GCS Partners with Teach For America

Guilford County Schools is partnering with Teach For America (TFA) to recruit more high-achieving college graduates and professionals as lateral entry teachers. The goal is to place up to 30 new recruits in high-need secondary (middle and high) schools each year, beginning next fall.

Two local foundations have pledged more than $2.1 million to jumpstart the program. Phillips Foundation pledged slightly more than $2 million. Cemala Foundation has agreed to provide $100,000.

The gifts are being used to cover GCS expenses that aren’t covered by the state or TFA, including all of GCS’ program costs for the first three years of the partnership.

The North Carolina General Assembly appropriated funds in July to TFA to expand its program in North Carolina. The state also has agreed to pay TFA teacher salaries. Local districts are expected to pick up remaining program costs.

The TFA recruits will become part of GCS’ lateral entry program, which supports degreed professionals as they transition from their current careers into teaching. GCS was the first school district in the state approved to license its own lateral entry teachers.

The initial GCS-TFA partnership grant is for three years. TFA recruits will be paid the same as other new lateral entry teachers, and will be subject to GCS personnel policies.

In addition to the professional development and support offered through the district, the TFA recruits will benefit from an intensive, five-week training institute, community orientation, practice teaching, independent study, and ongoing coaching.

Studies show TFA recruits have a positive impact on student achievement in all subjects in struggling middle and high schools, especially in comparison to other new teachers. Principals and district leaders will participate in the teacher selection process to identify likely candidates.

GCS currently has 5,064 teachers on its payroll. Of that number, 610 are new to GCS. Of those new to GCS, 305 are new to teaching, including 111 lateral entry teachers.

“In GCS, we are always looking for innovative and more effective ways to make sure every child is taught by a great teacher,” says Maurice “Mo” Green, superintendent. “TFA has a strong track record in this regard, and we’re thankful that our community has once again stepped up in a big way to support our students and our schools.”

The new partnership builds on existing GCS programs, such as Mission Possible, which provides incentives to teachers who help students achieve higher academic growth in schools highly impacted by poverty. Nationally, as well as in GCS, such schools typically have a harder time finding and keeping top teachers.

GCS’ teacher turnover rate has started to creep up again in recent years, moving from 10.4 percent in 2009-10 to 12.92 percent in 2012-13. Teacher turnover is an ongoing challenge for high-need schools, despite the progress GCS has made, thanks to Mission Possible and other programs.

Turnover is similar for both GCS lateral entry teachers and TFA teachers, at about 40 percent after two years. Of the program’s 32,000 alumni across the country, two-thirds continue to work in education, with teaching the most common profession among them.

“The Phillips Foundation is pleased to help bring the positive effects of Teach For America to Guilford County Schools,” says Elizabeth Phillips, executive director of the Phillips Foundation. “This outstanding national program has proven results in bringing dynamic teachers to the classroom, and we’re pleased that our community’s children will benefit from this effort.”

TFA recruits often reflect the demographics of the students, schools and communities they serve. Among current TFA teachers nationwide, 39 percent identify themselves as people of color and 39 percent come from low-income backgrounds. About one out of every four TFA teachers is the first in their family to attend college. The average GPA for an incoming corps member is 3.55.