Archives for category: Teach for America TFA

Levi Cavener wrote this article about why young college graduates with only five weeks of training are not qualified to teach students with disabilities.

Levi B Cavener is a Special Education teacher at Vallivue High School, Caldwell, Idaho.

He wrote it after attending a local school board meeting, where a TFA representative claimed that TFA recruits are well prepared to teach students with high needs:

“At a December 10, 2013, Vallivue School Board meeting I listened to Nicole Brisbane, Idaho’s TFA point person, pitch her product. (The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, a heavy donor to the district, called the board members to see if they would meet with Ms. Brisbane.) During the presentation, board members inquired about TFA’s ability to provide staffing for “hard-to-fill” positions, particularly special education. Brisbane was clear: TFA can provide “highly qualified” special education instructors.”

In Idaho, one foundation calls the shots for education: the Albertson Foundation. This foundation promotes privatization, charters, online learning, and TFA.

EduShyster has some fun with the crazy idea that Teach for America is a charity in need of your holiday gifts, your nickels and dimes and quarters..

She notes that TFA has an annual budget of $300 million plus; it also has a score of high-paid executives, and many hundreds of millions in assets.

Let’s just say that this is not exactly like the Red Cross or the Salvation Army.

Yet some of our nation’s biggest, richest corporations ask you to buy their products with the promise that they will make a donation to TFA, which is rolling in dough.

What a great marketing plan!

Now if only they would require their recruits to have a year of professional preparation and stay in their jobs for 4-5 years, they would be worthy of all those gifts from Subaru, FedEx, J. Crew, etc.

Pennsylvania blogger Yinzercation explains the stunning victory of the education justice movement in Pittsburgh. Parents, educators, and community members organized, mobilized, and elected new members to the school board.

The new board canceled a contract with TFA and reversed the closing of an elementary school.

Santa came early in Pittsburgh

Camika Royal is an alumna of TFA and a critical friend. She knows what is wrong with TFA, but she is not sorry she joined. TFA helped to shape who she is today, even as she questions its efficacy and its boasting.

What she does know for sure is that TFA does not address the structural inequities of American education.

She has read the flurry of articles saying “don’t join TFA,” but she doesn’t agree with them.

She concludes:

“I won’t say don’t join Teach For America or I won’t write recommendation letters. Whether you enter the profession through TFA, a school of education, or some other path, I care about who enters our schools and classrooms, why they come, why they stay, if they stay, and what they do while they are there. Should you choose to teach, please examine your motives and aspirations .

“TFA teachers may have been sold tall tales of being able to correct educational injustice in the two-year commitment, but Wendy Kopp has acknowledged “I know we are not going to change the education system with people teaching for two years. That’s not what we are trying to do.” Then what, educator, are you trying to do? What is your purpose? Urban schools and classrooms don’t need hyped-up heroes who burn out before their fire really gets going. We need resilient, lifelong educators who are focused on collective responsibility and the greater good. We need servant leaders, not self-serving saviors. In too many instances, Teach For America does more for those who join it than for the students and communities it hopes to serve. If you do choose to teach FOR America, please make sure your work improves more than just your life.

“As for whether or not I would join TFA if I knew in 1999 what I know now, this question is just as spiritual and philosophical as it is political and career-oriented. If I hadn’t been affiliated with TFA, I wouldn’t be who I am now. I am better for having had my TFA experience. I hope TFA is better for having had me in it. I hope my students were better for having had me as their teacher. Still, the impacts the organization claims to have are likely gross exaggerations. (I’m not buying claims of 2.6 extra months of math growth.) And I do not support some of the directions and choices the organization makes. But that’s why I’ve also chosen to be a critical friend to the organization. Somebody has to tell TFA, in a way they can hear it, when their stuff stinks. Might as well be me.”

A reader submitted this comment about a new group formed to push back against Teach for America.


Join Resist TFA and spread the word to end this cult. Stephanie Rivera at Rutgers University started this program and she’ll send the materials on request. Spread the word. I print them and leave the flyers in the libraries & on student bulletin boards. My students spread the info via social networking.

A newly elected school board in Pittsburgh voted to cancel a contract with Teach for America, reversing the vote of the previous school board, which planned to hire 30 TFA recruits.

The motion passed with six affirmative votes; two opposed and an abstention. The outgoing board previously approved the contract, 6-3.

This was remarkable because it is one of the few times–maybe the first time–that a school board rejected a TFA contract and recognized how controversial it is to hire young inexperienced teachers for the neediest students.

The school board also voted to keep open an elementary school that the previous board had decided to close.


A recent article by business columnist Eduardo Porter in the “New York Times” was titled “Americanized Labor Policy Is Spreading in Europe.”

This is what the “Americanization of labor policy” means:

“In 2008, 1.9 million Portuguese workers in the private sector were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Last year, the number was down to 300,000.

“Spain has eased restrictions on collective layoffs and unfair dismissal, and softened limits on extending temporary work, allowing workers to be kept on fixed-term contracts for up to four years. Ireland and Portugal have frozen the minimum wage, while Greece has cut it by nearly a fourth. This is what is known in Europe as “internal devaluation.”

“Tethered to the euro and thus unable to devalue their currency to help make their goods less expensive in export markets, many European countries — especially those along the Continent’s southern rim that have been hammered by the financial crisis — have been furiously dismantling workplace protections in a bid to reduce the cost of labor.”

Cutting back on workplace protections is sure to increase income inequality while shrinking the middle class.

Porter writes that “These policy moves are radically changing the nature of Europe’s society.”

“The speed of change has certainly been very fast,” said Raymond Torres, the chief economist of the International Labor Organization in Geneva. “As far as I can tell, these are the most significant changes since World War II.”

“While most of the debate over Europe’s response to the financial crisis has focused on the budget austerity enveloping the Continent, the comparatively unheralded erosion of worker protection is likely to have at least as big and lasting an impact on Europe’s social contract.

“It has a disastrous effect on social cohesion and a tremendous effect on inequality,” argued Jean-Paul Fitoussi, an economics professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris. “Well-being has fallen all across Europe. One symptom is the rise of extremist political parties.”

“Europe’s strategy offers a test of the role played by labor market institutions — from unions to the minimum wage — in moderating the soaring income inequality that has become one of the hallmarks of our era.

“Inequality across much of Europe has widened, but it is still quite modest when compared with the vast income gap in the United States.

“The question is whether relative equity can hold as workplace institutions that for decades protected European employees’ standard of living give way to a more lightly regulated, American-style approach, where the government hardly interferes in the job market and organized labor has little say.”

This is a model that will ill-serve Europe and which should shame our political and economic leaders. Translated, it means that the rich get richer, the middle class shrinks, and the poor feel hopeless.

The 1% say that charter schools and Teach for America will close the gap that their policies created. They know it isn’t true, but it changes the subject enough to allow them to keep enlarging their share of the pie.

If Teach for America has its way, our nation’s schools will soon be filled with temporary teachers at the bottom of the salary scale, most of whom will leave after two-three years. Goodbye, expensive experienced teachers! If TFA teachers are as great as they say, why doesn’t TFA require a five-year commitment?

Politico reports today:

“TFA REACHES OUT TO DREAMERS: Teach for America has already expanded its recruitment beyond seniors at elite colleges to mid-career professionals and veterans. Today, it’s announcing plans to actively recruit DREAMers – undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and are eligible to obtain social security cards through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Morning Education has learned.”

Teach for America is a powerful organization. It has collected hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years. One of its most recent IRS forms showed $300 million in assets. Its board of directors includes some of the nation’s biggest corporate and media leaders.

Yet TFA is considered a charity, and many corporate funders ask you to make gifts to it, as if were the Red Cross or a homeless shelter.

Barbara Torre Veltri, a professor of education at Arizona State, has trained many TFA recruits. She wrote a book about it, called “Learning on Other People’s Kids: Becoming a Teach for America Teacher.” She wrote the following commentary for this blog:

“It’s that time of year––the annual upsurge of buying and giving. Corporations are poised for both giving and receiving as they elect to support particular charities and encourage the public, their clients, and employees to join them. Teach For America has mastered the art of philanthropic fundraising and is deemed as one of the “charities” of choice of numerous consumer-based corporations.

​Recently a colleague at a southeastern university shared that Subaru is donating money from their car sales to the “charity” Teach for America,, and today, J.Crew sent an email blast to its customers.

“By promoting TFA as a charitable organization to its consumers, corporations obscure significant facts from an unsuspecting public, such as TFA teachers’ two-year teaching turnaround, five week training, and 80% who leaving the teaching profession after year three.​

​Amanda, a 24 year-old teacher questioned the direct solicitation for TFA during her trip to the mall in Glendale, Arizona.

“I was taken by surprise when the J.C. Penney’s sales woman at the Arrowhead ​Mall asked if I want to contribute to the charity of the month: Teach For ​America. Here I am, working full time, taking classes at night for two years to be ​a teacher, and what is JC Penney doing? Soliciting funds for TFA? They are ​using my profession, and me, a future teacher, to get money from people who ​think that they are supporting teachers, but don’t know that TFA prepares its ​teachers in five weeks, ” (personal conversation, September 23, 2012).

While Teach For America does not represent all teachers, that fact is not shared with the public when corporations or supporters seek donations. When solicitation for TFA comes in the form of pressure from corporate sponsors, full disclosure seems better left hidden. An eighty-year old client of Wachovia Securities/Wells Fargo Advisors received a solicitation from then-President and CEO, Daniel J. Ludeman.

“For each survey received, we will make a donation to your choice of one of the ​following charities: American Red Cross, Teach For America or the National ​Council On Aging. Please mail back your survey by July 13.”

“Why would donations be solicited by Wells Fargo for Teach For America? Since when is teaching some kind of charity? This letter bothers me because it is demeaning to real teachers. Who is collecting funds for them? By sending this letter out to its clients, Wells Fargo sends a message to seniors [citizens] who value education, that teaching with Teach For America is something that we should donate to because they are educating poor children” (cited in Veltri, 2010, p. 177).

​Teach For America promotes their charitiable status by encouraging tax deductible donations by donors who are told that they will ‘support corps members’:

“As a sponsor, you will also join a unique group of results-oriented philanthropists who have the opportunity to contribute to the impact of ​our corps members and alumni. Garrett Boone, Chairman Emeritus and Co-founder of The Container Store, is a champion of Teach For America,”

​During this season of giving and gifting, perhaps consumers would be curious to know that their own money is directed to the 501c3 charity, Teach For America. Perhaps educated consumers might choose to redirect their purchasing, based upon the knowledge of which corporations financially support Teach For America. The list below includes corporations who solict funds from customers, donate millions of dollars to TFA, and/or whose CEO’s serve on TFA’s national or regional boards of directors.

​AT & T​​​
All- State ​​
​Build-A Bear
​J Crew​​​
The Container Store​
Dell ​​​
​Dr. Scholl​​
Fed Ex​​​
The Gap​​
General Mills
​Kraft Foods
JC Penney
​​KB Homes ​​
​​Microsoft ​​
​State Farm
​​Sylvan Learning
​De Vry University​
​U of Phoenix​​
Visa ​​​
Walmart ​
​Weather Channel Companies​ ​​

[Banks & Financial Services]
​Bank of America ​
Harris Bank (CHI)
​JP Morgan Chase
​Goldman Sachs
​M & T Bank (BAL) ​
​Mechanics Cooperative Bank (MA) ​​
Wells Fargo/Wachovia
Charles Schwab​
Credit Suisse Americas
​P & C Bank (BAL)​
Fidelity Investments​
Sun Trust Bank

[Auto Makers]
​Honda (AL)

[Health Insurance Providers]
​​Blue Cross & Blue Shield (AZ)
​Aetna (CT) ​​GE Healthcare (CHI)​​​
Kaiser Permanente (Pacific NW, CO, OH, GA)​

​[Sports Teams]
​​Arizona Diamondbacks
​Atlanta Braves ​
Baltimore Ravens
​​Red Sox​​​
SF 49ers
​​San Francisco Giants

​[Oil – Houston]

​Teach For America’s Business Plan outlines it’s 2015 goal: Each region will be fully sustainable (TFA, 2010-2015). This prioritizes continuous fund-raising:

​“On Friday, March 1st, Teach For America – Phoenix hosted its annual ​​​“Building a Community of Champions,” highlighting the role of Teach For ​​​America as one piece in the movement to reform education in Arizona. ​​​Key gifts were received from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Apollo ​​​Group/University of Phoenix, Kitchell Corporation, and Nita and Phil ​​​Francis to make the dinner possible. The celebration grossed nearly ​​​$500,000 for the region.”


The questions persist: Why is Teach For America considered a charity? Why is ‘teaching’ poor children of color considered a tax deduction, as long as TFA corps members are the teachers? And why are government leaders shy about examining pervasive concerns about TFA and realizing that there is something more here than a feel good ‘charity’ directed at educational reform for poor children of color.

​“A gift of $5,000 or more helps us recruit, select, train, and support a ​​teacher who will help his or her students succeed at the highest levels and work ​to help ensure that all students, no matter where they are born, get an ​outstanding education. As a sponsor, you will also join a unique group of results-​oriented philanthropists who have the opportunity to contribute to the impact ​of our corps members and alumni.” (

​Families of teachers, supporters of teachers, teachers themselves, and those of us who can remember their most inspirational teacher or coach, might consider how to engage the collective power of the purse(s) to support the profession of teachers. Teaching is not a charity, a tax deduction or community service. Our children are not promotional commodities, to be held up at fundraisers as the emotional hook to garner donations. I do not purchase goods or services from the companies above.

Teachers in North Carolina are leaving their schools at a significantly higher rate this year.

The governor and legislature have targeted teachers for punitive measures, and they are succeeding in making teaching a less desirable career path.

Lindsay Wagner of NC Policy Watch reports:

“In 2008-09, only 35.55 percent of teachers who had tenure, also known as “career status,” left their jobs. That percentage has steadily risen and last year nearly half (49.35%) of all of those who left their positions were tenured teachers.

Mooresville Graded School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Edwards said it’s important to consider the fact that the state will see large numbers of baby boomers retiring during the next five years or so.

“We need to recruit people to stay,” said Edwards to his colleagues at this month’s State Board of Education meeting in Raleigh.

North Carolina ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay. It takes 15 years for a teacher to make about $40,000 a year.

Last summer, state lawmakers decided to stop funding the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, which awards scholarships to North Carolina high school students to pursue teaching degrees in state. Graduates then must teach for four years in North Carolina. More than 75 percent of Teaching Fellows teach in the state beyond five years, and many stay on for their entire careers.

Lawmakers took some of the money designated for the Teaching Fellows program and put it toward expanding the state’s presence of Teach For America (TFA), a national program designed to place graduates without degrees in education in teaching posts that are in low-performing schools.”

You can see where this is going.

As the state pushes out experienced teachers and eliminates its Teaching Fellows program, it clears the way to hire more inexperienced TFA, who pledge to stay for only two years. Call it turmoil by design.

Eric Guckian, the governor’s senior education advisor, is a TFA alumnus.

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