Julian Vasquez Heilig has probably fine more research on Trach for Amertica than any other scholar. In this post, he describes the growing backlash against TFA, much of it emanating from TFA alums who became discouraged when they realized that their five weeks of training were inadequate preparation for the rigors of teaching.
Valerie Strauss here analyzes the sharp drop in Teach for America recruits. The numbers of new corps members are down by as much as 25%.
Why? Teachers’ morale has declined precipitously from 2008-2012 (will Arne Duncan be held accountable?) and the teaching profession has lost its allure. Strauss points out that TFA may be a causal factor in the loss of respect for the profession, since it claims that brand néw college graduates are better than veteran teachers. By doing so, TFA has encouraged the belief that 5 weeks of training is good enough. This destroys the profession as such. Veteran teachers have been replaced by TFA kids. This can contribute to instability and demoralization.
There have been rumors for months that TFA has seen a sharp decline in applicants. This may be confirmation.
Teach for America is closing down its NYC office because of a decline in recruitment.
It seems the pushback from alumni has made a difference, despite TFA’s massive PR and funding. Alumni have written many articles warning that they were ill-prepared for their assignments.
Mercedes. Schneider read an article in Forbes about Carrie Walton Penner, the family member now in charge of education strategy for the Walton Family Foundation. Schneider blew a fuse. Maybe more than one. Carrie wants lots and lots of charters so that the free market will force the public schools to compete. Just like Walmart forces mom-and-pop stores to compete by cutting prices and forcing them out of business.
Schneider writes about the Walmart business model. While family members are billionaires, Walmart workers work for low wages, and some apply for food stamps. Walmart, she says, has even used prison labor to cut costs.
Walmart is closely allied with ALEC and favors the model legislation that helps big corporations and the 1%.
What really annoys Schneider is that Carrie promotes YES Prep as a model for the nation because, allegedly, 100% of its graduates enroll in four-year colleges. Since Schneider had only recently deconstructed the YES Prep story, she was flummoxed that the Forbes writer reported the tale without investigating the backstory. Like the 40% attrition rate. Like the schools’ requirement that students get accepted into a four-year college or they can’t graduate.
“This Forbes writer brushes off criticism of the likes of YES Prep as the “anticharter crowd derid[ing] the gains.”
“I’m fine with this labeling. I certainly do “deride” so-called “gains” that are little more that student deselection via student-handbook-encouraged attrition.
“But I will make a deal:
“When Carrie Walton Penner enrolls her children at a predominately-TFA-staffed charter school as their principal means of formal education, and when she publicizes their test scores as evidence that the charter model she promoted for other people’s children has served her children well, then I will consider the charters that she pays for with money that should go to paying Walmart workers a living wage as being “successful.”
“Not a minute sooner.”
Thanks to John Ogozalek, a teacher in upstate New York, who alerted me to this peculiar (but not surprising) phenomenon.
John googled my name and the first thing to pop us was an ad for Teach for America.
I tried it, and this was the first listing under my name:
Dianeravitch – 7 Things You Should Know About Us
Teach For America On The Record.
Don’t they have better things to do with their money?
Here is Mercedes Schneider with a brilliant post about the Obama U.S. Department of Education. She writes brief sketches of eight key appointees, each of whom is tied to the privatization movement.
When the President wonders why his party was so badly beaten at the polls earlier this month, he might think about the millions of educators who work in public schools and the millions of parents whose children attend good public schools; they are disgusted by Race to the Top, non-stop testing, test-based teacher evaluation, the Department’s preference for charter schools over public schools, and the millions of public dollars directed to TFA and charter schools. Educators were at one time a key part of the base of the Democratic party. As states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee lashed out at teachers, no protest was heard from Arne Duncan. As billions were cut from school budgets in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Obama administration was silent (Duncan wrote a letter to Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania about the defunding of Philadelphia, but it was a faint protest, not like actually showing up). At present, educators and parents feel abandoned by both parties.
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
The Daily Tarheel published an editorial advising students at the University of North Carolina to think twice before joining Teach for America.
The writers noted that the state pays $3,000 per year for each of 500 TFA, most of whom will leave after two years in the classroom. At the same time the legislature set aside money for TFA temps, it eliminated the successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, whose graduates pledge to stay as teachers in the NC public schools for at least four years.
“More often, TFA’s shortcomings are symptomatic of broader failings in American education rather than of its own malfeasance. As of 2013, less than 1 percent of N.C. teachers were TFA employees. If the state wants better teachers, it should pay them more and restore the N.C. Teaching Fellows program, which required a four-year commitment to teach in the state’s public schools. And policymakers should recommit to tackling the crippling poverty that inhibits the educational advancement of all children nationally.
“Meanwhile, students and current TFA employees should continue pushing the program to reform itself. At the very least, TFA ought to consider increasing the length of its required commitment.
“This board holds a litany of other concerns with TFA, including the often insufficient emotional support it provides its young teachers and the particular effect it has on unions and teachers of color. Students, teachers, TFA alumni and current employees, we want to hear from you.”
A remarkable meeting took place in the Manhattan offices of Teach for America.
TFA leadership sat down with leaders of United Students Against Sweatshops, a group that has visited campuses to warn students against joining TFA.
This article that appears in “In These Times” describes the meeting. To see the links and read the article in full, open it.
Dani Lea, a sophomore at Vanderbilt University, believes that Teach for America (TFA) teachers in her high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, were detrimental to her learning experience and for those around her.
Upon hearing this, TFA co-CEO Matthew Kramer said, “That’s not our lived experience.” Lea responded, “That was my lived experience.”
The volley took place during an unusual open meeting at TFA’s midtown Manhattan headquarters November 13 between United Students Against Sweatshop (USAS) activists and TFA’s top leadership, which offered the meeting after a widespread USAS campaign against the organization that includes visiting college campuses to question the education organization’s projected image as crusading do-gooders in American public education.
USAS is the country’s largest student labor organization, which has emerged in recent years as a serious force to be reckoned on labor issues ranging from sweatshop apparel production to campus union drives. The group’s main gripes with TFA and its Peace Corps-like model for American education, bringing college students—most from elite universities—to teach for a short period of time in some of the country’s poorest school districts, are that it is inadequately training teachers and promoting a for-profit, anti-union education reform agenda.
The Nation also recently released TFA documents regarding its response to critical press, adding to TFA’s recent headaches. USAS is demanding that TFA increase teacher training well beyond five-weeks and sever ties with anti-union corporations such as Walmart; USAS groups at universities like Harvard have demands their schools sever ties with TFA.
After offering an olive branch praising the intentions of TFA teachers across the country, USAS activists argued that the organization acts as a convenient staffing organization for municipalities looking to purge their career, unionized teaching staff and switch to a cheaper model based on high turnover.
Eastern Michigan University graduate student Will Daniels said his father, a career teacher in Detroit, was laid off in 2011 as a result of the city’s financial crisis, and said he saw the austerity-minded school authorities forming a marriage of convenience with TFA. The district could hire “three TFA members for the price of my dad,” Daniels said.
Kramer, who along with his co-CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard, patiently and calmly listened to the students, denied that the organization aims to get rid of existing teachers. “We only place people in open positions,” he said. “We do not force people out of a job.”
Beard also rejected the idea that TFA provides a pool of short-term teachers, saying 60 percent of TFA trained teachers stay for a third year and that while surely many young people think of it is a placeholder position before graduate school or some other endeavor, 67 percent stay in education.
But Harvard USAS activist Hannah McShea countered that in some school districts, teacher layoffs are so massive that veterans are laid off along with the rookies and unsatisfactory teachers. “TFA provides a solution of synthetic teachers,” she said. “It is complicit in austerity.”
Veteran journalist Bob Braun is outraged by what is being done to the powerless Newark school district, now under state control for nearly 2 decades.
He says that Christie and his superintendent Cami Anderson are placing unqualified teachers in the classroom, assigning teachers to teach subjects for which they have neither experience nor certification.
Worse, “Anderson put more than 400 perfectly qualified and experienced teachers in rubber rooms while hiring almost as many new teachers from an organization she once led, Teach for America (TFA), a real waste of money in a district facing a $57 million deficit.”
Time for an investigation?