TFA: Reeking of Pork, Again

With a five-week summer survival course and no actual classroom experience, TFA candidates are deemed “highly qualified” before the school year even begins. The controversial interpretation of “highly qualified,” opposed by more than 100 civil rights and education groups, was set to expire at the end of the 2013-14 school year until this week’s legislative wheeling and dealing landed TFA another two-year extension of the provision.

Buried deep within the resolution to reopen government and avert default on the country’s debt obligations, Teach For America wrapped itself some pork. The organization made clear, yet again, that it can only be sustained through underhanded legislative maneuvers brokered behind closed doors.

Back in 2002, No Child Left Behind was passed with a provision entitling all students to a “highly qualified” teacher. The Department of Education, however, expanded the definition of “highly qualified” to include those pursuing alternative routes to the classroom (e.g., TFA) if they were making “satisfactory progress toward” state certification.

With a five-week summer survival course and no actual classroom experience, TFA candidates are deemed “highly qualified” before the school year even begins. Go figure.

In 2010, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that alternative route candidates were not in fact “highly qualified” and that the Department’s interpretation violated the law.

The ruling was rendered meaningless, however, in late 2010, when a continuing resolution (again, to keep government open) codified the expanded definition of “highly qualified” as law—all without public debate.

The provision TFA fights so desperately for has been opposed by more than 100 civil rights and education groups.

It was set to expire at the end of the 2013-14 school year until this week’s legislative wheeling and dealing landed TFA another two-year extension of the provision.

I’ve been critical of the organization before, particularly because of missed opportunities to transform into an organization that enhances the profession rather than treating teaching as an internship. But the millions spent on lobbying in recent years combined with these underhanded tactics should not be tolerated by TFA’s 28,000 alumni.

When I was a TFA corps member, the organization’s core values were stressed time and again: relentless pursuit of results, sense of possibility, disciplined thought, respect, humility, and integrity.

Those core values have changed in recent years. Notably, integrity is no longer on the list.

For an organization committed to taking any means necessary to get their way, relentless pursuit of results aptly describes the true state of affairs.

But respect and humility? Those don’t adequately characterize the conceit with which this latest effort was perpetrated, nor TFA’s contempt for teaching as a profession.

 

h/t Noah and Ken Zeichner, Valerie Strauss

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