Remember the headline about Teach For America that came out in The Onion a couple of years ago (TFA Chews Up, Spits Out Another Ethnic-Studies Major)? Well, TFAs come a long way since then, but it is no less frustratingly problematic.
According to a new article (Why Teach For America)
in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, the original TFA was small and
marked by its idealism and its focus on getting bright people into
classrooms and doing some immediate good for poor children. The new
TFA is much much larger and features corporate-style recruiting efforts
and a hyper-aggressive PR operation.Folks from the early years probably
couldnt get accepted to TFA if they applied today, and its not clear
that many of them would want to.
More important, TFA now wants to be judged both as a short-term
intervention and as a broad-based reform movement whose scope includes
everything from KIPP to Michelle Rhee to scores of alums in elected
office.This was either part of the plan all along or a slick
re-engineering of TFAs original mission to address widespread
concerns that putting smart newbies in front of poor kids for two years
wasnt going to solve any real problems.
One big question is whether or not this two-pronged approach is fair
or not to TFA teachers and the kids and colleagues they work with
during their brief teaching stints.Another is whether TFA should have
been focusing on expanding its members longevity and impact in the
classroom rather than on increasing its numbers of districts and
candidates.Last but not least the verdict is out here is whether
TFA alums are more powerfully involved in school reform than they would
have been anyway, and what good comes of it.
Filed under: Teachers & Teaching