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Motoko Rich reports in a front-page story in the New York Times that Teach for America has seen a significant decline in the number of applicants.
TFA executives explain that the improved economy has drawn young people to work in high-paying jobs, instead of joining TFA (this explanation raises unintended questions about their interest in teaching or children).
Another suggestion is that the lure of teaching is down, since enrollments in education colleges has also declined.
The story suggests that TFA has lost its luster because of its close association with standards and testing, with charter schools, with evaluation of teachers by test scores (which seldom affects TFA recruits, who don’t stay in the classroom long enough to build up a record), and with weakening of teacher tenure. Some potential recruits are turned off, writes Rich, by TFA’s close association with the Walton Family Foundation, which has given it more than $50 million, no doubt because TFA staffs many non-union schools. In short, they are an integral cog in the movement to privatize public education and to undermine the teaching profession.
How are students learning about the underside of TFA, its close connections with the agenda of the 1%, who look down their noses at public schools and unions? At the end of the story, Rich mentions Hannah Nguyen as a student who has organized protests against TFA on campus. Hannah wants to make a career in education, not a jumping-off place to build her resume en route to working at Goldman Sachs or J.P. Morgan Chase. There are many other aspiring teachers who have become activists on their own campuses in opposition to TFA; even some former members of TFA have spoken out against the role that TFA has played in lowering the status of the teaching profession. Their efforts may have played a large role in dimming TFA’s image among their peers. What real profession would permit anyone to become a member with only five weeks of training? When veteran teachers complain about TFA, they are not protecting their jobs, they are protecting their profession.