Friday, March 11, 2022

Teach For America's Decline In Applicants (Good)

At Chalkbeat, Kalyn Belsha reports that Teach for America is hitting a fifteen-year low in applications. For my money, the number of applications to the teacher temp program can't get too low.

TFA launched in 1990, and became a darling of reformsters, and they have morphed through a variety of missions in the years since, changing from "the best and the brightest will come save urban children, kind of like the Peace Corps" to "we want to bring diversity to the teacher workforce," always with a side helping of things like "if you want to staff your charter school cheaply, we can help." And one other mission that we'll get to.

TFA recruitment peaked at 6,000 in 2013, and they've been declining ever since. Here's a piece looking at their recruiting troubles from all the way back in 2015. That's unsurprising--the entire teaching professional pipeline has been drying up. It would be a minor miracle if TFA weren't also feeling the effects.

TFA officials also blame the pandemic (though their decline pre-dates that)

“People are feeling like with what they’re seeing in teaching, they’re not sure they can do it,” Tracy St. Dic, TFA’s senior vice president of recruitment, said of the organization’s teacher prospects. “They care about social impact, they care about social issues,” she said, “but they also really want to have the security, and the safety, and the stability.”

TFA has too many wealthy friends in high places to ever die. Which is unfortunate. I'll add the usual disclaimer that TFA has produced some people who went on to become high quality career teachers. But those folks could have come out of a full-blown teacher program. 

TFA has long been mocked for putting their people in classrooms with little training or support, but the damage done by unqualified rookies in the classroom has been dwarfed by the damage done by their products after they leave the classroom. TFA has unleashed a small army of "former teachers" and "education experts" who spent two whole years in the classroom (knowing full well that they weren't going to stay, and therefor had no real reason to try to learn and develop professional understanding) but now feel qualified to tell actual teachers what to do. It has become predictably cliche--scratch almost every clueless edupreneur and amateur hour policy leader who claims to have started out as a teacher, and you find a TFA product. 

Worse, for the past few years they've been leaning into that part of their mission, that "spend a couple of years in a classroom as a way to launch your career as a policy leader and education thought leader who can spread the gospel of reformsterism." This has turned out to be the most damaging legacy of TFA, and the fewer people they recruit to carry it on, the better of the world of US education will be. 

1 comment:

  1. Some good organizing has kept TFA out of my district. One former district admin said we need them for the authorized charters. That was the wrong thing to say. A former board member spoke out against it and the rest followed their lead. Thank Goodness. I'm so glad to see TFA is in decline.