Has Teach for America Betrayed Its Mission?

An interesting article about the evolution of an idealistic program to bring the best and brightest (at least among the newest crop of teachers each year) to those most at need in public education. — Kelly Searsmith

by Stephanie Simon /Reuters via NBC News / 16 August 2012

When Wendy Kopp, just out of Princeton, founded Teach for America in 1989, she dreamed of recruiting 500 elite college graduates to teach the nation’s neediest children. “My dear Miss Kopp,” a college advisor told her, “you are quite evidently deranged.”

Kopp pressed on, and this fall Teach for America will send a record 10,000 teachers into classrooms from New York to California. The nonprofit boasts $300 million in assets and collects tens of millions a year in public funds, even at a time of steep cuts to education budgets. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praises it for having “made teaching cool again.” And TFA veterans have emerged as the most influential leaders of a bipartisan education reform movement.

But critics, including a handful of disillusioned alumni, contend that policies promoted by TFA-trained reformers threaten to damage the very schools they once set out to save. They argue, too, that TFA’s relentless push to expand has betrayed its founding ideals.

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