Kopp at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in 2012
|Born||Wendy Sue Kopp
June 29, 1967
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
Founder, Teach For America
CEO and Co-Founder, Teach For All
Competition and competitive rhetoric can be healthy. It's what drove the United States to pursue the Soviet Union into space, creating countless innovations along the way.
In the long run, we will need many more African-American, Latino, and Native American leaders, and leaders from low-income communities, who can bring additional insight and a deeply grounded sense of urgency, and who are the most likely to inspire the necessary trust and engagement among students' parents and community leaders.
It gets to whether we're a teacher-education model or a movement for social justice. I would say we're about the latter.
School boards can be a steppingstone to higher forms of political leadership.
We've done a lot of research on the characteristics of our teachers who are the most successful. The most predictive trait is still past demonstrated achievement, and all selection research basically points to that.
Dartmouth is such a special college with its rich history, dedicated student body, and, as I've been learning more recently, colorful customs.
Persistent inequality costs the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars a year, undermining our global competitiveness, our democracy, and our ideals as a nation.
We believe strongly in transparency and accountability, which is why Teach For America encourages rigorous independent evaluations of our program. Our mission is too important to operate in any other way.
As a white woman with a privileged education, I'm keenly aware that I founded an organization that can only realize its goal if it enlists many more leaders who share the backgrounds of the students and families we work with.
In a society that glorifies the pioneers, it's easy to think that an endeavor is only worth pursuing if you can be the first to pursue it.
Technology has enormous potential to address educational needs more efficiently, help teachers improve their performance, and enrich and individualize student learning.
The mission that unites all of the programs of the Teach For All global network is that of cultivating the leadership capacity critical to ultimately ensuring educational opportunity for all.
Where educational deprivation exists, it breeds conflict and enables repression.
In the long run, we need to build a leadership force of people. We have a whole strategy around not only providing folks with the foundational experience during their two years with us, but also then accelerating their leadership in ways that is strategic for the broader education reform movement.
It's time to declare a cease-fire in the education arms race. We have far more to gain from collaborating to solve our common problems than competing for higher rankings.
When I started Teach For America, I wasn't trying to come up with an idea that would change the world. I was trying to solve a problem much closer to home: I was a senior in college, and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life!
I've heard a number of our alumni – people who are running schools and school systems – think a lot about different models for the teaching profession.
We must broaden the definition of who our neighbors are, and extend the boundaries of our interest and empathy.
More often than not, the most effective leaders have been shaped by teaching successfully in high needs classrooms. Because of their experience, they know that it is possible for low-income children to achieve on an absolute scale and understand what we need to do to allow them to fulfill their potential.
While I started out with a vague understanding that diversity would be important, my own observations have led me to realize that achieving greater levels of diversity is in fact vital to our long-term success.
Across the globe, disadvantaged children are not living up to their potential because if they attend school at all, the schools are usually not designed to meet their extra needs.
We should be individualizing instruction, utilizing that data to actually give teachers the tools necessary to meet the needs of a very diverse group of kids which exists in every class.
Whenever we've seen the kids in the most disadvantaged context truly excel, always it's been in classrooms and in whole schools where there is a clear vision of where the kids have the potential to be.
Common Core results finally give families an accurate barometer of whether our kids are mastering the skills they need to succeed in a knowledge-based global economy, early enough that we can intervene.
If we freed up all the money in the certification process, think about how much more money we'd have to put into teacher salaries.
The U.S. has a long history of walking up to the precipice of rigor and then walking away. As voters, let's support leaders who were courageous enough to make the hard decisions necessary to move our system forward. And as parents, let's put our faith in our educators, our children and tests that hold them to their highest potential.
I think Teach for America has suffered from the fact that I did not teach, in a major way. I also think if I had taught, I wouldn't have started Teach for America.
The lack of diversity in higher education is a problem we as a country must tackle if we're going to live up to our promise.
It's possible to train great people, but a person with great training who doesn't have certain characteristics is only going to go so far.
The idea that computers can ever replace teachers and schools reveals a deep lack of understanding about the role leadership plays in student success.
Kids who live in low income areas face extra challenges and show up at schools that were not designed to meet their extra needs.
We aspire to be equal opportunity, but all across the country where a student is born, their race, their class affect where they end up.
People think of teachers who are born to teach, and you think of all these charismatic folks. Some of the most successful teachers are some of the least charismatic, interestingly. But they have a gift of figuring out what motivates people.
Teach For China recruits top American and Chinese college graduates, like 26-year-old Yang Xiao, to teach in the country's most disadvantaged schools.
Every time a child's promise is cut short by their legal status, our country wastes precious resources and loses talent we need.
All around the world, we send our top talent into finance, technology, medicine and law – everywhere but towards expanding opportunity for our most marginalized children.
We're trying to be the top employer of recent grads in the country. Size gives us leverage to have a tangible impact on school systems.
Our laws guarantee all students the right to a K-12 education, regardless of their immigration status.
Let the tech firms and consulting firms build your skills, but be sure to ask yourself, 'Am I maximizing my impact?' 'Am I living up to my values?'
Teach For America would not be able to continue recruiting and developing an ever-more diverse and impactful group of corps members and alumni if the nation's leading colleges become even less diverse.
Throughout history, when societies have been faced with big challenges, they've put their best people on them. During the Space Race, American and Russian scientists, engineers, astronauts and cosmonauts pushed the bounds of what was possible and landed men on the moon.
Teach For America was built on the idea that our best hope of reaching 'One Day' is to have thousands of alumni use their diverse experiences and ideas to effect change from inside and outside the education system.
I think people are attracted to teaching because they want to make a real impact.
Mindsets, skills and leadership, experience and access, and critical consciousness – we need all four of these things for our students to be the leaders, people and citizens we want them to be.
We're looking for people out there who have demonstrated that they are leaders, have track records of achievement, and want to be part of a force… of a much larger force of determined people who want to bring about, ultimately, institutional change.
I think the way to understand Teach for America is as a leadership development program.
If we're going to see sustainable results from all the other investments we're making in education, we need to build leadership capacity in each and every country.
It's Teach For America's responsibility to ensure that all alumni know their voices are heard and valued, and to surface the range of opinion they represent.
Imagine how different those classrooms could be if hundreds of Nigeria's most talented recent graduates and professionals channeled their energy not only into the country's banks, but into making education in the country a force for transformation.
Fostering the leadership necessary for transformational outcomes in education is hard work, and in countries around the world, there is a constant search for easier solutions.
There is a perception in our communities that we have low educational outcomes in low-income communities because kids aren't motivated or families don't care. We've discovered that is not the case.
We're not trying to be the only route into teaching. We do put enormous energy into understanding what differentiates the most successful teachers.
You will find it will almost always be more comfortable to sit on the sidelines and critique the builders from afar. But at the end of the day, the people who make a difference, the people who shape history, are not the haters.
Education is the most powerful tool countries have for boosting economic growth, increasing prosperity, and forging more just, peaceful and equitable societies.
Few things are more important to our country's future than recruiting and keeping great teachers in our schools.
When I started Teach For America as a college senior, I sensed that there were thousands of talented, driven college students and recent grads who were searching for a way to make a real difference in the world.
We have found that the most successful teachers in low-income communities operate like successful leaders. They establish a vision of where their students will be performing at the end of the year that many believe to be unrealistic.
Some people seem to sort of have a gut for hiring. I literally had a gut that was exactly the opposite. So whenever I thought someone would be great, it was sort of the opposite.
As a founder of two organizations that recruit top college graduates to expand educational opportunity, I've spent a lot of time examining what's at work in successful classrooms and schools over the past two decades.
Kids in urban and rural areas face so many challenges, and they show up at schools that don't have the extra capacity or extra resources to meet their needs.
As a senior at Princeton, I felt like the whole world was open to me. In our country, that's not a given. We aspire to be a place of equal opportunity, and yet where you're born determines your prospects.
Teach For America is working hard to be one significant source of the leadership we need.
When kids are met with the highest expectations and given the extra supports they need, they can be as motivated as kids anywhere.
If we could reach the point where many of our nation's future leaders know what teachers know after teaching successfully in our highest-need schools, we would have a very different situation.
A core part of Teach For America's mission has always been affecting positive change in the traditional public school system.
We look for people who demonstrate perseverance in the face of challenges, the ability to influence and motivate others – people who want to work relentlessly to ensure that kids who are facing the challenges of poverty have an excellent education.
Our experience at Teach For America has been that the more people understand educational inequity, the more they want to do something about it.
Education is the gateway to the American Dream. But today our immigration laws make higher education – a virtual requirement for financial security – out of reach for more than one million undocumented students.
The teachers are trying to build the same culture in the classroom as we're building in the organization.
We are looking for a set of personal characteristics that predict success, the first and foremost of which is perseverance in the face of challenges. We also look for the ability to influence and motivate others who share your values, strong problem-solving ability, and leadership.
I myself was completely torn by the decision to start Teach For America. There was a voice in my head telling me not to do it – to take a more normal path. I did have one thing going for me, which was that I had been rejected from all the other jobs I'd applied to.
Cultivating more leaders who reflect our heterogeneous society depends on universities' transparent use of race as one of many factors in an admissions process that is accessible to all.
Tests that sugar-coat the truth only set up our kids to fail in worse ways down the road.
Research shows that whether you are low-income or not, mindset is a bigger predictor of success than academic skills, and how students gain great academic skills and persevere in the face of challenges.
Ending educational inequality is going to require systemic change and a long-term, sustained effort. There are no shortcuts and no silver bullets.
Our teachers are operating just as effective leaders in the business world do. They set a vision that most people think is crazy. They convince the kids why it's important to accomplish the goal. And they are totally relentless.
I'll get up at 5 or 6. I try to catch up on sleep on the weekends, so I'll try to get seven hours of sleep. During the week, my ideal is to go to bed at 9 and wake up six hours later.
I had been very focused on the issue of education disparities in our country, and literally, by the time kids are just nine years old, in low-income communities, they're already three or four grade levels behind nine-year-olds in high-income communities.
Education must be the only sector that hasn't already been completely revolutionized by technology.
In every case where I've seen a transformational school, there's a principal who really has the foundational experience of having taught successfully.
There's no how-to guide for how to change the world. But it's easy to get hung up by misconceptions about what it takes to make an impact.
Teach for America recruits top recent college grads, young professionals, people we believe are the U.S.'s most promising future leaders, and asks them to commit two years to teach in high-need urban and rural communities.
On average, our corps members stay in the classroom for eight years. But again, given the systemic nature of educational inequity, we know it is vital that some of our alumni take their experience outside the classroom.
It's easier to poke holes in an idea than think of ways to fill them. And it's easier to focus on the 100 reasons you shouldn't do something rather than the one reason you should.
If the world's leaders are serious about improving collective well-being, we'd better get serious about prioritizing education in our nations and in our global discussion.
We go around and talk about what are each of the kids most proud of from the previous week.
When you think of the typical Teach For America corps member, soldiers and ex-bankers are probably not the people who come to mind. In fact, there is no such thing as a typical corps member. They can't be neatly pigeonholed or painted with a broad brush.
Common Core reminds us what testing can do right. Modeled on standards of the world's education superpowers, questions demand critical thinking and creativity. Students are asked to write at length, show their work, and explain their reasoning.
Effective teacher support in my mind is the same thing as effective management. Our teachers need strong management, just like anyone in any profession.
Charter laws do something really important. They give educators the freedom and flexibility that they need to attain results. But we also have to invest a lot in the leadership pipeline to take advantage of that freedom and flexibility.
Research confirms that great teachers change lives. Students with one highly effective elementary school teacher are more likely to go to college, less likely to become pregnant as teens, and earn tens of thousands more over their lifetimes.
We are working essentially to build a leadership force of folks who will, during their first two years of teaching, actually put their kids on a different trajectory – not just survive as a new teacher, but actually help close the achievement gap for their kids.
We collaborate with other countries on issues like public health and climate change because we understand these issues affect our collective welfare.
Countries have largely been left alone to handle or ignore their educational problems as they see fit. In part, this was because we assumed that the contexts and challenges were so different from nation to nation that education could not be tackled at the international level.
All over the world, children facing the challenges of poverty attend schools that aren't designed to meet their extra needs; across country lines, the lives of marginalized kids look far more similar than they do different.