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Classrooms: Does TFA Displace Veterans -- & Do TFAer Really Stay?

The most recent episode of Treme, David Simon's New Orleans-based follow-up to The Wire, includes a biting rap about TFA candidates displacing veteran teachers that will ring true or false depending on your perspective:

Four years at Radcliffe, that's all you know
A desire to do good and a four point oh
You're here to save us from our plight
You got the answer 'cause you're rich and white
On a two-year sojourn here to stay
Teach for America all the way
Got no idea what you're facin'
No clue just who you're displacin'
Old lady taught fathers, old lady taught sons
Old lady bought books for the little ones
Old lady put in 30 years
Sweat and toil, time and tears
Was that really your sad intention?
Help the state of Louisiana deny her pension

At this point in the scene, another character breaks in and reminds the speaker that it was the government, not TFA, who let the veteran teachers go.  The response?  "A scab is a scab is a scab." Unfair and simplistic, to be true, but -- like race and background and where you send your kids to school -- still a real thing among those who believe it.  Then there's the issue of whether TFA's claims about retention of classroom teachers, which is being debunked by one of it's own.  Found here via Larry Ferlazzo. Anyone got a video clip?  You sure you want to try and end LIFO during a major recession?

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I don't think it is unfair and simplistic. What's simplistic is not thinking through the long-range, collateral impact of your little temporary adventure in the classroom. (Thank you for posting this -- no cable TV in our house and I haven't had a chance to see ANY Treme episodes, let alone this one.)

Does this stereotype of the TFA recruit really fit the white recruits who are replacing a disinherited generation of black first-in-family college graduates from our teacher corps?

My experience says, no. The armies of newbie teachers and "experienced" contracted consultants I've encountered out here in the real world are definitely not the brightest bulbs.

Mass firings of experienced teachers open up patronage slots for the offspring of potential political supporters. Well-connected families will support a privatization movement that offers a safe harbor for their less-than-4.0 kids to continue in the shrinking middle class. You may have noticed that the career options of nice, college-educated overclass kids aren't so hot at this time. Their parents can't necessarily provide the bridge they need.

Patronage has always been the real political currency. FDR's reforms only blunted it, and it is roaring back in these hard times. This weekend, I had an opportunity to talk to some very old friends of my husband's historically progressive family, who have made the bargain of accomodating to corporate reform for these reasons; they're kind of ashamed.

That outcast "old lady" is my college classmate-sister from the sixties and seventies, our pride and legacy to the future. My heart breaks over this, but I can still join her in this fight, and I will.

After the politicians, charter schools schools and TFA's fail (teacher attrition), whats next? There is no one-shot quick fix. When is America going to roll up their sleeves and value education over entertainment, sports and fashion. Then we will begin to see results and become that once great nation.

I just saw that episode, and I laughed pretty hard. Trying to make peace with my "scabiness" certainly caused a lot of headaches for me, and several of my friends who taught in New Orleans. I'm not sure if it's 100% fair or not, but there is certainly some truth behind it. Not every teacher that got let go to make room for us was ineffective.

The drumming joke was what made the episode though. "Did I get the arrangements? Why don't I just play on 2 and 4 and you shut the **** up?"

AR -- I saw that bit and used the lines to frame a recent piece about TFA, and the dangers of becoming too big to fail. Check it at http://www.samchaltain.com/is-teach-for-america-becoming-too-big-to-fail and see what you think.

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