Teach For America’s preferential treatment: School district contracts, hiring decisions, and employment practices


  • T. Jameson Brewer University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Kerry Kretchmar Carroll University
  • Beth Sondel North Carolina State University
  • Sarah Ishmael University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Megan Manfra North Carolina State University




Teach For America, teacher hiring practices, school district contracts, policy analysis


Teach For America (TFA) began in 1990 as an organization purportedly interested in working towards ameliorating a national teacher shortage by sending its corps members into urban and rural schools. In the decades that followed, especially during and immediately following a nationwide onslaught of teacher layoffs instigated by the 2008 Great Recession, teaching shortages no longer exist in many of the districts TFA continues to place corps members. In response to growing criticism, TFA has altered its public rhetoric, suggesting now that their “corps members” are better than traditionally trained teachers – including veteran teachers – and are hired only through equal hiring processes rather than being afforded preferential treatment. We analyze Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) between TFA and regional school districts, TFA’s official literature, and public discourse to address the degree to which TFA is privileged in hiring practices. We provide evidence that school districts are contractually obligated to reserve and protect positions exclusively for corps members, jobs held by corps members are not a result of equal and open competition, corps member positions are specifically not limited to “so-called shortage areas,” and TFA’s partnership with charter schools and alumni of the organization have skewed hiring practices in favor of TFA over non-TFA teachers. 


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Author Biographies

T. Jameson Brewer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

T. Jameson Brewer is a Ph.D. candidate of educational policy studies and O’Leary Fellow at the University of Illinois. His research focuses on the impact of marketization and privatization on public education and educator preparation by way of school vouchers, charter schools, and Teach For America. His work has been published in the Peabody Journal of Education, Education Policy Analysis Archives, Educational Studies, Critical Education, and the National Education Policy Center. He is co-editor of the book Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out (edited with Kathleen deMarrais; Peter Lang, 2015). Jameson was a 2010 Metro-Atlanta Teach For America Corps Member.

Kerry Kretchmar, Carroll University

Kerry Kretchmar is an assistant professor in the Department of Education at Carroll University. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests include examining the way market-based reforms are impacting teachers, teaching, and teacher education. Her work has been featured in The Urban Review, Journal of Educational Policy, and Education and Urban Society. Kerry was a 2004 New York City Teach For America Corps Member.

Beth Sondel, North Carolina State University

Beth Sondel is an assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Science at North Carolina State University. Her research partners critical theory and qualitative methods to investigate the impacts of market-based reform on public education. More specifically, she is interested in how teachers come to understand, attempt to implement, and advocate for equity and justice within their given socio-political context. Her research has been published in Educational Policy, The Educational Forum, Journal of Education Policy, Theory of Research in Social Education, Jacobin, and multiple edited volumes. Prior to entering academia, Beth was a middle school Language Arts and Social Studies teacher. Beth was a 2002 Southern Louisiana Teach For America Corps Member.

Sarah Ishmael, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sarah is a first-year doctoral student at University of Wisconsin-Madison in the department of Curriculum and Instruction. Her research focuses on school choice policies and how they operate differently across racially and economically varied communities. Sarah holds a M.Ed. in Educational Administration from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Western Washington University and she taught upper elementary and middle school special education in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sarah was a 2010 South Louisiana Teach For America Corps Member. 

Megan Manfra, North Carolina State University

Meghan Manfra is an associate professor of social studies education at North Carolina State University. She is a former high school history teacher and holds an MA in history from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Ph.D. in education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on the integration of technology in social studies teacher education and action research for teacher professional development. She is currently the Chair of the Executive Board of the College and University Faculty Assembly (CUFA) of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). She also serves as the co-editor of the technology section of Social Education and is the editor of the social studies section of the Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (CITE) journal. She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters focused on social studies education and is the editor of the forthcoming Handbook of Social Studies Research (Wiley Press, 2016). Meghan is an alumna of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program (Elon College, 1994-1998). 




How to Cite

Brewer, T. J., Kretchmar, K., Sondel, B., Ishmael, S., & Manfra, M. (2016). Teach For America’s preferential treatment: School district contracts, hiring decisions, and employment practices. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24, 15. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.24.1923



Teach For America: Research on Politics, Leadership, Race, and Education Reform