Teach for America Losing its Appeal to Top College Graduates!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has a page one article today highlighting the fact that the number of top applicants to Teach for America (TFA) is down significantly for two years in a row. This is not surprising given the improvement in the general economy and the availability of better paying positions for college graduates. The article does go on to comment that the TFA may be losing its luster and has being no more than a “band aid” for the complexity of issues facing American K-12 education. Here is an excerpt:

“Some say the decline in applicants could point to a loss of luster for the program, which rose to prominence through the idea that teaching the nation’s poorest, most needy students could be a crusade, like the Peace Corps. Teach for America has sent hundreds of graduates to Capitol Hill, school superintendents’ offices and education reform groups, seeding a movement that has supported testing and standards, teacher evaluations tethered to student test scores, and a weakening of teacher tenure…

Teaching in general has been losing favor. From 2010 to 2013, the number of student candidates enrolled in teacher training programs fell 12.5 percent, according to federal data.

But Teach for America’s belief that new college graduates can jump into teaching without much training, as well as its ties through prominent alumni to the testing and standards movement, may also be taking a toll, driving away the kind of students the program once attracted.

When Haleigh Duncan, a junior at Macalester College in St. Paul, first came across Teach for America recruiters on campus during her freshman year in 2012, she was captivated by the group’s mission to address educational inequality.

Ms. Duncan, an English major, went back to her dormitory room and pinned the group’s pamphlet on a bulletin board. She was also attracted by the fact that it would be a fast route into teaching. “I felt like I didn’t want to waste time and wanted to jump into the field,” she said.

But as she learned more about the organization, Ms. Duncan lost faith in its short training and grew skeptical of its ties to certain donors, including the Walton Family Foundation, a philanthropic group governed by the family that founded Walmart. She decided she needed to go to a teachers’ college after graduation. “I had a little too much confidence in my ability to override my lack of experience through sheer good will,” she said.”..

..on some campuses, students have started campaigning against the group.

“Teacher turnover really destabilizes a learning environment,” said Hannah Nguyen, a University of Southern California junior who aspires to be a teacher but has helped organize protests against Teach for America. “So having a model that perpetuates that inequity in and of itself was also very confusing for me.”

TFA had good intentions initially but its leadership has aligned itself with the corporate, neo liberal reformers who opt to ignore deep social and economic issues affecting public education in favor of simplistic privatization, assessment, and testing approaches.



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