The one about Teach for America, their recruits, and motivations...

Teach for America "Scenarios"

Scenario 1--the college student wants to be a teacher but goes to a school with no ed degree program, so signs up with TFA: bad decision making.

Scenario 2--the student is not interested in being a teacher, graduates with a degree in another discipline, but decides to do TFA for a couple of years before going back to grad school or entering the work force: in so doing, the student may force an experienced teacher out of the classroom, as happened to hundreds of teachers in Chicago over the last couple of years, especially veteran teachers of color in the city (http://inthesetimes.com/article/15367/teach_for_americas_mission_to_displace_rank_and_file_educators_in_chicago); and, the hiring districts pay a premium of $3000-5000 per TFA recruit on top of paying the new teachers' salaries--creating negative financial consequences for the school and community, not to mention the costs (financial, human resources, etc.) associated with excessive teacher turnover, which is a feature of the TFA business model (http://tn.chalkbeat.org/2013/11/27/teach-for-america-contract-in-memphis-area-approved-despite-concerns/#.VO36BMYfws0; http://prospect.org/article/true-cost-teach-americas-impact-urban-schools).

Scenario 3: the student has a sincere interest in social justice and societal change, and believes that working as a TFA recruit will help them achieve those goals: the recruit's goals are not aligned with the organization's goals, creating tensions that lead to non-productive disruption among the teaching force and in the schools (see: Gary Rubenstein's work, among others).

Scenario 4: the student enters the classroom through TFA, teaches for 2 years, then gets a job in a state education department, or in school administration, or with a policy think tank: this is TFA's real agenda (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/07/17/a-former-teach-for-america-manager-speaks-out/; http://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/teach-america-hidden-curriculum; http://www.mitchellrobinson.net/2015/02/02/the-one-in-which-teach-for-america-reveals-their-true-colors/), and we can see how this is working out for us as a profession--our policy agenda is being dictated and guided by persons who have no education degrees, never interned or student taught, and don't have sustained, successful teaching experience in "regular" public schools.

None of these scenarios is good, most of them are really bad, and the proof is right in front of our eyes in the form of destabilized schools and communities, the explosion of for-profit charters, and continued attacks on K-12 and higher education.

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Mary Jo (Wednesday, 25 February 2015 21:38)

    I became a teacher through a TFA-like program, so I feel qualified to add scenario 5:

    The student enters college with dreams of being an academic. Majors in academic discipline and takes one education class as an elective and finds it less stimulating than classes in her discipline. Goes to a masters program and learns that she might not be cut out for academia. Adjuncts for a year and is very poor. Starts to think she'd be better as a high school teacher. Can't afford another masters program and the TFA-like program offers a fast track to a steady paycheck. Gets MAT through TFA-like program. Understands the problems with TFA and similar programs, but has no regrets about the path she took personally. Intends to stay in the classroom for the foreseeable future. Is beginning to advocate against standardized tests and corporate education reform.

    This scenario might not be ideal, but it's not as horrific as the other ones. I will say that the particular program that I went through does intend to nurture people who plan to make teaching a permanent profession, not just people who want to build their resumes with a 2 year stint.