River Deep, Mountain High

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 21 2013

The Catch-22 of Teach For America

[Click here to read: Teach For America Isn't Perfect, but it Has Been a Boost to Education]

I haven’t posted here in over four months, but I wanted to share some thoughts from all the TFA hoopla as of late. There are some great articles out there providing perspective on the escalating debate over whether TFA is a net positive for low-income children. Here’s a link to  Eduwonk and also Education Week’s Storify, which cover most of the coverage from the past week alone.

Due to my previous blogging, I was contacted by the Guardian to provide the perspective of an alumnus. The problem with our current dialogue as it pertains to education reform is that critics are often passionately over-the-top and too easily dismissed by TFA leaders. On the other hand, and in the words of a former top manager, TFA “doesn’t listen to credible outside criticism and operates a big public relations campaign to deflect it.” I had hoped my piece would help bridge the divide, but the reality is that roughly 10% of people follow both Michelle Rhee and Diane Ravitch on Twitter, and the retweeting mechanism merely becomes complicit in creating a virtual echo chamber. My hope is that the “Anti-TFA” crowd will at least consider my view and TFA executives won’t be able to dismiss my thoughts as those of an illogical radical.

Click here to read: Teach For America Isn’t Perfect, but it Has Been a Boost to Education.

Main Ideas:

  1. TFA is lacking authenticity and integrity as demonstrated by its massively tone deaf, self-serving PR campaigns.
  2. TFA does a good job recruiting CM’s it can later help position for the educational leadership pipeline.
  3. TFA lack of useful training helped me refine many transferable skills because I had to in order to survive.
  4. TFA has helped move the needle but hasn’t done much to stop the larger cycle of poverty and teacher turnover.
  5. TFA’s continued placement of teachers in places such as Chicago antagonizes professional educators.
  6. TFA is not “Too Big To Fail” and there are other alternatives out there, such as City Year and BTR.

Finally, it’s ironic to see how tone deaf TFA leadership has been in continuing to promote itself at Chicago institute in the midst of school closings and teacher firings and also in Detroit as the city goes bankrupt. This poor timing isn’t necessarily TFA’s fault, but it serves as yet another example of why the organization appears to be aloof and insensitive to the real concerns of professional educators.


****The views expressed above and in my article are solely my own and do not represent City Year, Americorps, or any organization I’ve worked for in the past****


2 Responses

  1. I think the quote you pull from Dr. Royal is spot-on and matches up well with the key points you have here. The impact of a TFA teacher is going to stem from his or her own commitment to the effort. TFA doesn’t do as much as it can or should to support corps members and it does need to stop being so tone deaf when it comes to these issues. It has been over 20 years and we’re hearing about many of the same issues over and over again.

    Also, on Detroit, the schools have been in the hole for some time now and are under the direction of a separate emergency manager from the city. This is because the school receives funds from the state and not the city.

  2. mches

    Glad to see you back!

Reply to Alex Morgan

or, cancel reply

About this Blog

Remove Barriers, Raise the Bar

Mississippi Delta
Middle School

Subscribe to this blog (feed)


July 2013
« Feb   Aug »