Barbara Torre Veltri is a professor at Northern Arizona State University who has mentored many TFA students. She wrote a book about TFA called Learning on Other People’s Kids: Becoming a Teach for America Teacher.
She wrote the following comments on a recent article about TFA:
1. The CEOs from TFA are not speaking the truth when they say that they only
fill slots where there are teacher shortages.
What happens is this: superintendents (many graduates of the Eli Broad
superintendent’s academy) terminate veteran teachers in Detroit, Kansas City,
Newark, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and then note that there is a teacher
shortage….its one that they created.
2. It’s been documented for several years, in the language of Multi-year
contracts, that districts who hire,and then are billed by TFA, set aside
positions across all subject areas, even those that are not traditionally hard
to fill such as,math and science positions.
TFA bills districts annually, in the millions.
3. The collective research, blogs, first-person accounts (YouTube and Internet),
articles and publications not managed by TFA network alliances, has been ignored
(squelched, buried, met with an avalanche of TFA directed PR), but cannot be
silenced totally, because of social media and the saviness of young people to
communicate with each other.
4. It takes a groundswell movement of those that are new to this information,
to collectively coalesce.
And while, change may be slow to occur, as Harvard and other universities are so
entrenched with Teach For America, that their university presidents serve on
TFA’s national board, most over or approaching 60something leaders, are
out-of-touch with the collective force of young people who organize.
5. For over a decade, researchers (including myself), corps member and alumni,
have singled out TFA’s preparation model, as one that needed to be fixed.
But TFA redirected criticism to the teaching profession,in general.
The non-profit spends twice as much in marketing and public relations, as they
do in preparation of their corps members as noted on their tax returns.
6. Pouting that TFA was attacked, by Linda Darling Hammond and others who had
the courage to publicly question the use of public dollars to fund America’s
teaching corps, TFA founder, Wendy Kopp wrote in her (2003) book, “I knew we
needed to find allies to support TFA.”
If the TFA organization was not acting like a rebellious teenager, thinking that
a) they knew it all, b) viewing suggestions as reprimands, and c) isolating
themselves and never actually listening to what the other side had to say,we
could’ve worked together to make basic changes that would at least not place,
mostly naïve, pre-novitiates in high poverty elementary and middle school
classrooms, where the effects of poor teaching on one’s educational foundation
are most profound.
7. While I am not certain that Teach For America listens to anyone, I do know
that young people, in colleges, listen to each other.
Last month, a father of a May Georgetown grad happened to mention that his
daughter was accepted into TFA, but declined their offer to teach in the
She was not prepared to teach, had never been to Mississippi, and her friends’
convinced her to reject TFA and opt to work in Manhattan.
TFA states, on its website, that it accepts only 14% of its applicants, which
makes them more competitive than Harvard or Princeton.
I’d like to know how many applicants seem to fit this growing trend: apply,
then, decline TFA’s offer.
A reporter’s daughter in New York City said “No, I’m not going to St. Louis with
Teach For America; I will finish my traditional program, and be a fully
A North Carolina graduate said, No,I’m not going to Houston to teach 7th grade
math, I never took a math course.
A California senior, whose parents are teachers, said, “No, thanks,TFA, I’m
won’t go to New Orleans to teach high school English. I intend to work on an
international project in-line with my training.
A midcareer male from Atlanta said no to Teach for America, after he researched
the level of pressure evident during the interview process, and in reviewing the
expectations during TFA’s five-week training, which he figured was not going to
prepare him to teach adequately. He opted instead to earn his credential through another pathway, and remain in
8. And finally and more importantly, is the question surfacing now by the
students themselves, who have experienced schooling, content, and curriculum
presented by Teach For America teachers. Are the experiences offered to all
children, fair, appropriate, enriched?
Or, are students of TFA teachers presented with scripted, test focused
Teach for America’s Corps member teachers are quick to note, that full
compliance to an outcome model, through standardized assessments, was tantamount
to proving student success, and their own worth, as a TFA corps member
Even if students could not “demonstrate” success, through day-to-day performance
tasks such as reading, writing, reasoning, and communicating, they were expected
to prove something on a test, which was, and remains, the only
Corps members, over multiple years, have and continue to admit, that they were
never adequately trained in how to teach, yet they were schooled in the
importance of reporting student assessment data, even if they had no baseline
data from which to assess student growth.
9. As this article points out, students schooled by Teach For America teachers
are beginning to question why they were assigned TFA teachers, why the principal
didn’t make this information known to students and parents, and, and (as noted
by the college student from North Carolina remarks) why she was not prepared for
college, nor career, by her TFA teacher, and why this is acceptable policy.
There’s much research and anecdotal evidence from corps members who have share
similar comments to this one:
“You start to recognize during training, or within the first two months, that
this is not really teaching.”
Northern Arizona University
College of Education