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Although TFA presents itself as a non-partisan, data-driven philanthropy, it is in fact a sophisticated and efficiently run political organization.

We therefore oppose TFA as an organization on political grounds. We resist TFA because we believe that its approach to education is not only immediately harmful to the students, schools, and families that it affects, but also that it actively promotes a vision of both education and society more broadly that furthers inequality and degrades holistic learning. With that in mind, we divide our criticisms of TFA into two categories: Immediate practical effects on underserved schools:
Inadequate teacher training: TFAs summer institute, the minimum training its corps members receive before becoming classroom teachers, lasts only a mere five weeks. Additionally, the practical classroom experience that TFA recruits receive during this training does not give an accurate representation of the everyday tasks of teaching. There already exists an inequality in the teacher quality and experience level between low-income and more affluent communities. TFA's inadequate training perpetuates this inequality and endangers students education by giving them a poorly trained, unprepared instructor. Promotion of teacher turnover: TFA only requires a two-year commitment to teaching, and as a result, over 80% of corps members leave the classroom after four years. TFA has also made it clear that its priorities are to produce "leaders" rather than career educators. With this in mind, TFAs long-term contracts with urban school districts virtually guarantee that a certain (increasing) portion of educators will never improve their skills beyond the level of a novice. This not only degrades teaching quality on an individual level, but creates a structural revolving door of teachers that destabilizes schools institutional continuity. Students deserve stable learning communities with committed, experienced, well-trained, high-quality teachers who won't use them as a stepping stone onto another career. Conflict with traditionally-trained career teachers: A further effect of the two-year commitment is that most TFA corps members will not teach long enough to be entitled to the higher salaries and benefits that come with increased experience. This effectively positions them as a cheaper alternative to traditionally-certified teachers from the perspective of school administrations. Too often, under-qualified TFA recruits come to replace university-trained teachers, who tend to come from less advantaged backgrounds and have deeper connections to the communities in which they teach. For example, the layoffs of thousands of teachers in Chicago coincided with the hiring of several hundred TFA corps members. Because TFA recruits are not in it for the long haul, they are often ambivalent or even hostile to the interests of their colleagues, a fact which politicians eager to slash education budgets are eager to exploit.

Long-term structural effects on the public school system and philosophy of education:
TFA, despite its emphasis on objective data, is a major player in the political movement known as corporate education reform" which favors market-based, data-driven reforms to privatize and undermine public education. While supporters of this particular approach to education policy -

including prominent politicians and celebrities - often see themselves as heirs to the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, it is our opinion that this approach perpetuates inequality, rather than fighting it. We believe that it is telling that many of TFAs donors and partner corporations, such as WalMart and Goldman Sachs - also key funders of the reform movement in general - are anti-labor, and in many ways responsible for the social inequalities that lie of the root of our educational problems. Many of this movements landmark policies are also integral components of the TFA strategy. For example: Charter schools: TFA has been found to be a key player in the charter school expansion movement as many of these privately-run, publicly-funded schools are mainly staffed by TFA corps members. The proliferation of charter schools is in effect a form of deregulation and privatization of public education and is contributing to the under-resourcing of public schools and racial segregation of students. Charters have also been found to under-serve special needs and ELL populations, as well as excessively push out students through "no excuses" disciplinary policies. These questionable practices result in skewed test results for charter schools, which make them eligible for more funding and which often results in the closure of public schools. In reality, however, charter schools perform no better than traditional public schools and offer little in terms of creative approaches to pedagogy. Standardized tests: TFA often claims to foster educational excellence because its teachers effectively boost their students scores on standardized tests. In some cases - at least, depending on how the research is collected - this is true. However, we resist the notion that standardized tests are on the whole educationally beneficial. Not only do standardized tests generally detract from real teaching and learning, they are often used as a disciplinary method, resulting in teacher terminations, budget cuts, and school closings. They are also unreliable measurements that should only be used for diagnostic and growth-focused purposes. As tools for high stakes accountability, they contribute to the school-to-prison-pipeline while narrowing curricula and reducing educational opportunity for low-income communities. Degradation of the teaching profession: The more TFA recruits committed to teaching for only two years come to replace traditionally-certified educators, the more the teaching profession as a whole becomes a temporary job rather than a profession. As discussed above, TFA teachers often have different career motivations than their colleagues by virtue of their temporary commitment, and as a result can be used as a cheaper alternative to unionized career teachers. We do not dogmatically insist that all teachers remain in the profession for life, yet we do see the value that comes with increased experience, as does research indicating that teachers are most effective after at least 5 years in the classroom. Furthermore, while we do see that traditional teacher preparation programs have room for improvement, we do not believe that an alternate track with dramatically less training constitutes an effective solution.

The ultimate goal of our campaign is to urge Teach for America to take serious steps towards reforming their organization so that it does more good than harm to the communities it serves. Below is a list of reforms that our campaign will demand of TFA. They are not meant to be exhaustive, but only demonstrative of the values we believe an organization dedicated to eradicating educational inequality should espouse. Length of commitment and training: Both TFAs inadequate teacher preparation and its

contribution to teacher turnover can be easily solved by simply extending the commitments of its corps members. If TFA were to require its recruits to train for an entire year and teach for five rather than 5 weeks and two years, respectively - this would fundamentally change the way it operates. In such a scenario, TFA would encourage effective (i.e., properly trained), committed teachers, rather than shuffle through novices. If TFA insists on its current training and commitment time frame, the least they can do is place corps members in classrooms as teacher aids, as does City Year. This may likely lower the prestige and attractiveness of the program and decrease its corporate donations, but it will benefit students by lowering the student-teacher ratio, allowing for more individualized attention and less strenuous working conditions for the teacher. Such an approach would make good use of its recruits abilities in the classroom without making the unreasonable demand that they become excellent full-time teachers with minimal training. Partnerships with Colleges of Education: While we share many of TFAs frustrations with traditional teacher certification, we believe that universities are the proper setting for teacher education. On the one hand, they are institutions dedicated to learning for its own sake: teachers must be educated, not merely trained, and must learn in an environment where critical approaches to education are prioritized. Additionally, insofar as universities hold legitimate authority to grant professional credentials (for example, in medicine and law), teaching should be no exception to this requirement. TFA must seek to integrate its recruits into the university-based teacher education system, rather than divert them away from it. As far as the improvement of existing graduate education programs goes, we believe the first step involves thorough research to assess programs, with a clear outline of steps moving forward to improve. TFA can consequently play an important role in encouraging the growth of teacher education programs, including their own. There is potential for both programs to collaborate and build a high quality teacher training program that produces great teachers for this nation's students. Progressive approaches: As an organization committed in its rhetoric to fighting social inequalities, TFA must adopt an explicitly progressive - indeed, radical - approach to both education and politics. This involves anti-racist classroom practices, critical approaches to social issues (both in the classroom and out), and alliances with labor and community-led grassroots movements. This also involves a cutting of ties with neoliberal, anti-labor organizations that do not support progressive politics, such as WalMart, StudentsFirst, Goldman Sachs, the Broad Foundation, and the Gates Foundation. This also involves staying true to its original mission and not placing corps members in regions where there are no teacher shortages. Rather than replacing experienced teachers with new recruits, TFA should instead support teachers, students, and communities in the fight against budget cuts and teacher layoffs. Egalitarian recruiting: TFAs top recruiting priority should be to encourage talented and committed young adults to become teachers, regardless of the prestige of their college or university. This would likely serve to bring more students of disadvantaged backgrounds into the teaching profession. TFA should also continue to increase the diversity of its corps members.

We understand that these demands are unrealistic given TFAs current structure. The reason we make them is that should TFA enact them, it would radically change the nature of the organization. It would become an organization whose purpose is to encourage gifted students to become committed teachers with a critical vision of social justice. This would be a laudable mission for a nonprofit organization, though a far cry from what TFA is today. If TFA is unwilling or unable to transform itself in such a way, then we will have at the very least demonstrated that its current approach is inconsistent with the principles of equality and social justice that we hold dear. In such a case, our only option would be to continue to resist.

Gary Rubenstein: Why I did TFA and Why You Shouldnt Katie Osgood: An Open Letter to New TFA Recruits Dr. Mark Naison: Why TFA Cant Recruit in My Classroom Stephanie Rivera: A Student Critique on TFA James Cersonsky: A Break in TFAs Ranks, TFAs Deep Bench, TFAs Civil War Kenzo Shibata: Teach for Americas Mission in Chicago Andrew Hartman: Hidden Curriculum of Liberal Do-Gooders Megan Erickson: A Nation of Little Lebowski Urban Achievers Joanne Barkan: Got Dough? Veteran Teacher: My Problem(s) With TFA Students Poetry on TFA Teachers: Hallelujah the Saviors Are Here True Confessions of a TFA Dropout Why Im Quitting TFA The Atlantic: I Quit Teach for America Alternet: A Challenge to TFAs Corporate Orientation WashingtonPost: TFA Critics Gather To Organize Resistance

Gary Rubenstein Reconsidering TFA

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