Teach for America Alumni Overrepresented in Entrepreneurial Ventures




Janice B. Riddell, (203) 912-8675, jriddell66@earthlink.net, Education Next
Monica Higgins, (617) 645-1173, monica_higgins@gse.harvard.edu
Frederick M. Hess, rhess@aei.org

CAMBRIDGE, MA –A new study examining the work history of leaders of entrepreneurial organizations in education finds a common element on the resume of many of those leaders: Teach for America.

Teach for America (TFA) was launched by Wendy Kopp in 1989 with two goals: bringing more teaching talent to the nation’s most disadvantaged schools and creating a corps of leaders and change agents to eliminate educational inequity. Since then, TFA has placed more than 24,000 college graduates in teaching positions in some of America’s neediest schools.  The majority of research on TFA has investigated how effective those teachers are in the classroom and how long they remain as teachers. The new study attempts to determine whether TFA corps members who do not remain in the classroom have gone on to become change agents in the field of education.

The study, “Creating a Corps of Change Agents: What explains the success of Teach for America?” by Monica Higgins, Frederick M. Hess, Jennie Weiner, and Wendy Robison, will appear in the Spring 2011 issue of Education Next and is now available at www.educationnext.org.

For the study, the authors used methods that have been applied in research on “entrepreneurial spawning” in other sectors. They identified a group of 49 entrepreneurial organizations within the education sector and then traced the work histories of the founders and the members of the current management team of each organization.  A workplace that appears frequently in these work histories is termed an “originating organization,” or a spawner of entrepreneurial leaders

Researchers found that Teach for America appeared the most frequently as an originating organization for founders of entrepreneurial organizations, beating out the San Francisco Public Schools, Newark Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, AmeriCorps, the White House Fellows program, McKinsey and Company, and the U.S. Department of Education.  Teach for America appeared in the work history of at least one founder of 7 of the 49 entrepreneurial organizations. The other organizations appeared in the work history of at least one founder of only 2 of the 49 entrepreneurial organizations.

Teach for America also stood out in the work histories of members of the management teams at the 49 entrepreneurial organizations. Fourteen of the 49 organizations had at least one member of the management team who was once a TFA corps member or employee, beating out the New York City Public Schools (10 organizations), KIPP (9 organizations), and Andersen Consulting (7 organizations).

Researchers found that TFA alumni who serve on the management team of entrepreneurial organizations  are most likely to take on roles closely related to instruction and staffing, and that TFA alumni with work experience in New York City and San Francisco are especially likely to become top managers in entrepreneurial organizations.

For more, please see “Creating a Corps of Change Agents: What explains the success of Teach for America?” by Monica Higgins, Frederick M. Hess, Jennie Weiner, and Wendy Robison, in the Spring 2011 issue of Education Next, and available online at www.educationnext.org.

In “Teach for America’s Entrepreneurial Alumni,” a video that accompanies the study, Veronica Nolan and Stephanie Saroki explain what inspired them to lead entrepreneurial education organizations after teaching with Teach for America. The video is also available at www.educationnext.org.

About the Authors
Monica Higgins is professor of education at the Harvard Grad­uate School of Education and author of Career Imprints: Cre­ating Leaders Across an Industry. Frederick Hess is an execu­tive editor of Education Next and author or editor of several books, including Education Unbound and Educational Entre­preneurship. Jennie Weiner and Wendy Robison are doctoral students in Education Policy, Leadership, and Instructional Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

About Education Next
Education Next is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution that is committed to looking at hard facts about school reform.  Other sponsoring institutions are the Harvard Program on Education Policy of Governance, part of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

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