People may not agree on whether Teach For America is a positive or negative phenomenon in our education landscape. But no one can dispute that TFA makes an impact on US public education.
I’ve described the breadth of TFA’s network and the depth with which it works to solve our nation’s education problem. I of course don’t think TFA is alone in doing this work. There are many other people with the same mindset towards solving this problem. It’s great.
But I was pleasantly surprised to see that TFA’s impact extends far beyond the ~100,000 public schools that span the 50 states (and DC). It spreads around the world.
No matter how committed I am to education in the United States, I cannot forget my “roots.” I spent less than a third of my K-12 education here. Most of my time abroad, I attended American and/or international schools.
As a result, I try to stay abreast of the goings-on overseas. In connecting with my former teachers and classmates, I am able to get the foreigner’s–or, at least, the expatriate’s–perspective on American education. For the most part, people abroad view TFA and its model favorably.
There are some obvious examples of international success. Teach First in the UK is a program directly modeled off of TFA. It aims to do exactly the same thing as TFA, in almost exactly the same way. Then there’s Teach For All, which is the umbrella organization for TFA’s efforts to spread its philosophy globally (I’m not sure what the “official” relationship is between TFA and Teach For All, but I know that both were founded by Wendy Kopp, the former in 1990 and the latter in 2007).
But hidden behind the media coverage of these “high-profile” examples are some inconspicuous examples of TFA’s influence. One of my middle school friends from my Tokyo days recently pointed me towards this article in a major national paper, about 27-year-old Yusuke Matsuda, a man who was inspired to create a program modeled off of TFA in Japan (note: the article is filled with journalistic errors–it’s a reputable paper but their English-language reporting is weak).
Finally, perhaps the most subtle influence is when I heard from my father that a colleague from Seoul was opening up a school network serving middle school children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The founder had been informally examining various education service and reform movements from around the world and had been particularly inspired by TFA. It was his unofficial “benchmark.” He opened the first three schools in Seoul this year.
These examples highlight the influence–both “official” and “unofficial”–that TFA is having on the global educational landscape. Wendy Kopp’s good work has started a strong trend in ensuring that one day all children worldwide will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education. I think this demonstrates the positive “spillover” effect created by TFA.