Durham Schools Drops Teach For America

Here is an interesting tidbit. Durham schools has dropped their contract with Teach for America (TFA), citing the district no longer needs the group and that their turnover rate isn’t in line with the district’s retention goals.

The district has worked with TFA for the past decade and currently has 12 teachers from the program in local schools: Six at Southern School of Energy and Sustainability, four at Neal Magnet Middle School and two at Eastway Elementary School.

The Board of Education last month decided not to renew TFA’s contract, saying the district no longer needs the group’s help and that local schools need teachers willing to commit more than the two years TFA requires.

“We want to build a strong teacher workforce that’s made up of career educators,” school board Chairwoman Heidi Carter said Friday. “Our job is to look long term and make decisions that will benefit the most students over time.”

Carter said the inconsistency and turnover after TFA teachers leave can create problems, especially in high-risk schools where many of the teachers are placed.

“No organization in the business world builds its workforce from temp employees, and basically, that’s what this would be doing.” she said. – WRAL

This criticism about turnover is not new. Flashback to 2011 when Diane Ravitch spoke at Duke:

But as it’s grown, TFA has come under strong criticism from teachers’ groups, unions, and those in teacher education. Among other things, they say a six-week seminar is not sufficient to train teachers.

Advocate and author Diane Ravitch summed up the criticism in a speech at Duke in 2011 .

“Teach For America has sucked all the air out of any discussion of changing the profession,” Ravitch said. “Over the past decade it’s raised $500 million. Well, if we took the same amount of energy and focused on how we raise the standards of the teaching profession, we might be much farther along than we are today. Instead, we’re lowering standards.”

According to a recent teacher effectiveness study out of UNC-Chapel Hill, TFA teachers were the most effective early-career teachers, when measuring student achievement on test scores – placing higher than teachers coming out of the University system or lateral entry.

But fewer than ten percent of TFA teachers were still in public schools after five years. And it’s at that point – five years in – that research shows teachers enter their most-effective period.


The Department of Public Instruction and Governor McCrory must be unhappy. They’ve been proponents of TFA and the Governor’s main education advisers are all TFA alums. In fact, McCrory’s main education Adviser’s wife is the head of alumni affairs for TFA Charlotte. Perhaps that turnover rate is related to the number of TFA alums moving from teaching into politics.

Related reading:



Let’s Talk About TFA

The NC Teacher Corps was modeled after TFA. Not a big shocker with Eric Guckian in the mix.

The NC General Assembly has given TFA recurring funds of $750k for years. In 2013, the NCGA gave TFA $2.5 million in recurring funds. Also, as the Elon Pendulum reported, TFA would get $6 million in 2014 via the NCGA.

The Elon Pendulum also has a rather scathing editorial on Teach For America which characterizes the program as a band-aid or ‘quick fix’ but not a solution.

Teach for America has received over $12 million from the Common Core pushing Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Teach for America brought in $306,840,786 million in 2013. See the IRS 990 Filings. In the 2013 filing, CEO Wendy Kopp was on the receiving end of a healthy salary – $426, 758 plus an additional $20,647 from TFA and ‘related organizations’.  Imagine if all that money went right into states to train who/what they needed without the middle man.

Teach for America’s offshoot, Teach for All pulled down $26,886,709 million in 2013.  See their IRS 990 Filings.

DPI even pushed TFA in the Race To The Top grant.  TFA got a nice chunk – over $5.6 million.

Teach For America – Award Number S395A100069 – Teach For America

Award Number S395A100069
Sub-Award Number N/A
Vendor DUNS Number Not reported
Vendor HQ Zip Code + 4 10018-6624
Vendor Name Teach for America
Product and Service Description To recruit, train and coach individuals to teach in the hard-to-staff subjects and specialty courses to serve in North Carolina’s highest need schools.
Payment Amount $5,647,520


About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a freelance journalist and is currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_
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