What Teach for America Truly Values

Written by: Mitchell Robinson

Primary Source : Keep Talking, August 8, 2015

[Note: All information in this post, unless otherwise cited, was drawn from Mercedes Schneider’s excellent blog post, Teach for America Seeks Help Promoting Itself on Capitol Hill.]

Recently, Teach for America posted a vacancy for the Director of their Government Affairs operations in Washington, DC. Interestingly, the job announcement includes the following information about the experience required for this position: “At least 7 years of work experience, with at least three years experience on Capitol Hill”, and “Salary for this position is competitive and depends on prior experience.”

As reported by Mercedes Schneider, the former occupant of this office had been a TFA alum who “started in TFA with two years in the classroom in DC; became a “school operations manager” for five months, then moved on to legislative assistant for 13 months before becoming TFA’s director of government affairs for 27 months.”

Clearly, TFA realized that experience in the areas of expertise required to be successful in the job were important considerations in the search process, and made sure that the job description reflected this understanding. Good for them. Just as I prefer that my airline pilot, or surgeon, or barista has extensive experience at flying, operating or drawing a cappuccino before they do these things for me, we should all expect that persons with more experience are capable of better performance at their jobs than those with little or no experience, at least initially…

…which–as I’ve pointed out previously here, here, and here, makes TFA’s business model–of placing young college grads with no coursework in education, or teaching experience, in front of classrooms all across the United States, often in the most challenging teaching and learning settings imaginable–all the more problematic.

So, in the spirit of helping our friends at TFA, an education “non-profit” with assets of nearly half a billion dollars, refocus their values, here are a few questions:

Perhaps its time for TFA to update their mission statement from this:
Our mission is to enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation’s most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.

to this:

Our mission is to lobby, pressure and persuade as many as possible of our nation’s most powerful political leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational privatization and profit.

Because, based on what your organization actually says and does, this is what you truly value.

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Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson is associate professor and chair of music education, and coordinator of the music student teaching program at Michigan State University. Robinson has held previous appointments as assistant professor and coordinator of the music education area at the University of Connecticut; assistant professor of school and community music education at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.; and director of wind activities and wind ensemble conductor at the University of Rochester. Robinson’s public school teaching experience includes 10 years as an instrumental music teacher, music department facilitator and high school assistant principal in Fulton, N.Y.