hatin’ on teach for america

Andrew Hartman pens a highly critical review of Teach for America. Some clips:

The original TFA mission was based on a set of four somewhat noble if paternalistic rationales. First, by bringing the elite into the teaching profession, even if temporarily, TFA would burnish it with a much-needed “aura of status and selectivity.” Second, by supplying its recruits to impoverished school districts, both urban and rural, TFA would compensate for the lack of quality teachers willing to work in such challenging settings. And third, although Kopp recognized that most corps members would not remain classroom teachers beyond their two-year commitments, she believed that TFA alums would form the nucleus of a new movement of educational leaders—that their transformative experiences teaching poor children would mold their ambitious career trajectories. Above these three foundational principles loomed a fourth: the mission to relegate educational inequality to the ash heap of history.

TFA goals derive, in theory, from laudable—if misguided—impulses. But each, in practice, has demonstrated to be deeply problematic.


Putting TFA forward to solve the problems of the teaching profession has turned out poorly. But the third premise for Kopp’s national teacher corps—that it would “create a leadership force for long-term change” in how the nation’s least privileged students are schooled—has been the most destructive. Such destructiveness is directly related to Kopp’s success in attaching TFA to the education reform movement. In this, Kopp’s timing could not have been more fortuitous. When TFA was founded, the education reform movement was beginning to make serious headway in policy-making circles. This movement had been in the works since as far back as the notorious Coleman Report, a massive 1966 government study written by sociologist James Coleman, officially titled “Equality of Educational Opportunity.” Coleman contended that school funding had little bearing on educational achievement and, thus, efforts to achieve resource “equity” were wasteful. The Coleman Report became a touchstone for those who argued that pushing for educational “excellence,” measurable by standardized tests, was the best method to improve schools and hold teachers accountable. Chester Finn, an influential conservative policy analyst who worked in the Reagan Department of Education, put his finger on the educational pulse of our age when he wrote that “holding schools”—and teachers—“to account for their students’ academic achievement” was the only educational policy that made sense in a “post-Coleman” world.

Definitely worth reading for students of school reform.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 1, 2013 at 12:01 am

Posted in education, fabio

One Response

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  1. I remember when I applied for TFA. I didn’t even get a response… Best thing that ever happened…


    Language Arts Teacher

    March 1, 2013 at 1:00 am

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