As the school year begins, North Carolina's rural school districts are struggling to find teachers, particularly in the math and science subject areas. The Warren County School District, one of many in the state reporting problems finding quality teachers and retaining them, relies on the organization Teach for America to help fill their gaps.
Superintendent Roy Spain of the Warren County Schools says he doesn't know what they'd do without TFA.
"I can't overemphasize how difficult it is for rural districts - and sometimes even urban districts - to recruit and retain teachers. "
Teach for America experienced a 50 percent increase in the number of teachers in the past year in the eastern half of the state. It's now up to 230 teachers. This summer, the Park Foundation contributed a $20,000 grant to Teach for America in eastern North Carolina to aid in the organization's growth.
Research shows that North Carolina pupils are struggling in some subject areas. A recent study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that 66 percent of the state's fourth-graders are not proficient in reading.
Robyn Fehrman, executive director of Teach for America in Eastern North Carolina, says her organization wants all children to have access to quality education.
"Poverty and your ZIP Code are not destiny. Ensuring that all kids get an excellent education is a complex problem, but we have seen evidence where kids coming from all backgrounds can achieve at the highest level."
Teach for America's teachers typically do not have education degrees, but rather receive intensive training from TFA and commit to teaching for two years in a rural or urban school district. Nationwide, there are 10,000 teachers in TFA actively teaching in 46 rural and urban regions across the nation.