I was surprised to recently come across this item  from TFA, Inc’s web site:

Eligibility Requirements

2.50 Minimum Cumulative GPA

You must have a cumulative undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 2.50 on a 4.00 scale (as measured by the institution awarding your degree) at the time we receive your application, as well as at the time of graduation. The GPA requirement is mandated by the school districts and credentialing programs with which we work. Graduate school GPAs should not be used or averaged in with undergraduate GPAs. If you are accepted into Teach For America and your final GPA falls below a 2.50, you will forego your position with Teach For America. Applicants must also pass any coursework indicated on their transcript as “in progress” at the time of their interview.

That’s a C average.

Yet, here in Seattle, our school board recently approved a contract with TFA, Inc. to bring these young  college grads to town to compete with fully credentialed teachers for limited jobs, under the hyperbolic claims that  TFA recruits are our nation’s “best and brightest” and they  are singularly capable of “closing the achievement gap.”

These are ridiculous claims anyway. Who’s to say who are our “best” young adults? Who’s to say that the “brightest” can only be found in Ivy League schools? (Actually not all TFA-ers go to such schools.) There are plenty of bright kids who can’t afford an Ivy League education.

Teach for America, Inc. celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. One might ask, if  TFA recruits are so good at “closing the achievement gap,” then why, after 20 years of their efforts, does this gap still exist?

Could it be that addressing the disparity in academic achievement between poor and more affluent kids requires something more than just youthful enthusiasm and hubris? And more than a mere two-year commitment to our nation’s most struggling schoolkids?

Maybe TFA, Inc. founder Wendy Kopp will address some of these issues at her talk tonight at MOHAI.

— Sue p.

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