In honor of the 25th anniversary of Teach for America, a reader sent me this spoof from The Onion.

 

As you know, the slogan of TFA is that “One day, all children will have an excellent education.” (Something like that.)

 

Well, 25 years later, we don’t seem to be any closer to that day. Maybe it is because TFA has sold politicians and corporations on the myth that having TFA’s “great teachers” matters more than funding the schools. Maybe it is because TFA sells the dubious idea that their young and ill-trained college graduates are better than experienced teachers. (Bring in TFA and save on pensions because they won’t stay around long enough to get a pension.)

 

But TFA does have a revenue stream of $300 million a year and is one of the most powerful corporate presences in DC. The organization is doing very well indeed. But the day that all children will have an excellent education is no closer. Indeed, TFA will probably have a 50th reunion and sell the same tired cliches about the awesomeness of their corps members.

 

In Wendy Kopp’s last book (A Chance to Make History), she pointed to three districts as exemplars of TFA success: Washington, D.C.; New York City; and New Orleans. She identified Chris Barbic of YES Prep as one of the best TFA graduates. We know from NAEP that DC has the largest achievement gaps in the nation among urban districts; New York City is in the middle of the pack among urban districts on NAEP; and New Orleans–well, if you think every city should wipe out public education, get rid of the union, fire all the teachers, and start over, that is a model. Not a very good one, according to the many researchers who have concluded that nearly half the charters are low-performing. As for Chris Barbic, he came to the Tennessee Achievement School District as a savior, and left four years later, with little to show for it. The schools in the ASD continue to be among the lowest-scoring in the state.

 

So, perhaps TFA will point to the districts that demonstrate the amazing transformational power of TFA. Not DC. Not NYC. New Orleans? Only if you believe that one of the lowest-performing districts in one of the lowest-performing states is a miracle.