September 02, 2013 by
Before they have entered their first class of the new academic year, seniors at colleges and universities across the country are being aggressively recruited by Teach for America. TFA is the much touted recruiting firm that places college graduates without teaching knowledge or experience into the classrooms of some of our nation’s neediest children. The following is an e-mail exchange between a TFA recruiter and my friend’s daughter who is valiantly resisting the call. This redacted copy is reprinted with the permission of the student. (All italics mine.)
All TFA recruiters are TFA alums who have completed two years “teaching”. At first, the student didn’t know how TFA got her e-mail address. She still doesn’t know for sure, but she thinks TFA has access to student data and chose her because she was an officer in a service organization. The student is not happy that TFA has access to her data. Some information has been redacted to protect the identities of the participants. Authors’ names have been replaced with “TFA Recruiter” and “Student”.
From: TFA Recruiter
Date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 11:16 AM
Subject: Brief chat about ************
I hope you are enjoying your summer vacation! I know what a treasured break this time can be before senior theses, orals, and writtens begin. However, with the fall semester of your senior year just around the corner, I thought I’d contact you about a potential post-graduate opportunity to put on your radar considering your involvement in **************.
My name is ****** *****, and I am the Recruitment Associate for Teach For America at ********. At Teach For America, we look for socially-minded, top leaders on campus, because we believe you have the passion and determination necessary to change America for the better. Teach For America’s goal is to ensure that all children have the opportunity to succeed and achieve their ambitions in life, regardless of where they grew up. However, currently only 1 in 13 children from low-income communities will graduate from college, which significantly limits their life trajectory. You have the opportunity to change this.
**** ******, a 2011 ******* Corps Member who just moved back to *********, will be meeting with select students at ********* and would love the opportunity to chat with you about your experience as an officer, Teach For America and our mission to offer every student an excellent education. Even if you don’t plan on applying to Teach For America, you can be an advocate on campus to ensure educational equity for all students.
Would you be available to meet with **** this coming week for a brief 20-30 minute chat? If you are interested, please let me know and I will send you a link to ****’s calendar so that you can find a time that works best for you.
Thank you for your time. I hope that you’ll have a chance to chat with ****.
P.S. You may already be aware, but Teach For America is leading the movement to end educational inequity in our country. Here are some of the basics about our program:
- All academic majors and career interests are eligible to apply
- Receive full salary (up to $51,500) and health benefits
- After completing the two year commitment, graduate school scholarships and employer partnerships are available
For more information check out this video and our website.
Recruitment Associate-******* | Teach for America
One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.
This communication and any file transmitted with it may contain information that is confidential, privileged and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. It is intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any use, dissemination or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify the sender. Thank you for your cooperation.
On Aug 30, 2013, at 8:49 AM, “****** *****” <******.****@teachforamerica.org> wrote:
Hey again Student,
Hope you’re having a great week! I wanted to check in to make sure you got this important information about an opportunity for you to help change our country while earning a living. I sent you an email on Wednesday (included below) and it has a lot of information about the educational injustice we are trying to solve and how you can play an integral role in the movement. Please take 5 minutes to read the email and respond to me with your interest in chatting with us to learn more about Teach for America.
Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
Sent: Friday, August 30, 2013 9:48 AM
To: TFA Recruiter
Subject: Re: Brief chat about ************
Hello TFA Recruiter*,
First off, I’m honestly flattered that you would be interested in talking with me.
The reason I didn’t respond is because I do not agree with the methods of TFA. I believe that at-risk kids deserve experienced teachers, not hastily-trained, fresh-from-college graduates who are, at worst, naive idealists who’ll burn out after a semester, ultimately steering them away from going into education and leaving their students unhappy with school.
That said, I do sincerely wish you and ******* the best of luck here at ********. There are plenty of people here who are much more energetic and much less cynical than I am. In general, I’m incredibly unhappy with the state of education in America, so TFA’s mission is admirable.
Teach for America’s propaganda machine is so effective that even students who disagree with their methods still believe their hype.
On Aug 30, 2013, at 8:14 PM, “****** ****” <**********@teachforamerica.org> wrote:
Thanks so much for your response and your honesty.
And you know what, you’re right – this is problematic work. It’s extremely hard – the national retention rate for first year teachers across the country, not just TFA teachers, is 86% – and it’s 83% in districts with a majority of students that qualify for free or reduced lunch. Across the country, teacher preparation, training and support vary in quality and few programs venture into tackling issues of educational inequities and the disparities that fall along lines of race and class. As a country, we have a lot of work to do to ensure all kids have access to great academic opportunities.
I also believe that all kids deserve high quality educators. I would propose that rather than preventing this, TFA is promoting this by recruiting and redirecting talent into teacher hiring pools. Ultimately, districts and schools make hiring decisions. For example, in *********, our corps members apply to job postings and go through the standard hiring process (they actually have an additional layer of speculation in ********** and have to be approved by our school board). So that means if a principal is hiring a corps member, they believe that they are the best candidate for the job. Which speaks to greater issues indeed.
Ideally, TFA wouldn’t exist and I genuinely hope that day comes. For that day to come, we need talent in education. About 30% of all TFA teachers are still teaching – and over 60% are still in education more broadly (for example, the Dean of the College of Education at UW is a TFA alum as well as two State Superintendents of Education and two State Senators). We don’t have this all figured out and we don’t think two years is going to change the system – but perhaps thousands of people rooted in real classroom experiences and their own students can work with their communities to foster greater systemic change.
So this is complex. I know you’re not interested in doing TFA but I know ******* would love to meet you. We need to be critical of our work and would very much appreciate your time and perspective.
Let me know what you think and if you’re up for it.
TFA tosses around statistics with impunity. They provide no reliable evidence that 30% of TFA recruits are still in classroom or that 60% are still involved in education endeavors. TFA contracts with school districts to hire its recruits even when credentialed teachers are available for those jobs.
On Aug 31, 2013, at 1:48 AM, “****** ****” <******@********.edu> wrote:
Hi again, TFA Recruiter,
Sorry for the extra e-mail, but I just took a look at my schedule for next week and I literally have no time to talk (which is a shame, because I would have enjoyed a good debate). I therefore took the liberty of briefly typing up the main issues with which I am concerned in regards to education. Feel free to read and pass on to *******–or not.
- The devaluing of teachers and the need for more funding in schools;
- The increasing importance placed upon testing and the cheating that ensues;
- Charter schools;
- The impermanence of teachers at schools and the resulting lack of stability and support for students;
- Valuing padded resumés over experience and ability
There are others issues, as well. I’d like to note, however, that all of these are problems exacerbated by TFA. The American education system has never been equal, but within the 20 plus years that TFA has been around, I believe things have only grown worse. Some of the worst proponents of mis-guided educational “reform” are indeed alumni of TFA. Michelle Rhee, to name one.
I think if TFA really wants to work for educational equality, you need to seriously reevaluate what you are doing.
I enjoyed chatting with you,
From: TFA Recruiter
Date: August 31, 2013, 8:59:15 AM PDT
Subject:Re: Brief chat about ******* at *********
Again, thank you for such a thoughtful response. I am sorry that you and ****** won’t be able to talk next week, but she is planning on being back at ******** later this semester and I will be sure to reach out again at that time. I know that you two would be able to have a really engaging conversation around these issues and she’s excited to meet you and hear your perspective. I have forwarded your email to her as well.
Good luck with your first few weeks of classes! I hope you’re able to do something fun on this long weekend. (I’m currently en route to ****** to see my parents!)
A little research shows that the school where this particular recruiter taught actually slipped in performance in both reading and math during the years she was there. Way to close the achievement gap TFA!
One last thought from the student:
We don’t even have a School of Education at our college. If Teach for America were sincere about providing needy kids with the best teachers, wouldn’t they be recruiting from Schools of Education? I have friends who have spent four years studying to become a teacher. They can’t find jobs. The whole idea of Teach for America just doesn’t make sense to me.