The New Teach for America-- Now With Less "Teach"
Teach For America likes to reinvent itself from time to time, searching for whatever is currently the sweet spot in the market. And as Emma Brown explains in yesterday's Washington Post, TFA has stepped into the transmogrifier once again, and has emerged with a bit of mission creep.
The latest shift is prompted by a notable drop in TFA's recruiting juice. As Brown reports, applications are down 35% over the last three years, plummeting from 57,000 in 2013 to 37,000 this year. There are a variety of explanations for this including the general drop of everyone going into teaching through traditional paths or made-up paths like TFA; there's an irony in that TFA has itself been part of the movement denigrating and deprofessionalizing the teaching profession. TFA itself is no longer as shiny as it once was, partly because of bad press, but also, I'd bet, because after twenty-five years, TFA is part of the status quo and not some Hot New Thing.
But TFA, always looking to keep itself a viable business, has a plan for combating the lag in applicants and selling the program to a new generation. Part of it is a tactical tweak-- recruit students while they are underclassmen and no longer wait until they are seniors
The secret? Emphasize how Teach for America really isn't about teaching at all.
Here's a TFA rep talking at a recruitment event:
“We believe that this is far bigger than teaching,” Kimberly Diaz, of the organization’s D.C. regional office, told a group of prospective applicants from Georgetown and George Washington universities in April. They had just visited an elementary school in suburban Maryland and heard CURMUDGUCATION: The New Teach for America-- Now With Less "Teach":