Archives for category: Teach for America TFA

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.

– See more at:

Helen F. Ladd is a distinguished professor of public policy and economics at Duke University.

In this article, which appeared in the News-Observer in North Carolina, Ladd explains why the schools need experienced teachers, not just a steady supply of novices who serve for two or three years, then leave.

She writes:

In an effort to keep educational costs in check, America’s cash-strapped states, local school districts and charter schools are hiring less-costly novice teachers. Some of the new hires are energetic college graduates supplied for two-year stints by programs such as Teach for America.

In the late 1980s, most of the nation’s teachers had considerable experience – only 17 percent had taught for five or fewer years. By 2008, however, about 28 percent had less than five years of experience. The proportions of novices in the classroom are particularly high in schools in underprivileged areas. Some observers applaud the rapid “greening” of the teaching force because they think that experienced teachers are not needed. But this view is short-sighted. Although a constant flow of new recruits is healthy, research shows that teacher experience matters in important ways:

Experienced teachers, on average, are more effective at raising student achievement. In research I have done with colleagues in North Carolina, experienced teachers greatly boost student achievement in elementary, middle and high schools alike. This pattern holds even after we adjust for the fact that experienced teachers are more likely to work in schools with more advantaged students.

She and her colleagues recently completed a study of teacher effectiveness in North Carolina among math teachers, and they found that:

…math teachers become increasingly effective at raising student test scores through about 15 years, at which point they are about twice as effective as novices with two years of experience. The productivity gains are less dramatic for middle school English teachers but follow the same trajectory.

Experienced teachers also strengthen education in numerous ways beyond improving test scores. Our research suggests that as North Carolina middle school teachers gain experience, they become increasingly adept at producing other important results, such as reducing student absences and encouraging students to read for recreational purposes outside of the classroom. More experienced teachers often mentor young teachers and help create and maintain a strong school community.

Also, as other research has shown, constant teacher turnover is disruptive for schools and harmful to students, especially in disadvantaged schools. All too often, inexperienced teachers are initially assigned to disadvantaged schools, where the challenges of maintaining order and effectively instructing students are very high.

TFA teachers may do a good job, but by year three, more than 80% are gone, and the schools must bear the cost of recruiting, training, and mentoring another crop of novice teachers. This constant churn of staff is not good for the school community.
The challenge for public schools is to retain and support teachers as they gain experience and grow more effective. For that, they need adequate salaries and good working conditions.



Editor’s note:  While Diane is on a somewhat reduced blogging schedule, she has invited members of the Education Bloggers Network, a consortium of people who blog about education issues on the national, state or local level to contribute to her blog.  If you are a blogger who supports public education and would like to join the Education Bloggers Network, contact Jonathan Pelto

This guest blog is written by Rachel Levy

With a vote of 5-2 (with two members absent) the Richmond School Board has decided to contract with Teach for Americato hire up to 30 teachers. I’ve already written in great detail about how the Teach for America model is problematic hereand then here and about why TFA is not right for the K-12 public school students of Virginia here, so I won’t repeat what I said there.

In the meantime, here is the reporting out of RPS leadership:

“It’s another tool in our recruitment tool box,” said Kristen Larson, 4th District, who voted in favor of the program during a School Board work session Monday. “We know we have a hard time hiring, and we need to look at all paths.”

In Richmond, they will fill as-yet-determined hard-to-staff positions. 

The school system typically has to fill 200 to 300 teacher positions a year, but in recent years it has had a hard time finding enough qualified candidates. This school year began with about three dozen positions open. Some have been filled by long-term substitutes while others remain unfilled.

“We have a lot of work to do in how we attract and retain teachers,” said School Board Chairman Jeffrey Bourne, 3rd District. “Teach for America is injecting some creativity and some new thinking into the hiring process. 

“I don’t think this is an ‘either/or’ situation. It’s an all of the above. There’s room here for different approaches.”

This is very disappointing, especially after the RPS School Board has seemed to be on the right track in so many other ways. They are trying to strengthen and diversify opportunities for Richmond children while staying under the umbrella of the public, democratic system and while involving leaders with expertise in education. Unfortunately, in this case a majority of the School Board has decided come out from under the umbrella and fork over $150,000 ($5,000 per corps member = $150,000) to TFA to hire inexperienced and untrained people to be teachers.

However, this is not surprising since TFA’s chief lobbyist in Richmond has been diligently working the RPS School Boardas well as Governor McDonnell’s administration for quite a while. Furthermore, at least one School Board member in particular has been eager to hire TFA. And I don’t live in Richmond proper and can’t say how many residents have protested the idea of having TFA corps members teaching in Richmond. Perhaps parents have stood up and asked for them.

I do question, however, the nature of their recruitment problem and the extent to which TFA can aid that or ameliorate their retention problems. RPS should really find out how and why they have a recruitment and retention problem first and then propose solutions. If your car is not working for some reason, bringing in a rental car for a few weeks is not going to fix it. If the School Board  wants help with retention, TFA is not the organization to turn to. TFA leadership states unabashedly that they are fine with their corps members only staying two or three years, that getting them exposure to challenging classrooms is step one on a ladder to working in the education reform industry. And according to TFA watchdog and former corps member Gary Rubinstein, about 10% of TFAers don’t even make it through their very first year of teaching.

There also have been questions raised about the process by which this decision has been made. According to RPS parent and Alliance for Progressive Values member Kirsten Gray, there was no public hearing on the matter, almost no effort to publicize the matter, no review of research on TFA’s effectiveness or lack thereof, and no evidence that there is a shortage and no positions open on the website. However also according to Gray, TFA was voted in with an amendment that caps the TFAers to 10% of the hard to staff schools and the amendment also requires the Richmond School Board to come up with a policy on how to use and place corps members. The way I see it, that’s at least one way to pilot TFA and to minimize potential damage at least. But two School Board members, Kristen Larson and Glen Sturtevant, voted against the amendment and perhaps they’ll work to remove it.

Finally, I also have my own personal experience to share which makes me question if there’s a true shortage and how TFA will help with RPS’s human resources issues. In Spring 2011, I was at a social function and I happened to be seated at the same table with a very high ranking RPS administrator. When I mentioned that I was a Social Studies and ESOL teacher and that I would be applying to area school systems including RPS, they told me the market was fairly tight and that my best bet, if anything, was to apply for an ESOL positions. I did, in fact, apply to RPS later that spring. However, I never heard anything back, not even to receive an e-mail confirming my application had been received, until September 19th when I got an e-mail letting me know they might need an ESOL teacher. Well, by then, I had already taken another job (and I had been contacted by two other area school systems with no shortages)–it was nearly a month after school had started. 

Now, I’m no super star of a teacher but I do have a B.A. from a highly-ranked liberal arts college, I have a master’s degree in education, and a current Virginia license. I am dual-certified including in a hard-to-staff area, I have strong references, and several years of teaching experience, including five in ESOL in Virginia. I wonder how many other people with qualifications such as mine have applied to RPS in recent years. The problem there is not lack of “creativity” or lack of qualified applicants; it’s lack of competence, disorder, and a lack of, um, hiring. TFA’s presence won’t change that. 

Those concerned about the impending contract between TFA and RPS should ask for information and for more transparency about the contracting process. They should also ask that citizens get the same access to public officials that TFA has had. They should also ask for a hearing where evidence both of the shortage and rationale behind hiring TFA would be presented. Finally, they should sign this petition which states opposition RPS’s contracting with TFA (and make sure you read the comments there, too). 

This blog has been cross-posted from:

Charles Parrish of Wayne State University submitted the following proposal:



Surgeons United who Care for America (SUCA*)


This is to announce the establishment of a new approach to surgery in the United States: Surgeons for America (SUCA). Following in the high-heeled footprints of Michelle Rhee and Wendy Kopp, we will employ the model of Teach for America (TFA). That model involves the recruiting bright young graduates of our best colleges and universities, providing them with 5 or 6 weeks of training, and then sending them out to provide high-value surgical operations for patients at low cost. They will replace older surgeons who have become set in their ways and have lost the ignorant, enthusiastic arrogance of youth. We prefer to recruit young people with bachelor degrees in the sciences or business, but we will consider candidates from the humanities on a case-by-case basis. Our particular concern in the selection process for candidates from the humanities is whether they have, or can quickly develop, a callous sense of indifference to patient pain and outcomes.


Part of both our 5 and 6 week courses in surgery, is a one-week course in the finances of Charter Surgery Urgent Care Clinics. All our trainees learn how to do such things as purchase a building through a newly formed for-profit firm and then to lease it back to the Charter Surgery Urgent Care Clinic, which is of course as 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. The SUCA surgeons should be officers of both the for-profit and non-profit organization in order to maximize their income and get the maximum tax advantages. All materials for use by the clinic (furniture, tables, computer, stirrups for gynecological exams, operating instruments, etc.) can be leased or bought outright from the for-profit firm.


As a small concession to experience (of which we are usually contemptuous), there will be a different between the training in the two tracks. Those who enroll in the 5-week program will be only qualified to perform certain simpler operations (vasectomies, D&Cs, appendix, Gall bladder and similar organ removals, skin and other simple cancer operations, penile and breast implants, etc.). Those who go through the 6-week course will be qualified for all operations, from brain cancer to hangnails. Those in the 5-week course will use the textbook Surgery for Dummies. The 6-week course will use Advanced Surgery for Dummies.


After three years as a Surgeon for America, a SUCA graduate will be encouraged to move on into their life career with warm memories of their youthful experience as a surgeon and with a dandy new citation in their curriculum vitae. We do not want these young surgeons to become stale (as so many of the older, experienced surgeons they are replacing are). Many of these young surgeons will go into hedge fund management or other Wall Street professions. Their experience as a surgeon trained to develop moral ambiguity and indifference to the to the pain they inflict through their novice approach to surgical procedures prepares them particularly for such professions.


SUCA was initiated by a grant from the Gates Foundation from funds freed up when Bill finally grew bored with funding charter schools and getting no results and being excoriated by Diane Ravich.


*Pronounced “Suck-A”, as in: “You are a suckaa.”