[Note: All information in this post, unless otherwise cited, was drawn from Mercedes Schneider's excellent blog post, Teach for America Seeks Help Promoting Itself on Capitol Hill.]
Recently, Teach for America posted a vacancy for the Director of their Government Affairs operations in Washington, DC. Interestingly, the job announcement includes the following information
about the experience required for this position: "At least 7 years of work experience, with at least three years experience on Capitol Hill", and "Salary for this position is competitive and
depends on prior experience."
As reported by Mercedes Schneider, the former occupant of this office had been a TFA alum who "started in TFA with two years in the classroom in DC; became a “school operations manager” for five months, then moved on to legislative assistant for 13 months before becoming TFA’s director of government affairs for 27 months."
Clearly, TFA realized that experience in the areas of expertise required to be successful in the job were important considerations in the search process, and made sure that the job description reflected this understanding. Good for them. Just as I prefer that my airline pilot, or surgeon, or barista has extensive experience at flying, operating or drawing a cappuccino before they do these things for me, we should all expect that persons with more experience are capable of better performance at their jobs than those with little or no experience, at least initially...
...which--as I've pointed out previously here, here, and here, makes TFA's business model--of placing young college grads with no coursework in education, or teaching experience, in front of classrooms all across the United States, often in the most challenging teaching and learning settings imaginable--all the more problematic.
So, in the spirit of helping our friends at TFA, an education "non-profit" with assets of nearly half a billion dollars, refocus their values, here are a few questions:
- What does it say about your organization's values when you require 7 years of experience for a lobbying position and require zero years of experience for teachers in charge of classrooms full of young children?
- What does it mean when your organization charges resource-strapped school districts up to $9000 per year in "service fees" for each recruit placed, while private and public
universities charge nothing when their graduates get hired for the same positions?
- What does it say about your "non-profit" organization's values when your top 3 executives are paid $381,946 (Co-CEO Matt Kramer) $342,134 (Elisa Villanueva Beard), and $176,657 (Wendy Kopp), while you attack public schools, teachers and unions for their "greed"?
- What does it mean when some of the top placement sites for TFA recruits happen to be the same cities and regions being targeted for predatory Achievement School Districts and portfolio school districts, like Nashville, Detroit and New Orleans?
Perhaps its time for TFA to update their mission statement from this:
Our mission is to lobby, pressure and persuade as many as possible of our nation's most powerful political leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational privatization and profit.
Because, based on what your organization actually says and does, this is what you truly value.