Native students, Mutton, $, and Teach For America

Here I thought I couldn’t be surprised by anything that Teach For America does. Then comes along this investigative piece in Edweek’s Living In Dialogue written by Anthony Cody. It is a (not so) surprising narrative about Native students, mutton, $, and TFA from Four Corners. TFA never ceases to disamaze me (Is that a word?). Here is a link to the story: Native Americans Challenge Teach For America in New Mexico – Living in Dialogue.

A few excerpts:

The first detail uncovered by Mr. Corwin was a bit mind boggling. In 2011, Mr. Corwin was summoned to Gallup to investigate some improper conduct by assistant superintendents. He discovered that Landon Mascareñaz, then TFA’s executive director for the state, had billed the Gallup-McKinley School District $110,000 for recruiting and training 55 teachers. The problem was TFA had already been paid $127,000 by the state for these same services. When Mr. Corwin interviewed Mr. Mascareñaz, he was told the reason for the double billing was that Mascareñaz did not feel the payment from the state was enough, so he intentionally double billed the school district. TFA was forced to pay back the school district $110,000, and two district administrators who had approved the payments were terminated.

It is true that TFA was supported by some of our legislators, who unfortunately responded to the wining and dining that TFA sponsored on many occasions, and so called “education summits” which did not discuss important issues but served as a PR opportunity for TFA. Indeed, the funds also bought lobbyists who also wined and dined the legislators. I have to say again, in my mind there was no “competition” in the awarding of these funds/grants to TFA.

While TFA found support in the previous governor’s and secretary’s administration, only a few Native American educators (including myself and staff) disagreed with their acceptance as a means to get teachers into the rural schools. The TFA process is like the missionary teachers who came to our lands, supported from the Department of War, which is where the Bureau of Indian Affairs was located, to educate the Indian children.

We’ve heard horror stories i.e., TFA teachers attending family events and criticizing the greasy food i.e. frybread and mutton stew; and students walking out on a TFA teacher who later became one of the Sec. Designate’s administrative team members. While young and energetic, they (TFA) are ill equipped and not knowledgeable about common protocol or the cultural background of the students they are hired to “teach,” as well as lacking instructional skills.

This phenomenon of visiting minority communities with such programs as TFA is happening in a variety of places. It just so happens however in NM that this is being done at the expense of the very resources that SHOULD be utilized to build the internal capacities of Native communities to develop their own teachers. TFA has found a source of low hanging fruit that is being exploited for their purposes and not native communities.

I am at a loss for words on this one.

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