The Fight Ahead

What we should be talking about when we talk about Teach for America

Teachers and students protest the closure of 50 public schools in Chicago. Teach for America increasingly drives the policies behind such school closures.

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve no doubt noticed that the debate about Teach for America has ratcheted up considerably in recent weeks. Here’s the quick and dirty version: urban districts are closing dozens of schools and laying off teachers, even as they’re bringing in new Teach for America recruits. When news began to spread that a popular Chicago teacher had been laid off (the news delivered by his mother, no less), the back-and-forth reached a boiling point. How was it right for the Chicago Public Schools to axe a well-regarded teacher, one of 2000 let go, while expanding the number of TFA corps members, who’ll be entering the city’s schools this fall after just five weeks of training?

It’s a heated and emotional discussion but it also misses the larger point. TFA’s threat to urban teachers isn’t in these new corps members but in the policy of rampant urban charter expansion that TFA is driving. What’s more, the rancorous tone of the debate threatens to push away the growing number of alumni who have begun to question TFA’s mission and orientation. So what should we be talking about? Here’s a look:
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The Koppitalist System

TFA, Koppitalism and the quest for global excellence

Koppitalism is increasingly global and relies upon a vast army of foot soldiers.

No doubt you are familiar with capitalism, the economic system that has more Facebook likes than any other. But another powerful profit-making system is also making some waves. Known as Koppitalism, it has much in common with its better known elder sibling. Like capitalism, Koppitalism is guided by an invisible hand and directs its benefits primarily to the less fortunate among us. The currency at the heart of Koppitalism is *excellence,* which is accumulated by individuals at the top of the excellence scale and then trickles down upon those who have the misfortune of living on the wrong side of the excellence gap. Now, like capitalism, Koppitalism is poised to go global, leveraging scalability on a global scale. Here’s a look… Continue reading →

Paris Is For Lovers (Of Excellence)

Bonjour tout le monde! EduShyster has just returned from an exciting (and excellent) adventure in Paris. But what was I doing there, inquiring minds want to know? Like your own grand dame, the unstoppable Madam Wendy Kopp, I find that one continent is simply no longer enough to contain my ambition (or excellence). C’est une blague! (This is a joke!) I was really in Paris to celebrate the official international celebration of non-excellence: May Day. My excellent adventure taught me many lessons, among them: the French have no word for EduPreneur, despite the fact that it is clearly a French word, and it is considered tres gauche to order wine by the box. Qui sait? Continue reading →

Dear TFA: You Don’t Need to Keep Telling Us How Excellent You Are (Because We Already Know)

TFA founder Wendy Kopp.

Dear Teach for America:
I trust that this letter finds you in excellent form. I write concerning a subject that concerns us both: your excellence. You see, I am in receipt of this recent announcement regarding your excellence, this one, this one, as well as this one, and would like to let you know that I will require no further communication on this topic. I get it. We get it. TFA is excellent. Continue reading →

10 Signs You Might Be a Transphormer

Today’s $700 billion question: is there anyone left who isn’t an education reformer? Let’s face it, when your movement runs the gamut from Arnold to Zuckerberg, not to mention being, ahem, somewhat overrepresented on Forbes new list of billionaires, I think it’s pretty safe to say that you’re done, played out, over. That’s why the hardcore reformers aren’t wasting their time tinkering around the edges anymore, baby. The new reformer is a transphormer and knows that the only way to *crush* the achievement gap once and for all is to blow the Mother F***er up! Here are 10 signs that you just might be a transphormer. Continue reading →