Teach for America is having trouble recruiting candidates to teach in New York City schools and will close its New York training site in anticipation of declining numbers, the organization’s New York City leader told program alumni on Friday.

“Teach For America is in the midst of a challenging recruitment year,” Charissa Fernandez said in an email, attributing the difficulties in part to “a contentious national dialogue around education and teaching in general, and TFA in particular.”

The nonprofit, which has been sending teachers into New York City schools for 25 years, has already seen its presence in the city shrink recently. In 2008, TFA placed 536 teachers in city schools, a number that dropped to 216 by 2010 thanks to city budget cuts and a lengthy hiring freeze. The organization placed about 400 teachers in the city this year.

The declining numbers don’t come as a surprise. Last month, Fernandez told Chalkbeat that her goal was not getting the program back to its former size but improving its quality and getting teachers to stay in the classroom.

“That means that we’re thinking really carefully about where we place, and we will probably get a little smaller next year,” Fernandez said.

TFA has long faced criticism for putting new teachers into classrooms before they are ready or without an understanding of the cultures of the students they will be teaching. In the past year, the organization’s national leadership has been calling attention to new efforts to keep its teachers in the classrooms after their initial two-year commitments, diversify its recruits, and place teachers in schools and cities where they have personal ties.

But Fernandez’s email indicates that the criticism is now having an effect on local recruitment and training efforts, as enrollment in teacher preparation programs nationwide is trending downward.  The city’s recruits will now be trained in Philadelphia, she said.