When I joined the 2011 corps I was slated to be a high school social studies teacher. At institute I was trained as such. However, once I arrived in Detroit, it turned out there were fifteen high school social studies and ELA teachers competing for many fewer jobs. By mid-September ten of us were still unplaced. Because we could receive a phone call at any minute for an interview, TFA staff advised us to stay in the region and be ready to spring into interview/teach mode. As the days went by, our confidence of finding a placement or a backup job diminished.
After a month of waiting, I got a call in mid-September about a potential position as a second grade teacher. Convinced this was my only chance to teach this year, I went to the interview. It turned out the job was actually a long-term sub position for three different teachers going on maternity leave, one after the other, in first and second grade. After a week of shadowing, the second grade teacher had her baby and I took over the class.
Most of the other corps members eventually got placed, some after another month of waiting, others in elementary positions or math/science positions they were not specifically trained for. A few CMs with families were unable to hold out, and had to quit the corps and find a steadier form of employment.
As you can imagine, I was not an enthusiastic advocate of TFA at this time in my life. My experience, combined with the fact that many of my friends in the region were placed at business-run charter schools championing diminished teacher autonomy led me to believe TFA was expanding much too quickly, at the expense of the unplaced, the misplaced, and the CMs and students suffering in the infamous charter schools TFA implicitly supports. Given these experiences, I was dumbfounded when I learned TFA was going to accept over 200 corps members to the Detroit region for 2012 (a growth of over 100%). How can an organization that has such trouble placing corps members make a rational choice to double their presence in a region? How can TFA argue that this decision is in the interest of the students of the region?
Before I reflect on this question, I wanted to point out that I do not believe my region is unique. Indeed, TFA is predicated on an ambitious growth model. I looked up their enrollment numbers over the past decade (of course Wikipedia was the only place I could find in under five minutes) and made the follow graph:
As I suspected, TFA has shown absolutely no signs of slowing down its growth. In fact, as I tried to graph a line of best fit (disclaimer I know very little about statistics and just now taught myself how to use excel in this way), it was clear that TFA’s growth rate was increasing with each passing year (see polynomial equation above). If this pattern of growth continues, by 2020 there would be 12,000 admitted corps members each year, and a total of 110,000 alumni just since 2003. Of course, TFA’s growth trajectory will likely change over the next decade, but I think it is of immense importance to consider the implications of a world with 12,000 annual corps members. As the title suggests, I’m ambivalent on the matter, torn between many optimistic and pessimistic thoughts. I will extrapolate on them in part II, but I would be interested in hearing people’s views on the matter as I formulate my own.