You might think that, with teacher shortages in many districts, this would be a golden moment for Teach for America. But it is not. Gary Rubinstein, one of the original members of TFA in the early 1990s and now a career teacher in New York City, surveys the current woes of Teach for America in this post. He identifies three reasons for the downturn in TFA’s fortunes.

He begins:

Teach For America has an operating budget of $300 million. Their main responsibility is to recruit and prepare corps members to teach for a minimum of two years in low-income communities. They started in 1990 with 500 corps members. In 1991 they grew to 750 corps members. By 2005 they had 2000 corps members and they peaked in 2012 with 6000. Now, according to Chalkbeat, They are at a 17 year low, back to 2000 recruits.

Teach For America blames their recruitment woes on the pandemic, but I have been following the ups and down of this organization for over 30 years, starting when I was a corps member myself in 1991, and I have a different theory.

There are three reasons why TFA’s popularity is fading, and all three of these reasons stem from an overarching problem — arrogance. In my analysis, those three reasons are: Failure to properly train corps members, ineffective leadership, and a close alliance with a toxic and oversimplified type of education reform based on teacher bashing.

Reason #1 is: Failure to properly train corps members

Reason #2 is: Ineffective Leadership

Guess what Reason #3 is?