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Teaching Profession

Teach For America Elaborates Its Response to NEA Criticism

By Stephen Sawchuk — July 22, 2011 1 min read

In an email newsletter dispatched to alumni, Teach For America officials said they were “deeply disappointed” by a recent National Education Association resolution opposing TFA efforts—but they also vowed to engage more with professional associations.

It’s the alternative certification route’s most explicit response so far to the NEA slap, which you may remember took place at the union’s Representative Assembly earlier this month. At the convention, delegates took a strong stance against the program, saying they opposed TFA contracts in districts “where there is no teacher shortage or when districts use TFA agreements to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions.”

In its mailing, which got passed along to me, TFA countered that many of its corps members are members of teachers’ unions and that “we do not and would not engage in union busting or silencing activities.”

TFA also questioned the factuality of the NEA resolution, contending that TFA teachers “do not displace other teachers but rather compete for vacant positions.” With respect to hiring cheaper teachers, it added that the districts pay a fee for each member they hire so that the program doesn’t necessarily reduce personnel costs. And finally, it says that districts gain more than just personnel by engaging with the program, which includes a significant investment in professional development for corps members.

TFA also held out something of an olive branch: “While we are disappointed that the NEA felt compelled to take this action now, we take it as a signal that we must strive harder to build positive relationships and partner with our valued colleagues in the teaching profession so that we are all maximizing our impact together for the students and communities we serve,” the message reads.

I don’t get the impression from these kinds of exchanges that either TFA or NEA wants to immediately jump from their current, uneasy rapport into being BFFs. The two groups share some fundamental differences of approach about the role of teacher preparation and the nature of a career in teaching or education. But on the other hand, an outright war makes for terrible public relations and is unlikely to help either group advance its ideas for improving student learning.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.