Saturday, October 27, 2007

Great Expectations: Why big donors back Teach for America.

By Lincoln Caplan

Posted at Susan Ohanian at this link:

Susan comments:

Surprise. Surprise. Here is another place for Eli Broad's footprint. The Broad Foundation is a big funder of Teach for America.

"The Mother Theresa of U.S. Preppie Do-Gooders," a blogger recently styled Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America. It's Teresa, actually, and Kopp went to public school in Dallas, not to Groton, but the 40-year-old is definitely an icon of the Gen Y quest for meaning. In the nonprofit world, and increasingly outside it, the story of Kopp and TFA twinkles like a fable. It's about "one naive college kid with a big idea," as Kopp said in her 2001 book, One Day, All Children … .

No one has done a takedown of Kopp like Christopher Hitchens' harangue about Mother Teresa, The Missionary Position. When Kopp appeared on The Colbert Report this year, Stephen Colbert barely roughed her up. "Were you yourself one of these teachers? Did you yourself do it? No, you didn't? You weren't? So, 'Do as I say and not as I do'? There's your lesson right there!"

At the same time, TFA, which is 17 this year, has attracted a list of accomplished critics in its adolescence. Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford's school of education, is the lead author of the best-known study, which concluded that students of uncertified teachers of TFA lagged significantly behind students of certified non-TFA teachers. Deborah Appleman, the chairwoman of education studies at Carleton College, shadowed a former student of hers through the summer training of TFA's first class in 1990. She came away disappointed and has been been a persistent critic ever since. She discourages her students from applying and refuses to write letters of recommendation for them. TFA also contends with the fear that the public will lose patience, since progress in closing the achievement gap has been so modest, given the large sums spent on education, including on Kopp's brainchild.

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