As a TFA alum, each year I get invited to fill out the annual alumni survey. Sometimes I boycott the survey, knowing that TFA is likely to misrepresent the results of this survey. Whether it is the claim that two-thirds of alumni are still teachers or that 80 percent of alumni are still working in education or are otherwise impacting low income communities, TFA is never very transparent with the raw data they use to generate these numbers.
This year I decided to take the survey anyway. Maybe it would give some insights into what TFA is thinking nowadays DeVos and everything. They’ve actually been pretty quiet lately.
I’ve always wondered about that statistic about how 80 percent of alumni are either working in schools or otherwise in low-income communities. It seemed like there would have to be some staffer at TFA who would make a judgement call if, for example, someone working as an admissions officer at a college would count as being ‘in education’ or if someone who is a lawyer and from time to time has clients who are low-income if they would count as ‘impacting low-income communities.’ It turns out that it is much simpler than that:
So the person doing the survey gets to make the judgement. I’m not sure if this is a statistically valid way of doing this.
Also notice the wording of these questions. The first one doesn’t say “I currently work in education.” It is so vague about ‘impacting the field of education’ or just impacting ‘issues affecting education.’ Yet when the survey results are reported, they claim “we’ve got … over 80 percent [of alumni] in schools or with low-income communities.” See, they clearly say “in schools” not “impacting issues affecting education.” This is very deceptive.
Near the end of of the survey I encountered a series of questions that I would best describe as ‘creepy.’ Everyone in TFA can recite Wendy’s famous mission statement “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” That was the motto back in 1991 when I was a corps member and that is still it today. It is an optimistic mission statement and I wonder, since TFA is all about data, if they know what percent of students had this opportunity to attain an excellent education back in 1990 when TFA started and what percent of students have an opportunity to attain an excellent education today, so see how we are doing on that goal.
So here are the series of questions I’m referring to:
I find the questions to be very odd. The fact that someone on staff, maybe a team of people, wrote these questions and edited them and then looked them over again before sending out the survey and though “Oh Yeahhhhh” shows that they are really living in a different reality.
I say this since I’m not sure what information they are trying to elicit here. If I say I disagree with the first statement, does that mean to them that I don’t believe that poor kids are capable of learning? For me, I am not confident that “One Day” will become a reality since I think the reforms that TFA supports like charter schools, school closings, and teacher-bashing are taking us further away from “One Day” and since Democrats and Republicans generally agree with these ideas, I’m not so optimistic about things getting much better for “all children.” The other questions are also kind of weird. I guess that people who work in charter schools answer “Strongly Agree” to all of these.
TFA, like other reformers, has been pretty quiet the past few months. Waiting, I guess, to see which way the wind is blowing and how they will maintain their ‘seat at the table’ not to mention their federal grants and all that.
Recruitment has nosedived over the past three years. I see the retweets by TFA of the new recruits who are finishing their applications or have heard that they have been accepted and I see things like “So excited to be starting the next adventure in my life teaching in Chicago!.” I have to wonder, as Seinfeld used to say, “Who are these people?
Still, I’m an alum and some of my best friends are too and some of them are still involved in education and they are great, so I’ll keep doing my part, filling out the survey, going to the reunions every five years, and being a basic annoyance to them from time to time, trying to keep them honest.