Teach For America won’t be coming to Richmond in 2015-2016 after all

by | Apr 9, 2015 | POLITICS

Today we learned that Teach For America has decided not to come to Richmond for the 2015-2016 school year. In a story for The Collegian, the University Of Richmond’s student newspaper, Caroline Utz reports that the 30 Teach For America recruits that were previously planned to make up around 10% of Richmond Public Schools’ new-hire workforce for the upcoming school year will not be available.


Today we learned that Teach For America has decided not to come to Richmond for the 2015-2016 school year. In a story for The Collegian, the University Of Richmond’s student newspaper, Caroline Utz reports that the 30 Teach For America recruits that were previously planned to make up around 10% of Richmond Public Schools’ new-hire workforce for the upcoming school year will not be available.

“Sadly, given the demands for teaching corps members by Teach For America’s current partners, as well as our recruitment projections, Teach For America’s national leadership has determined that it would not be responsible or feasible for us to continue to pursue expanding into new sites, including Richmond, over the next two to three years,” said Eva Colen, Teach For America’s Community Engagement Director for Virginia, in an email to The Collegian.

A shortage of qualified teachers has plagued Richmond Public Schools for years, and the initiative to bring Teach For America to Richmond was begun in 2012 as a way to alleviate this issue. Teach For America, a program that brings standout college graduates to teach at schools in high-poverty areas for two years, was introduced as a possible solution to the local teacher shortage, and the Teach For America Act, passed by the state legislature during the 2013 General Assembly session and made into law on July 1, 2013, paved the way to bring the organization to Richmond.

However, Teach For America’s recruitment efforts have had less success this year than in past years, with overall recruitment down 12 percent from last year. “The unfortunate reality is that in school year 2015-2016, we will likely be falling short of our current partners’ demands by around 25 percent,” Colen told The Collegian. “Along with other teacher preparation programs, we are experiencing a difficult recruitment environment with multiple contributing factors, including an improving economy that has led prospects to turn away from public service and toward fields they perceive as more financially stable.”

This news will not be entirely unwelcome here in Richmond, though; as we reported in 2013, not everyone involved in the issue locally saw Teach For America as an ideal solution. Shonda Harris-Muhammed, who represents the 6th district on the Richmond School Board, had this to say to RVA Magazine in 2013: “One of the things that I have learned as a classroom teacher, as an assistant principal, as a former central office supervisor, is that you cannot change the district until you change the culture in the district. So whatever entity you bring in to implement change, the change must begin within the system. And we have not begun to have those conversations about how we’re going to fix what is going on within the culture of the system.”

Likewise, Dr. Jacqueline McDonnough, associate professor at the VCU School of Education, pointed out to The Collegian that some of Teach For America’s methods are seen as less than ideal within the field of education studies. “They’re getting more and more information at how damaging it is to schools with teachers who are cycling in and out with two years,” McDonnough told The Collegian. “I would like to see more energy into keeping the teachers we have in our classrooms currently.”

Regardless of the ultimate fate of the Teach For America program, though, it seems Richmond Public Schools will still face an ongoing teacher shortage in the 2015-2016 school year.

Read the full article from the Collegian here.

Read our 2013 article about the pros and cons of bringing Teach For America to Richmond here.

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.




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