UC Berkeley ranked third-largest contributor to Teach for America

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UC Berkeley ranked third this year among schools participating in Teach for America — slipping from the top spot — for contributing 69 graduates to the program’s 2013 teaching corps class.

Teach for America is a nonprofit organization that sends recent college graduates and professionals to teach at K-12 public schools in low-income communities. Last year, UC Berkeley contributed the highest number of graduates, with 88 new members. UC Berkeley has placed in the top six contributors every year since 2008, when Teach for America first released a list.

“It’s a really exciting accomplishment, something that UC Berkeley should be very proud of,” said Shawnee Cohn, Teach for America’s regional communications manager. “It’s a testament to the fact that UC Berkeley students are very committed to making a difference.”

The University of Texas at Austin ranked first this year, contributing 73 graduates, and the University of Southern California ranked second, contributing 70.

This year, the program saw its largest applicant pool ever.  A total of 57,000 students applied, and 5,900 were accepted. The number is steadily increasing, Cohn said.

UC Berkeley has consistently had a high number of graduates apply to Teach for America, and 765 UC Berkeley alumni have taught as corps members throughout Teach for America’s 23-year history.

“UC Berkeley students are generally well-rounded and culturally aware,” said Lee Pusateri, a 2012 UC Berkeley graduate and member of the Teach for America corps. “They are very aware of what’s going on with U.S. education and politics. We’re more inclined to give back, and there’s a mentality of helping others.”

Pusateri suggested UC Berkeley has a higher awareness of the problems with education in the United States because it is a public institution.

“Most students have experienced public education before college and might have seen what’s going on,” Pusateri said. “There’s an understanding education needs to get fixed and that we need to be active about it.”

Raquel Lucente, Teach for America’s UC Berkeley campus recruitment director, attributed the school’s large number of graduates in the program to UC Berkeley students’ social justice consciousness and capability for achievement.

“Our communities demand exceptional educators with the mindsets towards equity and with the skill sets to make their vision a reality – both of which Cal students have,” she said.

Four of the top five schools in the top contributors list are public universities: the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of Florida and UC Berkeley.

Xiaoxia Newton, an assistant professor at the campus Graduate School of Education, said programs at UC Berkeley, such as Cal Teach, expose students to the potential of pursuing teaching as a career. Cal Teach is a program for undergraduates dedicated to improving K-12 math and science education.

Pusateri, who is considering teaching for a third year, recognizes that problems may arise from the two-year teaching term, which has drawn criticism. He said it usually takes five years to master teaching.

According to Newton, the real question is how to make teaching attractive as a long-term job.

Somin Park covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected].