As reported earlier here, Teach for America–the corporate teacher recruitment program–is having internal problems that it won’t admit in public. Heads are rolling. The diversity department was eliminated. Yet public relations for a major corporation like TFA require an offensive strategy. Mercedes Schneider has studied the PR strategy and describes it here. She reviews a report by Bellwether Partners (where Secretary of Education John King’s wife works), advising TFA on its image problems. Its biggest PR problem, it seems, is the TFA alumni who criticize the organization for its arrogance, its indifference to replacing experienced teachers, its inflated claims of success, and its constant self-promotion. They have figured out that no matter how many TFA are recruited, they cannot end the poverty that their students suffer, nor do they close the achievement gaps rooted in poverty.


A funny story that Mercedes uncovered:


According to the report, TFA just didn’t see hefty resistance coming on social media.


That’s just foolish. TFA is a teacher temp agency that then tries to place its former temps in strategic and powerful positions in order to advocate for test-score-driven ed reform. Of course many people will not approve, and that disapproval could be strongly expressed on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.


Perhaps in its arrogance, TFA did not believe anyone could effectively confront them in the media. But it happened. And, as the Bellwether report notes, the comedy continues. Consider this excerpt:


“The volume and vitriol of the attacks caught Teach For America off guard. …The advent of social media exacerbated these challenges. While some of Teach For America’s critics, such as education historian Diane Ravitch, were highly adept in using social media to amplify their messages, Teach For America was slow to adopt a social media strategy. “We had lost touch with how this younger group of people were engaging with the world,” notes [former TFA staffer] Aimee Eubanks Davis.”


“This younger group of people”?? Diane Ravitch is 77 years old.


Makes one wonder just how far out of touch TFA is with reality beyond itself.


It seems TFA just believed that younger people would not read Ravitch. But apparently, they do. (Ironic how she blew the whistle on the current TFA downsizing.) Whereas TFA might label her criticism as “vitriol,” it seems that they recognize that their recruits consider her as being among the “reputable voices” criticizing TFA’s temp-teacher lifeblood.



Schneider’s post is a long read, but well worth your time.