How to Improve Education in a Recession
Wendy Kopp proposed the creation of Teach For America in her undergraduate senior thesis in 1989 and has spent the last 19 years working to sustain and grow the organization. In the 2008-2009 school year, more than 6,200 corps members are teaching in our country's neediest communities, reaching approximately 400,000 students. They join more than 14,000 Teach For America alumni who—still in their 20s and 30s—are already assuming significant leadership roles in education and social reform. Under Kopp's leadership, Teach For America is in the midst of an effort to grow to scale while maximizing the impact of corps members and alumni as a force for short- and long-term change. Kopp also serves as the chief executive of Teach For All, which is supporting the development of Teach For America's model in other countries. She is the author of One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach For America and What I Learned Along the Way, and holds a bachelor's degree from Princeton University, where she participated in the undergraduate program of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Question: How is the recession affecting education?Wendy Kopp: I would say, this recession, as many challenges as it does present, presents an incredible opportunity for education and education reform.
As a small microcosm of that, Teach For America’s applications are up well over 50% what they were last year , and this will be the first year  in our history where recruitment has not been the constraint on our growth. We could place many more people than we could ever even muster the organizational capacity to place at this juncture.
And the reason I say that’s an opportunity, I think anyone in education reform would say that talent and leadership is--it’s the constraint and it is the enabler. Where we see transformational change for kids happening, it’s in the hands of incredible teachers, incredible school leaders, etc.
I hope our country, and we’re doing everything we can to make this the case, realizes that as many challenges as we have in this environment, we do have this incredible opportunity to channel just unprecedented talent and energy against what I really believe is our country’s greatest injustice; and honestly, if we’re worried about the long term economic competitiveness of our country and all, the first thing we should do is focus on education.
I really believe this is a time of enormous opportunity. There are certainly enormous challenges.
Districts are already grappling with huge budget cuts. There are many challenges to navigate. But I think we need to, hopefully, as a country, we’re keep our eye on the incredible opportunities we have .
As with everything, we’ll have to prioritize where we invest; and I think this is the time to invest in education.
Recorded Dec 18, 2008.
Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp insists education will be the long-term solution to dealing with economic downturn.
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