The #ResistTFA Twitter chat hit the top of Twitter trending charts on Feb 17th. The chat was organized by Students United for Public Education (SUPE) as part of their Students Resisting TFA campaign, but garnered strong and enthusiastic support from students, teachers, parents, and concerned citizens across the country. The event also received mainstream media coverage in USA Today, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, and Politico. SUPE leaders Stephanie Rivera and Hannah Nguyen released the following statement after the event:
“The overwhelming response to the #ResistTFA hashtag proves that there is an enormous concern among students, teachers, parents and citizens across the country regarding Teach For America’s disproportionate influence on public education. We are encouraged to see this massive outpouring on Twitter, and we look forward to continuing this important discussion about Teach For America on campuses across the country.”
TFA has become perhaps the biggest recruiter on campus at many colleges across the country. This isn’t surprising given the job market these days and the enormous money TFA spends marketing itself on college campuses. But more and more college students are questioning and criticizing TFA as it becomes clear that TFA is straying from its mission of addressing educational inequity. Lucy Griswold is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin (one of TFA’s largest feeder schools) who considered applying to TFA. Even though TFA may have helped her land a job, she came to realize she could not join TFA if she truly valued educational justice. In Teach for America can’t offer real solutions to educational inequality, she cites two main reasons: TFA’s role in the corporate-driven reform movement and her conviction that teachers need extensive training before entering the classroom.
Binghamton University senior, Julianne Cuba voices similar concerns about TFA’s inadequate training in Teach for America doesn’t live up to its mission. She writes, “If the mission of TFA is to ensure that “all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education,” why are we allowing ill-prepared college graduates to be at the forefront of such an undertaking?”
If you’re a student concerned about TFA’s negative influence on educational reform, check out http://studentsresistingtfa.k12newsnetwork.com/. See if there’s a chapter at your school that you can support or consider starting a chapter at your school if there’s not already one. In addition, consider writing a letter in your student paper sharing your concerns. With TFA’s aggressive and well-funded marketing, it’s important that the views of real students and educators are heard.
Part of the reason I started this site is because most critical content on TFA was scattered in various nooks and crannies on the web. This site allowed me to collect links to this info in one convenient place and also to share it with others. Since then, a few other sites have accumulated some great content on TFA. I’ve listed them below (and will add to it as I find more; if you know of any, please email me (see About page for contact info)).
In an insightful post, TFA: The International Brotherhood of Corporate Interests, TFA alum Chad Sommer tells how “TFA rigs the teacher hiring process in favor of charter operators.” with its strict policy whereby recruits must accept whatever offer a school makes. Since charters rarely have collective bargaining contracts to worry about they can drastically undercut the market. Basically, it’s a rigged seller’s market for charters that TFA helps rig. And, “By driving down teacher salaries and weakening workplace protections, TFA has a corrosive effect on the teaching profession.”
TFA recruits continue to speak out about the problems with TFA. In Help Wanted? McTeaching with Teach for America, two ex-TFA teachers talk about their experience and disillusionment with TFA. And, in Tell-All From A TFA and KIPP Teacher: Unprepared, Isolation, Shame, and Burnout another TFA teacher shares a similar tale of disillusionment. In both articles, we hear many of the same recurring criticisms: poor preparation, poor support, and the sad conclusion that TFA is not helping but is, in fact, “perpetuating many of the issues that already exist within the system.”
TFA claims it is now committed to listening to criticism. Will it address the above issues in a substantive manner?
For many, the holiday season is a time of giving – to show appreciation to family and friends and to offer help to those facing hardships. Sadly, there are some groups that try to take advantage of this generosity for selfish reasons. Disappointingly, I believe TFA is one of them, attempting to take advantage of such generosity in recklessly focusing on its own expansion instead of focusing on addressing educational and societal inequities. As reported at Diane Ravitch’s site, Julian Vasquez Heilig’s Clocking Inequality site, and at EduShyster, TFA is aggressively partnering with big name consumer brands to solicit charitable donations during the holidays. This is not only a brazen attempt to cash in on holiday generosity, but also an attempt to cash in on Americans’ concerns about educational inequity and their generosity towards teachers in general (surveys show Americans support more ed funding and their teachers). When TFA sits flush with cash and the backing of the wealthiest corporations and foundations, it is frankly deplorable that it has the audacity to act like a charity when millions of Americans suffer in poverty and are further burdened when their neighborhood schools face inequitable funding and sometimes outright neglect. Even if you think TFA is not all bad, it is clearly not donating or volunteering anything to poor schools – in fact, TFA charges a fee of ~$5K per recruit per year to these schools! Tell TFA and these companies that this is hurting our schools by diverting charitable contributions away from helping the needy. Write letters, call them, comment on their Facebook pages and tell them you will take your business elsewhere until they stop these misguided TFA fundraisers!
Boycott FedEx, Subaru, J. Crew, and Symantec and any other company partnering with TFA!
A group of students a Middlebury College is urging their follow students to reconsider joining TFA and instead find other ways of getting involved in education. They note that “TFA is “deprofessionalizing” the teaching profession” and that rather than challenging the status quo, TFA is helping maintain an unequal system. There are a growing number of college students across the country that are seeing past the marketing spin of TFA and recognizing that the inequity we see in our schools is primarily related to the inequity we see in society (refer to http://studentsresistingtfa.k12newsnetwork.com/, and recent student articles from Yale, Harvard, and Columbia College speaking out against TFA). And, this inequity will not be solved by the same corporate backers that caused it.