This article provides a unique voice on the alternative certification program known as Teach For America (TFA). As a traditionally trained educator who entered TFA as a corps member, the author brings a unique auto-ethnographic perspective on TFA. Combining personal insights with data and theory, the paper addresses TFA's recruiting practices, the application and interview processes, Institute practices and use of indoctrination, a holistic overview of TFA's neoliberal theoretical approach to pedagogy, and TFA's final placement of its corps members. As TFA continues to grow to over 10,000 corps members, critical examination is necessary as TFA becomes evermore present in our nation's schools.
Teach For America (TFA) has, in its 25 years of existence, transformed from an organization that began from a perceived need to ameliorate a national teacher shortage to an organization that seeks to systematically replace traditionally fully-certified teachers while simultaneously producing alumni who are interested in facilitating neoliberal education reform through elected political positions. From its inception, TFA has had its share of critics; yet, critique and criticism of the organization by its own corps members and alumni have largely been silenced and relegated to the margins. This book – the first of its kind – provides alumni of TFA with the opportunity to share their important insight on the organization. And perhaps more importantly, this collection of counter-narratives serves as a testament that many of the claims made by TFA are, in fact, myths that ultimately hurt teachers and students. No longer will alumni voices be silenced in the name of corporate and neoliberal education reform. Click here for the book's Facebook page. #TFACounterNarratives on Twitter.
"[an] Impressive collection of essays"
- Rethinking Schools
School reform is a popular idea in the United States, and one of the most prominent efforts is the program known as “Teach for America,” which seeks to revolutionize how U.S. communities select, train, and place teachers. Given the program’s rapid growth and the increased attention it has attracted from researchers and policymakers, it is time to take an overall look at its impact on the U.S. teaching profession. Many researchers – and even some alumni of the program – have raised serious questions about its impact on teacher training, morale, and effectiveness.
Teach For America (TFA), a teaching not-for-profit organization that recruits and places non-certified teachers in traditionally difficult to staff schools and districts, has without doubt helped shape the growing conversation of education reform. And while this contribution can be found in the teachers it trains and the alumni who venture into education leadership roles, it can be readily found in the realm of media, and in particular, the social media of Twitter. This paper provides an analysis of 15,304 “tweets” that originated from TFA and its top officers as well as all “tweets” including the “hashtag” of #TFA. As an exploratory analysis of the content and audience of tweets sent by core TFA individuals and including TFA related “hashtags,” we show that TFA rarely engages with critics as it uses the media of Twitter to reinforce its reform rhetoric within its own reform coalition. Moreover, we assert that the action of ignoring questions and counter-narratives in social media, for example, is grounded on the assumption that neoliberal educational reforms are seemingly above reproach and beyond critique.
Teach For America (TFA) began in 1990 as an organization purportedly interested in working towards ameliorating a national teacher shortage by sending its corps members into urban and rural schools. In the decades that followed, especially during and immediately following a nationwide onslaught of teacher layoffs instigated by the 2008 Great Recession, teaching shortages no longer exist in many of the districts TFA continues to place corps members. In response to growing criticism, TFA has altered its public rhetoric, suggesting now that their “corps members” are better than traditionally trained teachers – including veteran teachers – and are hired only through equal hiring processes rather than being afforded preferential treatment. We analyze Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) between TFA and regional school districts, TFA’s official literature, and public discourse to address the degree to which TFA is privileged in hiring practices. We provide evidence that school districts are contractually obligated to reserve and protect positions exclusively for corps members, jobs held by corps members are not a result of equal and open competition, corps member positions are specifically not limited to “so-called shortage areas,” and TFA’s partnership with charter schools and alumni of the organization have skewed hiring practices in favor of TFA over non-TFA teachers.
T. Jameson Brewer, Ph.D.
Educator, RESEARCHER, author
This article seeks to characterize Teach For America's (TFA) theoretical framework as engendering disillusionment among its corps members. Given that the corps members have little to no pedagogical or methods training prior to taking on teaching positions through TFA, the lessons learned during the summer training set the stage for the foundational beliefs corps members have about teaching and learning. Specifically, TFA employs a framework known as the Academic Impact Model that posits that good teachers can overcome the ailments of socioeconomic disparities if they subscribe to notions of hyper-teacher-accountability. It is this false sense of reality that creates the opportunity for disillusionment and burnout among TFA's corps members.
Locally and globally among policymakers and edupreneurs, what constitutes “good teaching and learning” is highly contested, and prototypes that seem to embody “what works” are highly valued. In the United States, many accept Teach For America (TFA) as an exemplar of “what works.” As its U.S. operations continue to grow, TFA has recalibrated and expanded into Teach for All, an international organization with extensive reach. Teach For All not only finds historic roots in TFA, but it reflects TFA’s intentional expansion of its theory of change and implementation on a global scale. This exploratory essay investigates the linkages between TFA and TFAll, focusing on theory and implementation of education reform by comparing domestic TFA ideology and practices with those of TFAll. Also, we conceptualize the dimensions and anatomy of a global network of IOs engaged in global education reform. In addition to providing insight on TFAll, our broader goal is to build the knowledge base around what we are calling global Intermediary Organization Networks (IONs).
"Explosive and jaw dropping"
- The Washington Post