Teach For America Houston Combats the Teacher Shortage With Innovation

Updated: Apr 6

Since 1991, Teach For America has shaped educators and worked to reform the largest district in Texas through its work in Houston.

Teach For America; Teach For America Houston
© 2021 Teach For America

Education is a vital aspect of any prosperous nation. Knowledge being a public good, every citizen should have equitable access to resources necessary for intellectual growth and a medium to drive intellectual curiosity in pursuit of solving the problems we face as a society. If every community member has a viable education, we all benefit from more informed academic discourse and exploration. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.

In the mission to work toward the day when every child receives an excellent and equitable education, Teach For America (TFA) is leading the way. According to Teach for America, 10 million children currently live below the poverty line in the U.S., and only 14% of children growing up in poverty will graduate from college within eight years of graduating high school. The circumstances children are born into foreshadow the opportunities they will have in life, and TFA is working to change that by supporting students' academic and personal development.

TFA Has Built an Extensive Network in Houston

Teach For America launched in 1990 to serve the nation, and in 1991, it brought its work to Texas with an establishment in Houston. TFA Houston serves the seventh-largest school district in the country and the largest in Texas. The Houston Independent School District (HISD) has nearly 200,000 students and encompasses 333 square miles within greater Houston.

As a pacesetter for education reform in Houston for the last 30 years, TFA Houston corps members have reached nearly 200,00 students collectively. Many TFA corps alumni have taken on leadership roles in HISD as school board members, principals, and district leaders. Others have founded organizations to support lower-income families with college readiness, career pathways, community infrastructure, and more.

TFA Houston Uses Innovation To Achieve Equality

TFA Houston is no stranger to innovation. TFA Houston alumni and corps members founded KIPP and YES Prep Charter School networks. KIPP Texas public schools is a family of 59 schools and roughly 34,000 students pre-K through 12. 82% of students enrolled are economically disadvantaged, and 38% learn English as a second language. The beauty of KIPP is that, according to their website, students of the program graduate college at a rate of four times higher than the national average for students in educationally underserved neighborhoods.

YES Prep Charter Schools in Houston serves grades 6 - 12 for students that aren't thriving in a one-size-fits-all traditional public school. At YES, 90% of students are first-generation college students, 97% are African American and Hispanic, 85% come from economically disadvantaged homes, and yet, the schools experience a whopping 90% graduation rate. Such a graduation rate is a testament to the work of YES and TFA Houston alumni and corps members.

TFA Houston does more than just educate students. TFA Houston gives back to the community through its work and partnerships. On Tuesday, March 22, TXi caught up with TFA Houston's Executive Director Tiffany Cuellar Needham and Director of Innovation Carla Chambers to discuss the impact of TFA Houston on both educators and students in HISD. The discussion provided great insight into the value that TFA Houston brings to the community of Houston and its fight for equitable education.

You can check out the conversation below on The Great State of Innovation podcast for insight into the various partnerships TFA Houston has in place and is working on to continue to innovate in the education space for HISD students.


Looking for more information?

At a time when teacher shortages are on the rise, the work and innovations of TFA and TFA Houston are needed more than ever. If you are interested in getting involved and supporting the mission of Teach for America, the final deadline for early Junior applicants for the 2023 year is April 8. If your teaching days are behind you, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to positively impact the fight for education equality in your community.