300 million ways to support Teach for America this holiday season
Happy holidays, reader! Tis the time of year when our thoughts turn to the neediest among us, those that require just a little extra giving this season. I give you: the Philadelphia Public Schools Teach for America. You see, it takes a lot of those special Christmas envelopes, each containing a crisp $10 bill, to add up to TFA’s now $306 million annual budget (roughly 30,600,000 envelopes by my calculations). Fortunately TFA has plenty of corporate elves working overtime to ensure that its stocking is filled with excellence this year. Let’s meet these little helpers, shall we? Continue reading
A Teach for America alum says it’s time for alumni to speak out against the organization’s political maneuvering
When Teach for America scored a last-minute language change in the recent debt deal—and a huge windfall—not everyone was surprised. TFA alum Kristoffer Kohl has been keeping a close eye on the organization’s extensive lobbying effort and its seemingly insatiable appetite for government pork. Now Kohl is urging other alumni to join him in speaking out against such wheeling and dealing, arguing that TFA is more concerned with championing itself than the students it claims to serve.
Researcher, writer and former TFA corps member Catherine Michna.
Catherine Michna’s passionate declaration that she’ll no longer write letters of recommendation for students applying to Teach for America set off a firestorm. But the Tulane University research fellow is not the ivory tower bomb thrower that her critics make her out to be. Michna’s critique of the organization of which she was once a part is deeply grounded in the city where she grew up and attended public schools: New Orleans. In the very first installment of a new series, The Frustrated Alum, EduShyster talks with Michna about her story and why she decided to speak out publicly against TFA. Continue reading
An internal TFA document shows plans for a dramatic charter expansion in the Windy City
When news broke this summer that Teach for America was expanding its presence in Chicago amid the largest school closings in that city’s history and the layoffs of thousands of teachers and school staff, the reaction was swift, furious and extended well beyond the usual chorus of TFA detractors. At the time, I argued that the heated-back-and-forth, while welcome, missed the point. In city after city, TFA has largely abandoned its earlier mission of staffing hard-to-fill positions in public schools, serving instead as a placement agency for urban charters. In Chicago, however, TFA’s role appears to go far beyond providing labor for the fast-growing charter sector. An internal TFA document indicates that the organization has a plan to dramatically expand the number of charter schools in the city. Continue reading
What we should be talking about when we talk about Teach for America
Teachers and students protest the closure of 50 public schools in Chicago. Teach for America increasingly drives the policies behind such school closures.
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve no doubt noticed that the debate about Teach for America has ratcheted up considerably in recent weeks. Here’s the quick and dirty version: urban districts are closing dozens of schools and laying off teachers, even as they’re bringing in new Teach for America recruits. When news began to spread that a popular Chicago teacher had been laid off (the news delivered by his mother, no less), the back-and-forth reached a boiling point. How was it right for the Chicago Public Schools to axe a well-regarded teacher, one of 2000 let go, while expanding the number of TFA corps members, who’ll be entering the city’s schools this fall after just five weeks of training?
It’s a heated and emotional discussion but it also misses the larger point. TFA’s threat to urban teachers isn’t in these new corps members but in the policy of rampant urban charter expansion that TFA is driving. What’s more, the rancorous tone of the debate threatens to push away the growing number of alumni who have begun to question TFA’s mission and orientation. So what should we be talking about? Here’s a look: