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TFA Finds Climate Ripe to Train More Pre-K Teachers

Seven years after Teach for America expanded its training program to include preschool teachers, the organization is celebrating: It has now produced 800 instructors in 22 high-poverty sites around the country&mdashg;and higher-ups see the current climate as ripe for further expansion.

With President Barack Obama's interest in early childhood education, TFA—a New York-based nonprofit that offers an alternative teacher-preparation program outside traditional university settings—aims to be an increasing part of the mix.

"It's really a story within a story," said Laura McSorley, managing director of TFA's Early Childhood Education initiative and one of its first graduates, in an interview. "Early childhood is a crucial time to intervene, and we're selecting and recruiting and training the best possible teachers."

The early-childhood program, which started in 2006 with 90 educators, is training 300 teachers this year in high-poverty schools, mostly in Head Start centers and public preschool programs, McSorley said.

Unlike traditional schools of education which often require students to attend classes for years before practicing their skills in classrooms, TFA offers a five-week intensive course then ongoing education when corps members are hired by school districts.

"As states get access to new and sustainable funding sources for early education and get more clarity on standards for what constitutes high-quality early learning, they're able to expand what's available to families," McSorley said. "As they do, they look for high-quality talent to address the needs of students at this crucial state. We're proud to be one such source of talent."

Discussions are currently taking place to expand TFA's reach in early-childhood education, McSorley said, but the organization has yet to reveal where it will do the work.

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