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In Shakeup, Teach For America to Lay Off Staff

Teach For America is laying off some of its national staff and regional staff as part of its transition to a less centralized business model, Education Week has learned.

The group informed staff and partners about the cuts on Feb. 29. Some employees will stay until at least mid-April and some until the end of May, depending on when they're notified.

It isn't the first year the controversial teacher-training organization has had layoffs. Some 200 or so employees were laid off last year. But the most recent round appears to have targeted some fairly senior executives, and to have blindsided quite a few staffers. (So much so that one of them turned to TFA critic Diane Ravitch to break the newswhich says a lot.)

TFA sources say the basic outline of what was reported on Ravitch's blog is correct. Some 150 jobs will be lost in all, a reduction of 15 percent.

Here's the official release from TFA, and a letter that went out to various community partners and alumni. In it, TFA CEO Elisa Villaneuva Beard says that the changes will allow the organization to become "leaner and more nimble."

There were at least a few hints that this might happen: As I reported in a TFA-at-25 series earlier this year, TFA is shifting from a centralized organization to a more regional one. The regions are now primarily responsible for raising funds, not the national organization. 

Still, the optics here aren't great. For one thing, TFA is eliminating a Chief Diversity Officer position, right as TFA has put a lot of energy into improving diversity and cultural competency training.

Other possible factors behind the layoffs? In both 2014 and 2015, TFA didn't hit its recruiting targets. Its most recent application cycle concluded in March, and sources tell me this year makes the third year that recruitment is down.

The departing staffers include Massie Ritsch, a former U.S. Department of Education aide who was TFA's communications director. 

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