The Influence of Teach for America

Posted by on February 27, 2011

The 900-lb. presence in education

In a post on his Taking Note blog, John Merrow writes that he has participated in balanced coverage of Teach for America, on PBS’s NewsHour, in a web-based series, and in his new book. He’s in neither of two large camps — those who love TFA, and those who detest/fear/suspect it. “The middle can be lonely, by the way,” he adds. He relates how in shooting a segment for the NewsHour about TFA in New Orleans, he and his crew amassed enough footage for a full-length documentary. “By year’s end, we had some terrific material, and at that point I began looking for money,” he recounts. He made the rounds of foundations and individuals with an interest in teacher education, and pitched the project: “seven profiles, lots of good video of the nitty-gritty of the life of a first- or second-year teacher.” Yet he found no one wanted a mixed representation, part resounding successes, part flops, part some who fell in the middle. Funders wanted either wholly negative or wholly positive portrayals of TFA. “It’s a shame that the world of teacher training has become so political,” Merrow observes. “There’s no question that Wendy Kopp and Teach for America have changed the landscape and made a significant contribution. But let’s not pretend that it’s all good or all bad.”

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