Sisters to Greeks in Open Letter: @TeachForAmerica is a Trojan Horse @SLG1990 #LGLOresistTFA

The American Prospect recommends that there are a few historical analogies that you definitely want to avoid. I wholeheartedly agree. They include:

 I am like Jesus.

The people I disagree with are like Nazis.

The people I disagree with are like slave owners or segregationists.

I or people Iike me are as oppressed as slaves were, or as Jews in Nazi Germany were.

Comparing the story of the Trojan Horse and TFA’s temporary teachers were not on that list— so off I go. The setting from Aeneid of Virgil (Thanks to Poetry in Translation)

The leaders of the Greeks…build a horse of mountainous size, through Pallas’s divine art, and weave planks of fir over its ribs: they pretend it’s a votive offering: this rumour spreads. They secretly hide a picked body of men, chosen by lot, there, in the dark body, filling the belly and the huge cavernous insides with armed warriors…Some were amazed at virgin Minerva’s fatal gift, and marvel at the horse’s size: and at first Thymoetes, whether through treachery, or because Troy’s fate was certain, urged that it be dragged inside the walls and placed on the citadel. But Capys, and those of wiser judgement, commanded us to either hurl this deceit of the Greeks, this suspect gift, into the sea, or set fire to it from beneath, or pierce its hollow belly, and probe for hiding places. The crowd, uncertain, was split by opposing opinions. Then Laocoön rushes down eagerly from the heights of the citadel, to confront them all, a large crowd with him, and shouts from far off: ‘O unhappy citizens, what madness? Do you think the enemy’s sailed away? Or do you think any Greek gift’s free of treachery? Is that Ulysses’s reputation? Either there are Greeks in hiding, concealed by the wood, or it’s been built as a machine to use against our walls, or spy on our homes, or fall on the city from above, or it hides some other trick: Trojans, don’t trust this horse.

In summary: A gorgeous gift horse shows up. Some Trojans say, look it’s wonderful. Others say maybe we should examine this gift horse more carefully. In the end, those who think the gift horse is wonderful win out and it’s dragged into the city and admired. We know how that turned out for Troy.

Maybe, the Trojans should have poked around a little more… just saying…

So, it turns out that Teach For America has been lobbying and creating alliances behind the scenes with Latino Greek organizations.

For all Cloaking Inequity’s posts on Teach For America click here.

That hasn’t sat well with some Greeks who are aware of the peer-reviewed research and critiques of Teach For America’s current approach to placing temporary teachers in America’s most challenging classrooms. In an open letter today, they are expressing this concern to their fellow Greeks.

Dear Latin@ Greek Lettered Organizations (LGLOs):

In solidarity, we stand before you as professors of education and proud members of Sigma Lambda Gamma (SLG) National Sorority, Inc.. Each of us joined SLG for a variety of reasons. A commonality among us is that we wanted to better our communities through our cultural pride, service, and professional aspirations. As SLG members we live our creeds, our mottos, and our principles through our passion for education. We are all committed to changing our educational system in order to better serve all members of our society; we have all dedicated our research agendas to critically examining and addressing the large opportunity gaps within the educational pipeline among Latin@s.

Given our commitment to education in our Latin@ communities and communities of color, we were dismayed to learn of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority’s new partnership with Teach for America (TFA). In their recent announcement, we were also surprised to learn that the umbrella organization for Latin@ Greeks, the National Association for Latino Fraternal Organization (NALFO), along with some of its member organizations including Kappa Delta Chi, Phi Iota Alpha, Omega Delta Phi, and Lambda Upsilon Lambda, were in partnership with Teach for America. As educators, we believe that these partnerships are incongruent with the educational philosophies of our organizations and they position LGLOs in a compromising light.

Our concern about LGLOs relationship with Teach For America is not a criticism of those individual brothers and sisters who are currently employed by TFA, participants in TFA, or alumni of the program. As professors of education and members of a LGLO, we must call attention this partnership and ask if TFA’s practices reflect the values of our organization. Reflecting on these concerns, we draw on peer-reviewed research to highlight some key points about TFA that could have detrimental consequences for our communities of color:

  • Teach for America is far from a “silver bullet” for the issues of educational inequality that impact our communities. Researchers (Vasquez Heilig, Cole, & Springel, 2011) reviewed peer-reviewed studies on TFA and found some positive impacts of mathematic teaching but ONLY with TFA teachers who had additional teacher training or workforce experiences and stayed beyond the two-year teaching requirement. The research also highlights that there is undoubtedly negative impact on reading achievement in comparison to teachers who have been fully trained in traditional certificate programs.
  • Teach for America is used to aid in the teacher shortage across the nation. As state budgets continue to be slashed, TFA candidates serve as a temporary solution to an endemic problem. By divesting in fully trained teachers, we cheapen our expectations of quality teaching by hiring inexperienced individuals who will only occupy classrooms for a short period of time. This turnover by TFA corps members de-professionalizes our craft as teachers (Heilig & Jez, 2014). For decades, researchers (Cushman, 2003; Delpit, 1995; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Noguera & Wing, 2006) have argued that for children in challenging educational setting to be successful, they need knowledgeable committed teachers who will commit their lives to teaching.
  • About a third of Teach for America is funded by state and local tax dollars with about 50 million dollar funneling from the federal government. It is imperative that the Latin@ community is aware that the Walton Family Foundation (heirs to Walmart) is a major supporter and contributor to TFA (49 million dollars). The Walton Family has funded political candidates who are vehemently against the DREAM Act and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals.

As members of a LGLO, we question whether officially aligning ourselves with TFA reflects our missions, our values, and our communities.

Rather than a specific partnership with TFA, we call for all LGLO organizations to fight for more resources and investment in teacher training and improved working conditions for all teachers. We WANT members of LGLOs to be educators, to share culturally relevant knowledge with future generations, and to create meaningful partnerships with communities and families. However, we want our members to be the BEST teachers for our communities of color. It takes more than a summer institute to understand the foundations and fundamentals of teaching and learning. Let’s use the power of our organizations work to ensure that the individuals who become teachers in low-income communities and communities of color have the best training possible.

We write this letter to encourage our brothers, sisters, and national headquarters to think critically about the TFA partnership. Perhaps collectively we can find more effective ways to support long-term evidence-based educational reform in our communities. We implore our Latin@ Greek brothers and sisters to voice their opinions about this partnership and resist (#LGLOresistTFA). Our organizations deserve better, our communities of color deserve better, and our educational system deserves better.

In Sisterhood,

Dr. Susana M. Muñoz

Assistant Professor of Higher Education

Member of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc.

Dr. Tatiana Joseph

Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction

Member of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc.

In summary,

Trojans, don’t trust this horse.

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