Video: Anti-TFA Rap On HBO Show "Treme"

Here's video of the "TFA Rap" that was in a recent episode of HBO's Treme, the follow-up show to The Wire, and a link to the lyrics and dialogue. What do you think?  Fair, or unfair?  


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  • Surely there is some value to exposing students from struggling schools to well-educated young teachers, whatever their race. Some of the most prestigious private boarding schools regularly employ new graduates (with no teacher training at all) from the top colleges and universities. It's good enough for Choate, but not CPS because said TFA is white and has a degree from somewhere other than a local teacher mill?

  • In reply to WestLooper:

    Dear west looper

    Here are the first three reasons you should send your kids to Choate as listed
    On their web site:

    Just the right size. We are a boarding and day school of approximately 850 students and 116 teaching faculty. The average class size is 12. Our student /faculty ratio is 6:1.

    A rich curriculum. We offer 240 courses with honors sections; we have advanced placement in 25 areas.

    Talented faculty. Three-quarters of our faculty hold advanced degrees; 90 percent live on campus. Faculty get to know you not just in the classroom but on the playing fields and through the many club activities they advise.

    I suggest you begin saving right now.

  • In reply to WestLooper:

    Just for those posters who are interested Teach for American has posted information on the race of its "corps" members and this can be seen by going to

    According to TFA, in 2009 68% of its teachers were white. In 2010, according to ISBE 50.6% of CPS teachers were white. If we go back in time several years to 2007, we see then only 48.2% of CPS teachers were white, if we go back a little further to 2005, we see that 47.9% of CPS teachers were white then.

    It gets even more dramatic if we look at the raw numbers. In 2005 according to ISBE CPS had 25,501 teachers and 12,062 of these teachers were white. In 2010, CPS had 23,219 teachers and 11,749 were white. As you can see CPS according to ISBE data experienced an overall decline in teachers of 8.95%. But the decline in white teachers was only 2.59%. Things were very, very different for black teachers in CPS. In 2005, CPS had 8,849 black teachers and by 2010 CPS had 6,873 black teachers. This equals a decline in black teachers from 2005 to 2010 of 22.3%.

    I could find no clear CPS data on the number TFA corps teachers have been in CPS schools from 2005 to 2010, but according to TFA its first corps member went to work in CPS in 2000. The problem with TFA data is that it mixes TFA corps members in traditional CPS schools with TFA teachers in charter schools authorized by CPS. While it would in a formal sense be wrong to attribute the precipitous decline in black CPS teachers solely to the TFA corps, one would have to say the "TFA rap" clearly had an element of truth to it.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    First, I find this racial bean-counting entirely unproductive. A good teacher is a good teacher regardless of race, gender, or whatever other label you'd like to use.

    Second, the TFA actually does very well in non-white recruiting when viewed against the demographics of its candidate pool. This is described on the same page where you pulled the stats you quote.

    Third, you detail a drop of roughly 2000 black teachers in CPS from 2005 to 2010. But it appears there are only 4500 new TFA teachers per year nationwide. And at the map at the Chicago placement region list 399 TFA members (not sure if that is annually (seems too high for that) or since 2000). If the national TFA demographic stats are reflected in Chicago, only 60% of those 399 TFA members are (were) white. Clearly there must be other explanations for the drop in black teachers. One explanation could be Chicago's loss of black residents over the last 10 years.

    Fourth, it appears TFA members actually stay in the education field in quite high numbers. These stats are also available on the TFA site.

  • In reply to WestLooper:

    Did a little more digging on that Chicago number. Looks like right now there are 350 TFA members in Chicago, so about 175 per year. And of course that number is somewhat stable year-over-year as TFA members cycle out of CPS.

  • In reply to WestLooper:

    The racial data on CPS teachers is there for all to see. I find it rather amazing that pointing out a massive drop in black CPS teachers over a 5 year period of time gets some anonymous posters very upset. Are bringing in what one poster called "the best and brightest of our youth" to teach who appear based on the racial change in the system over the last 5 years to be largely white the reason for the decline in CPS black teachers? As I said in my post you simiply can't make such an arguement based on what is avaiable in terms of data, but as I state the TFA rap which was the topic of the posts does have a point.

    In terms of the decline in black teachers in CPS reflecting the decline in the black population in the city of Chicago, why didn't the poster do a little research and prove her/his point?

    The 2000 Census reported that there were 1,054,000 non-Hispanic blacks in Chicago, according to the NY Times (April 22, 2010) "by 2008, the last year for this data, it was down to 936,505." By my math this represents a decline of 11.15% in eight years, this is barely half the rate of decline of black teachers in the CPS from 2005 to 2010. Something else is happening here.

    Really who should be looking at this issue is not me doing 10 or 15 minutes of research, but major organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League. The decline in black teachers in the city has major implications for the social structure of the city's black community and merits being examined in some detail.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    So the census data alone could explain at least half the drop. And given that the out-migration of black Chicagoans is greater among the middle and upper class, this could potentially explain even more of the loss of black CPS teachers. Frankly we've got enough problems without worrying about the color of our public school teachers.

  • Wouldn't that describe any new teacher?

  • The way my handle acts as a Rorschach test is fascinating to me.

    To your post, I think it speaks volumes that you don't really make a substantive response to the potential correlation between the observed census data and the number of black CPS teachers.

    In general if a city is losing population of a certain demographic (here African-Americans), you would expect to see a drop in the share of employees at local business of that demographic. The effect on CPS would be particularly acute given the residency requirement. Middle-class African-Americans who decide to leave the city (say for the suburbs, or maybe Atlanta) for whatever reason cannot then keep CPS jobs.

    I am not saying this is the only explanation, but it does appear to be the case that half the drop can be explained as a matter of demographics.

  • Maybe it has been said here before and I missed it. How many TFA's, according to research (provide a link please) stay more than 2 years? More than 5? 10? And then how many "regular" teachers stay those lengths of time? or approximately. I *think* I've heard that 50% of all teachers leave the profession completely within 5 years (which speaks to hard the job is in relation to the pay and how little support all teachers, regular or TFA or otherwise, receive) I am curious to know the stats on this in a well researched document. Thanks.

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