teach for america

Jameson Brewer is "one of TFA's most outspoken young critics."

- The Daily Beast



Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out

Teach For America (TFA) has, in its 25 years of existence, transformed from an organization that began from a perceived need to ameliorate a national teacher shortage to an organization that seeks to systematically replace traditionally fully-certified teachers while simultaneously producing alumni who are interested in facilitating neoliberal education reform through elected political positions. From its inception, TFA has had its share of critics; yet, critique and criticism of the organization by its own corps members and alumni have largely been silenced and relegated to the margins. This book – the first of its kind – provides alumni of TFA with the opportunity to share their important insight on the organization. And perhaps more importantly, this collection of counter-narratives serves as a testament that many of the claims made by TFA are, in fact, myths that ultimately hurt teachers and students. No longer will alumni voices be silenced in the name of corporate and neoliberal education reform.  Click here for the book's Facebook page.  #TFACounterNarratives on Twitter.


Teach For All Counter-Narratives: International Perspectives on a Global Reform Movement

This book is a sequel to Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out, the first collection of counter-narratives from a diverse group of TFA alumni. The book pulled back the curtain on TFA’s recruitment and training practices, TFA’s approach to diversity, and TFA’s approach to criticism and critics of the organization.  In part due to counter-narratives and critiques like these, the domestic version of TFA has seen a decrease in their recruitment. However, the international version of TFAll continues to expand.  There is a growing body of academic scholarship focused on the exportation of reform movements globally – including TFAll – yet, there remains a need to hear directly and in depth from those affiliated with and/or directly impacted by TFA.

In an effort to continue to highlight counter-narratives, this volume will provide a collection of stories from current and former TFAll corps members. We would also consider narratives of parents of TFAll corps members and teachers/administrators whose schools partner with TFAll.  In an effective marketing campaign, TFA/TFAll employs narratives from supportive corps members and organizations who follow approved talking points.  To counter this TFA/TFAll controlled narrative, this volume will provide necessary counter-narratives that need to be heard.

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peer-reviewed articles


Teach For America's Preferential Treatment: How the Use of Special Contracts Privilege Corps Members in Hiring Decisions and Employment Practices

Teach For America (TFA) began in 1990 as an organization purportedly interested in working towards ameliorating a national teacher shortage by sending its corps members into urban and rural schools. In the decades that followed, especially during and immediately following a nationwide onslaught of teacher layoffs instigated by the 2008 Great Recession, teaching shortages no longer exist in many of the districts TFA continues to place corps members. In response to growing criticism, TFA has altered its public rhetoric, suggesting now that their “corps members” are better than traditionally trained teachers – including veteran teachers – and are hired only through equal hiring processes rather than being afforded preferential treatment. We analyze Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) between TFA and regional school districts, TFA’s official literature, and public discourse to address the degree to which TFA is privileged in hiring practices. We provide evidence that school districts are contractually obligated to reserve and protect positions exclusively for corps members, jobs held by corps members are not a result of equal and open competition, corps member positions are specifically not limited to “so-called shortage areas,” and TFA’s partnership with charter schools and alumni of the organization have skewed hiring practices in favor of TFA over non-TFA teachers.

Related Material:

Huffington Post Op-Ed

#TFA: The Intersection of Social Media and Education Reform

Teach For America (TFA), a teaching not-for-profit organization that recruits and places non-certified teachers in traditionally difficult to staff schools and districts, has without doubt helped shape the growing conversation of education reform.  And while this contribution can be found in the teachers it trains and the alumni who venture into education leadership roles, it can be readily found in the realm of media, and in particular, the social media of Twitter.  This paper provides an analysis of 15,304 “tweets” that originated from TFA and its top officers as well as all “tweets” including the “hashtag” of #TFA. As an exploratory analysis of the content and audience of tweets sent by core TFA individuals and including TFA related “hashtags,” we show that TFA rarely engages with critics as it uses the media of Twitter to reinforce its reform rhetoric within its own reform coalition.  Moreover, we assert that the action of ignoring questions and counter-narratives in social media, for example, is grounded on the assumption that neoliberal educational reforms are seemingly above reproach and beyond critique.

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Teach For America and Teach For All: Creating an Intermediary Organization Network for Global Education Reform

Locally and globally among policymakers and edupreneurs, what constitutes “good teaching and learning” is highly contested, and prototypes that seem to embody “what works” are highly valued. In the United States, many accept Teach For America (TFA) as an exemplar of “what works.” As its U.S. operations continue to grow, TFA has recalibrated and expanded into Teach for All, an international organization with extensive reach. Teach For All not only finds historic roots in TFA, but it reflects TFA’s intentional expansion of its theory of change and implementation on a global scale. This exploratory essay investigates the linkages between TFA and TFAll, focusing on theory and implementation of education reform by comparing domestic TFA ideology and practices with those of TFAll. Also, we conceptualize the dimensions and anatomy of a global network of IOs engaged in global education reform. In addition to providing insight on TFAll, our broader goal is to build the knowledge base around what we are calling global Intermediary Organization Networks (IONs).  

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Accelerated Burnout: How Teach For America's Academic Impact Model and Theoretical Culture of Accountability Can Foster Disillusionment Among its Corps Members

​This article seeks to characterize Teach For America's (TFA) theoretical framework as engendering disillusionment among its corps members. Given that the corps members have little to no pedagogical or methods training prior to taking on teaching positions through TFA, the lessons learned during the summer training set the stage for the foundational beliefs corps members have about teaching and learning. Specifically, TFA employs a framework known as the Academic Impact Model that posits that good teachers can overcome the ailments of socioeconomic disparities if they subscribe to notions of hyper-teacher-accountability. It is this false sense of reality that creates the opportunity for disillusionment and burnout among TFA's corps members.  

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From the Trenches: A Teach For America Corps Member's Perspective

​This article provides a unique voice on the alternative certification program known as Teach For America (TFA).  As a traditionally trained educator who entered TFA as a corps member, the author brings a unique auto-ethnographic perspective on TFA.  Combining personal insights with data and theory, the paper addresses TFA's recruiting practices, the application and interview processes, Institute practices and use of indoctrination, a holistic overview of TFA's neoliberal theoretical approach to pedagogy, and TFA's final placement of its corps members.  As TFA continues to grow to over 10,000 corps members, critical examination is necessary as TFA becomes evermore present in our nation's schools.  

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policy briefs


How "Teach For America" Affects the Training and Effectiveness of Classroom Instructors

School reform is a popular idea in the United States, and one of the most prominent efforts is the program known as “Teach for America,” which seeks to revolutionize how U.S. communities select, train, and place teachers. Given the program’s rapid growth and the increased attention it has attracted from researchers and policymakers, it is time to take an overall look at its impact on the U.S. teaching profession. Many researchers – and even some alumni of the program – have raised serious questions about its impact on teacher training, morale, and effectiveness. 

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book chapters


Planting Toxic Seeds in Fertile Soil? The Knowledge, Acquisition, Achievement, and Behavior Beliefs Inculcated into TFA Corps Members of Color

TFA has espoused diversity, equity and inclusion, however, our review of the literature suggests that the organization has instead inculcated Whiteness and White assumptions under the cloak of good intentions, diversity, and culturally relevant teaching.  The top-down, external approach of TFA has inculcated Whiteness and White assumption dispositions. It is important for future research to continue to critically examine how TFA defines equity because the organization’s definition shapes corps member’s preparation, practices, and pedagogy. Additionally, it is important to continue to consider whether TFA’s definition of equity fosters (or doesn’t foster) a culture of critique; and deeply (or minimally) contends with issues of race, diversity, and inclusivity. 


What Instead? Reframing the Debate About Charter Schools, Teach For America, and Testing

Contemporary efforts to "reform" education increasingly rely on private-sector neoliberal formulas that promote choice, competition, and the deregulation and privatization of public institutions, facilities, and services (Hyra, 2008). Scholars of urban educationin cities across the country have noted, however, that such efforts represent abstract neoliberal promises that focus on profit and privatization rather than creating a capacity to repair, and restore hope in, public institutions serving historically marginalized communities of color. In light of such trends, critical researchers in education have warned that similar to top-down, private-led restructuring efforts in urban neighborhoods that threaten the viability of local businesses and institutions, private-controlled reform efforts in education can lead (and have led) to closings of public schools and to disenfranchisement of low-income parents and families. 

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Teach For America: The Neoliberal Alternative to Teacher Professionalism

The biggest threat to teacher professionalism and the traditional dispositions associated therein is the neoliberal paradigm currently shaping the discourse of education reform in the United States and globally.  Accordingly, the proponents of pro-market reforms seek to subvert teacher professionalism, commoditize teaching and learning for profit, and de-skill teaching in order to replace traditional colleges of education with fast-entry alternative training programs.  In order to accomplish this, education reformers are attempting to manipulate the public’s (and teachers) disposition towards education into a more quantifiable and thus accountable practice.  Operating under such illusions, neoliberalism and its proponents – if allowed to continue shaping education policy – will subvert the traditional dispositions that teachers ought to enter the field with (e.g., caring, collaboration, quality-centered pedagogy over quantity, etc.) by replacing them with dispositions of standardization, replication, indoctrination, meritocracy, and the promotion of the self over the collective good.  Yet, the only way that this shift in dispositions is possible is if teachers are kept away from the institutions that instill proper methodologies and ways of thinking by replacing them with private training wherein corporations shape the discourse, control the rhetoric, and ultimately instill neoliberal dispositions into its teachers.  We argue that this goal of de-skilling teachers via privatization of training and reductionist dispositions is best characterized by the alternative teacher training program Teach For America (TFA).

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Other works