What pushed you to start Teach for America? Arghyadeep Dey, AGARTALA, INDIA
As a senior at Princeton I felt like the whole world was open to me. In our country, that's not a given. We aspire to be a place of equal opportunity, and yet where you're born determines your prospects. The only way to solve that is to marshal the energy of our most promising future leaders.
What does it take to be selected by Teach for America? Michaele Malta, ST. CHARLES, MO.
We look for people who demonstrate perseverance in the face of challenges, the ability to influence and motivate others--people who want to work relentlessly to ensure that kids who are facing the challenges of poverty have an excellent education. It's a very rare person who's ready for this. Last year about 50,000 applied. We brought in 4,500.
What are some differences between today's applicants and those who applied 20 years ago? Carrie Prehoda, AUSTIN
It's hard for me to think in generational terms because when I first started, our generation had the label the Me generation. And yet that first year, TFA shocked the country by seeing 2,500 graduating seniors apply. There has always been a group of people searching for a way to make a difference.
What makes a TFA teacher more qualified than someone from a teachers' college? Amanda Bruckbauer, SPOKANE, WASH.
We're not trying to be the only route into teaching. We do put enormous energy into understanding what differentiates the most successful teachers. And we use those lessons to inform a continuously improving program and invest in training and support so that our teachers are getting more and more effective.
After two years, TFA teachers have the option to move on to other careers. Is there a way to keep them in education? Holley Mayville, CHARLOTTE, N.C.
We have 20,000 Teach for America alumni today, and 65% of them are working full-time in education. So this experience is clearly transforming their career trajectories. At the same time, we know that some of them have to take the perspective they gain and go into law or journalism to create policies that will make it easier to effect change.
What qualities does a principal need to be a leader of a school? Aashish Parekh, WASHINGTON
In every case where I've seen a transformational school, there's a principal who really has the foundational experience of having taught successfully. They're desperately focused on building a strong team, on continuous improvement, and they don't take any constraints as a given.
How should schools deal with ineffective teachers? Kevin Martinez, LOS ANGELES
We need to do a lot more to empower our school principals around who they bring into their buildings. If teachers aren't productive, we need a fair way to move them out.
Would you make a good teacher? Veronica Riquelme, WASHINGTON
I think that anyone can become a good teacher. I don't believe that some people are born to teach. I would hope that I could throw myself into it and become a great teacher, but it would be a process, as it is for everyone.
Since TFA is modeled after the Peace Corps, would you consider extending the program to third-world countries? Tefo Goangalelwe, GABORONE, BOTSWANA
[We worked with] Teach First, our sister organization in the U.K., to create a global organization called Teach for All, a network of 18 programs around the world that enlist various countries' future leaders, which I think is more powerful than sending Americans abroad.
If the U.S. government could give you one thing to further TFA, what would you want? Brian Perfect, NEW YORK CITY
Money. We see the potential to almost double in the next five years. But to do that, we'll need to grow not only local support in communities but federal support as well.