Teach for America recruits bright, motivated university graduates and puts them in classrooms with low-income, disadvantaged kids. Normally, liberals would latch on to such a notion – think Peace Corps in urban neighborhoods.
But instead, TFA is criticized relentlessly for what boils down to three basic reasons:
- TFA shows you don’t need an education degree and years in the classroom to get results.
- TFA teachers do not belong to the union.
- Some TFA teachers stay in education, where they have become advocates for school reform.
And so TFA comes under constant attack by advocates for the education status quo. Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, actually linked TFA to the Sandy Hook tragedy, with Diane Ravitch cheering her on.
And so it hardly is surprising to see this headline from Ravitch’s blog: “Why Does TFA Need Nearly $1 Billion?’’
As is her style, she simply lifted someone else’s material, doesn’t research it, and throws in some quips and a link. In this case, the link went to a web site called “EduShyster.’’
It turns out the actual number is about $900 million collected over a five-year period. EduShyster does some misleading math, without understanding anything about how TFA operates, and implies some kind of scam is in the offing.
And so I did something that EduShyster and Ravitch failed to do. I checked with Charity Navigator, the leading evaluator of non-profit organizations in the nation.
Charity Navigator gives TFA its top four-star rating, a score of 68.2 out of 70. By comparison, the American Red Cross received three stars and 59.6 points and the American Cancer Society received two stars and 46 points.
The ratings include financial performance and accountability/transparency. Less than 17 percent of TFA’s revenues go to administration and fundraising, a very impressive number. All the boxes are checked off: Independent voting board members. Conflict of interest policy. Process for determining CEO compensation. Audited financials. And so on and so forth.
The people at Charity Navigator do detailed homework. They don’t idly speculate on blogs.
But reality doesn’t matter to Ravitch, et al.
They do not like TFA inspiring young people to get involved in reforming an education system that has failed low-income kids for decades.
To quote Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association: “We are part of that system—a system that has not successfully addressed the dropout crisis and allows kids who are poor to be stuck in schools that do not meet their needs—placed into classrooms year after year with the least qualified, least experienced teachers.’’
Gosh, where is the outrage, Diane?
There are more than 8,000 TFA teachers teaching a half-million low-income kids. TFA is generating lots of useful data and research on teacher selection and training. Top college graduates are competing to get into what once were the most neglected schools. Last year, 50,000 students applied for 4,500 openings.
Yes, please, somebody stop them.
About the author
Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet
Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at Mike@excelined.org