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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 Seventeen: Can We Change? Reflections on TFA’s Ongoing Internal Criticism



Can We Change? Reflections on TFA’s Ongoing Internal Criticism

DERRICK HOUCK Philadelphia, 2010–2012


Derrick Houck is a math teacher at a charter school in Philadelphia and a 2010 Teach For America (TFA) corps member. He has taught courses in algebra 1, statistics, and advanced placement statistics at the ninth grade and twelfth grade levels. He worked as a resource room specialist at TFA’s Philadelphia Institute in summer 2012. Along with his coworkers and the Alliance of Charter School Employees, he has been engaged in efforts to organize a union at their charter school. In addition to teaching mathematics, he helped found and continues to cofacilitate the school’s music club, where he tutors students after school in piano and guitar. He has a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from Bucknell University, with a minor in education, and a master’s degree in urban education from the University of Pennsylvania. ← 169 | 170 →


Teach For America (TFA) has had its critics since its founding in 1989, but only in more recent years have such voices found platforms in more mainstream media sources. A significant upsurge in this critical dialogue can be attributed to the 2013 gathering of TFA alumni at the Free Minds, Free People conference in Chicago, which sought to “[stage] a coordinated, national effort to overhaul, or put the brakes on, TFA” (Wells, 2013). This session was widely touted as the first initiative to...

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