The Harm Done by TFA – According to its own Alumni

Here is an article which points out the negative impact of Teach for America, as described by two of its own former members. It’s in a magazine called Jacobin. I recommend it highly.

Here are a few quotes:

In stark contrast to the harsh and constant criticism that TFA doles out to its corps members and staff members, much of what the organization has been doing in recent years — creating its own public relations machine — suggests a desire to be above criticism itself. During my tenure on staff, the organization created a national communications team whose job was to get positive press out about TFA and to swiftly address any negative press. My sense was, and still is, that TFA cares more about the public perception of what it is doing than about what it is actually doing to improve educational outcomes and opportunities for low-income students throughout the United States.

For an organization that describes itself as “data-driven,” it is interesting that TFA does not collect data on how their corps members are impacted by their TFA commitments. While working in racially segregated and under-resourced schools, 35 percent of the corps members in this study began professional counseling; 27 percent began taking prescription medications to address depression, anxiety, and trauma; 38 percent experienced increased alcohol consumption and dependency; 42 percent experienced major weight changes; 46 percent experienced strained relationships; and 73 percent experienced physical fatigue, some to the point of requiring medical attention.

After years of uncritical praise, TFA has started receiving less favorable media coverage and more public discontent from alumni. One corps member in your book, Jameson, writes about viewing her time in TFA as “almost a guilty secret.” Why has there been this sort of shift in how TFA is viewed by corps members and the broader public, and how has TFA as an organization handled this uptick in public criticism?


TFA controlled the rhetoric about TFA for the first twenty-three of its twenty-five years. Critique has always been there but only in the last two years has that critique started to come together and find outlets. That was a fundamental aim of our book: providing an outlet for discussion where it was historically absent.

TFA has been forced to include defensive measures to combat negative press. And while any company would likely engage in a public relations campaign, TFA is determined to undermine any and all dissent ranging from nationally syndicated columns to obscure blogs.

A Warning to ‘Teach for America’ Noobies from Mercedes Schneider concerning special-needs students

Mercedes Schneider gives a serious warning to members of ‘Teach for America’ concerning grandiose plans by its current leadership to have untrained TFAers be in charge of diagnosing and treating special-needs students. Here is a small part of it and a link to her article:


“Do not place yourself in a position to damage the vulnerable via a naivete exacerbated by an inflated ego.

“You could harm students. You could be harmed by students. You could be held legally responsible.

“Do not mistake enthusiasm for invincibility.

“If you really want to assist special needs populations, make the appropriate investment. Return to school and treat your decision as an honest, long-term career move.”


Facebook page “Remove Kevin Huffman”

I heartily recommend this page calling for the removal of Kevin Huffman as education honcho in the state of Tennessee.

(He’s the former husband of Michelle Rhee and was at one point anointed the “Education Pundit of the Year” by none other than the Washington Post; he’s a billionaire-friendly, anti-teacher and anti-parent and anti-student educational DEformer.)

how do parents feel

remove kevin huffman



Published in: on August 1, 2013 at 9:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Hedge Fund Speculator Tells Politicians How to Fix Education

{tongue_in_cheek ON}

Ever hear of a tremendous classroom teacher, with great student teams and classroom activities to his credit, and who has lots of contributions in the field of excellent teaching techniques and strategies, named Whitney Tilson?

Who is so celebrated as a teacher that Tilson has won every teaching award and now gives seminars to teachers on how to have great, active, participatory activities in their classroom, at level X through Z in multiple subjects?


You never heard of the excellent teacher Whitney Tilson, who is Nationally Board Certified in two different subjects, also the Connecticut, California and New York State Teacher of the Year three years running, and coach of the national champion state teams in It’s Academic, MathCounts, soccer and basketball?


{/tongue_in_cheek OFF}

That’s because he’s never taught school, ever.

There is another Whitney Tilson. He’s a hedge fund billionaire or multi-millionaire, and he thinks he knows all about education and can tell politicians how to DEform the public education sector. He claims to have helped Wendy Kopp found Teach For Awhile, and “Democrats” for Education Deform.

With no actual grounding in any classroom, mind you. He has never taught. He has made a ton of money gambling with other people’s money in hedge funds and such.

But he “knows” that most of us teachers, particularly those who are members of unions, are a bunch of lazy, incompetent slobs that skip work and need to be fired. The cheating that goes on surrounding the NCLB testing? it’s only these incompetent teachers doing it, not administrators having erasure parties after the kids go home, according to him.

And he also knows exactly how to “fix” education.

He claims to know that DC public schools are way better off after having Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson in charge for 6 years now.

(If you want to see how much progress there has been on the NAEP in Washington DC since the advent of mayoral control and the educational DEformers, just use the search box on my blog, in the upper right-hand corner of this screen, and enter the words “NAEP gap”. You will see lots of data showing that there has been, in fact, NO miracle of the kind that their Excellencies, Whitney Tilson, Wendy Kopp, and Michelle Rhee promised.)

Tilson is a snake, and his creations, DFER and TFA, are dangerous.

Jersey Jazzman asks AN EXCELLENT QUESTION ABOUT TFA, given claims for how miraculous an organization it is:

” It’s really remarkable how little we can say definitively about TFA and teacher attrition. And yet the feds gave them a nice chunk of change. Didn’t anyone think to do a cost-benefit analysis before handing over the dough? Wouldn’t some basic statistics about the effectiveness of the program go a long way toward guarding the interests of taxpayers?

Published in: on December 18, 2012 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Is TFA cynical or what?

 EdNews You Can Use- 23 June 2012


Teach For America is Proud to Partner with J.P. Morgan

Joining Teach For America before pursuing a career in business will provide you with the management experience and skills that will help you have a greater impact in the business world. By committing two years to teach in a low-income community, you will have an unparalleled opportunity to assume tremendous responsibility—managing a classroom of students, setting ambitious goals, and inspiring your students to meet those goals. Through this experience, alumni say that they developed invaluable communication and time-management skills that are highly transferable to a career in business.

Partnership Benefits

  • Two-year deferrals for students who are accepted into both Teach For America and J.P. Morgan’s Investment Bank Analyst Program.
  • J.P. Morgan mentor for corps members during their two-year corps experience.
  • Summer internship at J.P. Morgan between first and second year of corps experience for those who participate in the deferral partnership.
  • J.P. Morgan recruits Teach For America corps members for summer internship opportunities. (J.P. Morgan will treat Teach For America as a ‘core recruiting school’).

Eligibility Requirements

  • Candidates must be offered a position within one of J.P. Morgan’s participating business groups & regional offices:
    • Investment Banking Analyst, Research Analyst
    • New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas
  • Candidates must meet all of Teach For America’s minimum application requirements.

Deferral Partnership Details

  • Once a candidate has been accepted by Teach For America and has a full-time offer from one of the participating J.P. Morgan business groups, the candidate must inform J.P. Morgan that s/he would like to apply for a two-year deferral through the
    J.P. Morgan – Teach For America partnership.
  • Teach For America applicants have two weeks to confirm whether they will join the corps after they are notified of acceptance. Deferral candidates that require extra time to coordinate their deferral may e-mail Teach For America’s admissions team ( to request a decision extension.
Published in: on June 17, 2012 at 10:36 pm  Comments (2)  
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A critique of Teach For America by a former TFAer

An excerpt of an article on TFA by James Boutin:

From my perspective, TFA is, at best, analogous to putting a band-aid on a brain hemorrhage. At worst, it is a racist, staggeringly arrogant organization that profits (both in money and fame) off the poor.

How was that for nicely communicating my feelings? Pretty crappy, huh?

It’s not the TFA corps members I have problems with (although a good many of them personify the organization’s arrogance and lack of respect for the teaching profession); it’s the notion and push behind the endeavor itself. I have nothing but the utmost respect for people who join TFA out of a sincere desire to effect change and teach their hearts out. I just caution them to be prepared for a potential rude awakening. (See Gary Rubinstein’s beautiful post on why he joined TFA, and why it’s no longer needed.)

To the new TFA corps members for the coming year, I wish you all the best, but try to keep an open mind during the propaganda process, I mean, “Institute.”‘

Published in: on February 5, 2012 at 6:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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How Teach for America Could Have Been Useful – But Wasn’t

Imagine if Wendy Kopp had taken a different tack.

Instead of throwing untrained elite, newby college grads into an inner-city classroom with virtually no connection between what they studied at their university and what they were teaching, with the promise that once they had those 2 years under their belt, they could then get all their college loans paid off and go on to make big bucks coasting on their resume — while having in fact been AT BEST only vaguely successful (in other words, “Teach For Awhile”)

Instead of that:

Recruiting bright young college sophomores and juniors to seriously consider teaching AS A CAREER, and to take courses on educational theory and practice along with whatever subject they are already interested in;

Making sure that they had a full year, post-graduation, of student teaching and observation, as well as intensive grad-school courses that further promote their understanding of teaching as a craft and of how to teach their own chosen subject matter;

Getting them to commit to at least five years in the Title I classroom, not two, since we know that it takes at least three years to begin to become an effective classroom teacher, and it’s bad to have constant teacher turnover, and it’s wasteful to do all this training and have it all be thrown away;

Encouraging these college grads NOT to become derivative traders, mortgage bankers, corporate lawyers, or educational shucksters, but instead, real, practicing teachers and leaders in that profession;

Then we could have said that Wendy Koop had done something positive for the youth of America.

Instead, we have had a colossal con job foisted on our public educational system.

The Cluelessness of Rhee, Kopp and Mathews

Here is an article by Jay Mathews in which he shows how much he tends to worship at the feet of Michelle Rhee (ex-chancellor of DCPS) and Wendy Kopp (founder of Teach for America, who has never taught K-12 at all). He points out many facts which show how their approach is fundamentally bankrupt, but keeps promoting them anyway. For example, most of the supposedly “wonderful” principals appointed by Rhee were anything but — many quit, many were fired, and many of the rest need to be relieved of their duties ASAP.

It’s telling that even Wendy Kopp’s own son sees that TFA is a waste of time and resources:

<<She quotes her son Benjamin, then 8, after he had interviewed her about her life’s work for a school project. His final question was: “If this is such a big problem — you know, kids not having the chance to have a good education — why would you ask people with no experience right out of college to solve it?”>>

I strongly recommend reading the comments by various readers at the end of the article.

If you are unable to read them on your own, let me know.

“The Failure to Address Chronically Disruptive Students”

Excellent post on some of the really pressing problems with student discipline and how this situation affects many TFA teachers. You can find it here. The author points out that it’s only a small minority of the student population that causes problems, but that school administrations (all the way up to superintendents and school boards) of many of our inner-city, low-income school districts absolutely refuse to do anything about it, and hence condemn the rest of the students (and of course the teachers, too) to a school year of almost complete chaos.

The school administrators instead pass the responsibility to the teacher, who is nearly powerless to do anything at all without administrative support.

Published in: on February 6, 2011 at 7:34 pm  Comments (5)  
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