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Teach For America Counter-Narratives

Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out


Edited By Jameson T. Brewer and Kathleen deMarrais

In its twenty-five years of existence, Teach For America (TFA) has transformed from an organization based on a perceived need to ameliorate a national teacher shortage to an organization that seeks to systematically replace traditional fully-certified teachers while simultaneously producing alumni who are interested in facilitating neoliberal education reform through elected political positions. From its inception, TFA has had its share of critics; yet criticism of the organization by its own members and alumni has largely been silenced and relegated to the margins.
This book – the first of its kind – provides alumni of TFA with the opportunity to share their insight on the organization. And perhaps more importantly, this collection of counter-narratives serves as a testament that many of the claims made by TFA are, in fact, myths that ultimately hurt teachers and students. No longer will alumni voices be silenced in the name of corporate and neoliberal education reform.
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Chapter One: The TFA Bait and Switch: From “You’ll Be Making a Difference” to “You’re Making Excuses”



The TFA Bait and Switch: From “You’ll Be Making a Difference” to “You’re Making Excuses”

JESSICA MILLEN New Orleans, June 2013–October 2013


Jessica Millen graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2013, majoring in sociology with a minor in education, schooling, and society. As an undergraduate student, Millen was a founding officer of an education club on Notre Dame’s campus that worked to expand student understanding of contemporary educational issues. She also completed an honors senior thesis on the Latino experience of school desegregation in South Bend, Indiana, and conducted research on parent engagement that has been published in the School Community Journal. In addition, Millen was a contributor to the book College Student Voices on Educational Reform: Challenging and Changing Conversations (Burke, Collier, & McKenna, 2013). She was a 2013 Teach For America (TFA) corps member in New Orleans, where she taught third grade. After realizing TFA was not what it purported to be, Millen resigned in October of her first year. She currently works as a preschool teacher in South Bend, Indiana.


This counter narrative explores the bait-and-switch phenomenon I experienced in my first 6 months of Teach For America (TFA). The story is likely to be similar for ← 15 | 16 → many other young college graduates, who are repeatedly and confidently told that they can improve students’ lives but then are not taught the skills to make that difference a...

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