Monday, April 13, 2009

A Teach for America Ambush Interview

At an Easter gathering, having read this exchange and seeing a Teach for America corps member across the room, somebody I know initiated a brief interrogation:
Q. Are you allowed to criticize Teach for America?

A. You mean, to you, here in this room? Sure.

Q. What about if you make critical blog posts about it, or similar public statements?

A. Somebody I know got kicked out of the program for doing that.

Q. A TFA spokesperson said that they want corps members to speak out about the program and talk about their experiences, and that they even support a blogging platform for that. She said that no organization encourages criticism of itself, but....

A. [Eyeroll]
I wasn't seeking out confirmation of my skeptical views; somebody else did that for me. I sympathize with Lysia's assertion that no company has a policy that "Public criticism of our company is encouraged and welcome", but I think a healthy organization should be able to deal with criticism in a constructive manner when it (inevitably) happens.


  1. Wendy Kopp--like her friends, our nation's corporate leaders--preaches but does not practice accountability when she claims Teach For America and its branches, the KIPP and YES charter schools, have done jack to close the achievement gap.

    Education professors argue whether 40% or 20% of TFA teachers remain in school past the requisite two-year stint, but neither advocates or enemies of TFA have presented ANY evidence of them improving the academic results of significant numbers of working-class, minority students.

    The only argument they have comes from the outstanding perfomance of kids at KIPP and YES, and these students attend charter schools after their families have applied to schools with longer school days, extended school years, and loads of homework.

    Teach For America provides a positive service, and its charter schools provide a top-quality education for kids whose ambitious familees are already committed to education.

    The notion that these folks are the solution not only to school reform but to social reform also must derive from an equal mixture of egotism, careerism, the rich-person's sense of entitlement, stupidity and the desire to please government-hating corporate donors.

  2. I sense that, despite your skepticism, you support the option of schools like KIPP for students and parents who want them. You're just skeptical that they're the cure-all that a lot of their advocates suggest. If so, I agree with both of those sentiments.

    In any context, something proposed as a "magic bullet" should be viewed skeptically - usually, upon examination, you find that magic bullet solutions don't exist or aren't scalable.


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