Teach For America must prove itself to the University

A solution is needed for Minnesota’s achievement gap, but TFA has not proved they’re it.

Daily Editorial Board

Although discussions of a partnership between the University of Minnesota and Teach For America are said to be preliminary, the Minnesota Daily reported last month both parties could reach a decision by the end of the summer.

The speed of these talks is out of step with growing skepticism of TFA in the state at a time when Minnesota needs real, well-tested solutions to close an alarming racial achievement gap.

More than 200 University community members, many of them College of Education and Human Development graduate students, signed an open letter opposing the deal. The letter cites TFA’s “unearned legitimacy,” saying the influential organization has not shown it significantly improves students’ lives or education.

These same issues were raised in St. Paul earlier this summer, when Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a $1.5 million allocation to TFA in the omnibus Higher Education bill and the Minnesota Board of Teaching denied the organization a waiver that would get its teachers into schools faster. Both Dayton and the Board of Teaching cited a lack of independently verified information on TFA’s practices and benefits.

There’s no question Minnesota badly needs solutions to narrow the gap in achievement between white students and students of color, which is among the worst in the nation. There are many potential causes for the disparity, however, and they are not limited to the sheer number of teachers.

In discussions with the state government and the University, TFA seems to have considered its potential benefit to be a forgone conclusion.

The organization needs to make a stronger case to the University this summer. In turn, the University must be critical when considering this partnership, consulting with concerned students and Hamline University, the only other school in the state that partners with TFA.

Minnesota’s underrepresented youth need a solution to close this achievement gap, and Teach For America may hold the answer. However, a hasty decision could do more harm than good.