All Articles Tagged "teach for america"

This Isn’t Dangerous Minds: The Problem With Teach For America

November 9th, 2015 - By Cynthia L. Dorsey
Share to Twitter Email This



During my daily Internet perusing, I recently came across an article in the Atlanta Black Star titled “Teach For America Accused of Sending Idealistic Young White People Into School Districts They Don’t Understand” posted by Manny Otiko, a response to NPR’s article, “2 Teach For America Alums Say TFA Has Big Problems When It Comes To Race.” As a former TFA applicant, I was immediately intrigued and decided to read the article in its entirety. Apparently, two TFA alumni have come forth, accusing the organization of sending young, White, and fresh-out-of-college teachers into underperforming minority school districts with little to no knowledge about serving the students in the schools they’ve been assigned to. The article goes on to give an account of a current corps member, as well as a past one, who said that TFA encourages young people who take part in the program to believe in the ‘hero teacher’ idea.

According to Otiko, it’s “the idea that all minority children need is a dedicated teacher and hard work to succeed.” But as the article also points out, “This idea ignores some of America’s structural racism.”

This ‘hero teacher’ concept is particularly problematic considering a great deal of the teachers being sent into these communities are young White men and women, fresh out of school, who don’t end up being that dedicated after all.

And here we are again, confronting the great White savior narrative. This idea that White people are the ultimate superheroes swooping into our neighborhoods, schools, jobs, churches, and political offices to save the little Black children, or better yet, the entire Black race, makes me nauseous. And it makes me even more queasy considering that TFA encourages such foolishness by going after a majority of White applicants.

When I graduated from graduate school, I was seriously considering joining either the Peace Corps or Teach For America. It was shortly after Hurricane Katrina had occurred, and I desperately wanted to do something to help in the city of New Orleans, so I decided to apply to Teach for America. Having spent all of my grade-school years in public schools, I thought this would be the best way to give back what had been given to me.

Plus, I had also spent the majority of my years in college taking liberal arts classes, so I was feeling really earthy and ready to heal the world.

So I applied and made it all the way to the final stage of the interview process. The final stage was an in-person group interview and then a one-on-one interview.

When I arrived at the TFA office, I was the only Black person in my group. Both interviews went well. Some of the applicants in my group even came up to me afterward and raved, saying, “You did really good. You are definitely going to get this.” Needless to say, I wasn’t chosen. However, the other applicants in my group that I kept in contact with after the interview, majority White and female, were offered positions.

I followed up with the TFA counselor with whom I had begun the journey, and I was told that because I already had a master’s degree I was “overqualified” for the program, as TFA corps members receive their master’s degree as a part of the program.

But they knew I had a master’s degree from the very beginning because it was on my application. Why did they even bother to call me in for an interview? And how can you be too overqualified to educate children?

According to Otika, 80 percent of teachers in this country are White women. And, according to TFA, 49 percent of teachers in the program are White. Who benefits?

Race has nothing to do with whether or not you are and can be a great teacher. But if an organization prides itself on going into poor communities and serving minority students, then it would make sense to serve them fairly. It is just as beneficial to those children to have teachers who look like them and have experienced the same things they are going through as it is to be exposed to teachers from different cultural backgrounds.

Furthermore, this White superhero agenda has to stop. This is not Dangerous Minds. White folks

are not the savior. They never will be. Instead, if people are really serious about effecting change, stop giving poor school districts much less money than suburban school districts are given. Build modern buildings in the inner cities where wholesome learning environments can be created. Stop sending teachers into schools with students they aren’t comfortable with and don’t really want to work with to positively impact. And most importantly, start practicing equity instead of just preaching equality.


Teach For America Struggles With College-Grad Recruitment

February 9th, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
Share to Twitter Email This



Teach For America has been a long sought out post-graduation opportunity for many college seniors seeking secure employment. The education program that serves troubled schools in rural and inner-city communities is currently having recruitment issues, reports the The New York Times. For a second year in a row Teach For America (TFA) applicants have dropped 10 percent on college campuses. The co-chief executive of Teach For America Matt Kramer shared, “I want the numbers to be higher, because the demand from districts is extremely high and we’re not going to meet it this year it is not existentially concerning.” Most recently, TFA has closed two of its summer training sites in New York City and Los Angeles. Their teaching corps has also decreased by a quarter.

Also known for their highly selective process, this past year TFA only accepted 15 percent of its applicants. Kramer says the organization does not plan to lower its standards to gain more corps members. Others note the decline in applications because of its similarities to the Peace Corps. Federal data also reports from 2010-2013 all teaching training programs intake dropped 12.5 percent. Another factor: applicants may not want to go through the rigorous training and standardized testing in order to become a teacher.

Haliegh Duncan, a junior at Macalester College told the New York Times she was excited to apply for TFA. However once she began to research the program she grew skeptical of it. She decided it would be best to go to a teacher’s college after graduation in order to enter the education field. Other criticisms TFA have faced were from teachers unions, school districts and policy makers who believe the program is unstable. By placing corps members in teaching positions in the poorest neighborhoods with only five weeks of training and a contractual agreement of two years of service, students may not receive a consistent education standard.

In order to retain teachers, TFA has begun to provide fellowships to corps members who extend their service past the two-year mark. TFA has decided to recruit college juniors in order to provide a longer teaching training as well.

Have you applied to Teach For America or are alumni of the program? Share your thoughts on TFA’s recruitment issues.

Discussing Race and Education: From Plessy to Today

January 9th, 2013 - By Kimberly Maul
Share to Twitter Email This

Linda Brown Smith at the South Carolina State House on the 25th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education case. At right, Bejamin Hooks, the executive director of the NAACP. AP Photo

Linda Brown Smith at the South Carolina State House on the 25th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education case. At right, Bejamin Hooks, the executive director of the NAACP. AP Photo

On Tuesday evening, Teach for American Outreach hosted an online discussion about race and education, looking at the historical context as well as the implications of current issues including No Child Left Behind and the Franklin v. University of Texas Supreme Court case.

Moderated by Teach for America manager of professional recruitment Christie Clark, “Civil Rights in the Classroom: The Past, Present, and Future of Race and Education in the U.S.” featured Dr. Sheneka Williams, assistant professor of educational administration and policy at the University of Georgia, Saba Bireda, policy and legal advisor for EducationCounsel LLC, and Justin Reid, associate director at the Civil Rights Movement-related Moton Museum in Virginia.

The event was part educational and part for recruitment, as Teach for America is still accepting applications for fall of 2013, with the final rounds of deadlines on January 11 and February 13.

The panelists looked at the historical context of Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, with an eye toward how these decisions impacted the current state of education in the US.

“Start with Plessy and think about how segregation in public facilities was seen as an OK practice at that time,” Williams explained. That led to  “separate but equal” in the education system, which eventually led to Brown v. Board of Education.

Reid discussed how the NAACP spent years filing suits against “separate but equal” in schools. However, they realized that “in order to really make American schools equal, they had to be integrated.” Brown v. Board of Education was an “integration suit, which was at first a class action suit involving hundreds of plaintiffs saying we want integrated schools.”

“Brown really informed our whole understanding of what equal opportunities in education really means,” said Bireda. “After Brown, there was a transformative movement in education and Civil Rights. While progress to integrate was slow, there was a transformative effect on education.”

With the background laid out, the trio also discussed the recent achievement goals in Florida and Virginia, which seemed to include lower goals for black and Latino students compared to their white and Asian counterparts. Virginia has since revised its goals.

“If you set the bar differently for different races, are we saying that for poor little Johnny who is black or Latino, that this is the best he’s going to do? Let’s set the bar where he is and keep it there because it’s not likely he’ll get farther?” Williams said. “It’s the perpetuation of the achievement gap that we have. We need to think about how this would translate in the classroom. How will people respond to these students? There is a trickle-down element here.”

And the panel looked at the current Supreme Court case on race-based admissions, Fisher v. University of Texas, highlighting that Teach for America has joined with 100 other organizations to sign an amicus brief in support of the University.

“What is at stake here is the future of our economy and the future of the opportunities in this country,” Bireda said. “That has implications for what our workforce looks like and whether or not we’re going to be competitive globally.”

The panelists also answered attendee questions, including advice for first-time teachers. Answer: check your biases at the door and get to know the students without pre-judging.

“If we don’t get education right, we enter a new generation of slavery of sorts,” Williams said. “I know everybody cringes at that word, but we have to understand that we are a diverse country and what has been the norm is no longer. We have to embrace that and start there. Everyone deserves a chance at equal educational opportunities. If we don’t get this right, long-term, there is a trickle-down effect and we might never get out of this economic situation in this country.”

Entrepreneur Corps Could Be Headed to a City Near You

July 29th, 2011 - By TheEditor
Share to Twitter Email This

(Inc) — Andrew Yang believes entrepreneurs can help save cities, especially those whose economies have been ravaged by the recession. Yang gave up a law career almost immediately after he started, realizing the mega-firm life was “a less than ideal use of a lot of smart people’s time.”  He founded, a celebrity affiliated philanthropic fundraising site in 2000, right at the end of the bubble. About a year and a half later that business was washed out to sea with many others. Yang still had a six-figure law school debt to square away, but had been bitten by the start-up bug. He decided to apprentice himself out to other entrepreneurs to learn more about starting businesses.

Read More…

Why We Need To Reform Teach For America

February 9th, 2011 - By TheEditor
Share to Twitter Email This

by Joe R. Rogers, Jr.

This Friday, February 11th, Teach For America (TFA) will kick off its 20th Anniversary Summit in Washington, D.C. Thousands of TFA teachers, alumni and supporters from across the country will converge on our nation’s capitol for three days of celebrating, networking and hearing CEO and Founder Wendy Kopp’s vision for this much-celebrated organization’s future. At this auspicious moment, low-income communities of color and allies in the movement for educational equity are joining in a petition addressed to Ms. Kopp demanding that she announce the long overdue reform of her teacher preparation program.

Currently, TFA systematically assigns brand new teachers with only five weeks of summer school training to teach Black and Latino children in low-income communities. In addition, few TFA teachers remain in the classroom beyond TFA’s two-year requirement, depriving our children of experienced educators. These are bold injustices in a perpetually unfair education system that denies our children the critical resources they deserve and need to reach their full potential. The status quo educational inequity that assigns well-prepared teachers to middle class and wealthy White children and inadequately prepared teachers to our children must end.

Specifically, we call upon Teach for America to:

1. Adopt a 12-14 month, clinically based teacher preparation model (which might begin with their current five-week summer preparation program) and require that all prospective TFA teachers commit to teach for a minimum of four years (including the full year of preparation) in the district in which they were prepared

2. Use the $50 million of our federal tax dollars they received in 2010 to plan and implement the evolution of the five-week model to a yearlong model

3. Invest in research and development geared towards recruiting academically accomplished undergraduates and mid-career professionals, including increased percentages of Black and Latino candidates, who will make a minimum four-year commitment to serve in the districts in which they are prepared

4. Immediately stop exporting its current training model to low-income communities in developing nations through TFA spin-off Teach For All. Children in those communities are just as valuable and worthy of well-prepared teachers as our children.

Why is this important? 

Studies show that, on average, it takes TFA teachers at least two years to catch up to their traditionally certified peers. However, just as they are hitting their stride, most TFA teachers leave the classroom. The oft-cited statistic that two-thirds of TFA alumni are working in other positions in or related to education is little consolation. Certainly, we need education advocates in a range of professions, and advocates with classroom experience offer an indispensable (though often disregarded) perspective. But every education advocate’s agenda should include well-prepared, experienced, highly effective teachers so more of our children are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to become the primary advocates for their own schools and communities.

Clearly, the challenge of preparing teachers to serve low-income communities of color well is not TFA’s alone. Many other institutions, such as The New Teacher Project/Teaching Fellows and myriad university-based programs, would better serve our children by adopting a rigorous, extended clinical preparation model offering intensive ongoing support. (The Urban Teacher Residency model of preparation, now seeded in cities across the nation, provides a promising alternative that TFA should consider adopting or adapting.)

But Teach for America, an organization that has received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, that seeks to portray itself as the vanguard of educational equity and civil rights in low-income communities and communities of color, and that exclusively targets our communities, bears a heightened obligation to offer our children only the highest quality educational services.

TFA’s emphasis on recruiting teachers who have themselves succeeded in the classroom as students is commendable. Our children deserve teachers with strong academic skills, and certainly there are teachers working in our schools whose academic skills (and ability to impart those skills) are lacking. But if cultivating and recruiting academically accomplished new teachers who understand the value of a rigorous, extended clinical preparation program and a commitment to teach more than two years presents a major challenge, let us not lower the bar for preparation, but instead focus our resources and energy on more equitable incentives and supports such as free or heavily subsidized preparation programs, career ladders and improved working conditions.
Our children will no longer be denied the educational resources they need to reach their full potential. Please sign our petition and help send a strong message to Wendy Kopp that the status quo of educational inequity has no place in our schools.

Joe Rogers, Jr. is a New York City-based education organizer, advocate and policy analyst focused on educational equity.  He launched Communities For Well-Prepared Teachers, a grassroots movement, in February 2011 to call attention to the systematic assignment of unprepared and inexperienced teachers to low-income communities of color.