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TFA closes New York training site, sending trainees to Philly

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Amid a low recruitment projection for 2015, Teach for America is moving its New York training institute to Philadelphia and will consolidate the two into one during the summer.

The move, first announced in a Chalkbeat New York article last month, is said to be due to declining numbers of recruits for TFA’s New York City school partners.

In a letter to TFA partners that appeared in a Dec. 15 Washington Post article, co-CEOs Elisa Villanueva Beard and Matt Kramer said that recruitment concerns extend past New York this year.

“At this point, we’re tracking toward an incoming corps that may be smaller than the current one, and because demand for corps members has grown in recent years, we could fall short of our partners’ overall needs by more than 25 percent,” they wrote.

There are now 790 corps members serving the New York school system, according to TFA’s New York website.

Ana Vargas, managing director of communications for TFA, wrote in an email to the Notebook that new corps members from both cities will be trained at an as-yet-undecided Philadelphia university. New corps members assigned to work in New York City schools and other local regions will come together with Philadelphia corps members for a five-week session in summer 2015.

“This will not impact the number of corps members staying in Philadelphia. Our New York regional office has been in operation for 25 years and will continue to stay open providing corps members to New York schools,” Vargas said.

“This decision allows us to be good stewards of our fiscal resources while still providing a strong training experience for our corps members.”

Questions still remain as to the exact number of corps members who would stay in Philadelphia next summer or how many additional members from other regions would attend the training, which Vargas said would be unknown until recruitment admissions is completed later this school year.

Philadelphia now has 150 corps members in Philadelphia schools, mostly charters. This is up from 120 when the program first arrived in 2003, according to the city’s TFA page.

Just nine of these students are in District-run schools, which largely stopped using TFA when it began laying off teachers due to budget cuts. The rest are in charters.

According to Vargas, TFA has received more than 25,000 applications nationwide, halfway through its recruiting season. She said that, so far, recruiters have met with more prospects than ever before. What has declined, and what Villanueva Beard and Kramer wrote about in their letter, is TFA’s number of unsolicited applicants. (The actual number of applicants for the 2014 corps was not released.)

Vargas said that across the board, they’ve seen a decline in individuals interested in teaching, a trend that has been further influenced by a stronger national economy and a tough education climate.

Meanwhile, the demand for “diverse teaching talent” has been increasing in TFA’s partner communities, which current projections show TFA won’t be able to match fully.

“We’ve got a ways to go in attracting the candidates our partners are asking for, and we’re going to keep working hard every day for the next few months to identify the teaching talent they need,” Vargas said.

Corrections: This article incorrectly stated that Temple University would be the site of TFA’s summer training session. In fact, the location had not yet been decided. It also clarifies that the drop in applications refers to unsolicited applicants.

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