EdWeek Series Beyond Rhetoric: @TeachForAmerica You are my Obsession

You can’t even escape @TeachForAmerica marketing at the airport. I was traveling back from the University of Michigan football game this past weekend, and the photo above is of the security bin that welcomed me at the Detroit airport courtesy of @Zappos. Mark @Zappos down as another company that I will need to personally boycott. (To understand my boycott, please see all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on TFA here) It’s true that TFA is less than one percent of all teachers nationwide, but the billionaires and corporations have provide the organization an outsized influence over the affairs of education policy in the United States (See for example TFA’s purchase of education staffers on Capitol Hill in the post Do you think TFA is a special interest?: “Get up, Stand Up”)

I am currently writing for the EdWeek column K-12 Schools Beyond the Rhetoric with Jack Schneider. We are covering a bevy of important topics in education policy such as Teach For America, Charters, Vouchers, High-stakes testing, and Standards. I first excerpted some of our conversation about charters schools in the post Is the Impact of Charters Schools on Achievement a Big Lie? and then discussed high-stakes testing in the post EdWeek Series Beyond Rhetoric: If Not a Bunch of Tests… Then What Instead? Today, I want to introduce excerpts from our conversation about Teach For America. As I stated previously, EdWeek has placed our conversation behind a paywall. Since EdWeek has not compensated me for contributing in any way, in my view, I still own my work. So below I will include only my own language. I don’t believe I have the right to include Jack’s questions/probes, so you will have to guess what Jack asked me between questions or subscribe to EdWeek. Sorry.

Our first EdWeek Beyond the Rhetoric post on 10/6/14 examining #TFA was entitled Better Off Without Teach For America? We looked at Teach For America, beginning with an initial discussion of whether students in the U.S. would be better off if TFA had never existed.



Heilig: TFA is an example of a solution being a part of the problem. Our current national teacher strategy in the U.S. can be likened to taking a plate of pasta and throwing it against the ceiling and seeing what sticks. Teach For America, with its high-levels of attrition out of the classroom after the two year temporary commitment exacerbates this issue for poor students.

We know from the data that about 50% of traditionally trained teachers remain in the profession after five years. By comparison, previous research on TFA has demonstrated that their attrition rate out the classroom to greener pastures (Note: I did not say in the “field” of education, a phrase TFA likes to use—meaning that corps members have left teaching and gone to graduate school, have begun working for an education-oriented foundation, etc.) is around 80%, though it varies by community.

The falling spaghetti is not just Teach For America. Almost 60% of all new teachers in Texas are alternatively certified teachers, which means they could have as little as 30 hours of training online before they enter the classroom. Alternatively certified teachers also have higher rates of attrition out of the classroom compared to traditionally trained teachers.

Our strategy in the U.S. is to send the least qualified teachers to the classroom as quickly as possible. Thus, the falling temporary teacher approach is essentially the antithesis of the national teacher strategies employed by the countries with the world’s leading educational systems.


We then continued the conversation about Teach For America, focusing particularly on what damage, if any, has been done by the organization in the post What Is the Damage Done by TFA? on 10/7/14.

Ed Week Logo_0

Schneider: …Do you think teacher education in the U.S. would be better if we were to jump in a DeLorean, go back to 1989, and erase TFA from history? (I cheated and included this one excerpt from Jack’s prompt because otherwise the punchline in my last comment won’t make sense)

Heilig: I think if TFA had reformed their reform over the long term, I could have answered that question in the negative. But because TFA has been so resistant to reforming their temporary teacher paradigm, I have to answer in the affirmative.

I believe that many passionate and well-meaning individuals have been and are involved with TFA—I count many of them among my close friends. I have made the case to them in private and publicly that it is incumbent upon them to reform their reform away from a temporary classroom teacher model. Marty McFly learned from his missteps over time, so could TFA.

Oh, and then there is this…

Obsession lyrics rewritten for @TeachForAmerica’s recruiting and marketing

You are an obsession
I cannot sleep
I am your possession
Unopened at your feet
There’s no balance
No equality
Be still I will not accept defeat

I will have you
Yes, I will have you
I will find a way and I will have you
Like a butterfly
A wild butterfly
I will collect you and capture you

You are an obsession
You’re my obsession
Who do you want me to be
To make you TEACHFORAMERICA with me
You are an obsession
You’re my obsession
Who do you want me to be
To make you TEACHFORAMERICA with me

I feed you I drink you
My day and my night
I need you I need you
By sun or candlelight
You protest
You want to leave
Oh, there’s no alternative

Your face appears again
I see the beauty there
But I see danger
Stranger beware
A circumstance
In your [POLICY] dreams
Your affection is not what it seems


My fantasy has turned to madness
And all my goodness
Has turned to badness
My need to possess you
Has consumed my soul
My life is trembling
I have no control

I will have you
Yes, I will have you
I will find a way and I will have you
Like a butterfly
A wild butterly
I will collect you and capture you


and you thought I was the one obsessed…. 😉

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 9.28.36 AM

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Twitter: @ProfessorJVH

Click here for Vitae.

Please blame the billionaires that send lots of money to @TeachForAmerica for any typos.

Interested in joining us in the sunny capitol of California and obtaining your Doctorate in Educational Leadership from California State University Sacramento? Apply by March 1. Go here.


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