TFA Tries to Squash Its Critics via Less Than One Degree of Separation
One of the challenges in writing about corporate education reform concerns the complex web of involvement among corporate reformers, which is often evident in their sitting on each others’ nonprofit boards.
Makes it hard to know where one market-worshiping so-called education nonprofit ends and another begins.
One corporate ed reform nonprofit that notoriously spawns nonprofits and overlaps with others is Teach for America (TFA). In fact, many start their corporate ed, “this here’s my nonprofit” careers after serving as TFA temp teachers.
The “just add water” manner in which TFA tosses recruits into classrooms is drawing increasing criticism as the years pass. So is the manner in which TFA has tried to shut down its critics. Just Google the term “Teach for America criticism,” and you will not want for reading material. Here are some examples:
An overview of TFA has its assets at $494 million as of May 2014 and its annual income at $525 million (June 2013 to May 2014). It has alumni installed on Capitol Hill as “fellows.” Its influence even got TFAers declared “highly qualified” based upon a statement craftily slipped into 2013 federal debt legislation.
TFA isn’t going down without a fight.
But it hasn’t helped TFA’s image to be the one doing its own image pressure-washing. So, another organization with TFA-as-nonprofit-board-member incest, NYCAN, plans to help.
As Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton reported on December 12,2015 in a piece entitled, “Rapid Response Unit Aims to Counter Criticisms of Teach for America”:
A nonprofit group has begun a public relations campaign to defend Teach for America against critics of the program that places newly minted college graduates in teaching jobs in some of the country’s most challenging classrooms.
The new campaign, called Corps Knowledge, is an offshoot of the New York Campaign for Achievement Now (NYCAN), a network that supports public charter schools and school choice and wants to weaken teacher tenure laws.
Derrell Bradford, NYCAN’s executive director, said the campaign aims to counter attacks on Teach for America’s image, which some people loyal to the program think has been damaged by “a few disgruntled alumni” and other critics.
Now, here’s the funny part:
The Corps Knowledge campaign is run independently of TFA, although many of those involved in NYCAN and TFA know each other. Matt Kramer, a former co-chief executive of TFA, sits on the board of NYCAN’s parent organization, 50CAN. Kevin Huffman, a TFA alumnus and former Tennessee education commissioner, sits on the board of Corps Knowledge.
So, NYCAN’s efforts are “independent” of TFA even as TFAers sit on the NYCAN and 50CAN boards.
In the comments section of Layton’s article, I read the following priceless statement by a commenter who identifies as “edlharris.” The comment captures that independent-of-TFA farce so well:
After reading the article, I see that it is friends of TFA that are mounting this campaign. But they slip and slide into each other’s organizations like crap goes through a goose [so] that it can be hard to keep up.
Indeed it is, edlharris. Indeed it is.