“This Is What Happens When You Criticize Teach For America.”
It's Halloween, that cursed day when spooks and apparitions lurk around darkened corners and the line between real and fantasy blurs for a moment. To a degree, every day is Halloween in education policy. Conspiracies and evil spirits haunt coverage of the Common Core State Standards, state assessment contracts, and most any reform efforts.
But a story published this week in The Nation traces out a particularly fantastical yarn about Teach For America (TFA). Most of the article is well-worn territory delivered on the authority of well-known TFA critics: many TFA teachers leave the classroom after two years, some TFA alumni have gone on to be controversial administrators and policymakers, etc. All of that is pretty scorched, contested, and familiar ground.
The article's novelty is in the framing, which is captured reasonably well by the headline: "This Is What Happens When You Criticize Teach For America." The author, George Joseph, traces out a skulduggerous chain of events that supposedly shows how TFA's influence at the U.S. Department of Education helped it blunt a critical Nation article published earlier this year. But is it true?