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

Sunday, January 03, 2010

TFA Alums Suffer Exhaustion, Burnout, Disallusionment with TFA Approach to Inequity

At the urging of Wendy Kopp, CEO of Teach for Awhile, er, America, Stanford sociologist, Doug McAdam, completed an in-depth study to find out if TFA alums are more likely to become active, more involved citizens when compared with TFA dropouts and TFA candidates who were accepted but did not serve. And now that Professor McAdams's study is done and his careful findings do not fit the conclusions that Ms. Kopp's postivized mind-meld that she sought to impose upon the world, she has dismissed the study as bunk. Ah, the limits of learned optimism.

Professor McAdams's will soon publish a research article based on the study in the peer reviewed Social Forces, despite Ms. Kopp's bitter disappointment. From Amanda Fairbanks, herself a TFA alum, for the NYTimes:

Teach for America, a corps of recent college graduates who sign up to teach in some of the nation’s most troubled schools, has become a campus phenomenon, drawing huge numbers of applicants willing to commit two years of their lives.

But a new study has found that their dedication to improving society at large does not necessarily extend beyond their Teach for America service.

In areas like voting, charitable giving and civic engagement, graduates of the program lag behind those who were accepted but declined and those who dropped out before completing their two years, according to Doug McAdam, a sociologist at Stanford University, who conducted the study with a colleague, Cynthia Brandt.

The reasons for the lower rates of civic involvement, Professor McAdam said, include not only exhaustion and burnout, but also disillusionment with Teach for America’s approach to the issue of educational inequity, among other factors.

. . . .

The study compared “graduates,” who completed their two years; “dropouts,” who entered the program but left before the two years were up; and “nonmatriculants,” who were accepted but declined the offer. It included 1,538 graduates, 324 dropouts and 634 nonmatriculants. Nearly 45 percent of those sampled returned the 34-page survey.

While Teach for America graduates remain far more active than their peer group, the findings indicate that the program neither achieves an earlier organizational goal of “making citizens” nor produces people who, in great numbers, take their civic commitments beyond the field of education.

. . . .

Ms. Kopp, 42, was curious to know whether something similar was occurring with her corps of teachers. But Professor McAdam, 57, said Freedom Summer was the exception, not the rule.

“Freedom Summer is the odd civic experience, and hardly representative of what happens when young people do service,” he said. “A lot of the impact of any experience is where it’s historically situated.”

Rob Reich, 40, an associate professor of political science at Stanford, shares that view.

“Back in the ’60s, if you signed up for Freedom Summer, it was perceived to be countercultural,” said Professor Reich, who taught sixth grade in Houston as a member of the Teach for America corps. “But unlike doing Freedom Summer, joining Teach for America is part of climbing up the elite ladder — it’s part of joining the system, the meritocracy.”

Part of the joining the system, indeed. Those alums who fall prey to the brainwashing slide with robotic precision into KIPP leadership roles and other juicy spots within the philanthro-capitalist education complex where their assimilation is completed.

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