June 6, 2008

TFA and myth-making

In her insightful post on how ideologically challenged TFA is, Learners Inherit says that those who run that program do not understand what commitment means and how damaging it is to install grad students into our city schools who have a turnstile agenda.

Before encouraging everyone to go over to The Chancellor's to read the whole essay, I'd like to say just a couple of things.

First of all, I admit right off that I only looked up the TFA website for the first time this evening. Under the heading What we do, they tell us:
Teach for America exists to address educational inequity. [LOL] In our nation, which aspires so admirably to be a land of equal opportunity [LOL], where a child is born still determines that child's educational outcome. [Does it really mean where he's born, the specific place?] Our mission is to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity [LOL] by enlisting our nation's most promising future leaders in the effort. Our vision is that one day, all children [LOL] in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

What a chuckle. I'm sorry, but who believes this stuff?

At the link What is educational inequity? there's a
heading more appropriate for a soap-box called "Our nation's greatest injustice." Four bulleted points illustrate some "educational disparities" in the academic success of specific groups of kids, and the writers attribute these to such things as school capacity, socio-economic pressures, health care, nutrition, pre-school programs, and stress at home. I basically agree with them, kids are affected by all of these. And I also agree with their conclusion that "communities haven't taken sufficient steps to mitigate these socioeconomic pressures . . . because of our prevailing priorities, policies, and practices."

Unfortunately, however, neither the socio-economic phenomena causing the disparities or any of those prevailing priorities just mentioned have anything to do with the job of TFA. No one told these people to go out and fix society, and of course, they wouldn't even be able to.

There's a helluva a disconnect between the socio-political landscape of a big city and a mere teacher training program, and no juxtaposition of these two things in a website or in glossy PR materials will establish a link between them. To couple them is devious, and on some level repulsive.

We finally get to read about something tangible and even possible in a
second link, which says that TFA recruits new teachers and "invests in their training and professional development." That's fine, but that's what all colleges and universities do: attract college grads into their ed programs and train them how to teach. No extra points for this.

Saying that after the members complete their 2-year commitments, TFA continues "to foster their ongoing commitment to and leadership in effecting the fundamental changes necessary to expand educational opportunity," the writers have headed straight into the theater of the absurd.

Everyone knows that teachers who leave the profession after such a short period of time have abandoned ship, and all that folderol about fostering and effecting and expanding is just a load of codswallop. Gone is gone, and they aren't coming back.

Now, over to Learners Inherit . . . .


  1. How is it possible that Teach for America discusses issues of "social inequality" like health care, as causing educational inequality, yet KIPP schools the crowing glory of two ex TFA members receives large amounts of funding from the Walton family- the individuals whose company, Walmart, is constantly under fire for refusing to provide their employees with basic access to healthcare? TFA and its members love to tout KIPP as a model of success.
    Here's an idea:
    Why don't the corporate sponsors of KIPP and TFA start providing their employees with living wages and heath care?
    Lo and behold, some of the causes for educational inequality as listed by TFA will disappear!
    Then, we won't need TFA.
    I mean really...it's all a smokescreen.

  2. I have been planning on doing a post dissecting the TFA website, but decided against it as it would be a very long post. But you do a good job pointing out the BS that seems to fuel this organization. One of the things that worries me the most is that when an organization begins to accept money from corporations regardless of their corporate beliefs, that organization becomes an ally in the corruption of equality. There is no way for TFA to "fix society" as you put it, and there is no way for TFA to help under served communities when those communities (as they are in disarray) fuel the corporate machine.

  3. Have you seen the recent audit of their educational grant money that was supposed to be used for teacher training?

  4. Thanks, I just took a look and decided to type out the first paragraph of the AUDIT RESULT for people to get a soup├žon of the contents [bold italics definitely mine]:

    "TFA did not fully comply with applicable laws and regulations regarding its discretionary grant expenditures. We found that $774,944 (about 50 percent) of the total of $1,534,290 in expenditures sampled was unsupoorted. TFA could not provide adequate supporting documentation because it lacked sound fiscal accountability controls. As a result, we could not determine whether $774,044 was spent for the intended grant purposes.

    Darn all that accountability!

  5. Why spend money on teacher training when you don't want them to stay?
    I heard they have really great cocktail parties anyway.

  6. Andrew Wolf in the New York Sun had an interesting article about the private sector's influence on the New York City public schools and mayoral control.
    By the way, the real issue is recruitment rather than retention and our union buys into it.