CEHD grad students oppose Teach for America partnership

An open letter criticizing the deal has gained nearly 200 signatures

Roy Aker

Ten University of Minnesota graduate students in the College of Education and Human Development wrote an open letter to the campus community last week opposing the proposed partnership between CEHD and Teach for America.

The letter, which was posted on a WordPress site June 25, had reached nearly 200 signatures by Tuesday evening. 

Erin Dyke, a CEHD graduate student who helped write the statement, said its purpose was to show that graduate students have an opinion on the potential partnership.

“[The partnership] would be a pretty terrible mistake,” she said.

The statement said the authors were “surprised that … CEHD would consider partnering with TFA, given lack of support on the part of Curriculum and Instruction faculty and many others in CEHD.”

Another reason for their surprise at the partnership, the letter said, was the decreased support for TFA from the Minnesota Board of Teaching — which denied TFA 45 temporary teaching licenses for this fall.

The authors of the letter are planning to meet with CEHD Dean Jean Quam, Dyke said. According to Jill Lane, executive secretary for CEHD, the time and date of the meeting have not yet been confirmed.

University administrators and faculty members have discussed the possibility of partnering with TFA “in depth” and have “consulted widely with educators in the community and at other universities,” according to a statement Quam released last month.

Talks between CEHD and TFA were reportedly in preliminary stages last week, and a decision is expected in coming weeks.

Currently, Hamline University in St. Paul is the only TFA partner in Minnesota.

Tracey Pyscher, a graduate student in CEHD, said there’s a “lack of evidence that TFA actually improves the lives or learning environments of underprivileged students.”

She also said discussions about the partnership shouldn’t be limited to the University and TFA but should include the communities TFA is meant to serve.

The issue “isn’t an argument of us against them,” Pyscher said. “It’s never that easy.”