Delaware’s TFA Story

May 17th, 2011

Category: News, Policy and Practice

This is the first in a three-part series related to Teach For America in Delaware. Click the following link to read part two written by Teach For America- Delaware Executive Director, Joe Moorman.

In the early months of 2009, it didn’t seem possible. Many warned that it would take years to launch a Teach For America site. So, our goal to have some of the nation’s top college graduates teach in high-need Wilmington schools by the start of the 2009-2010 school year seemed only a pipe dream.

Certain pieces of the puzzle were in place – there was definite commitment and support from local community and business leaders. Delaware’s congressional delegation was on board. In fact, a very strong public-private coalition of supporters for TFA had emerged, including the City of Wilmington, the state Department of Education, Wilmington University, the Delaware Business Roundtable, and local foundations.

Yet, there were still some hurdles. The strength of the emergent coalition put its weight behind a legislative initiative that modernized Delaware’s Alternate Routes to Certification (ARTC), thereby enabling Delaware to attract nationally-recognized programs – like TFA and Teacher Residency Programs – to recruit and support more of the “best and the brightest” to teach in our public schools. On April 20, 2009, Governor Markell signed this legislation.

The puzzle was coming together, but the start of school was only a few months away. So how did Delaware manage to pull it off? The clear commitment and determination of Delawareans backing this effort helped the national TFA office to fast-track the program. By this point leaders of the Christina School District, Red Clay School District, and Wilmington-area public charter schools were eager to have TFA corps members in their schools. Educators and policymakers, alike, wanted this to happen. And, true to the “Delaware Way,” their collective voices convinced TFA to come to Delaware. Seed funding was raised, with leadership contributions from the Longwood Foundation, the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, and the Rodel Foundation.

On May 27, 2009, TFA formally announced its expansion to Delaware and outlined plans to place at least 20 top college graduates in the area’s highest-need schools beginning in the 2009-2010 school year. Things were happening very quickly – the 21 Delaware TFA corps members received intensive training and began teaching, with the support of mentors, in fall 2009.

As we close out the second year of the program, 38 corps members are working in twelve schools and the Latin American Community Center, benefitting more than 2,500 students. Beginning this fall, an additional 20+ corps members will join Delaware schools.

TFA requires corps members to set an ambitious achievement goal for their students: 80 percent mastery of state standards by year’s end, as measured by in-school assessments and Delaware’s standardized tests. 2500 students in Delaware have benefitted so far, and more will in the coming years. Final data for Year One (Year Two data is still to come) demonstrated that Delaware corps members led their students to achieve, on average, 1.4 years of growth in reading and 1.3 years of growth in math on the NWEA MAP test. At the LACC, in less than 6 months, not only have TFA corps members’ 3-year-olds surpassed the year-end (10 month) achievement levels of last year’s students by over 70%, but their students also are at the same level as, or have surpassed, current 4-year-olds (last year’s 3-year-olds).

There is a lot to be excited about related to TFA in Delaware – for what it means for students today and for all of us in the future.

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Sarah Grunewald



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