TFA representative comes to campus

Thoughout its 26-year history, Teach for America (TFA) has had a strong presence on the Hill: more than 140 Colby alumni have taught as corps members. According to its website, TFA accepted 6,000 corps members to their ranks in 2013, 5,300 corps members in 2014 and only 4,100 in 2015. The organization has played an important role in the post graduate lives of a number of Colby students, notably through  the recruitment of students on campus, such as Joseph Whitfield ’15 and Tionna Haynes ’15. However, with continued decreases in the number of applicants, one cannot help but ask what the future of TFA looks like, especially at the College.

On October 19, Students For Education Reform at Colby College (SFER) hosted a panel to discuss the significant role that TFA has had in shaping discourse and practices within education reform. The panel consisted of future Washington, D.C. TFA member Dylan Alles ’16, Associate Professor of Education M. Adam Howard, and Baltimore native and TFA Director of District and School Partnerships Josh Lauren.

The panelists addressed the replacing of public school teachers with their corps members, and the different perspectives of how TFA deals with their corps. Howard commented on the premise of TFA by saying that he didn’t “think of the teaching profession as service, that [it] de-professionalizes it.”

Alles then responded with her own thoughts when she said, “there  have been a lot of questions that I have been dealing with when I think about my role as someone who cares passionately about social justice in the teaching profession and joining Teach for America and what that means. I feel as though I should just say that, personally, when I look at the reality of rates of school completion and graduation for underprivileged students that I have worked with., for the realities in terms of what students of color have grown up with in low income communities, I think that’s a crisis personally and it’s one that I feel really strongly about.”

Something else that was touched on was involvement of the private sector in education. Alles spoke on her beliefs that “the reality of educational inequity in this country is the social justice issue of our generation.” For that reason, she believes that it “deserves the attention of all involved actors, public institutions, the private sector to the degree to which it can collaborate with public institutions.” Alles sees it as a “marriage of that private-public connection often is really critiqued but [she] thinks it’s one that [she] believe[s] we should hesitate before jumping right in and saying that its problematic because there is a lot of benefit that can come out of that.”

In light of recent events with TFA and the many criticisms that have come out of dialogues and their recent reform it is an interesting point of contention. The privatization of education as well as the role of TFA alums in policy-making practices regardless of its many claims to being a “leadership organization, not a political organization. […and having] no ideological positions on issues,” according to the organization’s webite, are important to note considering the position of many of its alums after being a part of TFA.”

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