Teach for America recruits to work for Cleveland charter schools this fall

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Fifty or more recruits from Teach for America will be in Cleveland-area classrooms this fall, the program announced Wednesday.

They will teach at charter schools operated by Breakthrough Schools, Constellation Schools, I CAN Schools and Mosaica Education. Partnership agreements with more schools are likely to be added as discussions continue, said Mike Wang, a senior vice president in charge of expanding the national program.

In addition, another 30 or so recruits will work in the Cincinnati and Dayton regions.

“I’m confident that the long-term leadership and dedication of these teachers will have positive impacts in schools across our state,” said Gov. John Kasich in a prepared statement.

Kasich is a big fan of Teach for America, a selective program that places new college graduates and professionals in schools that serve low-income children. Legislation he supported cleared the way for Teach for America to enter Ohio, a move that had been thwarted by state licensing rules.

The recruits have not majored in education – a fact that has drawn criticism from teacher unions and others. But they get months of preparation, including an orientation in their assigned locale and five weeks of intensive training in such areas as classroom management and preparing lesson plans, Wang said.

During their two-year stints, they also receive mentoring and other support, he said.

The cost of recruiting, readying and coaching the new teachers will be partly born by the Cleveland, George Gund and Nord foundations and the Lennon Trust, which have committed a combined $1.7 million. The program also is in talks with the Stocker Foundation, which focuses on the Lorain area.

In addition, Ohio’s federally funded Race to the Top plan allocates about $650,000 for Teach for America.

The individual schools will be responsible for the teachers’ salaries and benefits as well as a contribution toward program costs of $3,000 to $5,000 per teacher per year.

So far, no school districts in the area have signed on, at least partly because of their “tight budgets and hiring needs,” Wang said. He expects to partner with both charter and district schools in the long term.

Alan Rosskamm, head of Breakthrough Schools, said he’ll have about 15 Teach for America recruits among the more than 70 teachers he hopes to hire for the fall. Breakthrough will open three new schools and is adding grades at some of the six charter schools it has already – a list that includes Citizens Academy, E Prep and the Intergenerational School.

Rosskamm praised the selectivity of Teach for America, which accepts only about 12 percent of applicants. Ohio is one of the last major industrial states to open its doors to the program, he said.

“It’s a shame that some of the best grads from our Ohio schools who wanted to give two years to their hometowns were unable to do so until the enabling legislation,” he said.

“What excites me is this is a brain-gain story. Our brightest young people will be coming back to Cleveland rather than New York or Chicago or some other place.”

Nearly 1,200 Ohioans are among the current crop of 48,000 applicants. That includes about 350 from Ohio State University, 175 from Miami University and 60 from Case Western Reserve University.

“Folks are very interested in being in Ohio, especially Ohio natives,” Wang said. “Hundreds of young people with extraordinary leadership skills have been exported to other states in the past, but now they’ll have the opportunity to do important work in their home state.”