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EDUCATION AGENDA: DOES TFA HAVE A RACE PROBLEM?

THIS IS AN EDUCATION AGENDA ITEM:

According to a program on NPR (linked below)

Two Teach For America Alums Say TFA Has Big Problems When It Comes To Race.  OneWorld simply copied a portion of the article from the NPR web site and posted it here for the convenience of those who would like to get the details.  It is a very interesting article.  We have heard many rumors about the short-lived teaching career of many TFA graduates.  Of those who do stay in teaching after their mandatory two years, almost all move from inner-city to suburban schools.  Why is that?  The article shines some light.

  • We encourage visitors to read the complete article linked below.  It’s short and quite interesting. Also linked below are short segments from two OneWorld Education Agenda television programs.
  • Teach for America gets young people to teach at some of the nation's poorest, brownest schools, and the organization has enjoyed largely uncritical public adoration for most of its 25 years. But over the past few years, former teachers have been raising serious questions about TFA's mission and treatment of the schools and students it works with.
  •  In an interesting Q&A over at Jacobin, author-researchers Sarah Matsui and T. Jameson Brewer, both Teach for America alums, worry that the program relies on a shaky "hero narrative" to lure idealists into jobs for which they're wildly unprepared, and convinces them that a "can-do attitude" is all it takes to hurdle systemic gaps in our schools.
  • Matsui writes:  Individual teachers and students can make incredible academic gains despite educational inequity, but educational inequity is not a problem of individuals' efforts or expectations.
  • Scaling up even the best of intentions or holding the highest of expectations for individual students will not desegregate our schools or change the differential funding of our separate school districts.
  • For example, in Philadelphia, per pupil expenditures were $9,299 per pupil for the city's 79 percent black and Latino population, while just over the city's boundaries into Lower Merion, part of the inner ring of Philadelphia suburbs, the per pupil expenditure was $17,261 for a 91 percent white population.
  • TFA has made some changes in response to its critics, namely recruiting a broader swath of potential corps members. But although its 2015 hires are more racially and economically diverse than ever before, Brewer says TFA has doubled down on a narrative that "privileges whiteness and reinforces the myth of meritocracy."
  • And according to Matsui, the folks who laud TFA as saviors of primary education also tend to believe that Barack Obama's election ushered in a post-racial meritocracy in America, thinking that she says trickles down to individual corps members. Because TFA leans heavily on the rhetoric of bootstrapping, new teachers tend to feel individually culpable when things go wrong in the classroom.
  • In some instances, Brewer believes, TFA gives corps members "the space to act on hidden racism." One TFA teacher describes a common TFA pastime:
  • I do get uncomfortable when a group of corps members come together and start the "they can't. . . " or "they don't. . ." game. Never heard of it? Here is what it sounds like: "They can't sit silently." "Yeah! They don't want to learn!" "Tell'em! They can't even read a sentence!" . . . These corps members are making gross generalizations . . . Racial stereotypes like, "They're not even worthy." You hear a lot of corps members saying these things, "They can't read, they can't do this, they don't want to learn."

http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/10/14/447217749/two-tea...

Below are links to short segments from past OneWorld education programs

Effective School-Community Partnerships (Supt, teachers, and parents discuss education in greater New Haven public schools)

https://youtu.be/E2XjsGBf6Qw

 Parents 411: The Right to An Education Is In Connecticut’s Constitution

https://youtu.be/WPp00buGLXE

http://www.youtube.com/user/oneworldpi

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Comment by N'Zinga Shani on October 16, 2015 at 12:47am

There are times when what we read about some of the things happening in this country are just too incredulous to believe.  Sadly, they often turn out to be true.  These are also reasons why as parents, grandparents and community leaders, we must try to visit and be involved in the schools our children attend. This article on NPR about the Teach-for-America organization is an eye opener.  Had it not been presented on National Public Radio, I would likely find it too outrageous to be believed.  However, NPR is too responsible and fastidious a news organization not to have verified the reports in the story before publishing it.  it is truly disturbing.

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