Personal Responsibility: The Effects of Becoming a Teach for America Teacher

Patricia Maloney


There has been a great deal of research about Teach for America (TFA) teachers' efficacy and tenure in the classroom.  However, there is little research that examines how TFA (as an organization) recruits for and then shapes the behaviors and attitudes of its teachers, or about the short- and long-term effects of that initiation period.  This paper argues that this initial recruitment and training have clear effects on these teachers' mindset as well as their desire to stay in teaching.  The data for this paper come from a variety of sources, including a three-year ethnography of the same cohort of TFA.  Specifically, the three stages of TFA's recruitment and training practices (recruitment, application, and training) are examined in order to analyze how the TFA staff recruit college students and how they meld a group of recent college graduates with little teaching experience into a relatively uniform group in terms of pedagogical mindset.  This initial training also has a long-term impact in that many alumni have a more nuanced and teacher-centric view of education after they leave the program than before they entered.  For some, the teacher is still the main actor and cause for results in the classroom, but many also understand the effects of other societal factors on educational attainment.


Alternative Certification; Teach for America; Teacher Identity; Teacher Education; Achievement Gap

Full Text: PDF

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

ISSN 1920-4175 Critical Education