TFA Is Shocked, Shocked To Find That It Is An ‘Arm’ Of The Charter School Movement

A few weeks ago an article appeared in ProPublica called ‘How Teach for America became an arm of the charter school movement’.  I found this be a very well researched article which shed light on something that public school advocates like me already knew a lot about — that TFA and the charter school movement are highly intertwined.

For people who didn’t already know about this, this would be truly eye opening.  But even for people like me who have always known about this, this article gave some new details that offered even more compelling proof including a major ‘smoking gun.’

The smoking gun is a contract that TFA signed with the Walton Foundation where TFA would receive $4,000 for each public school teacher they recruit and $6,000 for every charter school teacher they recruit.

I thought the article was great and it got a lot of attention but, for me, the most amazing thing was the reaction by TFA and by the TFA supporters.

Here is what TFA tweeted:

Screen Shot 2019-07-09 at 3.44.06 PMScreen Shot 2019-07-09 at 3.44.42 PM

To which I responded:

Screen Shot 2019-07-09 at 3.45.58 PM

Alexander Russo wrote on Phi Delta Kappan’s ‘The Grade’ a rebuttal called ‘How ProPublica’s investigation of Teach For America fell flat.’  You can read it and see if you find any compelling arguments in it, I know I found none.

This outrage by TFA and their cheerleaders is ironic to me since a few years ago TFA was very proud to be an arm of the charter school movement.  If you went to the past two alumni summits, the 20th and the 25th, at least 75% of the people who were featured to speak in the sessions were from charter schools.  Also, and I do think this is relevant, both Wendy Kopp and the current CEO of TFA, Elisa Villanueva-Beard, are married to charter school top executives.  When Elisa Villanueva-Beard does an interview for a podcast or something like that, she always uses charter school teachers as her examples of the amazing things that TFA corps members are doing.

It is only because Democrats are finally souring on charter schools that TFA is acting like they do not have this deep connection with charter schools.

I have two other facts which were things not mentioned in the ProPublica article, as if more proof of the TFA/charter school connection is really needed.

One thing that is not widely known is that TFA lets charter schools have first option on the most talented new corps members.  I know this because I have been in touch with one of the TFA superstar corps members from a few years back who was recruited into a KIPP school while he was at the institute and he told me about this arrangement.  So TFA lets their charter school buddies get the best of the new recruits and leaves the dregs for the pubic schools.  This means that the public schools are more likely to get a new TFA corps member who will quit or not quit and just be very ineffective.

Another thing that I find very telling is the way charter schools are represented in the TFA alumni magazine called ‘One Day.’  I looked through the winter 2019 edition and found that there were about 20 pages of advertisements in the approximately 100 page issue.  Of the 20 pages of ads, about 18 are for charter schools and the other two are for graduate programs.  Now I can see a TFA cheerleader saying that TFA can’t control who wants to post ads in their alumni magazine.  But maybe they don’t need to run ads at all.  Why should an organization that has $350 million need to get a few more thousand dollars for ads?  And if they are going to have ads, maybe they can make an effort to have it so that it is not just charter school ads.

Here’s the list of advertisements with a few scans so you can get the point of view:

2 page spread:

Success Academy Charter Schools


1 page ad:

IDEA Charter Schools

Green Dot Charter Schools

Screen Shot 2019-07-09 at 4.32.54 PM.png

Brooke Charter Schools

KIPP Charter Schools

Ascend Charter Schools (3 different one page ads)

ReGeneration Charter Schools

1/2 page ad:

Harlem Village Academies Charter Schools

The Equity Project Charter

Discovery Education

Vanderbilt Peabody College

1/4 page ad:

Penn GSE grad school

Freedom Prep Charter

Mission Preparation Charter

Alliance Charter

D.C. Public Schools

Columbus United Schools (Charter Network)

Ednovate Charter Schools

Bryn Mawr Graduate Degree

University of Michigan Master’s program

YES Prep Charter Schools

Seton Education Partners (Religious and Charter schools)

TenSquare (Charter school support organiztion)

United Schools Network (a charter network)



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13 Responses to TFA Is Shocked, Shocked To Find That It Is An ‘Arm’ Of The Charter School Movement

  1. capagirl says:

    Great job, as usual, Gary.

    On Tue, Jul 9, 2019 at 2:35 PM Gary Rubinstein’s Blog wrote:

    > garyrubinstein posted: “A few weeks ago an article appeared in ProPublica > called ‘How Teach for America became an arm of the charter school > movement’. I found this be a very well researched article which shed light > on something that public school advocates like me already knew ” >

  2. Matt Young says:

    Thank goodness for independent schools. Children are more important than big public education monopoly jobs.

  3. Manny Campos says:

    I’ve been through the TFA hiring process and there is no such thing as pushing the best corps members to charters and leaving “dregs” to public schools. Charters typically hire teachers in the spring while public schools typically wait until budgets are approved in the summer. Also, to your charter School ads point: Wouldn’t charter schools be keenly interested in putting ads in a magazine that is sent to thousands of teachers? It doesn’t mean TFA is an “arm of the charter school movement,” it just means charters are looking for good teachers the same way public schools are. You know where they find them? TFA. You’re a hack.

    • garyrubinstein says:

      What can I say? My source tells me that TFA does give the top recruits to charters and he was one of them. And yes I know why charters want to advertise in One Day. My point is that TFA should be aware that they have too many charter ads and it sends the wrong message to the alumni.

    • Jack says:

      “You’re a hack.”


      You need to set a better example for your students, as name-calling is the most common and pervasive form of emotional abuse and bullying.

      • garyrubinstein says:

        Oh Manny doesn’t have students. He’s a TFA staffer, he ditched the students at the first chance he could.

      • Jack says:

        Then Manny needs to set a better example for TFA Corps Members — with whom he works and/or supervises in the TFA organization — who DO HAVE students. Behaving the way in the public realm is quite unbecoming, both for Manny, and for the TFA organization as a whole.

      • Steve M says:

        “Oh Manny doesn’t have students. He’s a TFA staffer, he ditched the students at the first chance he could.”


  4. Pingback: Gary Rubinstein: TFA Is Shocked, Shocked to Hear That It Is Tied to the Charter Industry | Diane Ravitch's blog

  5. Oakland_mom says:

    From TFA’s website-it’s not a teacher training program, far from it. It’s literally adult summer camp:

    “It’s a profound experience that ties you to all other corps members, past and present, and will no doubt leave you feeling deeply connected to our larger TFA community. No matter which institute you attend, one thing is certain—this is a one-of-a-kind experience. You’ll form intense bonds and lifelong relationships with your fellow corps members. You may even meet your soulmate.”

  6. m4potw says:

    To TFA organization:
    I am very practical and logical mindset. Please answer truthfully to my 3 questions if you are what you say.
    1) Do all TFA teachers have National Teaching Certificate?
    2) Do all TFA teachers have a solid criminal record background verified by state where they live and where they grow up plus where they work?
    3)Do all TFA teachers have enough time to practice to teach before being a teacher?

    Most of all, TFA organization, does it qualify or have proper credential to produce teacher for a while in America? Back2basic

  7. E. Rat says:

    I’m deeply suspicious of TFA’s abilities to accurately select the better educators for charter schools – I mean, I believe they try to, but unless Institute has changed a lot, the successful Institute teacher is almost always very into compliance, complicated procedures, lots of discipline, and is good at writing highly structured lessons that may or may not be accessible or useful to students. This is not good teaching. It may means charter-bound teachers will do better in a rigid environment that offers little freedom to teachers and students alike. But I teach K and 1 (and student teachers), and I’m really good at it. So I can say that a need for compliance, structure, and heavy discipline are not ideal qualities in the primary classroom.

    I am also uncomfortable with calling any set of teachers “the dregs”, even untrained and uncredentialed newbies who have been inculcated in an anti-teacher environment like TFA. I think it suggests that the TFA model can create some good teachers, and I don’t think this is true. It also assumes that what TFA thinks of as good teaching is in fact good teaching, and I know that is not true.

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