There’s been a recent surge of chatter about Teach for America, what with 10,000 corps members and alumni gathering in Washington, D.C., this weekend for the organization’s 20th anniversary summit. Eduwonk Andrew Rotherham picked up on the trend, writing a short piece in Time on the five myths about TFA that persist after 20 years. He debunks the following:
1) TFA is a “résumé booster for Ivy League dilettantes who want to become bankers or lawyers.” (Rotherham says TFA accepts corps members from many state schools as well.)
2) The research on the effectiveness of TFA teachers is “mixed.” (According to Rotherham, there’s growing evidence TFA teachers are at least as effective as non-TFA teachers.)
3) TFAers “don’t stay in education long enough to make a difference.” (Rotherham says 52 percent remain in teaching after their two years.)
4) There aren’t enough TFA teachers to make a difference on a national scale. (By the time it turns 30, Rotherham says, TFA will have 100,000 corps members and alumni.)
5) TFA “shows you don’t need much training to teach.” (TFA’s training and support is ongoing, he writes. And who knows how much more effective the teachers would be with added training?)
Here’s one more myth Rotherham could have addressed: TFA pays off its corps members’ student loans. In truth, TFA teachers do receive Americorps stipends—about $4,700 per year. But in most states, corps members are required to take classes toward a teaching certification or master’s degree during their two years. The stipend often does not cover the cost—and many corps members leave TFA with more debt than they came in with.
Think Rotherham missed any other myths? Or was less than persuasive in disproving the ones above?
As a note: I’ll be attending the conference this weekend. Look for coverage of the event thereafter. (In full disclosure, I am also a former corps member. But am going as a member of the media.)
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.