Understanding KIPP Model Charter Schools: Part 9 (TFA)
Teacher attrition is high enough that "No Excuses" charter schools could not keep their doors open without a constant infusion of new blood from Teach for America and penal preparation programs like Relay. In the chapter below from Work Hard, Be Hard . . . contributed by Dr. Barbara Veltri, who published a book about TFA in 2010 entitled Learning on Other People's Kids: Becoming a Teach For America Teacher, Veltri provides an encapsulation of TFA's place in keeping corporate ed reform dreams alive.
Teach For America’s Socialization and Manipulation
by Barbara Veltri
It’s like the Peace Corps. But, you know, creepier. --D. Chernicoff, Yale Daily News, (2006)
This chapter chronicles the evolution of Teach For America’s (TFA) rebranding, from a teaching-as-service non-profit, to a leadership network with a voracious appetite for expanding and creating new revenue streams. I examine how Teach For America’s corps members are selected and socialized to support the organization’s revamped trajectory away from teacher supply to leadership expansion. Data for this chapter included a range of sources, from insider interviews to TFA annual reports, business plans, tax returns, web sites, public records, and other documents. A cautionary tale illuminates how private venture philanthropy and “public good” corporate education reform initiatives[i] are managed and manipulated.
The Mission Design of America’s #1 Educational Non-Profit
Twenty-five years ago Princeton University Sociology major, Wendy Kopp, founded Teach For America. It’s mission: recruit, train, and place recent college graduates without education credentials into poor rural and urban schools for two-year teaching commitments (Kopp, 2003). The new non-profit organization, subsequently dubbed America’s National Teaching Corps (Veltri, 2010) was charged with addressing the shortage of qualified teachers in underserved regions of the U.S. (Kopp, 2003; Veltri, 2010). In 1994, Teach For America was granted 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit organization, which permitted donors to claim exemptions from income taxes, too.
Teach For America targeted areas to field-test the education reform agenda in America’s poor communities, where high populations of children of color reside. These urban and rural areas were never properly funded in any way imaginable, and they had gone mostly unnoticed by the business community until Ms. Kopp recruited recent grads from select colleges to begin teaching there.
With substantial financial support from corporations and foundations in hand by the mid-1990s, Ms. Schools Matter: Understanding KIPP Model Charter Schools: Part 9 (TFA):