A small group of Harvard students, backed by a national grass-roots student organization, has taken a very public stand against Teach for America. In a letter last month, they urged President Drew Faust to block TFA from recruiting on campus unless the group makes major changes – including repudiating key corporate sponsors and pledging to send its recruits only to districts with a teacher shortage. TFA’s co-CEOs, Elisa Villanueva Beard and Matthew Kramer, have posted an open letter [ http://bit.ly/1rQxrUX] offering to sit down with the growing number of TFA critics on campuses across the country. The two write that they see such dialog as “essential to shift the education conversation in a positive direction.” Student activists promised a “more escalated national action” if things don’t change.
TFA’s leaders have already made significant changes. They’ve launched pilot programs to give some recruits more training and to encourage corps members to stay in the profession for more than two years. They’ve also stepped up TFA’s efforts to recruit minorities, veterans, mid-career professionals and first-generation college graduates. But the campus protest movement continues to grow, fueled by concern that a rotating cast of rookie teachers may hurt, rather than help, struggling schools – and by anger that TFA novices may be displacing veteran teachers in some districts. The response from Kramer and Villanueva Beard? “We believe that students are best served when principals have access to the most robust possible talent pipeline,” including TFA and myriad other teacher prep programs.
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