Teach For All Counter-Narratives

International Perspectives on a Global Reform Movement

by T. Jameson Brewer (Volume editor) Kathleen deMarrais (Volume editor) Kelly L. McFaden (Volume editor)
©2020 Textbook X, 152 Pages


Founded in 1989, Teach For America (TFA) has grown into a massive organization with a presence across the United States and has expanded internationally to 46 countries. TFA’s international expansion through Teach For All (TFAll) coincides with a broader exportation of neoliberal education reform ideologies across the globe. As a follow up to Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out (Peter Lang, 2015), this text is the first to provide a glimpse into the first-hand experiences of those impacted by the colonizing nature of TFAll and the global education reform movement of privatization.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Illustrations
  • Introduction (T. Jameson Brewer / Kathleen deMarrais / Kelly L. McFaden)
  • Section I Colonialism, Social Justice, Inequality, and Deficit Ideologies
  • 1. The Non-Project (Jenny Elliott)
  • 2. A Tale from the Tail of the Fish (Nickie Muir)
  • 3. Disparities Between Expectations and Impact in Fellows’ Experience of an Alternative Teaching Program in China (Yue Melody Yin / Hilary Hughes)
  • 4. Teach First Ask Questions Later: Experiencing a Policy Entrepreneur in New Zealand (Sam Oldham)
  • Section II Leadership Cultivation Over Teaching
  • 5. Leaders in the Community or Educators in the Classroom? (Sara G. Lam / Tongji Philip Qian / Fan Ada Wang)
  • 6. Teach For All in Latvia: A Case Study and Warning to the World (Elīna Bogusa / leva Bērzina)
  • 7. Meritocracy and Leadership: The Keys to Social and Educational Change According to Enseñá por Argentina (Victoria Matozo / Adriana Saavedra)
  • 8. “We aren’t teachers, we are leaders”: Situating the Teach for India Programme (Vidya K. Subramanian)
  • 9. Sign of the Times: Teach For Sweden and the Broken Swedish Education System (P.S. Myers)
  • Index

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T. Jameson Brewer, Kathleen deMarrais, and Kelly L. McFaden

Teach For All: Exporting Solutions in Search of Problems

The international spin-off organization of the USA-domestic organization of Teach For America (TFA), Teach For All (TFAll) represents the logical progression of pro-privatization and pro-marketization reforms that have swept the globe in the years following the widespread growth of neoliberalism that began in the mid 1980s (Apple, 2012; Ball, 1994, 2003, 2007, 2012; Brewer & Myers, 2015; Elmore, 2013; Giroux, 2004; Harvey, 2005; Peters, 2011; Weiner, 2011) and have dramatically reimagined teacher preparation and the role of educators (Brewer & Cody, 2014; Brewer & deMarrais, 2015; Gorlewski & Gorlewski, 2013; Lubienski & Brewer, 2019). As such, TFAll and a book sharing the stories of those who have been impacted by the organization find deep roots in the development and growth of its parent organization TFA that began in 1990 and has spread rapidly across the globe over the past decade. Below we explore the implications of this growth across the globe to provide a contextual backdrop through which to understand the chapters that follow.

We released Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out in 2015 and the book was met with what was, honestly, more interest among researchers, the general public, and popular media than we imagined. Esther Cepeda, a nationally-syndicated columnist, suggested in a national column in all of the major newspapers in the country that Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out was “explosive and jaw-dropping” and that the book served as “a cautionary tale to those studying the education reform movement” (Ravitch, 2015) and “eviscerated the myth of TFA’s unmitigated success” (Schaefer, 2015). Following popular-press stories citing the book at NPR (Donnella, 2015; Rhodes, 2015), The Daily Beast (Allen, 2015), Jacobin (Jacobin, 2015), AlterNet (Millen, 2015), The Chronicle of Philanthropy (The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 2015), ←1 | 2→The Washington Post (Brewer, 2015; Chovnick, 2015), NonProfit Quarterly (Levine & McCambridge, 2015), and The Bookings Institution (Hansen, 2015), TFA recruitment numbers began to drop precipitously and the organization began laying off staff members (Brown, 2016; Scott, 2016)—a result that some attributed directly to our book (Teran, 2016). We remain honored to have been in a position to share the stories of TFA corps members and alumni in a way that had never been done before. We are equally as proud to now expand that platform on an international scale.

Our collection of narratives on TFA was the first of its kind in that it gave voice to dissenters who had largely felt pressured by TFA to remain silent and, in some cases, forced to remain silent by TFA’s multi-million dollar public relations campaigns to marginalize critical voices (Joseph, 2014). That collection of TFA alumni narratives highlighted twenty perspectives of TFA spanning the entirety of the organization’s history and explored the ways in which TFA engaged in recruiting and training, approached issues related to diversity and race, and responded to critique and criticism. Our first book four years ago came about from emails sent to Jameson from TFA corps members and alumni who were seeking an outlet to share their stories. This international follow-up also arose from emails and conversations following the release of the USA-domestic counter-narratives book on the need for a collection of international perspectives surrounding TFAll.

About Teach For All (TFAll)

At the time of the release of Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out there was, and continues to be, a growing body of academic literature surrounding TFA (Anderson, 2013a, 2013b; Brewer, 2013, 2014; Brewer, Kretchmar, Sondel, Ishmael, & Manfra, 2016; Brewer & Wallis, 2015; Carter, Amrein-Beardsley, & Hansen, 2011; Cersonsky, 2012; Cody, 2012; Crawford-Garrett, 2013; Darling-Hammond, Holtzman, Gatlin, & Vasquez Heilig, 2005; deMarrais, Lewis, & Wenner, 2013; Donaldson & Johnson, 2011; Hartman, 2011; Kovacs, 2011; Kovacs & Slate-Young, 2013; Kretchmar, Sondel, & Ferrare, 2014; La Londe, Brewer, & Lubienski, 2015; Labaree, 2010; Lahann & Reagan, 2011; Maier, 2012; Miner, 2010; Redding & Smith, 2016; Scott, Trujillo, & Rivera, 2016; Stephens, 2011; Trujillo & Scott, 2014; Vasquez Heilig & Jez, 2010; Veltri, 2010, 2012). However, there were nearly no accounts or narratives outside of the academic body of literature from the words of TFA corps members and alumni. Similarly, while there is a smaller, but growing, body of academic literature that has sought to explore and understand TFAll both within specific cultural and country contexts as well as a global phenomenon (Friedrich, Walter, & ←2 | 3→Colmenares, 2015; La Londe et al., 2015; Straubhaar & Friedrich, 2015) but often does not include narratives from those on-the-ground. TFAll is, at the time of this writing, celebrating its 10th anniversary as it currently operates in 48 countries across the globe (Teach For All, n.d.) and continues to expand (see Figure I.1).

Operating from an assumption that schools have failed and traditionally certified teachers are to blame, TFA and TFAll operationalize Wendy Kopp’s vision that teaching is not a profession but rather a temporary role for those with prestigious backgrounds to fill (Kopp, 1989, 1991, 2001, 2013; Kopp & Farr, 2011; Kopp & Roekel, 2011). Involvement in TFAll organizations carries with it the same façade of “manufactured expertise” (Brewer, 2016) as it does in TFA as alumni of TFAll move quickly into policymaking positions to further promote agendas favorable to TFAll and the Global Education Reform Movement or GERM (Sahlberg, 2012).

About This Book

In Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out we noted the importance that narratives and counter-narratives play by pointing out that,

Narratives, storytelling, and counter-stories can be transformative and empowering for educators, students, and community members. These methods can make public what many already know but have not spoken out loud: There are futures and lives at stake in the process we call education. (Fernández, 2002, p. 60) [Emphasis in the original]

We believe that Fernández’s words remain applicable to this collection of international counter-narratives. We sought to curate a diverse collection of narratives from across the TFAll network in an effort to provide as much of a diverse perspective as possible (see Table I.1). In the chapters that follow you will read narratives from India, Sweden, the United Kingdom, South Africa, New Zealand, China, Argentina, and Latvia. While each region/country offers its own unique cultural perspective on TFAll, the chapters that follow explicate consistent themes that emerge regardless of the context. Overall, like their TFA counterparts, iterations of TFAll across the globe consistently ignore cultural and contextual factors in their delivery of pedagogy. Additionally, across the majority of contexts, TFAll organizations value the work of alumni impacting policy decisions or moving into leadership positions more than they value the actual work of teaching as TFAll organizations continue working to leverage a myriad of pro-privatization and standardization reforms throughout the globe.

Table I.1. Key issues in chapters.


TFAll Location

Key Concepts

Colonialism, Social Justice, Inequality, and Deficit Ideologies

1. Jenny Elliott

United Kingdom and South Africa

• Colonialism

• Bait and switch

• Hidden Agendas

2. Nickie Muir

New Zealand

• Faux elitism and faux activism

• Corporate sponsorship versus social justice

3. Yue Melody Yin & Hilary Hughes


X, 152
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (March)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. X, 152 pp., 1 b/w ill, 2 tables

Biographical notes

T. Jameson Brewer (Volume editor) Kathleen deMarrais (Volume editor) Kelly L. McFaden (Volume editor)

T. Jameson Brewer, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Social Foundations of Education at the University of North Georgia. His teaching experience spans from the middle school, high school, undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels. His research focuses on the impact of privatization of public education by way of school vouchers, charter schools, alternative teacher certification, homeschooling, and venture philanthropy. Kathleen deMarrais is a professor in the Department of Lifelong Education, Administration, and Policy at the University of Georgia. With a background in sociology and anthropology of education, she serves as a qualitative methodologist in UGA’s Qualitative Research Program. Her research focuses on qualitative methodologies, qualitative pedagogy, and the history and funding of conservative philanthropists in the United States and their impact on educational policy and practice. Kelly L. McFaden, Ph.D. is Associate Professor and Coordinator in the Social Foundations of Education program at the University of North Georgia. Previously a middle and high school teacher, she now focuses on teaching social justice and equity-based pedagogies to undergraduate and graduate students. Her research focuses on broad issues of social justice, gender and queer studies, and comparative and international education.


Title: Teach For All Counter-Narratives