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Teach for America cuts 100 positions, revamps organization

school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bTeach for America, the national organization that helps to train college grads for placement in needy schools, is reportedly undergoing a structural reorganization in the midst of its second consecutive year failing to meet its recruiting targets.

First reported by education activist Diane Ravitch on her blog Monday, and later confirmed by The Washington Post, the news shows the nationwide nonprofit continues to deal with apparent structural instability.

From the Post:

Teach for America, the nonprofit known for placing idealistic and inexperienced teachers in some of the nation’s neediest schools, is cutting 15 percent of its national staff in what the organization described as an effort to give more independence to its more than 50 regional offices around the country.

The organization will cut 250 jobs and add 100 new ones, making for a net loss of 150 jobs.

Since [Teach for America CEO Elisa] Villanueva Beard’s initial announcement, some positions have been eliminated and other staff members have chosen to leave, according to one TFA staff member who asked for anonymity in order to speak candidly about the organization’s internal workings. Many are planning to depart on April 15.

The downsizing comes after a previous round of reductions in which TFA’s national staff shrank by more than 200 positions. The two shake-ups will leave Teach for America with approximately 930 national staff members in fiscal year 2017, 410 fewer than it employed in fiscal year 2015, according to the organization.

Despite years of support from the Obama administration and, at home, Republicans in the N.C. General Assembly, the national nonprofit has been a frequent target for critics who point to high turnover in the organization and short teaching stints for many TFA recruits as evidence for concern.

From the Post:

Among the positions cut is the organization’s chief diversity officer, a move that came as something of a surprise. TFA created the role just over a year ago and the organization has a stated commitment to — and has had success with — increasing diversity among its corps members. Villanueva Beard said that a diversity officer’s work should be the work of every employee.

“The role that race, class and privilege plays in our work, this is not the responsibility of one central team,” she said in an interview Monday.

Villanueva Beard announced the broad strokes of the reorganization just weeks after TFA celebrated its 25th anniversary with a summit in Washington that drew more than 15,000 current corps members and alumni.

An evening gala at the summit featured a congratulatory video message recorded by President Obama, in which he listed the many ways in which TFA’s 50,000 alumni exercise influence, from continuing in the classroom as teachers to starting their own schools to running for political office.

Leaders for the organization, however, defended TFA in the Post.

“Our regions will have more autonomy to adapt and innovate on our program in ways that meet the unique and varied contexts in which we work,” Teach for America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard wrote in a letter to TFA corps members and alumni.

“Our center will become leaner and more nimble, oriented toward learning from the real progress we see in classrooms, schools, and communities in order to accelerate change across our entire network.”

TFA is also frequently compared to the now defunded Teaching Fellows program, a program that, for years, offered college scholarships to future educators who promised to teach in N.C.’s neediest schools. Republican lawmakers began dismantling Teaching Fellows in 2011, despite evidence of its success in North Carolina schools.

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