves to education reform. I.e., they decided to stay beyond their initial 2-year committment. I think Wendy said there are about 2,000 alums who are working at all levels, from principals to local to state government.

TFA is extremely data-driven. E.g., their efforts to discover what makes teachers extraordinary is beginning to isolate some variables that seem to work. Wendy is frank that most of what they originally thought were the critical top-teacher properties turned out to be wrong.

One surprising statistic – Wendy said that 11% of US Ivy League graduates are now applying to Teach for America each year!

Our homework: to look into the much smaller Teach for Australia. They have 85 teachers now in two cohorts, beginning with year 2009.