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Teach For America Counter-Narratives

Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out

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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 Nineteen: Voices of Revitalization: Challenging the Singularity of Teach For America’s “Echo Chamber”

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CHAPTER NINETEEN

Voices of Revitalization: Challenging the Singularity of Teach For America’s “Echo Chamber”

BARBARA TORRE VELTRI

BIOSKETCH

Barbara Torre Veltri is an associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Northern Arizona University. Her research interests include teacher education, Teach For America, and collecting first-person narratives to inform the teaching of history. She is the author of Learning on Other People’s Kids: Becoming a Teach For America Teacher (Information Age Publishers, 2010).

NARRATIVE

Teach For America (TFA) is viewed as a results-driven blueprint for educational reform (Alter, 2011; Will, 2011). The organization recruits and trains recent college graduates through a corporate-like model that espouses leadership and teaching-as-service (Brewer, 2012; Kopp & Farr, 2011). By design, TFA is highly competitive. In 2014, Teach For America accepted only 14% of its applicant pool (Teach For America, 2014). Teach For America instills its organizational truths to incoming corps members (CMs) (Kopp, 2001; Kopp & Farr, 2011). To this end, a singular, robust, and paternalistic socialization develops one’s “thinking like a corps member” (Veltri, 2010, p.112). This collective mindset intersects with ← 191 | 192 → private sector, neoliberal, and neoconservative agendas (Hill, 2013; Kovacs, 2007; Lahann & Reagan, 2011).

Teach For America’s Singular Voice

In 1994 TFA applied for, and assumed, the role of America’s National Teacher Corps, a designation that enables the nonprofit to receive millions of dollars from the federally funded Corporation for National Community...

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