Teach for America, or TFA, is a program which recruits high-achieving college graduates to teach for two years in low-performing or underserved public schools. Some Houstonians may know it as an organization whose alumni went on to found Houston’s YES Prep and KIPP charter schools. Many others may know TFA as the source for some of their children’s teachers – there are 350 current TFA corps members working in Houston schools this year, and as of 2011, 30% of new HISD hires are corps alumni.
TFA is also familiar to Houston’s college students – after all, the organization hosts summer training sessions at Rice University. But top graduates from Rice and other institutes of higher education are increasingly less likely to join TFA upon graduation.
Why might this be? One factor may be the recovering economy, but decreased faith in TFA’s effectiveness is almost certainly involved as well. While the organization was founded with the goal of helping disadvantaged children, many people have leveled criticisms about its methods, questioning the dedication and competence of short-term teachers and the impact of their availability on seasoned teachers’ careers.