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The leaders of Teach for America posted a response to the front-page article in the Néw York Times describing TFA’s declining enrollment.
They blame the decline in part on the overall dip in enrollments in teacher education programs, not acknowledging that TFA has contributed to the erosion of teacher professionalism by its insistence that its recruits with five weeks of training are just as good as (even better than) experienced teachers with a master’s degree.
As you might expect, they blame the decline in applications to an improving economy, which is actually not a good defense as it suggests that a substantial number of potential TFA are more interested in money than in teaching. Those whose prime motivation is money should not enter the field of education.
If only TFA were really like the Peace Corps! They would go where they were needed, do whatever needed to be done, no matter how lowly, and make no pretense that they were more capable than veteran foreign service officers. At the end of two or three years, they would move on to their real careers, having learned from their experiences.
Instead, TFA has cozied up to corporations and right-wing foundations, placed their members in key positions in Congressional offices to protect their brand and secure millions, all the while serving as the willing tool of those who want to destroy unions, promote privatization of public education, and support high-stakes testing, especially for teacher evaluation. The last item is indicative of TFA’s disrespect for the teaching profession, as these ratings based on test scores are unreliable and will have no consequences for TFA teachers, most of whom will abandon teaching before there is enough data to evaluate their performance.
What has hurt TFA the most is that college students have organized on many campuses to combat their message and to warn that TFA is undermining public education and working closely with reactionary forces. The student-led organization called United Students Against Sweatshops called Harvard’s President Drew Faust to sever ties with TFA; it claims to have affiliates on 150 campuses. Graduate students at the University of Minnesota protested against TFA. Even TFA alumni have objected to TFA’s strategies and political agenda.
It is the student protestors who are tarnishing TFA’s brand.