I’m writing this from the opening ceremonies of Teach For America’s 20th Anniversary Summit in Washington D.C. More than 11,000 alumni, corps members, staff, partners, and donors have gathered to celebrate Teach For America’s role in education reform and the build momentum for the road ahead.
The event started Friday at noon with a lunch for TFA’s 1,500 current staff members. There was much to celebrate: TFA’s first year as one of Forbes’ Best 100 Companies to Work For (the only education non-profit on the list), a recent funding stream of $100MM, and growing progress seen in New Orleans, New York, and Washington D.C. public schools. Kaya Henderson (alumna from 1992) spoke to this progress as interim replacement for Michelle Rhee as Chancellor of Public Schools in Washington D.C. It was a special time to celebrate as a family.
Today, the family invited its friends: 51 teachers from the charter corps of 1990 up to 1,500 alumni from 2008, and lots of special guests: Arne Duncan, Malcolm Gladwell, David Brooks, Geoffrey Canada, John Lewis, Sally Ride, and John Legend. Some of the most important names aren’t ones you’ve probably heard of, but they include the leaders of the public districts of New York, Los Angeles, D.C., Seattle, and others.
It’s a very exciting event, but Kopp didn’t lose sight of why we’re here. In her opening remarks she reminded us:
In aggregate, we have not seen a meaningful closure of the achievement gap. Where a child is born still very accurately predicts whether she’ll ever have a shot at college…there are still whole neighborhoods that put more students in prison than college.”
Kopp said she was eager to see what ideas the breakout sessions would spark. But she did take the chance to mention one fundamental principle, the principle that supports every other initiative in Teach For America:
Every place we see transformational change for students, we find transformational leaders. And I know we won’t see more change if there aren’t people with this vision who are ready to serve."