Special Issue of EPAA: ‘Teach for America’

Two  things were great about opening up my email this morning.  The first was that the latest issue of Education Policy Analysis Archives – or EPAA – hit my inbox. For those of you who don’t know this – EPAA is one of the first peer reviewed, open access, journals on education policy  launched some 24 years ago, and continues to go from strength to strength. Its founding editor was the distinguished Gene V. Glass of the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education, Arizona State University from 1993 to 2004.

The second is that the latest issue of EPAA is a bumper one on the social, political and policy aspects of – Teach For America –  a controversial alternative teacher preparation and placement porogramme aimed at addressing teacher shortages in the USA.

A teacher teaching a junior school class

Teach For America recently celebrated 25 years – which is quite a feat in the changing world of education policy and practice.  This programme has also been globalised; we now find Teach for India, Teach for China …and related versions… such as Teach First, in the UK.

Janelle Scott, Tina Trujillo and Marialena D. Rivera from University of California, Berkeley – are the authors of the lead paper – Reframing Teach for America: A Conceptual Framework for the Next Generation of Scholarship. They argue that TFA is a political and social movement with “…implicit and explicit ideological and political underpinnings…” – and that “….TFAs greatest point of influence in public education is not in classrooms but in its facilitation of entry into leadership positions aimed at reshaping public schooling…”.

Their particularly interesting point is how this is taking place in the US. They argue that four strategies  are at work. First, there is an infusion of policy entrepreneurs into education policymaking processes. Second, TFA works on  the cultivation of powerful networks of elite interests. Third, TFA promotes a corporate model of managerial leadership. And fourth, it cultivates particular racial and social class identities that in turn facilitate entry to leadership and policy networks.

Their biggest concern, however, is the tight alignment between Teach for America and what is widely viewed as being a highly divisive neoliberal agenda: that of school choice, privatisation,  and market-oriented competition-driven reforms which promise more equitable schooling outcomes but in reality contributes to deepening social inequalities.

For those of you who care about education, and also care deeply about the governance models we see being put into place in the sector, this is an important read. And it is free!


Editor’s Note:  Susan L. Robertson is  Professor of Sociology of Education in the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol. Her research is concerned with the changing nature of education as a result of transformations in the wider global, regional and local economies and societies, and the changing scales on which ideas, power and politics is negotiated. Contact: S.L.Robertson@bristol.ac.uk