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Teach for America Features Alumni Who Overwhelmingly Exit the Classroom

February 14, 2019

On its website, teacher-temp org, Teach for America (TFA), states that “many” of its alumni (those who complete two years in the classroom) “continue teaching”:

Teach For America recruits outstanding and diverse leaders to become TFA “corps members.” Corps members commit to teaching for two years in a low-income community, where they’re employed by local schools and confront both the challenges and joys of expanding opportunities for kids.

After two years, they become part of the TFA alumni network. Informed and inspired by their students, many continue teaching; others pursue other leadership roles in schools and school systems or launch careers in other fields that shape educational access and opportunity.

The 2019 version of TFA’s “many stay in the classroom” statement has been toned down over the years, ostensibly to deflect attention from the fact that “many” is not most, which means that employing TFAers leads to endless teacher churn. Consider this September 2015 version of TFA’s “many” message– and note that TFA has since dropped any hint of lack of commitment that produces instability in schools via the “others leave” point:

Our people– diverse and passionate– start in low-income classrooms, where the stakes are highest. We help them become teachers who can dramatically expand students’ opportunities. But our teachers don’t just teach students, they learn from them.

They gain a better understanding of the problems and the opportunities in our education system and use those lessons to define their paths forward. Many stay in the classroom. Others leave. Both paths matter because to set things right, we need leaders in all areas of education and social justice united in a vision that one, day, all kids will have access to an excellent education.

If “many” were arguably “many,” one would expect market-savvy TFA to include exact numbers by way of boosting the TFA product. On a “Careers After TFA” page, TFA does state that 34 percent of TFA alumni remain in the K12 classroom. No mention of how *many* remain only one or two additional years beyond the initial two-year commitment.

It was good of TFA to drop the many-remain-some leave lingo since, by TFA’s numbers, the 34 percent who vaguely “stay” is overshadowed by the 66 percent who leave– which would lead to a 34-percent-“many” vs. 66-percent-“some”– an embarrassing sleight o’ percentages that readily reveals that TFA is indeed a teacher temp agency.

TFA wants the public to believe that “many” of its recruits remain in classrooms. Even so, TFAers choosing to remain in the classroom do not appear to garner as much clout among TFA marketing as do the TFAers who choose to leave (Note that TFA’s 34 percent stat is on the “Careers After TFA” page).

Consider TFA’s current profile pages, pages and pages of TFA alumni profiles.

They did their two years. Then, they left.

Below are the listed occupations of the first 30 TFA alumni on TFA’s profiles list. (Note that the list also includes TFA leadership who were not corps members as well as a few who are still listed as 2018 corps members. These I omitted from my examination.) These are individuals who have completed a two-year classroom stint and who are now, well, elsewhere:

  • executive director, TFA Alabama
  • executive director, KIPP Minnesota
  • consultant, Deloitte
  • law clerk, US Court of Appeals
  • product manager, Internet Brands
  • deputy editor and digital host, TheGrio
  • director of college success, Freedom Prep Academy
  • executive director, TFA Idaho
  • chief operating and program officer, TFA
  • co-founder and executive director, Story Shares
  • associate, labor and employment, Jones Day (law firm)
  • executive director, TFA Hawaii
  • no job listed
  • brand manager, Starbucks
  • A.M. (master of arts) candidate, University of Chicago
  • executive director, TFA Massachusetts
  • executive director, TFA Milwaukee
  • director of leadership development and training, College Advising Corps
  • director of special projects, NYC Department of Education
  • Pre-med student
  • senior VP, The Mind Trust
  • law student
  • executive director, TFA Washington
  • co-founder, Mind Bubble
  • co-founder and chief product officer, Clever
  • executive director, TFA Baltimore
  • principal, KIPP Raices Academy
  • programs officer, Walton Family Foundation
  • no job listed
  • STEM program officer, Booker T. Washington High School

I examined the next 20 TFA alumni profiles and found the first profile that indicated that the corps member remained in the classroom. Hers was the 50th TFA alumni profile on the list:


Bailey Farrell

Chemistry Teacher

Ransom Everglades School

New York, ’13

After earning a B.S. in chemistry from Stanford University, Bailey seemed set for a career in medicine. But after guiding her science students to success as a corps member, she remained in the classroom and continues to change students’ lives.

“She remained in the classroom”: A TFA novelty.

Note that prior to reaching Farrell’s profile, I read the profiles that preceded it, which included those of three more TFA alumni who are now TFA executive directors (South Dakota, Tulsa, Greater Cleveland).

This means that of the first 50 TFA alumni profiles on the list, ten (20%) were for TFA executive directors and one (2%) was for an alumnus who “remained in the classroom.”

Thus, it seems that TFA specializes in producing “many” TFA alumni who become TFA executive directors– TFAers who drum up business for TFA– and almost none who choose to remain “employed by local schools and confront both the challenges and joys of expanding opportunities for kids.”

As for those in the position of TFA executive director: It seems that TFA wants “seasoned professionals” with experience– in this case, nonprofit experience. According to Linkedin, as of around February 07, 2019, the position of executive director for TFA Buffalo is open. Below is the job description:

We are seeking a seasoned professional with nonprofit experience to lead Teach For America Buffalo into its next phase. The incoming Executive Director will be charged with developing the longer term vision that builds on the regional team’s successes while continuing to develop innovative and sustainable approaches to closing the education opportunity gap in Buffalo.

To realize the vision of growing and deepening our impact in Buffalo, you will grow the power of the Teach For America Buffalo network by retaining and supporting over 90 Buffalo alumni—half of whom did the corps in Buffalo, and continue to maintain a corps size of 30. You will also leverage the talent of 7 staff members and a $1.75M fundraising goal towards these ambitious outcomes. As the Executive Director, you will work deeply in partnership with the broader community, private sector, education, and political leaders at all times to enhance the Buffalo education movement.

So, is TFA an organization that produces “many” career teachers?

Not hardly.

They try deflect attention from that fact. However, in featuring certain TFA alumni via their profiles, TFA actually offers evidence that contradicts its assertion that “many” of its alumni remain in the classroom beyond the usual two-year classroom stint.

What TFA needs is a profiles page that features the likes of alumnus Bailey Farrell, who remained in the classroom. Based on Farrell’s status as a class of 2013 TFAer, it seems that she has been in the classroom for five or six years.

Of course, the question is whether TFA actually has enough Bailey Farrells to produce a TFA Alumni Who Remained in the Classroom profile site that would serve as an asset and not an embarrassing marketing contradiction.

Perhaps one day.



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From → TFA

  1. A few folks have told me that many of the teachers use TFA as a pedigree mark to enhance TFAers resumes. After grad school, I was a little hurt that I was turned down by the program, even with experience in working with inner school students. Maybe I was too “old” for the program. Perhaps, things have changed since I applied back in 2011.

    • Linda permalink

      If I was TFA, I’d select people I expected to be loyal to the wealthy patrons who fund later employment at think tanks, etc. I’d exclude people I thought were potential traitors to the donor class and whistle blowers. Being turned down by TFA seems to me to be a badge of honor.

      • Back when I applied, there was an optional survey. Keyword, “optional”. Since I was writing my thesis, I really did not have time to waste on doing optional things. A day after applying, I received an email suggesting that I complete the optional survey. I did not. Then, I received a phone call saying that it would be highly beneficial for me to complete the optional survey. I completed the survey (I guess at that point, it was a mandatory survey), which took about 60 or so minutes. Literally, minutes after I completed the survey, I was told that my qualifications did not match what the organization was looking for. . . . Maybe that was a good thing. 😉

  2. ““She remained in the classroom”: A TFA novelty. ” The perfect line ..

  3. “You will also leverage the talent of . . . a $175M fundraising goal”? Such a talented fundraising goal! LOL. Perhaps TFA should have some of its former English teachers do some editing for them. Oh, I forgot. Those weren’t real English teachers. Those were people with five weeks of summer TFA “training” who “taught” for two years and then quit.

    • Linda permalink

      29 jobs listed, 21 of them courtesy of wealthy patron opportunities.

  4. Kathie Marshall permalink

    Back in 2010 I was sent to a symposium in Washington, DC on writing assessment by the Center for Teaching Quality. I had 37 years’ experience under my belt, yet felt the weight of every teacher on my shoulders as I sat around a table with national educational and assessment leaders—and one TFA teacher. It still rankles me that she had a seat at the table. What could she contribute to this level of discussion while I did my best to represent the voice of my colleagues?

  5. Linda permalink

    New America, a foundation in the news last year after a charge of firing staff who wrote a paper warning against concentrated social, political and economic influence by tech monopolists, has a new president (hired from within), Tyra Mariani, Her bio shows the following- She got a Broad residency which led to her job at Chicago Public Schools. Then, she founded the Greater New Orleans Region of New Leaders which included association with New Leaders principals in post Katrina New Orleans. She also worked at McKinsey and Co. which was in the news last year after allegations that it enabled authoritarian regimes. McKinsey claims a big footprint in education.

    I presume if a person was TFA, a good prospect for employment would be New America, which is funded by Google’s top guy.

  6. Linda permalink

    The praise for TFA went down a new avenue in the research of Katherine Conn of Columbia University and Cecelia Hyunjung of UC-Berkeley- there’s a link between empathy and TFA’ers. Stanford Social Innovation Review posted an article (Spring 2019) that summarized the “Empathy through Service” supposedly manifest in TFA’ers. Conn et al added as equivocation at the end of the 2018 paper published by American Political Science Review that future research could look at TFAer’s career trajectory. Did they “build a sturdier economic and social ladder for disadvantaged individuals to climb”. Mercedes provides the answer.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. 30 Years of Teach For America Shows How Reform Movements Can Become Co-Opted - Articles Archive
  2. 30 Years of Teach For America Shows How Reform Movements Can Become Co-Opted
  3. School Hasn’t Changed in 100 Years. So Saith TFA. | deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

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