Commentary

There has been criticism from a wide variety of perspectives – including parents, educators, journalists, and researchers. Below are some of the most prominent commentaries.  (For additional links check out all blog entries featuring educators, TFA recruits, college students, media, and parents)

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The Sham of Teach for America: Part One is the first in a two part radio series taking a critical look at TFA.  “In this first part of our two-part series on TFA, we challenge the claims that TFA makes to support its mission by taking a closer look at TFA recruitment, training, its impact on teacher education, its approach to diversity, and the impossibility of the TFA model to create spaces for authentic teaching and learning.”

Update:  Part two is now posted as well:  The Ongoing Sham of Teach for America: Part Two

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In Wendy Kopp, TFA, and life in a bubble, veteran teacher Mr S considers the larger context in which TFA operates.   He discusses how bringing in young, minimally trained recruits who often have little intention of staying in the teaching profession, TFA has become a tool to enable unpalatable reforms such as charter schools and test focused curriculum (and I would add oppressive classroom management techniques).  It’s not just that TFA promotes many of these same reforms, but they are increasingly pushing out veteran teachers who might resist such reforms.

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David Greene is a former teacher of 38 years and now works as a teacher trainer at Fordham University Graduate School of Education where he has worked exclusively with 20 TFA CMs in the Bronx for the last four years.    In three revealing blogs posts (here, here, and here), he describes the immense challenges for TFAmericans (as he calls them).  They get insufficient training from TFA and are often told to ignore anything that conflicts with TFA dogma; they are often dumped into environments that don’t provide sufficient supports for new teachers; and, they are burdened with TFA busywork on top of an already heavy workload which cuts into preparation and learning time.

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Nalin A. Ratnayake was a research engineer for the Aerodynamics and Propulsion Branch at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.  “Unable to ignore a stronger calling within” himself to attend “to the front lines of a social inequity that has been a thorn in my brain for a long time” Mr Ratnayake is switching careers to become a high school physics teacher.   In “Why I Didn’t Choose TFA” he not only describes why he chose another program instead (The Boston Teacher Residency), but suggests that TFA has some very fundamental problems if it truly aims to help poor students.

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TFA and charter supporters asked Chicago teacher, KatieO, to join with them on “what we agree on”.  KatieO responds, in this article, by turning the question around, “So charter schools and TFA, no, I will not join with you on your misguided and harmful education paths. Why don’t YOU join with US in saving our nation’s schools?

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Joel Boyce is a Canadian science teacher and has a hard time understanding how TFA is seen as any kind of solution for helping poor students in the US.  He asks, “How is it that American schools find themselves forced to hire individuals with virtually no training or experience to teach?”  He makes a number of additional potent points about TFA in his article Teach For America:  Doing More Harm Than Good?

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A former teacher and blogger, Rachel Levy, writes that TFA “has morphed into what is essentially a jobs program for the privileged, funded by taxpayers and wealthy individuals.”

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Actor Matt Damon and his Mother, Nancy Carlsson-Paige (who is Professor Emerita, in Education, at Lesley University) Reject NEA Union’s Award.  In her letter to NEA president Dennis Van Roekel she wrote:

“I have decided that because of your collaboration with TFA, it would not be wise for me or for Matt to be nominated for the Friend of Education Award. I regret this turn of events.”

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In this article, Fordham University Professor Mark Naison describes the problem of TFA treating teaching as a stepping stone.

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P. L. Thomas looks at some of the recent coverage of TFA moving into South Carolina at http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/12/unpacking-tfa-support-twisted-logic-and.html. At the bottom of the article, there are numerous links to further critiques of this coverage and of TFA.   P.L Thomas also has a valuable resource page at http://palmettoeducatorsnetwork.blogspot.com/2011/02/resources-teach-for-america-think-tanks.html

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Education Researcher Philip Kovacs from the University of Alabama, Huntsville explores Teach For America Research Fails the Test

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Deborah Appleman, the Hollis L. Caswell Professor and Chair, Educational Studies Department at Carleton College, has spoken out numerous times on the serious shortcomings of the TFA program. Most prominently:

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Anna, a teacher in NY wrote this scathing commentary entitled Why I Hate Teach for America

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Mary Tedrow, a National Board Certified teacher recently had her eyes opened about TFA, which she tells about in I thought I knew TFA but…

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Journalist Barbara Miner wrote, Looking Past the Spin: Teach for America

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Noted education historian, author, and former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch has spoken out on numerous occasions raising serious concerns about TFA. Here is a sampling:

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This young college student wrote a powerful article about the dishonesty of letting teacher trainees (like TFA) be considered highly qualified:  In What World Are Trainee Teachers ‘Highly Qualified’? In Mine

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Veteran educators Anthony Cody and Nancy Flanagan, write about their problems with TFA.

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And, the National Education Association also has serious concerns with TFA polcies as NEA Delegates Take Swipe at Teach For America

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Parents in Seattle have spoken out about their concerns of TFA and their plans for coming to Seattle schools despite there being no teacher shortages:

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Educator Larry Ferlazzo writes Why I Oppose Teach For America Coming To Sacramento

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Matthew Bruenig, a senior at the University of Oklahoma, thinks College Seniors Should Reconsider Teach For America

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