Teach for America aims to grow

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Eastern North Carolina office of Teach For America is mounting a big fundraising push to help land a $1 million challenge grant for its national organization.

Teach for America, which fields top college graduates to teach for at least two years in low-income schools and develop as future champions of education, is one of 10 nonprofits that Amazon.com has selected to compete for the challenge grant.

The online shopping site has pledged to give $1 million to the nonprofit among the 10 that raises the most money through September.

Teach for America’s Eastern North Carolina office, which aims to raise $600,000 this year to fund its corps of 100 members teaching in low-income schools, wants to double the number of corps members through 2010 and increase annual fundraising to $1.37 million, says Alex Quigley, it’s Raleigh-based executive director.

The office, which has raised $20,000 from individuals and small family foundations this year, wants to increase the funds it raises from individuals, small family foundations and small businesses to $100,000 in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, Quigley says.

State lawmakers in their just-ended session approved $100,000 for the Eastern North Carolina office another $100,000 for the Teach for America office in Charlotte that opened last year with 50 corps members and will grow to 100 in the coming school year.

To cover the annual cost of $15,000 to recruit, train and support each corps member, Teach for America solicits individual, family, corporate and foundation donations and sponsorships, as well as funds from local school districts and the state.

Formed in 1990 as part of the startup of Teach for America, the Eastern North Carolina office has fielded 500 corps members who have taught more than 30,000 students.

More than 180 Teach for America alumni live in the state and hold jobs ranging from school principals and teachers to doctors, lawyers and social workers, says Quigley, a former corps member in the Mississippi Delta.

In the most recent school year, he says, students of 80 percent of corps members in Eastern North Carolina increased their grade level by 1 grade or more, and students of 48 percent of corps increased their grade level by 1.5 grades or more.

The national organization aims to increase the number of corps members to 8,000 by 2010, up from 3,500 this year.

By 2010, Teach for America also aims to increase the number of students taught by corps members to 680,000, up from 250,000 in the this year.

It also wants to increase its annual fundraising to $100 million, up from $40 million in the school year just ended.

Since 2000, the number of corps members has grown from 1,000, annual fundraising has grown from $10 million, and the number of applicants has grown to 17,000 from 4,000.

By 2010, Teach for America also wants to increase to 50 percent of first-year corps members and 80 percent of second-year corps members the percentage of its teachers whose students increase their grade level by at least 1.5 grades.

In the school year just ended, 35 percent of all corps members had showed such gains, up from 13 percent in 2000.

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