The Teach For America Bestsellers

Might you be interested in a few reading suggestions today? I have a couple that I’d like to get on your radar. The first is Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out (Black Studies and Critical Thinking) authored by T. Jameson Brewer and Kathleen deMarrais. The second is Sarah Matsui’s Learning from Counternarratives in Teach For America (Counterpoints).

I have felt a little guilty because I was asked to write reviews for both of these books to be posted on Cloaking Inequity— but I just couldn’t find the time. Instead, I have something perhaps better— a new Truth For America podcast with both Jameson Brewer and Sarah Matsui. The podcast also included Amber Kim, an Atlanta TFA alum who authored a chapter in Brewer’s book.

Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out (Black Studies and Critical Thinking) authored by T. Jameson Brewer and Kathleen deMarrais. T. Jameson Brewer recently earned his PhD  of educational policy studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned a M.S. in social foundations of education from Georgia State University and a B.S.Ed. in secondary education from Valdosta State University. Kathleen deMarrais is Professor of Qualitative Research Methodologies in the Department of Lifelong Education, Administration, and Policy at the University of Georgia.


Here are the reviews from Amazon.

“Finally, a detailed indictment of one of the most nefarious organizations to attack teachers and public education in over a generation…This volume peels back the arrogant veneer of assumption and misinformation that characterizes the real TFA.  For anyone interested in understanding the importance of critical scholarship in public life, this work is a long-overdue, much-needed, and insightful counter-narrative to the lies TFA continues to propagate.  It’s a must-read for anyone who cares about public schooling in the U.S.”
– Deron Boyles (Professor, Georgia State University)  

“This collection provides a timely and much-needed critical analysis of TFA from the perspective of a diverse set of former corps members. For those seeking to move beyond narratives that are distilled through TFA’s public relations arm, or the often simplistic, back-and-forth debates about TFA, this book provides first-person, nuanced, and thoughtful analyses and reflections of teaching and education reform. Readers will walk away with a more complex understanding of TFA’s role in teaching, educational policy, and educational leadership.”
– Janelle Scott (Associate Professor, UC Berkeley)  

“[These] essays eviscerate the myth of TFA’s unmitigated success by detailing the organization’s high-pressure bait-and-switch recruitment tactics, an emphasis on prestige and future career prospects, inspirational slogans overlaying inadequate preparation, and the fear instilled in corps members who do not perform up to metrics-mandated standards…These troubling first-person accounts should give pause to anyone interested in how major education policy players shape reform movements through money and great marketing.”

– Esther Cepeda (Syndicated Columnist, The Washington Post Writers Group).

“This impressive collection of essays, written by Teach For America (TFA) alumni, offers a well-rounded, meticulous, and sharp critique of TFA. Former TFA teachers and program directors shine light on the personal struggles and cognitive dissonance TFA recruits face as underprepared teachers entering some of the nation’s most challenged school communities. The authors analyze TFA’s ideology, practices, and resistance to criticism, drawing links to neoliberalism, white supremacy, and systemic oppression. TFA alumni who are trying to make sense of their experiences may find comfort in this book; those looking in will be alarmed by the connections to the larger corporate education reform movement.”

– Rethinking Schools

“I love the concept for this text and think it will be a significant contribution to the literature. It is crucial…crucial…that policy makers in particular hear from former TFA members about their experiences in America’s classrooms. The experiences of the authors lend a credibility to their arguments and concerns about TFA’s continued presence that has been largely absent in previous scholarship.”
-Philip Kovacs, Associate Professor of Education, University of Alabama in Huntsville

Learning from Counternarratives in Teach For America (Counterpoints) is another TFA alumni counter narrative book was authored by Sarah Matsui, a Teach For America alum from the Philadelphia region. Her book is entitled Learning from Counternarratives in Teach For America (Counterpoints).


The reviews:

“Sarah Matsui’s book offers an unusually rich example of what practitioner knowledge and inquiry can contribute to critical conversations about educational equity and the toll that simplifications can take on teachers and, by extension, their students. Her intelligent and thoughtful narrative unpacks the complex interplay between TFA’s persuasive discourse and the intense experiences of corps members as they grappled with profound gaps between expectations and their on-the-ground experiences as participants in the most highly touted reform of teacher education in recent history. Conducted with great sensitivity to their self-described conflicts and trauma of participation, Matsui’s analyses and interpretations of her extensive interviews are informed by her considerable knowledge and insights as an insider, as well as her use of compelling interpretive frameworks drawn from a number of disciplines. The book is timely and provocative, a must-read for anyone who cares deeply about teaching, teacher education, and quality education for urban communities.”
-Susan L. Lytle, Professor Emerita, University of Pennsylvania

“Few elements of the education reform movement have been as polarizing as Teach For America. Critics of TFA have focused on its leadership, the inadequacy of the training, and the placement of recruits in mostly high-poverty minority schools, but Sarah Matsui’s study opens a new and important window into why TFA deserves critical reconsideration. Matsui provides a detailed and revealing look at what it means to be a TFA recruit, including the pressures, challenges, and consequences for those recruits and the students they serve. This is a fair and complex work that contributes important nuance to how education reform is often misguided. Matsui’s critical confrontation of TFA narratives and experiences calls for a re-imaging of what it means to become and be a teacher.”
-P.L. Thomas, Associate Professor of Education, Furman University

“Sarah Matsui has written an ambitious book that highlights the tensions and struggles that Teach For America corps members face during their tenure in Philadelphia schools. Through extensive interview and survey data, Matsui presents powerful counter narratives that engage many of the key questions and concerns that continue to circulate regarding TFA including how corps members negotiate various traumas, how they take up or resist the TFA discourse, how they address issues of race and privilege, and how they understand their own identities as teachers.”
-Katherine Crawford-Garrett, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, Educational Leadership, and Policy, University of New Mexico

“In this book, Sarah Matsui deeply captures the experiences and struggles of teachers who enter the teaching force through Teach For America. Matsui’s thoughtful exploration of corps members’ stories and experiences, along with her own, helps us not just understand the challenges particular to teaching in TFA, but also the challenges and struggles of teaching in contexts, macro and micro, that under-support and deprofessionalize teachers. From the carefully analyzed self-reports of corps members, we learn so much about the personal and professional struggles that they experience. From this deep, contextualized look into their insider experiences, which Matsui examines using multiple interpretive frameworks, can come vital learning that is hopeful and promising for teachers and those who educate and work to support them.”
-Sharon M. Ravitch, Senior Lecturer, University of Pennsylvania

A little known fact about me is that my mind runs at 100 mph until late in the night. The only way I have found consistently to calm the fever pitch is to listen to an audio book with a 30 minute sleep timer. It’s a strategy that has never failed.

However, these two books written by Teach For America alumni won’t put you to sleep!

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

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