Three straight years of sharp declines in the number of applicants for its teaching corps is pushing Teach For America (TFA) to change its recruitment strategy, according to a post on the organization’s website issued by its CEO Tuesday (April 12).
Applications for TFA’s 2016 corps declined to around 37,000 students, reflecting a roughly 35 percent drop in applicants since 2013, and leaving TFA with about the same number of applicants as it had in 2009. For the nation as a whole, enrollments in teacher-preparation programs have fallen 36 percent since 2009.
In her statement, TFA’s CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard wrote, “Our sober assessment is that these are the toughest recruitment conditions we’ve faced in more than two decades.”
Villanueva Beard attributes the decline in applicants to a number of factors, including a general drop in teacher-preparation program enrollments, improved recruiting strategies by private companies, and the “toxic” policy environment surrounding K-12 education.
Striking an ominous tone, she notes,” Anyone concerned with the future of our nation should be alarmed by the staggering decline in enrollment we’re seeing across the country in teacher preparation programs—both alternative and traditional routes. The challenges we’re seeing at TFA … are emblematic of something bigger than the future of our organization.”
“Companies have become much better at marketing themselves to a socially conscious generation with rising college debt. College students set their career goals earlier and commit earlier to employers. And they’re increasingly unlikely to choose a single career for their lifetime at such a young age,” writes Villanueva Beard. “Additionally, the toxic debate surrounding education—and attacks on organizations that seek to bring more people to the field—is undeniably pushing future leaders away from considering education as a space where they can have real impact.”
Among other things, the organization plans to start engaging with college students as early as their sophomore year, instead of waiting until their senior year.
In its coverage of Villanueva Beard’s post, Education Week’s Teacher Beat blog reports:
“TFA recruiting mostly takes place during students’ senior year in college, though it does accept some as early as the junior year. Now, Villanueva Beard said, the organization will simplify its application, focus on the most promising candidates, and engage students as early as their sophomore year. She even hints that the group might attempt give interested teachers a taste of the classroom early. “Companies are shifting recruitment to ensure college students have internships and other opportunities to spend time experiencing what the job is like before they commit,” she said. “We need to do the same.”