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Reform: Goldstein Puts TFA Under The Microscope

image from cdn1.vox-cdn.comAlong with several familiar (and to me somewhat unfair or overstated) complaints, the TFA-focused excerpt Vox has published from Dana Goldstein's Teacher Wars book includes some delicious details (and graphics).

In particular, Goldstein captures some of the increasingly awkward rhetorical evolution that TFA went through in the years leading up to the Great Recession -- the head-in-the-sand silence in response to critics (friendly and otherwise) for many years; the ever-shifting, ever-expanding definitions of success and accomplishment, the nearly-unchanged program model growing creakier every year -- and the near-ubiquity of the program in certain circles ("In 2014, it seems that in white-collar America, everyone has a daughter, nephew, colleague, or friend who "did" TFA.")

 Goldstein also unearths some new, perhaps difficult truths and nuances. Fer example, the candor internally over program problems. ("From the outside, Teach for America looked defensive, but internally, it was engaged in profound self-exploration and self-critique."); or, the successful promotion of the idea that teaching is a cool thing for college grads to do (whether or not they apply to TFA) -- a broader impact that I don't think should be underestimated even if it doesn't show up in classroom or school statistics; or, the organization's success in bringing minority teachers into urban classrooms.

There are a couple of things that I think Goldstein may get wrong or leaves out: Gates isn't a big TFA supporter, far as I recall -- or hasn't been for a while now. Check me on that and leave them off the list next time, perhaps.  Also: TFA represents just 5-10 percent of alternative certification route teachers in classrooms, though the loophole it created in NCLB is responsible for allowing those teachers to be considered qualified to teach low-income classrooms. While reform organizations are full of TFA alums, I don't know if it's fair to say that TFA has led or influenced greatly the reform movement's interests. (TFA founder Wendy Kopp generally focused the organization narrowly on operational issues, and came out only occasionally --against publishing teachers' ratings, for example).

But over all I found it an extremely worthwhile read- much more interesting than, say, that recent Politico story about the organization (if perhaps a bit less juicy). You might not think you need to read it, but you probably do.

Related posts: 12 Problems With Politico's TFA Story (+1 With TFA)TFA Moves To Soften "Pervasive Sense" Of Reform Support.; Goldstein Taking Her Talents To The Marshall ProjectTraditional Teachers Much, Much Whiter Than TFAHoward Dean Touts TFA & Charter School. Image used with permission.


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