Teach For America’s long arc: A critical race theory textual analysis of Wendy Kopp’s works

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We read and analyzed 165,000 words and uncover a series of counter-stories buried within a textual corpus, authored by Teach For America (TFA) founder Wendy Kopp (Kopp, 1989, 2001; Kopp & Farr, 2011), that offers insight into the forms of racism endemic to Teach For America. All three counter-stories align with a critical race theory (CRT) framework.  Specifically, we answer the following questions:  What evidence of institutional and epistemological racism is exposed by a CRT textual analysis of TFA’s founding document and later works by Wendy Kopp?  To what extent has TFA appropriated the language of culturally relevant pedagogy, while advancing an uninterrogated neoliberal ideology? And, to what extent does TFA’s contribution to a “culture of achievement” (Kopp & Farr, 2011) constitute an actual “poverty of culture” (Ladson-Billings, 2006a) that enacts real harms on communities of color?



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How to Cite
Barnes, M., Germain, E., & Valenzuela, A. (2016). Teach For America’s long arc: A critical race theory textual analysis of Wendy Kopp’s works. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24, 14. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.24.2046
Teach For America: Research on Politics, Leadership, Race, and Education Reform
Author Biographies

Michael Barnes, University of Texas - Austin

Michael Barnes is a doctoral student in the Educational Policy and Planning program.  His research interests include a dual emphasis on addressing excellence and equity within K-12 education systems.  For equity, his focus is on how our systemic racial and cultural biases reproduce and perpetuate inequality, even while individual actors within the system are well intentioned.

Emily Germain, University of Texas - Austin

Emily Germain is a doctoral student in the Education Policy and Planning Program.  Previously, she taught for six years at a public school in the Bronx and a charter school in Austin. Her research focuses on the workings of recent market-based reforms in education and their implications for equity; the relationship between community agency and improving life outcomes for low-income students and families; geography, equity, and opportunity; and sustainable development.

Angela Valenzuela, University of Texas - Austin

Angela Valenzuela is a professor in both the Educational Policy and Planning Program within the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Texas at Austin and holds a courtesy appointment in the Cultural Studies in Education Program within the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.  She also serves as the director of the University of Texas Center for Education Policy. Valenzuela's research and teaching interests are in the sociology of education, minority youth in schools, educational policy, and urban education reform.