Gary Rubinstein was part of the earliest cohorts of Teach for America. He became friends with many of the pioneers of TFA and the charter movement. Many years later, he became disillusioned and became a friendly critic. Over time, his criticism became sharper as he realized that TFA and the charter leaders were making unsupportable claims. He is now an experienced math teacher at one of New York City’s selective high schools. When he learned that the applications for TFA were steadily declining, he thought hard about how TFA lost its luster.

What happened? Certainly it was not financial woes. It has an operating budget of $300 million. Its CEO is paid $450,000 a year.

Rubinstein attributes the declining attraction of TFA to three factors:

  1. Failure to properly train corps members.
  2. Ineffective leadership.
  3. Alliance with teacher-bashing reformers.

The root cause of these factors is, he says, ”arrogance.” TFA never saw a need to improve their training. They made audacious claims about their success. They believed their own press releases. They kept raking in millions every year from foundations, corporations, and the federal government. It didn’t matter that there was no there there.