Teach For America, which throws college graduates into the role of teachers in low-income schools around the nation, is coming under fire by educators who say its training is inadequate and that it destabilizes schools and communities.
Roughly 100 critics gathered in Chicago last weekend at the Free Minds Free People education conference to discuss “organizing resistance against Teach For America.” Teach For America is one of the most visible efforts to improve the country’s education system, with its employees accounting for less than 1 percent of U.S. teachers.
Alumni of the program, parents, community activists and seasoned teachers also discussed the role the program plays in the privatization of education. In 2009, USA Today reported concerns that TFA’s teachers were displacing older educators, thus destabilizing schools with short-term employees.
Hannah Price, a TFA alumna and current teacher who attended the meeting in Chicago, was quoted by The Guardian as saying: “In the end, I felt the way I was teaching brought me and my students and their communities pain, and that’s why I’m part of this movement now. It doesn’t have to be like that.”
TFA spokesman Steve Mancini believes otherwise. “We certainly have areas of improvements [that] are looking to be better, but based on what we hear from the principals that employ our teachers and the results we see in organizations where our alumni play leadership roles, we have had a positive impact, and that has to be part of the discussion.”
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
TFA participants, usually recent college graduates who have majored in subjects other than teaching, must pass a test before they are are placed in schools in low-income communities for a two-year commitment. They undergo seven weeks of training before the school year begins, and continue to receive coaching from veteran teachers, a TFA coach and an alumni network throughout their commitment.
Price began her two-year commitment in New Orleans in 2010 and said she felt unprepared to teach. She said she was distressed by things including an expectation that she should keep her students silent in the hallways, at lunch and in reading periods.
“It felt so unnatural, but I didn’t have the experience or language to process how detrimental that was to students,” Price said.
Paul Lowry (CC BY 2.0)