Lamenting that “in our country today, low-income children do not have the same access to a great education as their wealthier peers,” Teach For America (TFA) seeks to “close this [access] gap” and “eliminate educational inequity” by recruiting highly motivated individuals “with a record of achievement” to teach K-12 youngsters for at least two years in low-income communities across the United States. To help ensure the success of these teachers, TFA provides them with intensive training, support, and career-development assistance.
The idea to create TFA was first proposed by Wendy Kopp, who later became a bestselling author of books on education, in her Princeton University undergraduate thesis in 1989. The organization was launched the following year, when a charter corps of 500 recent college graduates pledged themselves to the cause. Since then, TFA has grown into a very large operation. In the 2013-14 school year, for instance, some 11,000 TFA teachers—called “corps members”—worked with more than 750,000 students nationwide, while at least 32,000 TFA alumni continued to assist the organization in various ways.
In its teacher-recruitment process, TFA looks for individuals who demonstrate “leadership potential” as well as “other traits that are found in our most successful teachers,” regardless of whether they have any past experience in the classroom. These traits include: “a deep belief in the potential of all kids”; “a commitment to do whatever it takes to expand opportunities for students”; “strong achievement in academic, professional, extracurricular, and/or volunteer settings”; “perseverance in the face of challenges”; “ability to adapt to changing environments”; “excellent critical thinking skills”; “excellent organizational ability”; “excellent interpersonal skills to motivate others”; and “the ability to work effectively with people from a variety of backgrounds.”
TFA today has 50 regional offices that assign corps members to locations where their services are needed most. In particularly high demand are teachers in the fields of math, science, early childhood education, Spanish/bilingual education, and special education.
Upon joining TFA, all corps members attend a rigorous pre-corps training institute and subsequently are given access to extensive professional-development services, individualized coaching, and online resources—e.g., lesson plans, data tracking tools, and instructional materials—during their two-year terms of service.
Because most individuals who join TFA have not previously gone through a traditional course of study in education, they are considered “non-traditional” teachers in most states. Thus they are generally required to pass a content-knowledge test, or to complete specific college courses as part of a major or minor related to the subject they will teach. Also during their teaching commitment, corps members typically must complete coursework toward the next level of certification or licensure. In many regions, they have the option of completing a master’s degree program by the end of their two-year TFA stint.
TFA teachers earn salaries ranging from about $24,000 to $51,000 per year, along with health insurance and retirement benefits (usually in the form of employer-supported pension plans and investment accounts). And in many cases, AmeriCorps benefits are available to them as well.
TFA emphasizes the importance of “culturally responsive teaching,” which is closely related to “social justice education” that indoctrinates students with an admixture of anti-capitalist, anti-white, and anti-American messages. The TFA website, for instance, contains letters from fifth-grade students informing textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin that its section on Christopher Columbus fails to mention that the 15th-century explorer “burned, slayed and hanged” Native Americans who did not help him obtain gold. Writes another student: “The [native] people were just turned to slave[s] and they were forced to do jobs for Columbus and his crew.”
It should be noted, moreover, that TFA’s emphasis on “culturally responsive teaching” extends to each and every subject in the school curricula—including mathematics, which might seem, at first blush, to be beyond the purview of ideological indoctrination. Asserting, for instance, that “math has traditionally been seen as the domain of old, White men,” TFA maintains that “Radical Math” and “Critically Conscious Mathematics” can serve as vehicles for turning youngsters into social activists:
TFA’s radicalism is further reflected in the fact that the organization’s St. Louis Corps urges teachers to augment their own knowledge and skills by consulting the website of Teaching Tolerance, a Southern Poverty Law Center project that lauds the educational theories and strategies of Bill Ayers.
In a March 6, 2014 Huffington Post article, Sabina Bharwani, who served TFA as both a teacher and Director of Educational Technology, called for all instructors to tailor their lessons to “the life experiences and cultural reference points” of “marginalized students.” Bharwani’s article provided links to books containing the education-related views and writings of such notables as Bill Ayers, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Glenn Singleton. Ladson-Billings not only co-authored a book with Bill Ayers, but also has employed the late Derrick Bell’s “Critical Race Theory” to promote the notion that the “achievement gap” between white and black students is due chiefly to a culture of white supremacy that pervades American society. Singleton, meanwhile, founded the Pacific Educational Group, an organization that unwaveringly embraces the tenets of Critical Race Theory.
In its effort to promote “cultural competence” and “critical consciousness” in education, the TFA website’s home page provides links to a Wikipedia entry describing critical consciouness as a concept developed by Paulo Freire and rooted in post-Marxist critical theory.
Since 2013, TFA has been a supporter and ally of Black Lives Matter (BLM), the protest movement demanding an end to what it characterizes as the “virulent anti-Black racism” that “permeates our society” and allegedly finds expression in police shootings of unarmed and innocent black civilians. A number of current and former TFA teachers and officials have been active participants in BLM’s activities. For example:
Noting “the divisive, grievance-mongering activities of the group’s increasingly radicalized officials and alumni,” columnist Michelle Malkin wrote in June 2015: “TFA’s most infamous public faces don’t even pretend to be interested in students’ academic achievement. It’s all about race, tweets and marching on the streets…. Teach for America has transformed itself into a recruiting center for militants bent on occupying themselves with anything other than imparting knowledge and academic excellence to children in the classroom.”
Between 2000 and 2013, TFA’s yearly operating expenses increased from $10 million to $193.5 million. Approximately one-third of those costs were borne by the taxpaying public, including millions of dollars in federal AmeriCorps grants. Moreover, as columnist Michelle Malkin notes: “Large corporations…, philanthropic foundations, and individuals have pitched in nearly a half-billion dollars in tax-deductible charitable private donations.”
For additional information on TFA, click here.