In 1990, after noticing extreme educational inequity in America's public schools, Wendy Kopp founded Teach For America, a national corps of recent college graduates who commit to two years of teaching in urban and rural public schools. Wendy's work has earned her a position on Time magazine's 2008 Time 100 list of the world's most influential people. Dr. Oz talks with Wendy about her book One Day, All Children..., the program's recruitment process and America's school system.
When Teach For America began, it placed about 500 teachers; in 2008, the organization placed 3,700. To find potential teachers, recruiters visit more than 450 American college campuses, Wendy says. "We look for people who demonstrate patterns of achievements in their past, have perseverance, the ability to influence and motivate others, critical thinking skills and commitment that is predictive of their ability to actually succeed," she says. Corps members go through pre-service training and ongoing professional development to learn more quickly and efficiently how to teach. At the end of the two-year program, corps members earn their teaching credentials, and about 65 percent continue to teach, Wendy says.
As Teach For America strives to find the best educators for underprivileged children, Wendy says she is discouraged that the school system does not attempt to attract and develop talent at the same level that business corporations do. She believes the No Child Left Behind Act, which aims to improve the performance of U.S. schools, represents hope and optimism, but says classrooms and school systems need to focus on the children and on closing the achievement gap. "We still desperately need more local leadership and commitment to actually ensuring that all of our kids have the educational opportunities they deserve," Wendy says.