Teach for America critics organizing ‘resistance’ at summit

A group of Teach for America alumni and students of TFA teachers who are critical of the organization are holding a summit this summer in an effort to organize against the organization that is popular with school reformers.

Teach for America recruits new college graduates, gives them five weeks of summer training and then places them in some of America’s neediest urban and rural schools as teachers, under the assumption that five weeks is enough to turn out an effective teacher. It asks that its recruits commit to two years in the classroom.

Critics says that high-needs students, who are the ones who get TFA teachers, are the children who most need veteran teachers. In fact, some veterans are now losing their jobs to TFA corps members, because TFAers are less expensive to hire, and some school teaching communities are becoming less cohesive because TFA members promise only to stay for two years and leave teaching at a greater rate than traditionally trained teachers. School reformers love the program, and the Obama administration has awarded it tens of millions of dollars, despite a lack of independent research showing that its teachers are largely effective.

Increasingly, former TFA corps members have been speaking up about problems with the program, such as in this post, in which one ex-TFAer argues that it is time for the organization to fold. (Here’s another critique from an ex-TFA corps member about his lack of preparation for troubled students, and here a professor explains why TFA  can’t recruit in his classroom.)

Now they are organizing a summit during the four-day Free Minds, Free People conference in Chicago this summer. The TFA summit is on July 14. Among the TFA summit organizers are two TFA alums, Beth Leah Sondel, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Kerry Kretchmar, a professor at Carroll College.
The flier says that the aim of the summit is to organize “resistance to Teach for America and its role in privatization” of public education. It says participants will:

- Share the stories and practices of the many critical TFA alumni doing important resistance work across the country as activists, researchers, and teachers.

- Amplify the voices of those negatively impacted by TFA in their schools and communities

 

Action oriented work groups will:

- Draft letters to districts urging them not to renew contracts/partner with TFA

- Draft templates for counter-recruiting events you can start in your own community

- Plan mass media/public service campaign

- Plan a summer program for TFA corps members to support them in critical pedagogy

- Plan future events/conferences to keep this work moving forward

 

 

Clarification: The summit is part of the Free People, Free Minds conference.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · April 1, 2013