Teach for America, the program to put bright young college graduates in classrooms of the neediest schools, is experiencing a plunge in interest — particularly at the elite colleges that once fed its ranks.
So now, the Washington Post reports, it’s retooling and looking for new ways to recruit top students.
You may know that Teach for America is one arrow in the quiver of the billionaires looking to “retool” public education by destroying urban schools districts with charter schools, voucher programs and, most of all, anything to bust up teacher organizations. Veteran teachers think untrained young people — no matter how bright and idealistic — aren’t a good substitute for people trained in the field. The Waltons and other billionaires follow the burn ’em up and find some more model. They think turnover of young teachers are good. That there will always be a supply of brilliant idealists willing to spend a few years with the unwashed before moving on to real professions. In Little Rock, the governor and private businessmen led by Walter Hussman, the Democrat-Gazette publisher, have pumped $6 million into putting Teach for America volunteers into Little Rock classrooms.
Pushback to the billionaires is having some effect nationwide, if not in Little Rock, where the Waltons effectively control the school district through its ultimate dictator, Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who carried Walton legislation when he was in the Senate.
TFA believes that some issues common to the teaching profession at large are affecting its ability to recruit. In an era of fierce debate about public education, morale among teachers has taken a nosedive, according to national polls, and with an improving economy, college graduates have more job options than they have had in years.
But Teach for America also acknowledges that it faces singular challenges, having been buffeted by critics who say that the organization does not address educational inequity but instead amplifies it, institutionalizing teacher turnover and saddling disadvantaged kids with novice instructors who won’t stay around long enough to really make a difference.
Jennifer Wolf, who teaches education courses at Stanford University, said those criticisms appear to have taken hold among students who are deeply concerned about social-justice issues. They seem less interested in applying to TFA now than they were several years ago, she said, and if they do apply, they are less likely to admit it publicly.
When a well-oiled, billion-dollar PR machine — supported by academic “experts” at Walton-funded outposts like the education “reform” propaganda unit at the University of Arkansas — is spending a big part of its effort demonizing school teachers as ineffective layabouts, it’s not too surprising that morale might be low.