TFA’s Diversity Paradox

TFA alum and scholar Terrenda White says that TFA’s diversity gains have come at the expense of teachers of color, whose numbers have declined drastically in the very cities where the organization has expanded. 

TFAdiversityJennifer Berkshire: You have a new paper out examining TFA’s initiative to become more diverse. You use the word *paradox,* but don’t you mean ‘success’? I just read this TFA tweet that *The TFA corps more closely reflects the public-school population than any other large teacher-provider.* What’s paradoxical about that?

Terrenda WhiteWhen I was first writing about TFA, I was complaining about the lack of diversity in the corps, especially when I was there in the early 2000s. And so a part of me is really happy that TFA seems to care about diversity and improving their numbers, and I think I’m fair in my piece about acknowledging that. But while TFA may be improving their diversity numbers, that improvement has coincided with a drastic decline in the number of teachers of color, and Black teachers in particular, in the very cities where TFA has expanded. I don’t see them making a connection between their own diversity goals and the hits that teachers of color have taken as a result of policies to which TFA is connected: school closures where teachers of color disproportionately work, charter school expansion, teacher layoffs as schools are turned around. We have to talk about whether and how those policies have benefited TFA to expand in a way that they’re not ready to publicly acknowledge.  Continue reading →

You Should Hear What I’ve Been Hearing

Which is why I’m launching a podcast series!

bandwcartoon

That’s my new microphone!

I’ve spent the last two years visiting cities like Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia that are on the front lines of the often bitter battle over the future of public schools in the US. And what I’ve heard along the way is far more interesting, encouraging and honest than the talking points and stale exchanges that dominate the discussions about our schools. That’s why I’m launching a podcast series so that you can listen in and hear what I’ve been hearing.

Continue reading →

‘Diplomas Aren’t Bulletproof’

St. Louis TFA’s Brittany Packnett on Ferguson, the *belief gap* and the need for disruptive change that’s actually, well, disruptive…

image1EduShyster: I first heard about you last summer when I read something you wrote called Education Didn’t Save Mike Brown. I can’t help but wonder how that piece would have come across if someone else had written it – say me.

Brittany Packnett: There is always an importance to the messenger, and maybe you’re right that I was able to get away with saying that as an African-American and a native St. Louisan. I wrote that piece because I had a realization that this thing that I have dedicated my life to, and that so many people before me made their life’s work, was not enough to save Mike. That his diploma was not bulletproof. He was doing so many of the things we asked him to do—he persisted through high school and graduated, he was headed to a vocational program and making sure that he was doing something with his life to be a productive member of society. He wasn’t saved by those things. When I realized that, that was the moment when I understood that the role of those of us in the work of educational equity has to be greater than just what happens to kids in the classroom.  Continue reading →

Have We Hit Peak TFA?

While fundraising continues to gush, the supply of recruits is rapidly dwindling…

TFABy *The 49er* 
A couple weeks ago, I was having dinner with a current Teach for America corps member who described a bizarre moment to me.  She’d recently attended a regional gathering and the executive director wouldn’t let corps members leave the room until they submitted the contact information for two potential recruits for the next year. My friend declined, writing instead: *I came here to be a teacher, not a TFA recruiter.* Continue reading →

The High Cost of No Excuses

Professor Joan Goodman, the director of the Teach for America program at the University of Pennsylvania, talks about the philosophy behind *no excuses* charter schools, and the price paid by students who attend them.

walking in lineEduShyster: You’re the author of an article called Charter Management Organizations and the Regulated Environment: Is It Worth the Price? that’s the single best overview of *no excuses* charter schools that I’ve seen. Talk a little about the research you’ve been doing.

Joan Goodman: I began to focus on charter schools when the first Mastery Charter School was started in Philadelphia. These were supposed to be experimental schools which would have a variety of new approaches and they’d get rid of bureaucracy and we’d see all kinds of novel approaches to children. But particularly in terms of the charter management organizations they haven’t provided much variety—they’re all strikingly similar to one another. These schools have a very clear philosophy about what they’re trying to do, how they’re trying to do it, what they think is necessary, who they read, who their leaders are. And they’re explicit in describing it. The combination of the uniformity across these different schools and their explicitness about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it makes it easier to get hold of this movement than it is with say, public schools in a city or a school district where there’s so much variety and there isn’t a single philosophy. Continue reading →