Teach for America’s Hidden Logistics

Every summer, Teach for America trains ~4,000 new educators, and then assigns them to under-resourced urban and rural public schools across the country. We asked: How do you manage that complex and distributed process?

Four thousand educators from across the nation. Multiple training centers in different regions. Thousands of high schools. Limited staff to organize it all. How does that work flow?

“So, this work requires a lot of complexity.”

That’s Sandeep Chellani, CIO of Teach for America (TFA), calling from his office in midtown the day before the Fourth of July weekend.

It’s a busy time for the organization, which is dedicated to enlisting and developing teachers to work in the nation’s most underserved school districts.

In just a few weeks, TFA will begin hosting its annual Summer Institute to train around 4,000 new recruits. Those recruits come from across the country.

After training, they’ll be sent out to begin their first teaching jobs. It’s a big deal to get them prepared. But to get the job done, TFA has limited staffing per training location.

“We go through an extensive process developing them as teachers,” Chellani says. “There’s a lot of information coming in and going out. It’s big operation.”

But Chellani doesn’t sound stressed.

Formerly the executive director of product development for NYC’s sprawling department of education, he’s now the man in charge of managing the technology infrastructure for one of the largest non profit education companies in the United States. He speaks in the calm and measured tones of a man who is accustomed to encountering wildly complicated processes, and taming them.

To help tame this specific process, TFA uses shared document storage in the cloud. That storage system serves all TFA staff and helps staff to engage with recruits across all of the Summer Institute locations.

“Prior to this, we were leveraging a lot of info sharing through email,” Chellani says. “And through a lot of sharing technologies that were dated, like shared drives on servers. From a coherence perspective, that wasn’t super friendly.”

That was especially true with so much riding on the results of the training.

TFA is justifiably famous for its Summer Institute — ​basically a boot camp for teachers​ — which must give first ­time teachers a strong foundation to work in some of the nation’s underserved schools.

They must study teaching fundamentals. Teach practice lessons. Be observed by veteran instructors. Receive observations and feedback. All of those teacher training efforts are anchored in a framework they’ve created called “Teaching as Leadership”, which is customized slightly per location. That’s because preparing someone to teach in, say, Appalachia, requires a slightly different approach than preparing them to teach in urban areas.

“So now, the way we have it set up, all our information is consumable for various entities,” Chellani says.

“It just makes us much more organized and succinct.”

This Blueprint article is about a Box client. For more information on how Box’s solutions can help large organizations manage complex workflows, please visit Box.com.