"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Veteran TFA Manager Reveals "Onward Christian Soldier" Strategy

This interesting account of an overheard conversation on a plane comes from EduFlack, who is an avowed fan of TFA:
. . . .For this flight, I was seated directly in front of a regional manager from Teach for America. As luck would have it, he was a chatter, as was the businessman seated next to him. TFA was asked what he did for living. He stated he worked for an education non-profit called Teach for America. The businessman clearly had never heard of the organization, so he inquired as to whether it was a new group and if it was surviving in the current economy. I think Mr. TFA (who was part of the very first teacher cohort) was surprised that there was someone who had not heard of Teach for America. So he went on to provide a wealth of interesting tidbits and bragging points to demonstrate that Teach for America was not your average bear education not-profit.

Of course, Eduflack's ears perked up, interested to hear how this Teach for America executive (I believe he was a regional manager for sites in a number of states in the south and southwest) would begin describing an organization so well known in education circles to someone so unfamiliar with it. Some of the highlights:

* Teach for America recently embarked on a $142 million fundraising drive, and has already raised more than $149 million
* Teach for America's new strategy is to reach out to more and more charter schools, seeing them as a quicker point to help close the achievement gap. "There are a lot of good charter schools and a lot of bad charter schools," he explained. The key was to find schools that would buy Teach for America whole cloth. And in his eyes, KIPP can do no wrong.
* Teach for America is beloved and has never run into any opposition. In fact, Boston is the first and only school district where any teachers have ever had any problems whatsoever with Teach for America coming in. And isn't that just short-sighted of them.
* Teach for America is becoming so selective that it recently determined a student who "wrote" the new University of Virginia financial aid policy was a questionable candidate. (As an alum of Mr. Jefferson's alma mater, I won't get into the number of underlying issues here)
* The ranks of devout Christians joining Teach for America is growing by the day, in large part because the work of a Teach for America teacher is so demanding that they need the supports that their beliefs provide them to do their secular work well.

What I found most interesting, though, was that the notion of recruiting and placing teachers didn't come up until nearly 10 minutes into the conversation. Teach for America was about school improvement. It was about closing the achievement gap. It was about partnering with schools who couldn't fix themselves. It was about the organization serving poor communities and black communities and such. But the notion of teachers (and teaching for that matter) didn't come up until deep in the conversation, when Mr. TFA wanted to demonstrate how exclusive and competitive Teach for America slots were. Then he began discussing how they place only the best college graduates in schools that need their help, making clear they did not want students who attended education schools or formally studied education. . . .

Wonder why the Waltons, the Fishers, the Gatess and the Broads love TFA and KIPP? So far these two intertwined outfits are the most reliable total compliance sources for mind-scrubbing social control that anyone has devised for the indigenous savages of the inner cities, whose containment and taming is of prime consideration as their numbers continue to swell. More well-intentioned white missionaries, please.


  1. Anonymous3:30 AM

    Painfully to the point. How come it's NEVER race? Just business?

  2. Teacher Educator X12:35 PM

    As a teacher educator in NYC, from an elementary education program that just graduated 80 certified teachers, most of whom could not get a job in a public school due to the hiring freeze, I am handling distress call after distress email from recent grads in charter schools. I have been meeting with the first year teachers, visiting them in the classrooms, and listening to their descriptions over drinks on Fridays. This is what it boils down to: we have charter schools proliferating in Harlem, run by white CEOs and founders, who are making large salaries (Eva Moskowitz of the Harlem Success series of schools--chain?--makes in excess of $300,000 per year). The children in these schools are mostly all children of color -- and mostly Black: African American, African, and Caribbean American. The focus on learning is reduced to getting higher test scores. The focus on behavior is reduced to compliance and punishment and is according to one school leader who resigned, "The most punitive atmosphere I have ever seen in a school in my entire decades-long career." The children are subjected to draconian behavioral expectations for long hours with few breaks for play or recess. The parents are subjected to various humiliation tactics for violations of the dress code. (One of these white-run charter schools reguires girls to only wear dresses.)

    I have heard too many of these stories in the past month to sleep well at night. This landscape reminds me of white northerners who went to the South after the U.S. Civil War to set up 'schools' to educate the children of newly emancipated enslaved Blacks. The curriculum of most of these "schools" was designed around the habits and skills needed to serve in positions as housekeepers, child care workers, servants, maids, railroad porters, carpenters and other menial jobs that Blacks were expected to fill.

    These white philanthropists wrapped their racism and social control in a mantle of charity and liberalism. Today's so called reformers are clear in their treatment of young Black children: in the name of educational equity, they are repressing and subjugating young children and their families.

    What shall we do?