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The TFA Influence


Jay Matthews, education columnist for The Washington Post, recently called the appointing of a Teach For America alumna as chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools the latest development in "a TFA insurgency." The article highlighted innovative programs created by the corps' well-connected veterans and quoted an education think tank manager who teases TFA alumni about "their apparent plans for world domination." Teacher blogger and TFA alum Jessica Shyu, who now works for the program, expressed disappointment with the article, saying that she thinks school reform should be a group effort. "Sure, many TFA alums are emerging as leaders of schools and other sectors. But to me, the point isn't to take over the system. The point is to energize everyone to take over the system together," she said.

What do you think of the prominent roles of Teach For America alumni in the education sector? What sort of influence do you think TFA has had on teaching and schools? How can TFA vets and graduates from traditional teacher-prep programs work together to steer education reform in the right direction?


I love Jessica's comment because it reinforces the idea that we must all work towards a shared goal in order to eliminate educational inequity. It shouldn't be an issue of who is "taking over" instead it should be who is "stepping up" and anyone can. I feel that no matter what an organization will face criticism. I've heard teachers complain that TFA is a temporary solution and not a real fix, but now, when it is becoming evident that TFA alums are continuing to stay in education to effect change the complaint is that they are taking over too much. I think (or at least hope) that everyone in education has the shared goal of ensuring that all students can access that education. I support any organization that steps up to make this happen.

Is this really an issue? I don't care what an educator's background is as long as they keep an open mind. I have heard comments from second career educators who feel that they are superior to only career educators, and this is a bit divisive. As long as the TFA alums don't discriminate against those from other backgrounds, more power to them.

The "TFA insurgency" sounds destructive even if it is not, because insurgency is used so often as a military term. Does public education need to be attack as if nobody in the system now has any ideas or success? There are many problems in the system, but nothing that adequate resources, caring, inspirational teachers, small class size and school buildings that are respectful places to send children exist. There are schools now in old office buildings, peoples garages, sharing schools with other schools. I admit that I am a retired teacher, and I had the best of it all.
I had a classroom of 28, that was stocked with supplies when I got to school on the first day.
I had 32 books to assure every child would have one. The desks were ready. The play equipment was there, organized. My parents were supportive, my children loved me ( second grade ) They learned by my methods of teaching, and most went on to college. Some children did better than others, but I had time to help them to move along, and find value in themselves if they were not academically inclined. They all learned to read and do basic math. Teaching was a career, not just something you did for a few years,or did to earn a little extra money after you retired. I knew when it was time to retire. Old people are not as patient as young people.

Insurgency is making schools very unpleasant places for teachers and students, and I wish the think tanks would stop making our schools a battleground. Children deserve better!
They keep saying they want to bridge the gap, so that all have equal opportunity. From the first day of the school year, some children come with fancy backpacks and pencils and pen and laptops and cell phones and whatever else is out there. Some students are disadvantaged right from the first day, because they can't afford all that stuff. They feel bad about themselves, and it is probably difficult to concentrate.

Education is such a wonderful thing, why have we made it another source of division among people. TFA alumni should not be given superior recognition in education, because who knows who they are, and what their qualifications are for what they are saying.

As an educator for urban public schools for over twenty years, I'm afraid I have to claim ignrance with prominent TFA alumni in the education sector. I always thought of it as a kind of peace corps for graduates from very selective universities. They put their two years in and they are gone. Sounds like padding one's resume in a way. I have heard of very few who remian inner-city public school teachers. Anyway, if there is one available and qualified, I say give her a chance. She has been around for more than two years, correct?

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Recent Comments

  • Michael Xavier/Public school teacher: As an educator for urban public schools for over twenty read more
  • Deanna Enos/Retired Teacher Nobody Left Behind One Child's Story About Teaching: The "TFA insurgency" sounds destructive even if it is not, read more
  • Melissa Angel Student Teacher Supervisor: Is this really an issue? I don't care what an read more
  • Alicia Greenwald: I love Jessica's comment because it reinforces the idea that read more




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