Teach For America has a deep association with Harvard University. The Graduate School of Education has a page on its Web site called “Stories by Teach For America,” which features, not surprisingly, heartwarming stories about students who joined TFA.
Now, a group of students have sent a letter to President Drew Faust asking the school to sever ties with TFA unless the organization makes big changes.
The Harvard Crimson student newspaper reported that members of the Student Labor Action Movement recently delivered a letter to Faust “demanding the organization only send students to areas in which there is a teaching shortage, providing corps members more education and training, and cutting ties with corporations the students think threaten teachers unions such as Exxon Mobil and JPMorgan Chase.”
The letter urges Faust to cut ties with TFA — which recruits new college graduates, gives them five weeks of training in the summer and then sends them into high-poverty schools to be solo teachers — if these changes are not made by Oct. 8. TFA has placed thousands of corps members into classrooms over the last two decades.
While nobody should expect TFA to meet these demands, the letter is part of a larger student movement around the country started by the United Students Against Sweatshops which opposes the privatization of public education and believes that TFA is part of that effort.
Harvard has a deep relationship with TFA; the Nonprofit Quarterly reported that “nearly one in five seniors” have applied to join the organization in recent years, and 29 graduates from the university’s class of 2014 were accepted and joined TFA. Pittsburgh schools decided to drop its ties to TFA last year, citing as one reason TFA’s close relationship with charter schools, and early this year Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a line item inserted into state legislation that would have given $1.5 million to Teach For America over two years.
Harvard did not respond to a request for comment about the letter.
Last year, a commentary titled “Don’t Teach For America” that appeared in the Harvard Crimson — written by a student explaining why she was rejecting a request from a TFA recruiter to apply — went viral on the Internet.