Comments from former and current TFA members

Well, I’m still working on my post on why I do not support TFA. Along the way of writing it\looking for supporting evidence, I was overwhelmed by how many posts exist from former and current TFA corp members. I understand my perspective is very limited, so it’s important I provide authentic words from others with different experiences with TFA (TFA provides a blog where corp members can write about their experiences here: teachforus.org).

Although this is included in my piece, I figured putting it in a separate post could give some a head start since my upcoming post is really long, which is why it’s taking me forever.

So for now, feel free to read through these posts on why others are iffy on TFA.

Also, just for clarification purposes, remember I am not here to attack TFA or “destroy” them, nor to tell people what to think. I am simply trying to present facts that often go overlooked or easily hidden by all the glory and prestige (I have this strange and unconditional love for truth). Additionally, some may be confused to why I am writing such a post (I know, I know, jeeze Stephanie, wasn’t criticicizing SFER enough?) A few days ago I made a status on facebook that stated I do not support TFA, and then I was bombarded with questions why (you would have thought people thought I was the devil)…so now I’m writing up my answer.

Hope to have my piece up soon. Remember, any questions\concerns\desire for discussion: SRRivera92@gmail.com.

Have a great Friday, and stay skeptical :)

-Stephanie

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August 14, 2012 – TFA is not a monolith – Post from current TFA member

Namely, TFA is compelled to demonstrate its effectiveness through improving student standardized test outcomes.  People in education recognize the folly in this, but the business community that comprises a great deal of TFA’s funding are either uninterested or uninformed about the perils of reading too much into high-stakes standardized test data, particularly using that data to determine the efficacy of a teacher.

August 10, 2012 – An E-mail I Received from current TFA member

I ultimately want to end up in education policy, either k-12 or higher ed, in some capacity after TFA. I joined TFA because I think that at this point in the game to go into education policy TFA is the easiest/most direct route. I also want to be able to have the experience of having been a corps member when I go into policy so that when (and it is a when, not an if) I critique TFA I have some legitimacy.

That being said, my most serious concern with TFA is the emphasis they place on charter schools. I think that the more focus there is on charter schools and school vouchers reliable options for our educational inequality woes there is, the less of a focus there is on what we actually need to do – fix our public school education system. In my opinion, charter schools are actually extending the achievement gap, not closing it as they are credited with doing, because even to just apply to one parents often must have the know

July 15, 2012 – Why I Quit Teach for America
TFA used to be a solution to a problem of teacher shortages in high-need areas, but now it has itself become the problem. I won’t pretend that quitting wasn’t selfish, but I haven’t regretted it for a second. I quit for myself, to save my health and sanity

June 12, 2012 – Why I Quit TFA after my first year | Mr. Parello Sensei
Despite my first year disillusionment with TFA, I do not oppose the organization and I started a blog on this site with the aim of adding my voice to those wanting to improve the organization, not undermine it. 

May 28, 2012 – Occupy TFA | 1991 TFA Alumni

May 19, 2012 – Why I Left Teach for America | Teaching in the D
To any current or future corps member, please remember that you can be happy. If that’s being in the corps, then do it with all your might and know there is a silent corps ready to support you. But if it isn’t, don’t be afraid to leave.

May 17, 2012 – I’ve Always Hated Teach for America – Reasons Why I Quit 5 Years Ago
I joined Teach for America when I graduated from undergrad with the intention of using it as a tool to get me in a school and teach for the rest of my life. Much to my surprise, I found out rather quickly how TFA has no intention of creating life-long educators.

December 19, 2011 – Why I Don’t Teach For America Anymore
 Another not so ugly truth is my students are not charity cases. They deserve a legitimate teacher, not some idealistic graduate student barely scraping by with her sanity.

September 7, 2011 – Why I Quit Teach for America
 If it wasn’t for the kids, I wouldn’t be here.  I would not have stayed this long.  And I also feel I am leaving for the kids.  I can better serve the kids in a different role.  Do I know what that role is yet?  No, but I know that I won’t discover it by struggling through two years in a classroom, checking illusory boxes that don’t actually put me any closer to discovering what role I will play. 

October 31, 2011 – Why I Did TFA and why you shouldn’t
If I were ‘America’ I would have this to say to TFA:  While I appreciate your offer to ‘teach’ for me, I’ve already got enough untrained teachers for my poorest kids.  And if teaching is just a stepping stone, for you, on the path to becoming an influential education ‘leader,’ thanks, but no thanks to that too.

August 30, 2011 – TFA: A Disillusioned Corps Member’s Experience
When one of my special needs students couldn’t tell me how many quarters were in a dollar, should I have skipped over that information to make sure he can find the surface area of a cylinder because he’ll be tested on it? The answer from both my TFA and charter school supervisors was “Yes.”

May 22, 2011 – Answers (Or, how it feels to quit TFA) | The Untold Teacher Story
I sat through a workshop at a TFA Professional Development Saturday last November designed to help solve management issues, and I was stunned by the sense of despair that permeated the room.  In a group of perhaps twenty corps members, everyone was on the verge of giving up.  And everyone gave the same reasons:  “I stand there, and I talk, and then I yell, and then I beg, and then I threaten, and still no one has heard a word I’ve said.  It’s like I’m invisible.  I might as well not be there.”

March 5, 2011 – Why I Am Quitting TFA
Do I disagree with TFA’s mission?  Not even the slightest bit.  Do I think that TFA works, though?  I can only speak from personal experience, and I have to say the heartbreaking word that none of us want to hear — the very same word that I should have said in my own fateful email last November:  No.

May 18, 2010 – Why I Quit Teach For America
I don’t think I view the group with any kind of outright hostility…(I think the group is very aware of its flaws, and is working…relentlessly…to fix them), but I couldn’t feel good about what I was doing.

April 7, 2010 – True Confessions of a TFA Drop-Out
She said that she also gets nervous when people say they are thinking of joining Teach for America: “How do you tell them, ‘Teach for America took the brightest, most amazing person I knew and just totally F***ED her.’”

 

I Quit TFA, Will it Hurt Me? Question on Top-Law-Schools.com Forum

Starry-eyed grads are actually one of the worst part of the TFA program. The idea that one is engaging in some awesome, progressive action is emphasized, while the actual reality, and drudgery, of teaching is not. Thus, you end up with people entering, thinking they will change the educational system by two years in an underserved school, look around and say “Oh, this is bullshit.” 

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6 thoughts on “Comments from former and current TFA members

  1. Please read Gary Rubenstein’s newest piece:

    Is TFA a waste of money?

    by Gary Rubinstein

    Yesterday a very significant article was published by Reuters and syndicated nationally called ‘Has Teach For America Betrayed Its Mission?’  For ‘anti-reformers’, like me (note I’m anti ‘reform’, not necessarily TFA.  If they would just sever their connection with the reformers, I would back off), this is a major story.  I think that this syndicated publication counts as ‘main stream media’ which has, in general, been very kind to the corporate reform movement.

    http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2012/08/17/is-tfa-a-waste-of-money/#comment-570417

  2. First, I sincerely applaud you for being honest and open and especially for backing up what you believe with actual evidence. However, for every corps member who quits or has negative feeling towards TFA, there are many, many more who remain strong in what the mission is. And as a current corps member, I believe it is only fair to show evidence from both sides of the argument. There are certainly problems with TFA that should be addressed, but it is also important to note the good that the organization does.
    TFA is certainly not a perfect organization, and it does not claim to be. It is constantly looks for statistics and feedback to improve. I would also argue that no organization is perfect. If we only supported perfect organizations no good would ever be done in this world. It is not my hope that TFA is put up on a pedestal of being wonderful and great and THE answer to educational inequity, because it is not. But I think it is a part of the answer. Even TFA itself is quite upfront about the fact that corps members alone cannot change educational inequity. It is the communities in which we work that hold that power.
    As far as the link, there are certainly valid points there and also some that should be taken with a grain of salt. TFA cannot teach us everything. I know that I felt unprepared entering my first day of school and sometimes I still feel that way. But they are also constantly reworking the curriculum they give to their corps members based on the latest information they have. I did have an adviser during my training that was non-TFA, which was helpful, but I was also glad to have an adviser who was TFA. They both gave their own unique perspective to my situation. As far as the “falsified” statistics of “significant gains,” I would certainly have to do more research on that. But I do know that corps members are taught to create “rigorous” assessments-usually more rigorous than State tests, which are often not rigorous at all. But either way, that can be a very arbitrary word.
    As I watch my fellow corps members, I have to believe in our mission and what we are doing for our kids…AND the fact that we probably couldn’t be here if it were not for TFA. Even if we are not perfect teachers, I have to believe we are better than a non-certified long-term substitute. I have to believe that even if we are not making “significant gains,” whatever that means, we are helping in some way, no matter how small. I have to believe that our passion and love for our students (because, trust me, we do it because we care-the money is not great and TFA does not, unlike some people think, pay off our college loans) makes a difference in their lives. And TFA, although not perfect, and not the absolute solution to education inequity IS doing something to help. Because they put us in these school and continue to support us as best they can while we impact (even if it is just a small impact) the lives of our students.

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