Sharon McNary of Marketplace, the business show on public radio, has questions about people’s experiences with Teach For America.
The personal finance show Marketplace Money is exploring how Teach For America changes the lives and earning potential of the people who participate as teachers. She is looking for former corps members, relatives of corps members, or people at the schools who host TFA teachers. If you fit in any of these categories, please click here to share your TFA story with Marketplace. They want to know:
- How competitive it was to enter the program
- How it helped or changed the participant’s career options
- How you view the opportunity cost of being part of TFA, that is, what might you have been doing if you were not in the program
- How do you see the program changing in the recession and how might it change under President Obama call out for Americans to do more public service.
How about applying the same question to Peace Corps? Peace Corps often provides the hands on grassroots experience that MBA’s clearly lack.
I was a PCV in Nepal from 1972-76 and went on to a career in international development. Eventually I wound up collecting medicinal plants with traditional healers in Tanzania to treat AIDS patients. Google: David Scheinman – AIDS.
I am on this site by sheer chance. My daughter is with TFA and I was looking for something else and stumbled upon your research.
One final thought. Two German colleagues of mine left Tanzania in 1990 or so to join the IMF and World Bank. They were shocked learning that they were some of the very few people with real field experience. Meaning getting stuck in the mud, sleeping in a village, participating in village meetings run in Swahili, learning about local politics, corruption, and how the political and social systems REALLY function.
The lessons all three of us learned living and working villages were by far the most useful and valuable. And we did parlay that experience into careers.
Thanks so much for your service! You must be proud of your daughter. I agree with your assessment — seems service is a far more realistic education than book or newspaper learning. Thanks for reading!
Thanks, Amy for the post! I got several helpful replies.
And David — I was in Peace Corps as well. Hope your daughter does well as a TFA candidate.
Meanwhile, if anyone would like to be a news source for American Public Media’s national shows like Marketplace and Marketplace Money, just go to this link:
Analyst, Public Insight Journalism
Marketplace | American Public Media
I am seeking a dialogue with current and past Teach for America teachers. I have taught for 14 years in inner-city Houston. When I started teaching, I saw myself as a reformer, as some of Teach for America teachers do. I had some pretty serious success with AP students, and some serious frustration with our regular students. So my experience, to be honest, has been mixed. I want a dialogue about the political behaviors of the Teach For America elite.
In our city, a former TFA official, now a school board member, has led the charge for beginning to fire teachers based on student test scores. She also opposed allowing teachers to select a single major union representative. After a little research I found this appeared to be a pattern with TFA”s leaders. There seems to be a close relationship between conservatives and the TFA elite.
This goes back to its origins, when Union Carbide sponsored Wendy Kopp’s original efforts to create Teach For America. A few years before, Union Carbide’s negligence had caused the worst industrial accident in history, in Bhopal, India. The number of casualties was as large as 100,000, and Union Carbide did everything it could to avoid and minimize responsibility after the event.
A few years later, when TFA faced severe financial difficulties, Ms. Kopp wrote in her book she nearly went to work for the Edison Project, and was all but saved by their financial assistance. The Edison Project, founded by a Tennessee entrepreneur, was an effort to replace public schools with corporate schools. Two brilliant TFA alumni, the founders of KIPP Academy, then joined the Bush’s at the Republican National Convention in 2000. This was vital to Bush, since as Governor he did not really have any genuine education achievements, and he was trying to prove he was a different kind of Republican. I then read the popular magazine articles about Michelle Rhee’s firing of teachers and closing of schools, and then her admission she had gone to far too fast.
I think you do great work. Ironically, my former mentor works for Ms. Rhee. He saved me in my first year as a teacher in Houston. He was a terrific teacher. I respect and honor your work, as I do my own.
But your leaders seem to attack the public sector and blame teachers for student failure in order to curry favor with rich conservatives. To be up front, I grew up in a low-income housing project in Mississippi and eventually became a good student, and I am a social democrat. I believe school reform must include better schools, but also health care, stable employment, long-term unemployment benefits, a revitalized union movement, a higher minimum wage, freedom for alternative lifestyles, and affirmative action. Stable families are more able to be ambitious for their kids than economically or emotionally unstable families. Better schools are part of this, but only one part of it. Your leaders seem to have gotten in bed with people who believe the market solves all issues—and that makes the money flow faster. Yet your hard work gives them credibility with the media.
Ms. Kopp claims to be in the tradition of the civil rights movement, but Martin Luther King would take principled positions—against the Vietnam War and for the Poor Peoples March—even if they alienated powerful people. I would like a dialogue about what I have written here. My e-mail is JesseAlred@yahoo.com.
When you say “you” in your comment, I assume you mean Teach For America leaders and possibly Ms. Rhee? To be perfectly clear, the New Service blog doesn’t have an affiliation with Teach For America though TFA has co-sponsored and even sponsored our Idealist.org Graduate Degree Fairs for the Public Good.
That said, I hope that if anyone at Teach For America including corps members reads this and is interested in talking with you about what you’ve written that they take the opportunity to reach out to you.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments!
Thank you so much for the chance to voice some of my feelings, opinions, and experiences about TFA. It’s like therapy!