I don’t want anyone to mistake my views, I post on this a lot because I care a lot, I’ve been caring what other people think a lot instead of standing firm, and I’m going to post this as a declaration- I am against Teach For America and actively working to bring it down.
I don’t care that there are a diversity of some good, some bad experiences, I don’t care that many actually do get their start teaching (good for them, really, but that’s the minority). I care that Teach for America exacerbates and perpetuates the broken education system that is continually stratified, that supports testing, charter school expansion, all while claiming that it is politically neutral, and all while it takes money from organizations and corporations that have specific views of education reform. I care that it is dishonest about its actual impact and its mission in the American education system, spending millions of dollars on this message while refusing to release meaningful data about its own impact. I care that the implicit messages of TFA are that the public school system is broken, that we need large changes and enthusiastic energy to fix it, and that someone else has the solution somehow- leaders like Michelle Rhee are dangerous to the education system, for example, and not all TFA people think like her, but the large impact is frightening. I care that TFA exploits young people into believing its message while pushing out veteran teachers and teachers who actually want to be teachers- I know multiple teachers who were ed majors who had to go through Teach for America to get a job. I care that Teach For America actively promotes the deprofessionalization of teachers and is union-busting by putting teachers into non-unionized charters (incidentally, many are now unionized or unionizing, yea!). Unions are necessary to protect workers conditions, especially teachers who can be very easily exploited- say what you will about them, but for teachers and all laborers they are necessary. I truly believe that Teach For America puts itself first, teachers and students last with its work.
I did not start with this stance. Just look at the research, the real research, not the Mathematica studies, etc. etc. Really, truly, then look at our schools, which really, really need resources. It’s all right in front of you.
We are focusing on the wrong priorities as a nation- we need to be actively pushing teachers to stay, pushing out testing that is serving to attack teachers, schools, and ultimately closing them. We should not be spending millions of dollars funding charter school experiments. We should not be spending millions of dollars on testing and teacher evaluations. And we should not be investing millions in Teach For America. We need to be investing in schools and teachers we have, giving them direct professional development that will actually help them, providing resources like curriculum, not making them test for weeks at a time, not using those (often faulty and bad for our kids) tests to declare bad teachers, bad schools, not writing them off as failures. (some testing is necessary, but the state of testing in schools has gotten ridiculous, where I’m spending days and weeks testing my kids instead of teaching). And no, just because some good teachers do come out of TFA, just because there are some good principals or leaders that come out of this, just because these issues of lack of support, resources, intimidation pervade in many urban school systems, does not mean that Teach for America is allowed or ANY WAY OKAY. Teach for America is exacerbating that burn out. This is not real education reform. We should be thinking bigger than that.
I have a lot of fb friends who are corps members or alum on here- we need to be thinking about more than just our isolated experiences as teachers. I am challenging you to think about what the whole education system should look like and even consider that what Teach For America is now can fit into that. For me, it cannot. We need to be thinking about the whole impact of the organization. I want a just, equitable education for all children. I don’t see TFA doing that- I see it going against that in all ways.