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It is important that you learn as much as possible about the students, parents and teachers with whom you will be partnering. The organization led me into a relationship with a group of students I came to love. While TFA encouraged me to track student data—which studies have shown is essential to classroom success—student relationship building was always at the center of the training I attended.

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Side by side, my students and I conquered college applications, research papers and big questions about race and immigration. I came into the classroom to grow alongside my students. And if you show up with humility and warmth, you can too. For the rest of my life, my students will influence my votes, my career and how I choose to spend my time and money. The Learning Policy Institute, which conducts research to improve education policy, claims that two-thirds of teachers leave the profession for reasons other than retirement. Teacher turnover is not unique to TFA—it is a national phenomenon that reflects the profound need for education reform in America.

Today, I still see validity in many of her critiques, but they no longer hold the same weight.

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Every year, the organization receives big funding from corporations like Coca-Cola and Bank of America. Doing so would mean isolationism, and that is not the answer to social problems. I certainly agree that the five-week summer institute is not enough time to effectively train teachers for the chaotic reality of urban public schools that most corps members work in.

Is TFA the singular and ultimate solution to educational inequity?

Definitely not! But is TFA the neoliberal arch-nemesis of the American education system? Like all organizations, TFA is something we need to continually reassess. And like all individuals, you have the power to do good within the confines of an imperfect system.

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Morgan, but now it's "for the children. Among elite liberals, working in education seems to automatically grant you "social justice cred. Schooling is a tool for both social change and social control. Career teachers, policy analysts, and college students across the nation have already explained why Teach For America does not benefit children. Even Teach For America's own corps members and campus recruiters have turned on the prestigious organization. The Movement for Black Lives is demanding an end to the corporate-backed education reform led by Teach For America as part of a broader platform for community control and economic justice.

Don't Teach For America, teach for real

Here is the gist of the critiques, all backed by evidence. Teach For America roots its mission in epistemological racism, recruits privileged people who will soon move onto more prestigious careers, preys on their desire to "make a difference," boosts savior complexes, fails to provide adequate teacher preparation, overworks corps members into fatigue, depression, and alcohol abuse, indoctrinates low-income students in neoliberal ideology, displaces Black teachers in urban communities, drives down teacher pay and professionalism, bankrolls the expansion of charter schools, saps public schools of much-needed funding, and obsesses over advertising and promotion rather than addressing these problems, all while expanding worldwide.

This amount of awful seems overwhelming, but the problem is not the people who apply for TFA. Many recruits mean well, acknowledge at least some of the issues above, and would teach well with the proper training. The problem is TFA's organizational model. Amateurs in the field of education should not be forced on students especially in low-income communities of color and then be put on the fast track to administration and policymaking. There are many pathways into the teaching profession, and almost all of them provide more preparation than Teach For America's five-week Summer Institute.

Unfortunately, their shoestring budgets are no match for TFA's full-time campus recruiters, reams of glossy flyers, and Sweetgreen-level brand recognition. That means students interested in teaching should dig a littler deeper. If you are unsure teaching is right for you, try working as a teacher assistant via Blue Engine. That's what Teach For America should do with its recruits. If you want to be a career educator, there are clinical-model teacher residency programs combining pedagogical theory with classroom practice as you gradually transition from co-teacher to lead-teacher.

First- and second-years can look into the Barnard Education Program, which offers undergraduates a track to teaching certification. By the time I graduate from this program in May, I will have completed over hours of student teaching, hours of fieldwork, and 60 hours of observation, not to mention courses in multicultural pedagogy, teacher inquiry, and adolescent psychology as well as the politics, history, and sociology of education.

Most corps members are being thrown into highly contested, politically unstable education environments. Here in Chicago, there is a massive grassroots battle under way led by parents, teachers, students, and community members to save public education. Over the past few years, Chicago has seen mass protests, acts of civil disobedience, and a successful teachers strike—all to protest devastating corporate education reforms being forced on our schools. Tens of thousands of parents have come out to plead for their neighborhood schools, to beg for more funding, to demand an end to excessive high-stakes testing, and to speak out for their beloved teachers.

Each time, the board turned a deaf ear. The number of TFA first-year novices went from to As a result, we have thousands of displaced teachers looking for jobs.

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We have dozens of quality schools of education producing credentialed teachers who are looking for work in Chicago and other urban centers around the country. We have quality programs like Grow Your Own, which recruits people from high-needs communities, supports them through a full teacher education program, and then helps them find work in their own communities. Unfortunately, while TFA is handed millions in public funding and private donations, programs like GYO struggle to simply survive. Like many other cities New York City, Detroit, and Philadelphia to name a few we have no teacher shortages.

We have teacher surpluses. And yet, TFA is still placing first-year novice corps members in places like Chicago. TFA has developed a cozy, troubling relationship with the very people implementing these horrible policies. These ties represent massive conflicts of interest as the policies being passed by the board are benefiting TFA directly. TFA pushes their alumni to get elected to local school councils, democratic bodies designed to give voice to parents, teachers, and community members, where they promote their TFA-friendly corporate reform agenda. In many placement areas, TFA is closely tied to the charter school movement.

Charter schools are highly controversial; research has shown that they tend to exclude students with disabilities, English language learners, and students with behavior problems. Charter schools are usually nonunion, which leads to teacher exploitation and arbitrary firings. To put it bluntly, the last thing our students—undergoing mass school closings, budget cuts, and chaotic school policies—need is short-term, poorly trained novices.

Read what other TFA alumni have written, eloquently describing why they no longer support the organization. Investigate research on TFA, its effect on education, and the shoddy research they use to support their practices. Follow facebook groups like Resistance to TFA. Listen when groups of college students launch anti-TFA campaigns on their campuses. This pushback has nothing to do with you personally. There have been multiple abuses already endured in the cities you are entering, which TFA exploits.

How else are stakeholders supposed to respond as TFA takes precious resources from districts and states in budgetary crisis? Or as TFA steals jobs from experienced teachers and qualified, fully credentialed teacher candidates? Or undermines our profession with false claims that teachers need little preparation? Or partners with the very wealthy and politically connected forces wreaking havoc on our schools against the will of communities? You new recruits did not create this current situation. But by participating in TFA you will become a part of the problem.

If you truly want to work with children as a teacher, give those future students the greatest chance possible by doing a full preparation program before teaching alone in that classroom. Those of us in the teaching profession welcome bright young beginning teachers with open arms.


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If you are not sure teaching is for you, volunteer in a school, tutor, participate in after-school programs.