Teach for America

Top 10 Reasons to Join Teach For America
February 4, 2014 - 10:57 am CST

Guest Post on the EduShyster blog by Jay Saper 

Did you miss the last application deadline for Teach for America? Fret not, young reader—you still have three more weeks before the next and final deadline to join the 2014 corps.

By Jay Saper, TFA reject

1. Teach for America saves taxpayers a fortune. Let’s face it: ending poverty in this country would cost a fortune. That’s why instead of focusing on what we don’t have—say, a place to sleep for all of our children—TFA aims its laser of excellence on what we have plenty of: lazy teachers who confess to only working half-time and should be displaced. Think about it. The federal government would have to spend untold billions to deal seriously with poverty and its ills. Instead, taxpayers are only on the hook for the hundreds of millions that TFA gets to remind us that poverty is merely an excuse.

2. Teach for America makes teaching chill. Too many of our public schools are stuffed with educators who not only produce low standardized test scores but may even believe in some measure of human beings beyond numbers. That’s why we owe Teach for America a big thanks for making teaching chill by filling the ranks of the teaching profession with students from the country’s most pretentious universities, who excel at tests and thus have complete faith in their totalizing worth.What’s more, these chill new TFA recruits have what it takes to keep their cool as the organization achieves its ambitious growth goals in regions facing massive layoffs and public school closures.

3. Teach for America is growing the next generation of researchers. The organization believes in *independent research to evaluate our impact and promote continuous improvement.* Countless studies have been conducted and continue to prove the effectiveness of the program. Since these results are critical to garnering major donations, it is essential they are produced by unbiased researchers with advanced skills in manipulating data. By encouraging corps members during institute to change student scores to ensure no student fails and intimidating corps members from ever filling out a survey honestly until they have completed their corps experience, Teach for America guarantees Mathematica will have a long line of ethically compromised researchers from which to draw upon to complete future studies. 

4. Teach for America is producing the corps members of tomorrow today. With enrollment in teacher preparation programs across the country plummeting, TFA understands the fierce urgency of producing the corps members of tomorrow today. Be sure to stop by the TFA store to choose from an array of One Day gear for your mini-CM. Of course, you’ll want to plan a TFA weddingbefore the mini-CMs arrive… 

5. Teach for America supports a robust economy. For too long, this country approached education as a jobs program for adults. Now, thanks to the education reform movement and organizations like Teach for America, education is quickly becoming a jobs program for elites. TFA’s operating budget of hundreds of millions of dollars doesn’t go to under-resourced schools but to a far more urgent cause: supporting the jobs of thousands of privileged Americans. Meanwhile, TFA’s friendly relationships with blue chips ensures that profits trickle down to support the people who need it most and help us reach One Day.

6. Teach for America is making compliance the new rebellion. Remember back in the day when kids used to rebel? No more. Today TFA is leading the way in rebranding compliance as the new rebellion. New corps members are welcomed to Summer Institute with the message that *compliance leads to freedom* and *compliance is freedom.* And while the word *compliance* never appears in any formal TFA training materials, staff are encouraged to follow their own discretion in using whatever terminology they choose—as long as said terminology complies with the need to convey the importance of *compliance.*

7. Teach for America is liberating teacher preparation. It was the Fidel Castro-approved radical Paolo Freire who argued that teacher preparation *should go beyond the technical preparation of teachers and be rooted in the ethical formation both of selves and of history.* In other words, it’s time to bring back the very pail-filling, *banking model* of education that Freire rejected. And who better to lead the way than TFA with its partnership with the Relay Graduate School of Education and emphasis on Teaching like a Champion? In fact, what better setting for a speech by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on the *civil rights challenge of our time* than the TFA-staffed Freire Charter School in Philadephia?

8. Teach for America strengthens national defense. With income inequality rapidly reaching unsustainable levels, it’s only a matter of time before something blows. But not if Teach for America can help it. TFA *gets* that realizing true educational equity would require a massive shift in the power structure of America that would undoubtedly damage the opportunities of current elites to continue their honorable and selfless leadership. Hence the use of social justice lingo for a cause that actually perpetuates the survival of the elitist. Meanwhile the organization has been remarkably successful at decreasing civic engagement levels for those who finish their corps experience, compared to the losers who drop out early or aren’t excellent enough to enroll in the first place.

9. Teach for America helps the war tax resistance movement. Teach for America brought in more than $300 million last year—but didn’t contribute a dime to federal coffers. In other words, by refusing to file federal taxes, TFA is making a bold commitment to stand in solidarity with those opposed to US military aggression around the world.

10. Teach for America is building Kool-Aid’s market share w/in the coveted youth market. Teach for America has built a multiracial coalition of people who have developed a taste for what corps members call Kool-Aid. In fact, many corps members have developed such a thirst for the stuff that merely drinking it is no longer enough. As one corps member recently shared: “Sometimes we’re fed the Kool-Aid directly through an IV.”

Jay Saper was a 2013 Teach for America corps member in Philadelphia who was fired after speaking out against school budget cuts in the City of Brotherly Love . According to official TFA documents, *Jay showed a deep passion for the Philadelphia community and value of student activism but could not address its connection to his pedagogical aspirations for his students and closing the achievement gap.*

For more go to: http://edushyster.com/

What Teach for America Says When It Talks to Itself
February 2, 2014 - 8:27 am CST

As I was researching my “Bill Pays to Help Arne” post, I came across a discussion site, Wall Street Oasis, where those hoping to Make It Big on The Street are able to connect in order to solve issues related to their career ambitions.

The site has a link for Teach for America (TFA).

The link includes a number of revealing 2008-2013 discussion threads, particularly since many writers assume that they are interacting with fellow TFAers who desire what TFA founder Wendy Kopp promotes: A high-powered, lucrative, “real” career following a brief TFA stint.

Many assume the TFA promo of Ivy League Short-term Student Saviour, but not all.

Kopp advances the ungrounded idea that TFA recruits can “close the achievement gap” because they are the “best and brightest”– and that they can do so going into America’s toughest teaching situations in two-year stints. And after “closing the gap,” TFAers can fulfill the nation’s need for their “best and brightest” leadership in key educational roles, including those of district or state superintendent, or charter school/education company “founder.”

As to the Wall Street Oasis TFA discussion board: I repost here some of the more telling commentary as such reveals both TFAer career motivations and opinions about the TFA organization, mission, and/or experience.

Though some have clearly swallowed the Kopp koolaid, others are staring at the cup wondering whether they should drink. And still others have thrown the full cup across the room.

For the sake of length, I have selected from among the discussion content for this post. Some content requires site membership for viewing. These limitations noted, what I have written has makes for a lengthy and informative post for those outside of TFA.

Let us now enter their TFA-fashioned world.

Thread One

Hi all,

Just wanted to pick your brains on this question that’s been on my mind.

I’m wrapping up my second year of TFA, and I recently realized thatI would love to continue working in schools, preferably in a school leadership position (position like Dean of Students, Operations at Charter schools, etc). [This and all subsequent bolding added.]

However, I’ve also always wanted to go to Bschool [business school] ( especially a joint MBA/ MA in Education program like Stanford’s), because an MBA would give me more options and flexibility moving forward– maybe working for an edtech startup, managing a charter network, etc.

I guess my question is, would working in a school leadership position preclude me from being accepted into a top MBA program?I’m afraid that I’ll be pigeonholed into school roles for the rest of my career — not necessarily the worst thing in the world, but I’d like options.

Thanks,  guys!

One notable response open for viewing:

One of my classmates at an M7 [one of the seven elite business schools] did exactly this (TFA then Department Head at a charter school). You’ll be fine.

Thread Two

Next comes a reference to a Wall Street Journal article praising TFAers for “deferring” their “six figure salaries”:

I’m sure most of you here read Dealbook regularly, but for those that don’t please enjoy. The best parts are the in comments.


Notable comments:

title is misleading…most of the people going to TFA from my school would never have gotten a banking offer. They are mediocre students at best (although still within target schools), maybe the selectivity has gone down.

Reply to above comment:

Most of the people going into TFA don’t even consider a career in business/finance/consulting, and never have. The article states that only 21 people out of the 5000 deferred. Also, the number of people participating in thesummer internship/full-time resume drop is around 300-400, which is less than 10%.

As far as GPA/Test scores though, most people would fall within the range of theBB/MBB firms.  ”Mediocre students at best” seems a bit biased, as I’m sure you’re viewing this from the perspective of someone interested in those firms and surrounded by extremely type A personalities. Just because you’re looking at a small group of individuals, I probably wouldn’t apply that to the majority of TFA members.

The contempt in the article is quite a bit extreme though. From my first hand experience and observations, most people do NOT leave the education field, although they may leave the classroom. TFA’s role is not to make educators. It is to make education reformers.

Another reply to original WSJ link and its comments:

Those comments are largely pathetic. If kids from top schools want to go teach in the worst parts of America, I think that’s awesome. I would never want to do it, but part of the reason these schools are so awful is because of the terrible quality of the teachers.Why not let some of America’s best and brightest give it a shot?

A good friend of mine was a poli sci major at UChicago, and did TFA with the intention of doing it a few years and then applying to law school. He is now in his 3rd year of teaching at a terrible middle school in Houston. He coaches football and teaches science, and he says it has been the most challenging and rewarding experiences of his life, and he wants to make a career in education reform after he finishes up his teaching career. He even just raised a bunch of money from his friends from college (ie. all people working in finance like me) to take his class on a field trip to DC. These are kids who probably have never even been to the nice areas of Houston, let alone on an actual vacation. And this is all possible because my friend had the initiative to do something like this. I am willing to bet most teachers at his school wouldn’t think of putting in the effort to do something like that.

Maybe I am just overly critical of teachers because I live in Chicago and had to listen for a week to the CPS protest outside my building because they only make $75K a year instead of $80K, but I think TFA is a great program and can do nothing but help improve the quality of education in public schools in underpriveleged (sic) areas of the country.

Thread Three

Hey guys, just wanted to get some opinions on my situation. I’m currently about to begin my second year of TFA, and I’ve spent the summer interning for an ed-tech start up. After my second year, I plan on returning to this same start up as a business analyst before hopefully applying to HBS [Harvard Business School] or some other top bschool [business school]. I graduated from Northwestern with a mediocre GPA. With a great GMAT, do I stand a chance for HBS / Stanford ? Kellogg?

Any input would be appreciated.

One visible response:

Yes, primarily because you will not be in the standard Consulting and Banker buckets so its slightly easier to get in. You’ll obviously spin a story about how you want to be a leader in education.

Thread Four

Read some of the other blog posts on here, but didn’t see anything quite like my situation. One year out of college with an offer to do TFA next year, currently teaching English abroad. Looking to get into management consulting. Went to a target, good GPA, Latin honors, good UG activities etc. Looking to consulting at a big name firm, but I feel that’s going to be hard to do just straight from here. Will I have a chance of doing it after TFA?

One visible response:

You’ll probably have to go to b-school [business school].

Thread Five

Just seeking some advice from you guys here– I just graduated from Northwestern this past June, and right now I’m doin (sic) Teach for America for the next two years. As you can tell from the name of the post, I’m trying to break into the consulting field afterwards. I majored in History during undergrad, with the original intent to go to law school after TFA. Needless to say I’ve had a change of heart. TFA had a resume collection for internships at Deloitte recently but I was unsuccessful. Any suggestions as to how to frame my experiences and make my resume / apps more attractive? Clearly I am not the “typical” applicant. Thanks!

First Response:

Can you provide more stats? What was your GPA? I generally think that if Deloitte didn’t interview you now despite the TFA push, then MBB [top consulting firms of McKinsey and Co., Boston Consulting Group, and Bain and Co.] at this point will be impossible. You may need to go via (top) MBA, which could be a challenge as well if your hard stats (GPA, GMAT) are not greatand you haven’t gotten great experience by then.

Second response:

I’m a second year corps member (interesting side note: TFA interest on this forum has definitely increase [sic] from my perspective) and am in the process of interviewing with several consulting firms. Now the thing to realize is that the TFA resume drop is based solely on stats and you are likely competing with a large pool of more qualified/more experienced corps members (not to say that you aren’t). The key to working TFA to your advantage come [sic] primarily through utilizing their network. On TFAnet.org you can search different companies and it will give you the results of all alumni in a particular company (including email). It is then your responsibility to email/network/whatever you need to do to get them to pass either your name along or your resume up.The resume drop by itself is like shooting in the dark–you might get a hit, but not without a lot of misses. Also you say you went to Northwestern–undoubetdly your alumni network is strong, utilize that. That being said, if your [sic] coming from an atypical path recruitment-wise be prepared to do the networking work and the follow-up work. I was able to get 4 interviews at top tier firms solely through utilizing my ‘summer off’ to network and learn [sic] more about the industry–which is where most people go wrong.

And just because Deloitte passed you over this round doesn’t mean to say you won’t be succesful [sic] in the next resume drop or that you won’t be successful in securing a full-time offer. I didn’t get an interview with Deloitte but did get MBB [McKinsey, Boston, Bain], Booz, Oliver Wyman and Huron. And I’m coming from a non-target liberal arts college with mediocore stats. If you want to know anything else feel free to PM me.


Third Response:

I’m a 1st year Corps Member, and didn’t get a hit from Deloitte either. I did interview with a MBB firm, and some Bulge Brackets last year though, so I’m not entirely sure how Deloitte made their interview decisions lol. That said, I wouldn’t sweat it too much, especially considering the real summer resume drop is coming next week. I will say it’s all in the grind though, and from now until the application deadlines in the next coming months you gotta network harder than a Junior with a bum GPA.

Original poster’s response to the three commenters:

thanks for the input guys….
@m2, my GPA was a mediocre 3.5…I actually never set my sights on MBB, as I figured those would be out of reach anyway. I was thinking more towards boutique firms such as Marakon , katzenbach, kurt salmon…do you think that these smaller firms would be any “easier” to land an interview with?

@smith, that’s some great advice…i’ll definitely be sending you a PM soon.

@better, good luck to you, i’ll definitely be in the next resume drop too. hopefully with better results. Did you hear back from GE at all, or did you just submit it for Deloitte?

Thread Six

This posting of a Mark Naison article entitled, Why Teach for America Is Not Welcome in My Classroom:

Aside from the somewhat socialist leanings of the article, thoughts?

First Response:

All I hear from this article is “WAAAHHHHHH”. He would rather have the bottom third of Flalafel State College teaching in these schools then Yale graduates just because they chose to go a different route in life after a couple years in TFA. Oh yeah and because his students didnt [sic] make the cut he is now butt hurt over it.

Second Response:

Based solely on this article alone, I would conclude that TFA favors the volunteers much more than the impoverished students themselves.

But tbh [to be honest], TFA is a waste of time and resource imho [in my humble opinion].

Third Response:

The absurdity of the program is that the TFA kids are paid as well as actual teachers and are less qualified academically and then get to quit after 2 years and never look back.

I think people should do good for the sake of doing good, not because they want an easier path to b school [business school] than the IBD/MC [International Business Development] grind.

The whole point of TFA is to recreate the movie Stand and Deliver on a wider scale — bringing in bright, unjaded kids that will push students from disadvantaged or at-risk backgrounds to pursue their education more seriously and be more competitive in the workplace. The problem is 1) most of these kids aren’t qualified to do that and 2) it’s a self-serving program that glorifies the teachers until they move on to totally unrelated careers right when they actually get the hang of teaching.

On an unrelated note, TFA is a non-profit — there is nothing “socialist” about the program or criticisms of it.

[Some other responses to responses here:  Follow this link.]

Fourth Response

There’s a lot of truth in the article. I’m in the midst of my summer training for TFA now, and the vast majority of my co-workers don’t REALLY care about these kids. It is a stepping stone, and a guaranteed job, by and large. I also have developed a tremendous amount of animosity towards the organization as a result of what I’ve seen in these past few weeks. This organization is NOT in it for the kids… it’s in it for the “Corps Members” and their experiences.

They have us teaching summer school after only have ONE WEEK of formal training. These kids are getting REAL grades in subjects that many of the teachers have no prior knowledge of.I for one typically learn the subject I’m going to teach the night before the lesson plan is due. It’s disgusting that these kids are used as our guinea pigs. Even the way their success is measured is a damn scam.

They are given the final exam on the first day and given 30 minutes to complete it. For the remainder of summer school, we are then forced to teach our objectives to this specific test, and it is given again on the last day of classes. They are given 2 hours at this point to complete it after having been taught essentially identical questions the entire summer. The questions we give on the final is the EXACT SAME as the ones given on that 1st day too. It’s real easy to say that “little __________ made a 48 point gain in his subject” when you have those particular conditions. The shit is sickening.

I joined to try and do some genuine good, but this organization is no different than many of the private for-profit organizations. At least they’re honest with their intentions. I would leave after seeing this, but there’s too much of a social stigma attached for my professional ambitions to do it. smh.

This thread has a number of additional back-and-forth comments that I have not posted but that can be read here. However, allow me to conclude this thread with the following zealous pro-TFA comment:

Our schools suck. They are a huge money pit. We have given American public education over to liberal do-gooders and educrats for decades. The results speak for themselves.

I support ANYTHING that challenges the status quo. That includes shutting down all public schools. That includes TFA, school vouchers, merit pay for teachers, banning teachers unions, religious schools, etc.

There you have it.

Thread Six

This one I cover in part. It begins with a question about the motives fo Goldman-Sachs in offering TFAers internships during the summer following their first TFA year. Follow this link for the entire thread.

Drex: This is exactly the shit that gives TFA a HORRIBLE reputation among education professionals. Take talented kids who COULD become good teachers, make them feel special, then yank them out after two years just as they’re learning how to do their jobs. Make it better by convincing first year teachers that they should be interning at Goldman instead of improving their lesson plans.

Beef: Wasn’t aware TFA had a horrible rep in higher ed community. I thought they were this super-awesome organization that everybody loves.

Happy: My buddy is doing TFA so take this for what its worth but I think he meant the reputation of the program itself and not necessarily the alums/participants of the program.

Drex: Exactly. The issue is precisely that the people doing it are actually good, but they are being put in to schools for two years, where they can’t do any good, and then pulled out, rather than looking at it as a long-term commitment. TFA does have a good talent pool, and education in this country is better served by those people continuing to teach, rather than going to Goldman. That’s not to say some TFA alumni don’t go off and do useful things, because they do, but that is a definite minority. There are lots of other reasons that people in education don’t like TFA, but that’s the main one.

Steel: Yeah IMO it’s just a resume booster than has no positive effect on the education system as a whole

Shred: Surely better to have them for two years than not have them at all. I don’t think the kids doing TFA would be interested in a permanent teaching role.

Drex: No, it’d be better not to have them at all. First and second year teachers are generally pretty bad at their job, regardless of whether they went to an Ivy league school.

Thread Seven

Only an excerpt regarding whether it is difficult to resume a business career track following TFA (in this case, whether to pursue Deloitte Consulting or TFA). For entire thread, follow this link.

1) TFA sucks. The title is great, but it is two years of teaching the worst kids stuff they dont [sic] want to learn.

2) Deloitte is a legit name, you will get experience and get paid. Use that to go to B school [business school] or stay in consulting.

Thread Eight

Lack of reality meets reality:

Two comments. Here’s the first:

TFA seems to be a good way to delay going into the real worldand keeping any perceived ‘negative’ labels that may be attached to various areas of finance or business away for a short period of time while trying to figure shit out for graduate school. Considering how shitty hiring was the past few years (despite the recent pick-up), it makes sense for some people to do that if you are unsure of what to do and want to keep your options relatively open (esp if you plan on grad school anyway).

Response to above comment:

…You must be kidding me right. Teaching at inter city schools is not “delaying” going into the real world. Quite the contrary. Its jumping in head first. Its an incredibly difficult job to be a teacher in an under funded under appreciated school with minimal if any parental support. An analyst gig may be more grueling in terms of hours than being a first year teacher in the inter city but I guarantee that job is significantly harder.

That being said, I’m not a big fan of TFA. To me its kinda a joke.You get fast tracked to becoming a teacher and receive a normal teachers salary. Not to mention the “prestige” of the program. What are you really sacrificing, nothing really. Maybe if you get sent to a school in the middle of no where [sic] there is more of a sacrifice but its not comparable to something such as the Peace Corps where you don’t receive a salary and live in the middle of no where [sic], in a different culture and different language, isolated and away from friends and family.

TFA should be reserved for people that actually want to be teachers not people looking to beef up their bschool application or other grad school applications. What a waste of time and money to hire and train a bunch of kids only to have them leave after two years. I have friends that are “real” teachers that teach in the same schools as TFA kids are there is a certain level of resentment. They are doing the exact same job because they actually want to be teachers not because they want it on their resume. I’ve heard that often time [sic] TFA kids have a certain better than thou attitude even though they are really just under prepared [sic] first year teachers. Not to mention, a lot of the time, the TFA kids are thrown into situations way over their heads and class rooms [sic] they definitely can not [sic] handle.

I like this guy.

My Own Closing Thread

TFA works hard to promote the image of the “best and brightest” as successfully and altruistically “giving back” by offering their indispensable “talent” to rescue students from achievement gaps that are clearly the fault of those who attended “non-target” institutions in order to earn degrees in what TFA considers a non-profession for its lack of “results.”

However, based upon the above discussion threads, some more astute TFAers realize that Kopp’s promotions are little more than selfish, strategically-endorsed, well-funded fiction.

As to those disillusioned-yet-enlightened former TFAers: May their numbers grow.

For more go to: http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/

January 6, 2014 - 10:58 am CST

Guest Post on EduShyster's Blog by By Chad Sommer

When I joined Teach For America in the spring of 2011 I had no idea that my belief in social and economic justice was about to be cynically exploited by the corporate class. As a former development manager for a nonprofit that serves low-income Chicago public school students, TFA’s claims that its corps members and alumni are helping lead aneducational revolution in low-income communities across the country spoke to me. Naively seduced by TFA’s do-gooder marketing pitch, I charged ahead on a mission to close the academic “achievement gap” that TFA blames on incompetent (read unionized) teachers.

Today, having completed the two-year program and seeing how it operates from the inside, I’m convinced that TFA now serves as a critical component of the all-out-effort by corporate elites to privatize one of the last remaining public institutions of our country: our public schools.

Adored by the corporate class
TFA and the privately managed, non-union charter schools that its corps members often staff are adored by the corporate class. Elites shower both TFA and charter schools with private contributions from their own tax-exempt foundations, as well as taxpayer dollars funneled by their courtiers in Washington and statehouses across the country. Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, The Walton Foundation (Walmart), The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Eli Broad Foundation, and a small army of billionaire hedge fund managers are just a few representatives of the corporate class that bankrolls TFA and the various networks of privately managed (but taxpayer funded) charter schools. Wendy Kopp, founder of TFA is even married to the president of KIPP, one of the country’s largest networks of charter schools.

In Chicago, where I participated in TFA, the organization maintains its own extremely close partnerships with privately managed charter schools. Their relationships are so close, in fact, that earlier this year, after the Chicago Public School system closed forty-nine traditional, unionized public schools, claiming the schools were “underutilized,” it was revealed that TFA was working behind the scenes with a number of privately-managed, non-union charter school operators to open fifty-two new charter schools in Chicago over the next five years.

The alliance between TFA and charter schools is cemented by an arrangement that few people know about outside of the organization. The teacher placement policy of TFA explicitly states in bold letters, “It is our policy that corps 
members accept the first position offered to them.” The effective result of this policy means that corps members have no bargaining position to negotiate wages or benefits, meaning that whatever offer a school makes, the corps member must accept it. TFA provides a rather benign explanation for this arrangement, claiming that it allows for the quick and efficient placement of hundreds of corps members into teaching positions in each market. However, in practice, this mandate is a lynchpin of the corporate class’ privatization plan for education.

The first placement policy
Each spring, local TFA offices in each market dedicate an entire team of staff to arranging interviews between corps members and hiring schools. The “first placement” policy means that TFA can guarantee charter schools a constant supply of new teachers each year who have no choice but to work for wages and benefits far below those negotiated by the local teachers union at traditional public schools in the same area. While a first year salary for a teacher at a traditional unionized school in Chicago is approximately $45,000, the starting salary at many of TFA’s partner charter schools is nearly 30 percent less at $32,000. And because teachers at charter schools are not protected by the due process policies the union has in place at traditional public schools, TFA corps members at charter schools can be fired at any time, for any reason.

A fellow TFA corps member in Chicago who worked at a charter school told me that she met with her principal each Friday to find out if she should bother coming back to work the following Monday. Another told me that his principal explicitly told him that she knew he would only be with her school for two years, so she was going to work him to death. And when he left after his TFA commitment, she would just replace him with a new TFA recruit. Churn and burn is the business model for these schools, and TFA provides a continuous supply of naively idealistic workers who have no choice but to accept their lot. Furthermore, this constant churn of teachers who possess zero or one year of experience can’t possibly be good for the academic or social-emotional development of students who often have little stability in their lives.

By driving down teacher salaries and weakening workplace protections, TFA has a corrosive effect on the teaching profession. But behind TFA’s role as a feeder system for charter schools is a hypocrisy that’s especially galling.

A rigged game
Corporate education reformers are constantly hailing “market-based solutions” as the remedy for poor academic performance among low-income students. TFA, charter schools and their corporate benefactors espouse the notion that if low-income students just had more choices in schools, the resulting competition would drive all schools to deliver a higher quality education. Students and parents must be free to vote with their feet and find alternatives; the Darwinian principal of survival of the fittest is what makes a “free market” so effective, claim its corporate proponents. And yet TFA’s rigging of the teacher hiring process in favor of charter school operators demonstrates a complete and utter contempt for local labor markets. When corps members aren’t allowed the freedom to turn down a job because the pay or benefits are inadequate, or because a charter school has a terrible reputation for abusing teachers, there is no “free market” at work.

TFA: an inverted labor union?
Political philosopher, Sheldon Wolin, proposes in his book Democracy Incorporated that the United States has devolved into a unique, corporate-controlled state that he calls “Inverted Totalitarianism.” Considering the domineering corporate influence on TFA, I would suggest that TFA has become an inverted labor union. Traditional labor unions work to promote the interests of the working people who comprise them by collectively bargaining for higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions. Through its partnerships with charter schools and its mandate that corps members take the first job they’re offered, TFA is lowering wages, reducing benefits and worsening the working conditions of teachers. It is increasingly clear that the mission of the corporate class is to destroy teachers unions and remake the teaching profession into a temporary, low paying job. The corporate class is getting all of the help it needs from Teach For America.

Chad Sommer was a 2011 TFA corps member and taught 4th grade at Chicago’s Rudyard Kipling Elementary School. He was the first and only TFA corps member at the school, and credits the support and mentoring that he received from the school’s veteran union teachers and administration for a positive teaching experience.

For more go to http://edushyster.com

December 9, 2013 - 2:39 pm CST

The Progressive Magazine and Public School Shakedown announce a major new initiative: the Teach For America Truth Squad.

As Beth Sondel, a Teach For America (TFA) expert and one of the founders of the Resist Teach For America Facebook Page explains in a lead piece: TFA "has done an unparalleled job of recruiting young adults, developing their passions for ending educational inequity, and training them to believe that market-based polices and pedagogies that increase standardized test scores are in the service of social justice."

But behind that idealistic veneer, Teach For America is doing real damage.

"TFA is no longer filling a teaching void, but instead replacing more experienced, veteran teachers in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City . . . Washington, D.C., and now Philadelphia," Sondel writes.

"In addition, while TFA claims to be an apolitical organization, it is becoming increasingly clear that the organization's 'movement to end educational inequity' is fundamentally a movement towards corporate sponsorship, deregulation, competition, and the dismantling of teachers unions."

Along with Sondel's excellent overview, Public School Shakedown is publishing writing from Teach For America participants and alumni, as well as parents, activists, and school staff across the country, on the organization's impact in their communities.

The Teach for America Truth Squad is also developing a comprehensive compendium of articles, posts, news-clips and studies about the negative impact TFA is having on public education in America.

The Teach For America Truth Squad is the latest effort by Public School Shakedown to EXPOSE the threat of school privatization, nationwide, and CONNECT pro-public-school activists who want to defend this cornerstone of our democracy.

For more information, check out the web site: www.publicschoolshakedown.org

To add your narrative about TFA or suggest other materials that should be made available please contact the Teach For America Truth Squad Project at: http://publicschoolshakedown.org/contact

December 9, 2013 - 2:36 pm CST

Teach For America (TFA) is a non-profit organization that recruits, trains, and supports recent college graduates to train for five weeks and then work, for two years, as teachers of record in low-income “rural and urban” schools. The schools that TFA places in are primarily in under-resourced districts that serve large populations of low-income students and students of color. In their recruitment efforts, TFA targets college students from prestigious universities with high grade point averages and leadership experience, rather than those who have completed traditional education programs. The organization has done an unparalleled job of recruiting young adults, developing their passions for ending educational inequity, and training them to believe that market-based policies and pedagogies that increase standardized test scores are in service of social justice.

Wendy Kopp founded TFA in 1990, with the dual mission to prepare highly effective teachers to fill the national teaching shortage and “build a movement to end educational inequity.” TFA’s ability to prepare teachers who are effective in the classroom has been challenged since its inception (Darling-Hammond, 1994; 2002; 2005; Heilig & Jez, 2010; Kovacs & Slate-Young, 2013). While TFA widely promotes the success of their recruits, much of the research they cite is not peer-reviewed, has been conducted by think tanks and research groups that have close relationships with the organization, highlights the most successful among TFA teachers, and uses students’ standardized test scores as the sole proxy to measure the quality of a teacher. Further, much of the research that TFA uses to promote their success compares TFA teachers to other emergency credentialed teachers rather than those trained in traditional teaching programs or those with significantly more experience. Yet, since the economic recession of 2008, the increasing national unemployment rate, and the diminishing teacher shortage, TFA is no longer filling a teaching void, but instead replacing more experienced, veteran teachers in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, and Washington, D.C (Heilig & Jez, 2010; 2013) and now Philadelphia.

In addition, while TFA claims to be an apolitical organization, it is becoming increasingly clear that their “movement to end educational inequity” is fundamentally a movement towards corporate sponsorship, deregulation, competition, and the dismantling of teachers unions. While TFA has always had corporate connections (Foote, 2008), in the past decade, they have become increasingly reliant on venture philanthropists. In the summer of 2013, for example, TFA received an $20 million dollars from The Walton Foundation, of Walmart, to expand their programs, making the sum total of Walmart donations to the organization an estimated $100 million (Blume, 2013). Further, TFA has become a central node in a network of organizations and individuals advancing market charter reform nationally. TFA provides human capital for and has formal partnerships with over half of the largest charter management organizations (CMOs) in the country and according to TFA’s 2012 alumni survey results, 41% of the 10,000 TFA alumni teaching in schools, do so in charters. Further, many TFA alumni have founded or serve as senior leaders for charter management companies or work in leadership roles promoting charter district reform. There are 150 TFA alumni serving as leaders of school districts and CMOs and 70 working as elected officials, many of whom promote a market-based agenda and the expansion of charter schools. Increasingly, TFA places corps members in charter schools rather than traditionally run public schools.

While charter schools were originally developed by progressive educators committed to creating alternative educational programs for those whose needs were not being met by traditional public schools, corporate elites and the Conservative Right have taken them up as an opportunity to infuse public education with market-based assumptions. This new approach assumes that when individuals are given the freedom of choice, competition will evolve and drive the overall improvement of services. While individual charter schools may still provide important alternatives to students, charter reform supports privatization in so far as it: 1) serves to blur the lines between the public and private sector by allowing charter management organizations (CMOs) and school leaders to run and treat schools like for-profit companies, 2) provides venues to test business practices in the public sphere, 3) creates opportunity for capital expansion and the outsourcing of services to private companies, and 4) legitimizes the private sector as viable providers of public services in the process.

TFA’s charter reform and privatization agenda was made clear at their 20 year summit in February of 2011. The event began when Kaya Henderson, interim chancellor of Washington DC Public Schools and a TFA alumnus, took the stage and addressed 11,000 TFA corps members and alumni as follows:

Twenty years ago, Wendy Kopp started an organization, and that organization became a call to action, and that call to action became a movement, and that movement is changing this country…We need you in our charter schools, our superintendents office, writing our policies, and the list goes on…This is the revolution we’ve been waiting for!

Former chancellor of the New York Department of Education, Joel Klein and market-based reformer John Schnur followed to reiterate a consistent and dire message: our schools are in crisis, ineffective or lazy teachers and the unions that protect them are to blame, and the solution lies in the radical transformation of our school system. Klein went so far as to correlate the efforts of TFA corps members and alumni to the Egyptian Revolution that was happening at the time. In panel after panel, entrepreneurial leaders and TFA alumni championed the role of TFA in promoting charter reform, deregulation of teacher education, merit-based pay programs, and other market based “solutions”. In their rally to “close the achievement gap”, TFA fails to acknowledge the long-standing efforts of public school educators, students, parents, and communities.

TFA may effectively convince some corps members and much of the public that their efforts are in service of justice and equity. For years there have been students, parents, community members, and experienced teachers that would argue otherwise. Recently, an increasing number of TFA corps members and alumni have begun to recognize and speak out about the barrier the organization creates to the yet to be realized promise of a just and democratic system of education.  

Beth Sondel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Elementary Education at North Carolina State University. She is also a Teach For America alumna. Her research, teaching, and activism focuses on the potential for and barriers to social justice and democratic education.


December 9, 2013 - 2:32 pm CST

I’ve written extensively about my experience as a traditionally trained educator who turned to TFA for a job during the height of the recession that began in 2008.  I’ve just published an autoethnography[1] on my experiences, and I’ve spoken at length about TFA’s theoretical framework[2] and on how TFA undermines the profession of teaching.[3]  However, I’d like to use this opportunity to expand upon what I’ll call the exploitation of traditionally trained educators who find themselves in the ranks of TFA – a phenomenon directly associated with my experience in TFA.

Because I was fortunate enough to have good traditional pre-service university training, a good student-teaching semester, and great mentors/professors of education, I felt very equipped to teach.   TFA caught on to my superior teaching, which I attribute to my traditional training not 18 hours of TFA preparation, and sought to exploit it whenever possible.  I obliged.  This exploitation took many forms:

  1. Countless classroom visits from prospective corps members;
  2. Countless classroom visits from “struggling” corps members;
  3. Countless classroom visits from regional and national TFA staff (including the then President of TFA, Matt Kramer);
  4. Numerous classroom visits from State Representatives (notably, Chip Rogers the House Majority Leader, Alisha Thomas Morgan, and Rahn Mayo) and State Senators (Bill Heath and John Albers) as TFA sought to increase its financial support and political clout;
  5. Classroom visits from the Superintendent of the State of Georgia (John Barge), the Education Policy Advisor to the Governor (Kristin Bernhard), and the House Budget Office Deputy Director (Christine Murdock);
  6. Classroom visits from the legal firm of McKenna, Long, & Aldridge who “sponsored” me to the tune of $10,000 (the money went to TFA’s recruiting coffers and not to my classroom).  The connection at the firm was attorney Jason Esteves (a TFA alum and current candidate for the Atlanta Public School Board);
  7. Presenting my classroom management system to corps members at TFA’s Summer Institute.

Essentially, TFA was cashing in on what appeared to be a “good example” of TFA.  And while I did my best to inform my audience and classroom visitors that I was traditionally trained, I wasn’t always afforded the opportunity.  This, in my view, presented the opportunity for TFA to casually ignore, whenever possible, my non-TFA training and the role it played in shaping me as an educator.  I know that I was video taped numerous times by TFA regional staff; yet, I’ve never seen or heard what has been done with that footage.

In a recent conversation with another researcher, I’ve learned that TFA is using video footage of a university trained teacher turned corps member (like myself) during their Institute training, and until recently, without her knowledge.  Unfortunately, the result of this charade fills incoming corps members – who often have no experience in pedagogical training – with the mindset that good teaching naturally follows their 18 hours of Institute practice…never mind that many of the examples used to portray good teaching may be coming from traditionally trained educators.

When TFA markets themselves as attracting traditionally trained educators without contextualizing the phenomenon within the economic crisis that left many educators without jobs (myself included), or when it exploits traditionally trained educators in a false façade of TFA’s ability to produce great teachers, the profession is further undermined.

I do believe that there are good people in TFA.  And I do believe, based on empirical evidence, that there are corps members who struggle long enough to be decent teachers.  However, I am fearful that the influx of traditionally trained educators due to the economic downturn has provided TFA with the opportunity to further its own financial and political agenda via a Potemkin village that promotes a falsehood to its prospective recruits, its struggling corp members, its financial/political backers, and perhaps most distressingly itself.

Jameson Brewer is a Ph.D. student in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois where he studies Teach For America (TFA) and other neoliberal movements in public education.  Prior to his studies, Jameson, a traditionally trained educator, taught for TFA in Atlanta Public Schools, where he witnessed the impact of neoliberal ideology first hand. He earned a B.S.Ed. in Secondary Education from Valdosta State University and a M.S. in Social Foundations of Education from Georgia State University.


[1]  Brewer, T. J. (2013). From the trenches: A Teach For America’s corps member’s perspective. Critical Education, 4(12), 1-17. Retrieved from http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/criticaled/article/view/183939


[2]  See, for example:

Brewer, T. J. (in press). Accelerated burnout: How Teach For America’s “academic impact model” and theoretical culture of hyper-accountability can foster disillusionment among its corps members. Educational Studies.

Brewer, T. J. (2012). Hyper-accountability, burnout and blame: A TFA corps member speaks out. Education Week: Living in Dialogue. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/02/hyper-accoun...


[3]  Brewer, T. J., & Cody, A. (in press). Teach For America: The neoliberal alternative to teacher professionalism. In J. A. Gorlewski, B. Porfilio, D. A. Gorlewski & J. Hopkins (Eds.), Effective or wise? Teaching and assessing professional dispositions in education. New York, NY: Peter Lang.



December 9, 2013 - 2:29 pm CST

If you’d like to read more about the growing opposition to Teach For America, check out some of the following articles, posts, news-clips and studies:


Teach for America solicits donations, public funds, finder fees while amassing $1 billion fortune, tax records show   (Tom Aswell, Louisiana Voice)

TFA: seeking $5 million in NGO funding so that it can knock qualified, certified Louisiana education graduates out of jobs

TFA: seeking $5 million in NGO funding so that it can knock qualified, certified Louisiana education graduates out of jobs


Is TFA Undermining the Chicago Public Schools? (Jennifer Berkshire, EduSyhster)

The Fight Ahead

All About the Benjamins

The Missionary Position

Dear TFA: You Don’t Need to Keep Telling Us How Excellent You Are (Because We Already Know)

Stop the Minnsanity!

Excellence Happens in Vegas

“Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Excellent!

Give the Gift of Excellence


I Quit Teach for America  (Olivia Blanchard, The Atlantic Monthly)


Advice to Folks Considering TFA (Guy Brandenburg)


Teach for America’s Deep Bench (James Cersonsky, The American Prospect)


Can This Claim Be True? TFAers in the Classroom for 8 Years? (Anthony Cody, Living in Dialogue)

TFA Faces a California Showdown Over Qualifications to Teach English Learners

Native Americans Challenge Teach For America in New Mexico

TFA Says 8-Year Claim is an Estimate, "Not Really Appropriate for Publicizing"

Can This Claim Be True? TFAers in the Classroom for 8 Years?

Though Questions for TFA: Heather Harding Responds

Deepening the Debate over TFA: Responses to Heather Harding

Hyperaccountability, Burnout and Blame; A TFA Corps Member Speaks Out

Phil Kovacs Responds to the Latest Research from Teach For America

Phil Kovacs: Research Suggests TFA Does Not Belong in Huntsville

Phil Kovacs: TFA Research Fails the Test




Teach for America Apostates: a Primer of Alumni Resistance (Owen David, Truthout)


What's the Difference Between Teach For America and a Scab Temp Agency? (Bruce Dixon, Black Agenda Report)


TFA Teachers Perform Well in a New Study -- But Teacher Experience Still Matters  (Dana Goldstein)


Kathleen Shanahan says Teach for America is better than anything Florida has to offer. (Chris Guerrieri, Education Matters)

The federal government gives Teach for America a gift, thumbs its nose at professional teachers.

Rick Scott places Teach for America alumni on the state board of education.

Teach for America hits a new low

Teachers speak out against Teach for America

Superintendent Vitti admits Teach for America leads to increased turnover but sticks with them anyways?
Hillsborough County says No to Teach for America
Only 4 of the first 50 Teach for America teachers remain in Jacksonville's schools


A Horror Comedy: Teach For America Rises to Power (Julian Vasquez Heilig, Cloaking Inequity)

The Republicans didn’t get what they wanted from Shutdown, but TFA did

New Mathematica TFA Study is Irrational Exuberance

Teach For America: A False Promise  (Heilig, National Education Policy Center)

Cloaking Inequity: From the Mailbag: Teach For America Defector Speaks

Whats Good for Goose, is Good for Gander: Feds propose changes to Civil Rights data

Fold or Rethink: A Teach For America Civil War?


Who Will Live In Newark's Teachers Village? TFAers  (Jersey Jazzman)

TFA: The New Gentrifiers

Put Up The Proof, TFA

The Tall Tales of Wendy Kopp

TFA Is a POLITICAL Organization


Why I Said No to Teach for America, and Why You Should Too (Sandra Korn, Huffington Post)


Seasoned teachers worth so much more in NC  (Helen Ladd)


TFA comes to RVA  (Rachel Levy, All Things Education,)

Shortages or not, TFA is not the way for VA

TFA: Yup, still an Industry

Teach For America: From Service Group to Industry


Rethink TFA (Emma Lind, Harvard Crimson)


TFA contracts ignore the evidence - and Malloy’s own rhetoric (Sarah Darer Littman, CT Newsjunkie)


TFA techniques are not best practices (Travis Manning, Idaho Education News)


Why I’m calling on all university faculty to refuse to write letters of recommendation to TFA (Catherine Michna, Hear the Hurricane Coming)


Cleveland Schools Enter Contract With Teach For America, Inc With Costly “Finder’s Fee” (Greg Mild, Plumberbund)

How Ohio’s Teaching Standards Are Lowered By Teach For America


Looking Past the Spin: Teach for America (Barbara Miner)


To The Nation's Elites, Teachers are "Losers! (Mark Naison, With A Brooklyn Accent)

How TFA is Destructive


An Open Letter to New Teach for America Recruits (Katie Osgood)

Teach for America Has Gone Too Far

A Snarky Letter for A Heartless Leader: My Response to TFA Chicago’s Josh Anderson


Six Questions for Teach for America (Jessie Ramey, Yinzercation)

Too Few Answers


How I teach 2.6 months more of math in a year than the rest of you slackers (Gary Rubinstein)

The Underachievement School District

TFA co-CEO’s vs. The Boogeyman

“those teachers are failures”

My experience at a #TFAListen event

Good Kopp, Bad Kopp

The Three Biggest TFA Lies

Teacher quality at KIPP

TFA sponsors reform propaganda videos

Is a half year of learning equivalent to one question on a multiple choice test?

Bad O-PR-ah for TFA

The Silence Of The (Sacrificial) Lambs

Wendy Fails ‘The Giggle Test’


Former-TFAers-Gone-LDOE-Leaders: Incompetence at a Premium (Mercedes Schneider)


NY Times to Adopt TFA Model: Will Fire all Reporters With More than 2 Years Experience (Norm Scott, Ed Notes on-line)


RPT-FEATURE-Has Teach for America betrayed its mission?  (Stephanie Simons)


The debt deal’s gift to Teach For America (Valerie Strauss, Answer Sheet)

Teach For America critics gathering to organize resistance

Professor: Why Teach For America can’t recruit in my classroom

It’s time for Teach For America to fold — former TFAer

Does 5 weeks of training make a teacher ‘highly qualified?’ — Updated


TFA looks to capitalize on School District of Philadelphia crisis (Teacherbiz)


Teach for America cashing in on ed reform? (Dora Taylor, Seattle Education, Parents Across America)

Teach for America

Organizing Resistance to Teach for America


TFA: “It’s just one unverifiable anecdote after the next”   (Paul Thomas)


Top Ten Reasons Not to Contract With Teach For America (John Wilson, Education Week)


And tracking TFA on the international front;

Teach for America looks to infect Canada (Joe Bower, for the love of learning)