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TitleExcellence for All: How a New Breed of Reformers Is Transforming America's Public Schools
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Table of Contents
Title Page
Table of Contents
1. The Right Time: 1980-2010
2. The Right Space: The Small Schools Movement
3. The Right Teachers: Teach for America
4. The Right Curriculum: Expanding Advanced Placement
Document Text Contents
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T R A N S F O R M I N G A M E R I C A ’ S P U B L I C S C H O O L S


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thE r igh t tE AchErS 89

find a job at a private or independent school.”91 Wendy Kopp’s vision was
to change that.
The first lesson that private schools seemed to teach was that lowering
barriers would promote the entrance of top talent into the teaching profes-
sion. As TFA Chicago’s first executive director observed, “private schools,
especially before alternative certification, were able to choose from a larger
talent pool than public schools were . . . and that was a disadvantage for
public schools.”92 And as TFA New York’s first executive director put it,
“the bureaucracy is massive” in urban public schools. “Private schools don’t
suffer from [that]. It’s a major deterrent.”93
Schools with high concentrations of low-income and minority students,
of course, represented different kinds of environments than well-resourced
private schools. As Kevin Hall, TFA’s regional director in Los Angeles from
1991 to 1993, observed: “teaching in a classroom at Locke High School is
a lot different than teaching in a classroom at [private] Harvard Westlake.”
Yet Hall also acknowledged that the comparison with private schools is
a “very good analogue” and “there is some thinking on TFA’s part about
But top private schools did not simply lower barriers to entrance; they
also tended to recruit graduates of prestigious high schools and colleges. The
practices of private schools implied that smart people, regardless of train-
ing, made good teachers, and that message had a strong resonance with a
particular audience. As Arthur Powell noted in 1996, roughly 10 percent of
independent-school faculties—and a significantly higher percentage of the
faculties at elite independent schools—are drawn from schools like Stan-
ford, Yale, and Amherst. How, Powell and others wondered, could that not
matter? “In short,” he concluded, “there is a substantial educational fit be-
tween the college origins of prep school faculties and prep school academic
missions. The fit does not guarantee good teaching, but it is hard to see how
very good academic teaching can consistently occur in its absence.”95
In light of this, Kopp sought from the organization’s inception to make
TFA exclusive, even if it meant limiting its scale. “I’d like people to someday
talk about TFA,” she commented in 1996, “the way they talk about the
Rhodes scholarship.”96 Advancing this aim, the organization, from its ori-
gins, has promoted its corps members’ prestigious alma maters, their high
grade-point averages, and their SAT scores. Though TFA corps members
have little training and often lack experience in the urban context, TFA
advertises that its current national corps has an average GPA of 3.6 and an
average SAT score of 1333.97

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This approach had a strong common-sense appeal, particularly among
reform-minded leaders attracted to the idea of placing the smartest col-
lege graduates into the neediest classrooms. In discussing his early support
for TFA, Ross Perot emphasized in an interview with Larry King that the
typical corps member “went to a private school . . . to one of our country’s
more elite schools.”98 Clearly, he believed, that was a game-changing dif-
ference. Speaking in an interview in 1990 about the popularity of TFA,
Wendy Kopp observed: “I think what sells this to people is the fact that
it’s so simple and obvious.”99 TFA’s approach, Kopp notes, “is not rocket
science. It’s the most basic, common-sense stuff.”100 Thus, while TFA was
only one of many alternative routes into the classroom—Troops to Teach-
ers, Transition to Teaching, and a number of regional teacher fellowship
programs, among others—it was the purest manifestation of the excellence
for all vision.
Even if it did not conjure up visions of private schools, TFA’s anti-
bureaucratic, promarket approach was attractive to a new generation of
entrepreneurially oriented funders. In an early evaluation of TFA, Univer-
sity of Illinois professor Cameron McCarthy noted that the organization
“seemed to rise out of . . . demonstration against the establishment, against
the bureaucratic codes of traditional teacher training.”101 When TFA began
operations in 1989, remarked Kevin Hall, “there really hadn’t been much
entrepreneurial work” in K–12 education. “There weren’t really lots of . . .
organizations that had been started by what we would view as younger,
entrepreneurial types,” he noted; “that was an interesting thing about Teach
For America.” Insofar as TFA was “willing to look outside of the conven-
tional public school system, it was pretty early in its time,” and that, Hall
concluded, was “resonant” with funders.102
In New York this translated to support from organizations like the Ed-
win Gould Foundation. As Timothy Knowles, the first director of TFA’s
New York office, recalled, Gould donated office space to the organization
because “they liked [that] we were young and entrepreneurial.”103 In Chi-
cago, though the particular circumstances were different, the underlying
theme was the same. Already established in places like New York and Los
Angeles, TFA came late to Chicago. Still, bringing TFA to the Windy City
was a major priority of the Chicago Public Education Fund—a venture
capital fund created in 2000. In TFA they saw an opportunity to promote
reform through a business model and leaped at the opportunity to fund
a startup, help it grow, and then exit.104 Of course, the TFA message also
resonated with the so-called new philanthropists who emerged as a force in

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Rockefeller Brothers Fund, 107
Romer, Roy, 62–63
Rose, Arnold, 19, 45
Rotherham, Andrew, 2
Rothschild, Eric, 114
Rousseau, Sylvia, 93–94
Rubinstein, Gary, 94
rural schools, 43–44

Scarsdale High School (Scarsdale,
N.Y.), 126

Scarsdale public school district, 8, 116
schools-within-schools, 52, 62, 64–66,

67. See also Locke High School (Los

Schorr, Jonathan, 95
Schrag, Peter, 141
Shanker, Albert, 28–29
Shriver, R. Sargent, Jr., 109
Sizer, Theodore R.
Annenberg Foundation and, 55
Coalition of Essential Schools and,

46, 48–50
on teacher certification, 77, 85
on vocational education, 23–24
Slums and Suburbs (Conant), 112
Smaller Learning Communities Grant

Program (SLC), 65–66, 67–68, 70
small schools
funding and, 55–56, 59–60, 64
vs. large schools, 43–45
research on, 43, 50–51
Small Schools Coalition, 53
small schools movement
challenges and results, 66–71
Chicago and, 9, 52–53, 62, 64
educational entrepreneurs and,

Gates Foundation and, 56–60
Los Angeles and, 9, 62–63
New York and, 8, 52, 53–55, 56,

supporters, 42
See also Central Park East (CPE)

schools (New York)
Small Schools Workshop, 52–53

Smith, Abigail, 91
Smith, Julia, 51
Snedden, David, 13
social mobility, 18
South Carolina, 119
Spellings, Margaret, 4
Spence School (New York), 8, 41
Sputnik program, 109
Stand and Deliver (film), 10, 117
standards and accountability

movement, 32–33
Stanford University
AP and, 112, 124, 125
independent-school faculties and,

Stern, Sol, 21
Stinnett, T. M., 78
Stonesifer, Patty, 60
Study Commission on Undergraduate

Education and the Education of
Teachers, 81

Stuyvesant High School (New York),

Swanson, Mary Catherine, 120

taxpayer revolts, 19–20
Teacher Corps, 80–82, 88
teacher licensure movement, 75–78
AP and, 110, 126
recruitment, 73–74
reform efforts and, 73–80, 102–3
See also Teacher Corps; Teach For

America (TFA)
Teach For America (TFA)
Chicago and, 9, 90, 93–94, 98, 100
criticism, 97–99
funding and support, 86, 87–88,

90–91, 100–102
Los Angeles and, 9, 90, 94, 98
mission and popularity of, 2, 74,

85–88, 99–102
New York and, 8, 90, 91, 93
private school model and, 88–92
two-year teaching commitment,


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Terman, Lewis, 13
Texas, 83
Thelin, John, 113
Thomas, M. Kathleen, 123–24
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 2
Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 123,

Thorndike, Edward, 13
Toch, Thomas, 47–48, 135
Tyack, David, 12

University of California
affirmative action and, 24
AP and, 116, 124
University of Illinois at Chicago, 52
University of Michigan, 24, 112
University of North Carolina, 125
University of Pennsylvania, 125
University of Virginia, 125
urban schools, 43–44. See also

comprehensive high schools

Vallas, Paul, 53
Vander Ark, Tom, 37, 57–59, 69
Vermont, 76
Villaraigosa, Antonio, 9
vouchers, 26, 29, 31

Wagner, Sherry, 95
Wagner, Tony, 57
Wakelyn, David, 102
War on Poverty, 19
Weber, George, 36
Weston, Shelley, 65, 68, 96
“what works,” 3, 35–37, 138–40. See

also entrepreneurial reformers
Williams College, 74
Wisconsin, 31

Yale University
AP and, 107, 110, 125
independent-school faculties and,

TFA and, 74

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