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Unfinishedness: Striving for a Viable Partnership Between TFA and its University Partner


by Barbara Meyers, Teresa R. Fisher, Monica Alicea & Kolt M. Bloxson - 2014

Background/Context: Teach For America (TFA) affiliates with universities in most of its 40 regions nationally; however, few researchers intentionally study the content and processes of a partnership between TFA and a college of education.

Purpose/Research Question/Focus of Study: To ensure that investments both organizations were making had a direct and positive relationship with the constituents, leaders from TFA and Georgia State University began a joint study of our partnership. Researchers believed that participatory collaborative research, utilizing the emic insights, could illuminate needed modifications to best serve novice teachers. Research conducted by only one of the partners is less likely to promote mutuality of respect, reveal salient cultural reference points, honor all stakeholder voices, and enhance a common understanding. The driving question for this strand of this comprehensive 5-year inquiry: What happens when two seemingly disparate institutions with the same mission for educational equity come together to develop urban educators?

Participants: Thirty-three purposefully selected stakeholders were individually interviewed and included (a) university and TFA leadership (e.g., executive director, deans, department chairs) who were involved in the initiation of this partnership (n = 16); and (b) university coaches, faculty, and TFA Program Directors (PDs) who worked as supervisors and mentors in the field and/or instructors in coursework (n = 17). Additionally, 45 TFA Corps Membersí written reflections about their participation in their degree program provided feedback and analysis of their program and the partnership.

Research Design: University faculty and TFA personnel codesigned a multiyear qualitative examination of their joint enterprise of developing urban teachers to promote equitable educative opportunities for all children. A contribution of this study is the empirical and coconstructed nature of its design.

Data Collection/Analysis: The team analyzed data from transcribed verbatim interviews conducted with university and TFA participants, and documents/publications such as Web sites, Memoranda of Understanding, mission statements, emails, meeting memos, program handbook, course syllabi, and TFA Corps Member reflections.

Findings/Results: An examination of this partnership revealed struggles with: (a) contract negotiation, (b) communication, (c) procedural and pragmatic congruence, (d) response to constituent needs, and (e) creation of an authentic and sustainable partnership.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Our partnership fluctuated between an instrumental process focused on survival of complexities and triaging crises and self-focused explorations of organizational priorities and possibilities. Stakeholders collaborated to move beyond institutional paradigms for practices toward more mutually constructed engagements. Recommendations are offered to guide other university/TFA partners as they collaborate for the purpose of urban teacher development.




The federal government has incentivized local education agencies (LEAs), universities, and nonprofits to partner in the recruitment, development, support, and retention of teachers (Heineke, Carter, Desimone & Cameron, 2010; Koerner, Lynch, & Martin, 2008). While institutions often form partnerships of convenience, their core purposes are rarely examined intentionally and/or systematically for congruence and are frequently positioned in direct opposition to one another (Meyers, 2002; Ballou & Podgursky, 2000; Darling-Hammond, 2000; Labaree, 2010; Lahann & Reagan, 2011; Nastasi, Moore, & Varjas, 2004; Nastasi, Varjas, Bernstein, & Jayasena, 2000). Teach For America (TFA), one such nonprofit, partners with universities in most of its 40 regions nationally; however, there is little research examining the content and processes of a partnership between the systems of TFA and of its partnering institutions (Costelloe, 2008; Heineke et al., 2010; Veltri, 2010) or the efficacy of their collaboration (United States Department of Education, 2010).


REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE


Although the literature is scant, three areas of inquiry have guided the design of the current study: research on affiliations between a university and TFA, considerations of participatory collaborative research design, and research on intentional inclusion of stakeholder voices in creating, developing, and sustaining partnerships.


AFFILIATIONS BETWEEN A UNIVERSITY AND TFA


Heineke et al. (2010) described the changes that were made to the teacher certification program at Arizona State University (ASU) in their collaboration with TFA, begun in 2007. These include additional school-site support, initial coursework informed by TFA summer institute training, applied coursework with 50% of the master’s degree offered online so that TFA Corp Members (CMs) matriculated within their 2-year commitment, and the inclusion of action research in the second year of teaching. While Heineke et al. report changes a university and TFA made within a specific teacher preparation program, they do not analyze the challenge and possibilities of a university/TFA partnership from the perspectives of multiple stakeholders.


Veltri (2008) conducted a longitudinal qualitative study interviewing TFA CMs teaching in grades K–8, alumni trainers, and administrators to examine CMs’ lived experiences. CMs reported that they were unprepared for the political context and school policies of the urban schools in which they taught, indicating that these schools were quite different from the schools they had attended, that they struggled to build relationships with students and families, and that they grappled with the challenges students faced outside of school. CMs viewed teaching primarily as preparing content-based lessons. CMs felt unprepared to meet TFA’s expectation that they raise the test scores of their students by up to 2 years during one academic year. When these challenges occurred, CMs often placed the blame on students or contextual influences. Veltri recommended CMs participate in programs that specialize in teacher education, that they receive financial incentives to stay in teaching for more than 2 years, and that stipends be provided to coaches and mentors who support CMs. Veltri argued for more substantive preparation and support for CMs but did not explore partnerships that could offer this support.


Costelloe (2008) used a mixed-methods approach to investigate new uncertified science, math, and special education TFA teachers and the challenges they faced and the support they received and accessed from the university partnership and their local school system. Similar to the CMs in Veltri’s study, CMs reported that they struggled with the professional responsibilities of teaching in urban classrooms, encountered a lack of curriculum materials and guidance from their schools for implementation of mandated curriculum and standards, experienced difficulties developing necessary instructional strategies and pedagogical knowledge, and found it hard to balance the demands of teaching and being a university student. Costelloe recommended that universities, Teach For America, and the local school districts collaborate meaningfully in order to provide CMs with ongoing support and called for further research regarding the structure of these partnerships.


PARTICIPATORY COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH DESIGN

Moving beyond the discourse of expedience and incongruity, an urban university and TFA codesigned a multiyear qualitative study of their partnership. A unique feature of the study is the participatory collaborative research design in which both the university and TFA are co-equal research partners (Meyers, 2002, 2009; Nastasi et al., 2004; Nastasi et al., 2000). Our university and TFA leadership discussed the challenges we had faced years before when the partnership between us became troubled and eventually dissolved. In order to ensure that the investments that both organizations were making had a direct and positive relationship with the constituents we were both committed to serve, we began to study our partnership together. We believed that participatory collaborative research, utilizing the emic insights from each of the coresearchers, could illuminate the operations of the partnership and allow us to adjust our course when needed. Research conducted by only one of the partners (as is typical) is less likely to promote mutuality of respect, reveal salient cultural reference points, honor all stakeholders, and enhance a common understanding (Fisher, 2009; Meyers, 2002, Swars, Meyers, Mays, & Lack, 2009).


INTENTIONAL INCLUSION OF STAKEHOLDER VOICES


Our research on school partnerships (Fisher & Many, 2014; Many, Fisher, Ogletree, & Taylor, 2012; Many, Fisher, Taylor & Benson, 2011; Swars et al., 2009) has also revealed the importance of the voices of teachers often missing from discussions of organizational collaborations. In our case, these individuals were the TFA CMs both of our organizations intended to support. These boundary spanners’ day to day experiences illuminate problems and possibilities, providing a context for leaders in each organization to understand one another’s values in order to create and maintain more resilient relationships (Collay, 1995; Miller, 2008; Sandholtz & Finan, 1990; Stevens, 1999).


These understandings lead us to our driving question for this strand of our comprehensive 5-year inquiry: What happens when two seemingly disparate institutions with the same mission for educational equity come together to develop urban educators?


METHOD


CONTEXT


In 2009 a partnership for the certification of teachers was initiated between a university and TFA. Established in 1913, this urban university serves over 31,000 students and the college of education prepares educators (undergraduate through PhD) to serve children from diverse backgrounds. TFA was founded by Wendy Kopp in 1991 to produce a corps of teachers to work with children least well served by the education system (Kopp, 2003). TFA Corps Members (CMs) are provisionally certified teachers of record and must be enrolled in a certification program in order to be considered highly qualified (USDE, 2001). There are a range of certification options offered to CMs across TFA regions. These programs vary in contact hours, levels of support, and cost of program (Heineke et al., 2010; Teach For America, 2012). CMs are awarded AmeriCorps funds at the end of each year of teaching that can be used to offset costs of these programs or pay toward debt accrued through undergraduate studies. This university had previously and unsuccessfully partnered with TFA for only 1 year. When there was a change in college leadership, the new dean’s request to reunite was met with resistance and reservation. Nevertheless, a contract was struck and our collaboration was renewed. In an effort to get off to a better start, and to learn more about the efficacy of similar partnerships, the university faculty reviewed the extant literature. Finding few empirical studies investigating the workings of university/TFA partnerships, university faculty approached TFA leadership and proposed that we launch a joint investigation of our partnership.

DATA SOURCES


Verbatim Interview Protocols


Thirty-three 60 minute interviews were conducted with a purposefully selected group of stakeholders from both organizations who had provided informed consent via the university Institutional Review Board (IRB) process and voluntarily agreed to participate in the examination of this partnership. Participants included (a) university and TFA leadership (e.g., executive director, deans, department chairs) who were involved in the initiation of this partnership (n = 16) and (b) university coaches, faculty, and TFA Program Directors (PDs) who worked as supervisors and mentors in the field and/or instructors in coursework (n = 17). Interview protocols were crafted in order to understand the roles and perspectives of a range of stakeholders in the two organizations. These protocols included the following seven questions: (a) What were your hopes for the partnership? (b) Can you tell us more about your role in the creation of the partnership? (c) Can you tell us more about the implementation of this partnership? (d) What was your experience through the creation and implementation of the partnership? (e) What do you think was effective? (f) What do you think was ineffective? (g) What are your suggestions? and (h) What are your continued goals as we move forward in the partnership?


Each interview was conducted within the first year of our partnership by a trained member of the research team and then transcribed verbatim. Individuals from each institution served as key stakeholders who had invested substantive time and energy into creating and nurturing the partnership (e.g., University Administrators, TFA Administrators, Program Coordinators). As key stakeholders, we (the authors of this paper and participants in the research) also offered nuanced perspectives of its holistic development. Others (e.g., university coaches, faculty, TFA PDs) held perspectives informed by their role-specific engagements in the partnership. Thus, several of the key stakeholders and the CMs themselves are the primary voices in this study.


Documents


Documents included the Web sites and mission statements of each organization, the contractual agreement (the Memorandum of Understanding [MOU]) between TFA and the university, email correspondence between TFA and university leadership, university syllabi and program handbooks, and degree program midpoint and endpoint retrospective reflections written by the 45 TFA CMs. These written reflections of CMs offered critical perspectives of the partnership from those most affected by it.


Research Team


Throughout the study, research team members shifted across time. This was due primarily to yearly changes in TFA leadership as different collaborators from that organization moved to other opportunities. Two university-based faculty members, a member of TFA leadership, and a doctoral student have been the “primary researchers” (Hill et al., 2005, p. 198), providing stability and consistency that anchored the data collection and all six stages of the data analysis. Two of the faculty researchers have extensive experience in collaborative research and consideration of multiple voices within a partnership, having engaged in longitudinal inquiries in schools.


Through the early data analysis (Stages 1 & 2), two additional doctoral students were a part of the analysis and worked as coding partners with the primary researchers (Hill et al., 2005). A TFA alumni who was a student during the initiation year of our collaboration and who has become a doctoral student/graduate assistant joined this project during Stages 5 and 6, adding to our analysis with her first-hand knowledge and experience of the partnership.


DATA ANALYSIS


Data analysis for this study was a multistage and multirater process. In the analysis, we proceeded through six distinct stages (see Figure 1). The iterative coding processes of analyzing the interview transcripts led to a coding manual. This manual served as the repository for the final codes that were then applied to other data sets (CM writings in Stage 3 and the MOUs and stakeholder emails in Stage 6).


Figure 1: Stages of Data Analysis


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In the first stage, each research team member open coded (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) the same verbatim transcript of the interview of one university administrator. We then gathered back together to discuss our initial notations, impressions, emerging themes, and questions. In order to ensure intercoder consistency, we defined initial categories and created an initial coding manual, organizing themes and subthemes hierarchically. These initial codes included: organizational philosophy, organizational conceptual framework/mission, social justice/equity, organizational expectations, clarifying roles, bureaucracy, TFA student/responsibilities and expectations, TFA/university collaborative practices, and organizational expectations.


In the second stage, we divided into coding teams and engaged in consensual coding (Hill et al., 2005) Each coding team consisted of two primary researchers or a primary researcher and a doctoral student. Teams took half of the transcripts and individually coded based on the current categories. Teams met to discuss individual coder’s analyses and intercoder conversations continued until consensus was reached about each code. These discussions served as points of clarification as research team members who were key stakeholders in the partnership helped clarify references within the data. After coming to a consensus about each transcript analysis, coding teams used an Excel shared document with each coder on Google Docs to indicate the line number of each transcript where we found illustrative quotes for each category. This document aided in our ability to look across the data set and ensure that our definitions for each code were holding across our coding teams.


During the third stage of the analysis, we examined the midpoint and endpoint reflections of CMs where they discussed their experience in the program (in an ungraded assignment). Any mention of the partnership was gathered into a data organizing document entitled “Partnership Comments from CMs.” CM comments were coded considering and adding to the emerging themes.


In the fourth stage, we organized themes we had found by the role of the participant. For example, we put all of the university administrators’ comments about the bureaucratic challenges together and juxtaposed them with the comments on these same challenges made by participants who were TFA administrators, university faculty, TFA leadership, and CMs themselves. In this way we were able to gain an understanding of the concerns, hopes, and ideas of stakeholders from different perspectives. At this stage, some codes were collapsed. For example, organizational philosophy, organizational conceptual framework/mission, and social justice/equity were combined into a new overarching code, philosophy. The themes that we examined across these categories of participants were recorded in a data organizing document, “Partnership Stakeholders’ Perspectives Analysis Chart,” were: philosophy, curriculum, departmental variation, bureaucracy, roles, and recruitment/selection/job placement. In this chart, the quotes that were indicated by coding teams on the Google Docs Excel spreadsheet were cut from the transcripts and placed within this chart so that the content of these statements could be considered across the experiences of those engaged in the partnership.


In the fifth stage, we began to consider what key stakeholders indicated were particularly transformative and important in the development of urban teachers. We found these initial themes across all participants: (a) possibilities for reforming ourselves and our practices through organizational and collaborative innovations and barriers to such change; (b) issues of teacher recruitment, development, support, and retention; (c) desire to promote shared understandings, respectful negotiation, and ongoing communication; (d) expressed desire for a dynamic conception of self (as an individual, as an organization/institution/system); and (e) belief that thinking differently could promote reform in the truest sense. Subthemes indicated at this stage included: individual organizational stance (university and TFA), shared goals, processes (bureaucratic and curriculum), program level/departmental variation, responsivity (defined as ways we worked to change systems in order to meet CMs emerging and observed needs), potential, mutual improvement, innovation, and role shifting/boundary spanning. One particular complexity was that while the data related to the ideological and philosophical commitment to this type of reform was evident in critical ways, these commitments and shared ideologies were often overshadowed by the range of process and bureaucratic barriers that were encountered by the stakeholders and the CMs.


In Stage 6 we used categories from Stage 5 and placed data into analytical documents based on the specific struggles participants noted as encountered throughout the development of our partnership: (a) contract negotiation, (b) communication, (c) procedural and pragmatic congruence, (d) response to constituent needs, and (e) creation of an authentic and sustainable partnership. We then analyzed other documents (such as emails, mission statements, and MOUs) by these aspects of the development of our partnership. Then we organized these documents by the role of the stakeholder in order to consider themes across time, participants, and data sets. We found that, at times, there were individuals with anomalous experiences (negative cases) and at other times there was consensus across a range of stakeholders from different perspectives. In order to authentically consider each perspective (Hill et al., 2005; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Schensul, Schensul, & LeCompte, 1999; Strauss & Corbin, 1998), we collected salient quotes from the full range of participants to tell the story of the most significant challenges, pitfalls, and possibilities encountered across the then 3 years of partnership.


TRUSTWORTHINESS


The coconstructed and cocreated nature of the inquiry itself, involving stakeholders from both organizations, was a strength of the study. The prolonged and deep engagement in the partnership by the researchers themselves as key stakeholders in the collaboration provides a meaningful arch of historical context. We discovered that our emic positioning in the partnership and the research enabled us to have a nuanced understanding of the roles of each stakeholder and to have meaningful references that provided informed analysis. The multiple data sources and multiple coders triangulated data and analysis, providing trustworthiness and veracity (Hill et al., 2005; Merriam, 2009, Yin, 2009). The multiple data sources enabled us to verify emerging themes, refine codes, and ultimately develop a complex understanding of the partnership as it was negotiated across time. We crafted memos through each coding stage and draft of the manuscript and kept an audit trail. Both tools enabled us to methodically record and annotate data collection and analysis procedures, intercoder conversations, methodological issues, and emergent and developing themes (Creswell, 2007; Hill et al., 2005; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Merriam, 2009; Yin, 2009).


FINDINGS AND INTERPRETATIONS


Our examination of the development of this partnership has revealed that we have encountered a range of specific struggles: (a) contract negotiation, (b) communication, (c) procedural and pragmatic congruence, (d) response to constituent needs, and (e) creation of an authentic and sustainable partnership (see Figure 2). Our partnership fluctuated from an instrumental process focused on survival of complexities and triaging crises toward self-focused explorations of institutional priorities and possibilities with the intention of multiple stakeholders moving beyond institutional paradigms for practices, ultimately striving for a more mutually collaborative engagement.

Figure 2. Struggles for Authentic Partnership

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CONTRACT NEGOTIATION


There were two critical aspects of the contract negotiation at the beginning of the partnership: the creation of the MOU and the consideration of our institutional and shared mission statements. Documents such as the MOU and shared mission statements are often crafted by organizational leadership and legal teams and serve as a metaphorical signifying handshake. These documents may not be shaped by the stakeholders most closely related to the work. Scrutiny of these documents (and their changes over time) indicates that contract negotiation processes hold substantive import and that the language and content included in (and/or absent from) these documents had implications for the unfolding of the partnership.


Examining the Language and Intent of the MOUs


Researchers have long studied how organizations develop, frequently engaging in a predictable series of stages as they evolve and change (Fullan, 1991, 2001). Each organization may create a mission with unique tenets and community mores. When two organizations come together for the purpose of achieving a shared goal, such as preparing teachers to work in high-needs schools, each brings differing histories, boundaries, growth trajectories, and hallmark core practices (Fisher & Many, 2014; Fullan, 1991, 2001; Many et al., 2012; Many et al., 2011; Sarason, 1971, 1996). Creating a partnership between inherently distinct systems is difficult at best and negotiating a contract or MOU between organizations is critical as it sets the foundation for a viable partnership (Meyers, 2002; Sarason, 1971, 1996).


TFA and higher education institutions often form partnerships of convenience: Geographic, academic, economic, and essential core principles may not be examined. When organizations partner for expedience, congruence of salient beliefs and practices may be forfeited (Meyers, 2002; Nastasi et al., 2000). Leadership from TFA and the university worked fastidiously for 9 months to draft a partnership contract (MOU) with mutually agreed upon language (e.g., courses required for certification, tuition costs), or “words on the page” (Sarason, 1971, 1996). This excerpt from an email from a university administrator to a TFA administrator evidences the complexity of language agreement and the number of stakeholders whose positions and priorities must be considered in crafting a reciprocal contract.


Greetings [TFA Administrator], Attached you will find a revised version of the MOU and the Exhibits. This version takes into account various feedback from our first review from you, the departments, and the [university] enrollment services and COE Office of Academic Assistance. Our legal department has also had a first look at it - but will want to see it again as it is routed through the university, for the president's signature. I think it reflects all of the policy issues that we needed to work through in terms of the partnerships. (Email from University Administrator to TFA Administrator)


While some aspects of the partnership were codified and understood, leadership from both organizations neglected to “seek an initial understanding of the [organization’s] culture from the perspective of its members or stakeholders” (Nastasi et al., 2000, p. 405). For example, the following text represents language from the initial MOU in 2009 about CM financial obligations. This language was vetted by both the university and TFA:


Individual corps members are solely responsible for tuition and associated costs and fees of the Program, including but not limited to books, other course materials, lab fees, and applicable mandatory student fees. TFA will require corps members to sign a commitment form acknowledging their financial responsibility to [the university]. (2009 MOU, emphasis added)


These words on the page (Sarason, 1971, 1996) of our contractual obligation did not take into account or attend to the actual barriers that students would encounter when working to get their AmeriCorps funds transferred to the university to cover the expenses of their coursework. This lack of understanding of the culture and procedures of the partnering institution often caught leaders from both institutions unawares when we were forced to confront unanticipated roadblocks. Often, the expressed concerns about tuition payments or registration difficulties would trump precious instructional time. By the following year, while the financial burden of compliance remained on the student the text was modified to reflect a legal emphasis and an important change in the locus of enforcement from TFA to the university:


[The university] will require corps members to sign a memorandum of understanding acknowledging their financial responsibility to [the university]. (2010 MOU, emphasis added)

Examining organizational mission statements and institutional priorities. Published mission

statements of TFA and the university appeared to be compatible:

our university teacher education’s mission is to prepare educators who are: (a) informed by research, knowledge and reflective practice; (b) empowered to serve as change agents; (c) committed to and respectful of all learners; and (d) engaged with learners, their families, schools, and local and global communities. (Georgia State University, 2012, emphasis added)


TFA’s mission is to “enlist our nations’ most promising future leaders in the movement to eliminate educational inequity” (Teach For America, 2012). Our shared publicity and messaging (Georgia State University and Teach For America, 2012) about the partnership mission states “Together we are working to provide high quality educational experiences for diverse learners in high-needs urban schools.”


Upon inspection, the stated and articulated missions of each organization ostensibly were aligned. Yet, the actual practices and approaches of each organization proved to complicate matters of collaboration. For instance, individuals who were responsible for carrying out the pragmatics of the partnership were not involved in the contractual discussions and individuals from each organization lacked knowledge and understanding of the other and at times, an opportunity to have significant voice in the matter of partnership creation. This observation from one of the university faculty is indicative of how several university-based stakeholders felt:


[We were] definitely not a part of the creation of the partnership because we got told in a faculty meeting that in essence TFA was coming. It was a partnership and there was no choice. So it wasn’t a decision by the faculty, it was a decision by the administration. And a partnership that [the university] and the TFA organization did. Not that that’s a bad idea, I mean I’m not saying that. But if you ask if we were a part of that deal no . . . We definitely were on the other end of that deal. (University faculty, Interview)

 

A TFA leader, looking back on the early struggles corroborates this very sentiment:


To be honest, I feel like that’s where things got rockiest, that’s not to say that in the planning stages things weren’t rocky. Actually, I think it would probably be good to note that in the planning stages, we just didn’t know a lot about each other, so things I wanted and things that were wanted at the [university] level, and we just weren’t always wanting the same things because we had very finite ways that we had operated previously. (TFA leader, Interview)

These differences in priorities were expressed in an email between university administrators during the negotiation for the second MOU to lay out the details of our second year of the collaboration, a university administrator stated,


I am reluctant to concede to [the TFA Administrator’s] request that we write into the MOU a decision to combine spring/summer courses. I preferred [the previous] language which permitted collaboration not an a priori decision based upon preference rather than best practice!!! I must say I feel quite discouraged by the continual push to dilute our program for convenience and when we do, they push even more. . . . I’ll do what's needed but had to let you know my true feelings. (Email between university administrators)


Simultaneously, another university administrator expressed her reservations regarding TFA leadership’s insistence for university credit being offered for the CMs participation in Summer Institute, saying,


My primary concern is that we had no insight into the programs they taught in the summer [institute]. They just said we want you to give us credit for our programs. And we didn’t have a syllabus, and nobody had ever sat through any of them, nobody knew what they were teaching, and how many hours. They agreed to let somebody come and sit in . . . after we had already given them credit. (University administrator, Interview)


Unfortunately, this reality did not vary significantly from our first and failed attempt to partner, as explained by a university stakeholder who was critical in for formation of the past and present partnership.


In 2004, we tried very hard to find out what kind of training Teach For America had given to their Corps Members prior to their joining to our certification program. We got very little information and so we just had to jump in and we had a lot of push back from the students saying, “Oh we’ve already had this in class” and so it was really very, very frustrating.” (University stakeholder, Interview)


An example of pushback from TFA was related to one of our most impermeable impasses, the cost of our programs based on tuition and fees. A key TFA administrator expressed her concern about the high cost of tuition and fees and frequently pressed to reduce program costs in this excerpt from an email to a university administrator.


Cost--For the one year track (based on current tuition and fees), it looks like the total cost will be $11,712. This is $2262 above their AmeriCorps money. We would like to spend more time working with you this summer to determine how CMs can obtain funding, so they do not need to pay out of pocket. In the future, we will want to work with you to determine how to get the total certification cost within their AmeriCorps allotment. (Email from TFA administrator to university administrator)

 

To be sure, while TFA found in our partnership a solution to their need to have teachers working to become highly qualified, the university benefited from this partnership as well. Initially, the university was the only option in our city for CMs to work toward certification. While this has changed in the past years (and in the past year specifically as TFA has become its own certifying body in the state with support of Race to the Top funds), the university had an increased number of students who generally were high profile students with high GPAs and SAT scores. This certainly provided a financial benefit to the university and statistics that help with university ranking. It is of note, however, that there was not additional or direct funding from the university to support these initiatives and no increased allocation to the college of education or specific departments was offered to the departments who absorbed the responsibility for this initiative.


Even at the time of this writing, as we work toward clarifying our processes for our fifth year of collaboration, the problem of cost of the certification and master’s program exceeding the AmeriCorps funding awarded to CMs remains a salient issue and critical concern. We are still attempting to come up with a plan for reduction of student tuition to the rate of the AmeriCorps funding CMs receive; however, we have experienced significant difficulties in our efforts to gain unilateral organizational support.


In the early stages of negotiating a contract, while we anticipated a range of complex processes, we underestimated the burden presented by institutional barriers (Meyers, 2002). The resources dedicated to form, dissolve, and reform partnerships are neither good stewardship nor good practice. Negotiating a contract between organizations requires intentional communication, increased and respectful understanding of the other culture, and the ability and willingness to come to common understandings. A lasting partnership needs careful attention to nurture it through its beginning stages, particularly the point of entry, to develop a level of trust and mutual investment, and to negotiate both the content and processes of the contract. Organizations must be willing to engage in civil discourse around challenging topics, to critically self-assess their own abilities, priorities, contributions, and needs and then to find ways to engage in mutual improvement, innovation, and renewal (Fisher & Many, 2014; Many et al., 2012; Many et al.,2011; Nastasi et al., 2000; Sarason, 1971, 1996; Senge, 1990; Wilson & Daviss, 1994).


COMMUNICATION


While the shared missions of our organizations are inherently compatible, the question of authentic and coconstructed processes was much more challenging. Each institution worked to provide high quality educational experiences for these promising future leaders and to support them in their work with pupils in our metropolitan area. However, finding, creating, and sharing a lexicon was difficult because our two systems employ dissimilar paradigms and practices that guide our work with novice teachers. Ubiquitous words such as “teaching effectiveness” can imply a range of contradicting characteristics dependent upon the theoretical perspectives of the entities using the discourse. This challenge was reminiscent of George Bernard Shaw’s often quoted observation that America and Britain were “two nations divided by a common language.”


Discourse of Creating Equity Through Teacher Development


While TFA and the university faculty are focused on and spoke about urban educational equity, specific practices that are hallmarks of each of these organizations/programs are not necessarily shared priorities and emphases. For example, while both TFA and the university focus on supporting teachers as they work for educational equity, the supportive practices are notably different. TFA provides CMs with a 5-week intensive training process, called Summer Institute, during the summer immediately preceding the entry of these individuals into their own classroom. During this time, individuals work in summer school classrooms and receive intense instruction regarding specific instructional and behavior management strategies. According to the TFA Web site, during TFA’s regional orientations, in the weeks immediately following Summer Institute, CMs participate in online and in-person sessions as they work to “create achievement-focused classrooms from the very first day of school.” Regional induction practices aim to support CMs as they work to “build relationships with their students, understand their school and community, establish goals, create long-term plans for the school year, and develop detailed lesson plans for the start of the year.” During this time CMs begin to craft unit plans and assessments based upon their vision for teaching and the impact they hope to have in their future, before they know the individual students they serve.


On the other hand, university faculty focus on urban educational equity as enacted through creation and implementation of personally relevant curriculum, knowledge of child development, and attention to the holistic (and often difficult to assess) social, emotional, physical, and academic development of pupils through creating a classroom that honors the whole child. This disposition and emphasis is evidenced in the language used to describe the Responsive Planning Project Key Assessment, a primary and longitudinal engagement that CMs participated in through the 2 years of their involvement in the certification/master’s program at the university. The assignment was described in the Program Handbook in the following way:


This project will demonstrate increased pedagogical knowledge and skills through documenting and demonstrating the evolution of instructional planning and implementation of responsive pedagogical strategies in your classroom context. Through this project, you will provide evidence of responsive instructional planning on knowledge of subject matter, students, the community, and curriculum goals across subject areas with student’s interests, funds of knowledge, and development in mind. (Georgia State University, ECE MAT Program Handbook,  2012)


While working with teachers to create meaningful and supportive classroom instruction was a priority for stakeholders from both organizations, language that was used indicated dissimilar beliefs and understandings of the content and processes of teaching and learning. .


Discourse of Defining, Supporting, and Measuring Impact on Student Learning


Another emphasis of both of our organizations is teachers’ role supporting (and measuring) student learning and growth. TFA focuses on student academic achievement, measured by the formal tracking of assessment data in order to drive instruction. CMs are encouraged to make at least 1.5 years of growth occur for each of their pupils in order to create a transforming life trajectory. Specifically, TFA uses the Student Achievement Management System (SAMS) to “quantify Teach For America’s impact on students across the country, providing a more effective platform for teachers to set student achievement goals and track progress against those goals throughout the year.” TFA’s Web site explains that this system helps set student achievement goals for the year by “referencing a benchmark calculator.” The Web site explains that


this calculator takes a range of factors into account, including a student’s baseline test scores and their state of residence. The benchmark calculator, developed by statisticians on the IT team, is based on regression modeling that takes in the factors mentioned. The user interface is simple: teachers simply input each student’s information and then receive (sic) an updated set of goals customized for each child. (Teach for America, 2012)


This system is also used for tracking student progress, providing “additional monitoring and tracking resources that act as a teaching map, informing teachers whether each student is falling behind, meeting or exceeding initial expectations.” One critical resource used by CMs to track individual student progress is the student achievement tracker. The TFA Web site states that “Teachers input ongoing testing data throughout the year to ensure each student’s profile is current. Based on fluctuations in testing scores, each teacher can be more in tune with each student, ensuring they are getting the support they need.”


Conversely, the university program focuses on the instructional and relational characteristics of teachers, recognizing that formal and standardized assessment structures for value-added growth are often contestable and that many of our state assessments and even district- and school-based benchmarks are lacking validity and credibility.


One assignment examined impact on student learning enabling CMs to consider student growth across their 2 years in the program. This assignment, and the language around student growth and development that indicated the beliefs of the university faculty, was described as follows:


This large scale assignment is based on the premise that we learn to support a range of learners by coming to know them, learning about their strengths and areas of need, and working to iteratively and formatively assess and instruct. This project is an opportunity to work closely with five students across grades and developmental levels in order to consider language and literacy development during the elementary years by applying theories of learning language and literacy development that builds on each pupil’s culture and prior knowledge in order to utilize teaching strategies and skills that contribute to additive language development and facilitate literacy development for all learners, and developing the tools and dispositions for taking well-reasoned, data based, and deliberate actions to create meaningful learning opportunities in support of the language and literacy development of each pupil. This project will support your capacity to meet the range of language and literacy needs of the learners in your diverse classrooms. (Georgia State University, ECE MAT Program Handbook, 2012)


While both organizations highly valued and advocated for supporting student learning and development, the meaning (and measurement) that would indicate such development did not evidence a shared understanding between the organizations.


One CM explained the tensions she experienced due to the lack of communication and discussion about these similarities and divergences between the organizations saying, “I had, and others had, anticipated more of a merger of assignments and expectations and not two different lists of expectations and requirements, one from [the university] and another from TFA” (Margaret, written reflection of a second year CM). We believe that that lack of communication was often exacerbated by differences in organizational discourses related to (a) creating equity through teacher development and (b) defining, supporting, and measuring impact on student learning.


Discourse of Professional Disposition


Another critical distinction between these two organizations’ purposes and practices relates to teacher retention. TFA recruits CMs to be classroom teachers for a 2-year commitment to urban schools. Whereas, university faculty work to prepare individuals who can and will remain committed to working alongside urban families and communities longitudinally in a manner that is embedded, relational, and demonstrative of a long-term commitment to the vocation. A university faculty member noted in her interview that CMs are “just really not as motivated to be teachers, this is more of a volunteer notion in their minds.” While a TFA alumni returning for her certification affirmed the dispositional stance of her fellow CMs stating that,


For [many CMs], they were coming from Teach For America to [the] university and they were bringing a “not going beyond my two year commitment” mentality, but I was coming from the classroom and had an “I need to learn how to do my job” dedication which seemed to be the mentality of only a few other students. (Kristen, written reflection of a fourth year CM)


In short, though TFA and the college of education are similarly committed to teacher development, the definitions of success and transformation are quite disparate and at times even our language itself can be at odds when we discuss critical aspects of teaching, such as “impact on student learning.”


From the beginning we have struggled to develop spaces and times for communication and connection. At multiple points throughout the years we have worked to create spaces for sharing and collaborating. A university administrator stated that in the partnership:


They have achieved a lot of respect for each other and that they have done some really incredible and thoughtful work . . . meshed a similar passion of social justice and equity across with the department, the faculty, and program and TFA. And those points have been sort of the glue that helped them make some things that have been very powerful and potentially valuable for the program and for the people involved. (University administrator, Interview)


In spite of our attempts to communicate clearly, we continuously attempted to embody our individual and institutional beliefs, but often struggled to align our practices in support of our students. A TFA administrator explained that as systems we are:


still not at the point where everything we’re asking [CMs] to do are aligned and/or are actually streamlined. Each of our [CMs] have somebody [from the university] who comes to walk their classrooms a couple of times to observe. . . . Our program directors, that’s a big part of their responsibility, [however] the connection between those groups of people is very limited. The information that we each get . . . [about our CMs is limited because] we don’t have sharing systems for how to inform one another of where [CMs] are . . . I think still we are very much operating as though we’re two different programs with two different ways of being, and sometimes we come together to share information and sometimes we operate in our own vacuum. (TFA administrator, Interview)


A university administrator who had coordinated and taught in the previous iteration of our partnership expressed the hopes that “this time we [could] get it right, that we would really be on the same page, that both sides would be honest about the issues that concerned us, our beliefs, try to see where we agreed and disagreed” (University administrator, Interview).


While university leadership and TFA worked to communicate more often via phone, email, and face-to-face meetings, in order to help CMs navigate bureaucratic processes, there was much less opportunity to come to an understanding of WHAT each was doing to support these novice teachers and the purposefulness of these engagements. While the university and TFA coexisted in the lives of CMs, we lacked meaningful structures for communication, collaboration, and mutuality on a programmatic or pedagogical level.


PROCEDURAL AND PRAGMATIC CONGRUENCE


While this need for communication was significant on the programmatic and pedagogical level as we worked to reconceptualize institutional paradigms that did not include the other, we simultaneously realized that the systems and structures within the bureaucratic processes of our organizations were creating a number of pragmatic concerns for students navigating these two systems. When our two systems collided, there were substantial and unanticipated hurdles encountered not only by leadership from both institutions but also by the CMs we were striving to support. Working across the boundaries of TFA and the university to help students navigate systems, structures, and complexities proved to be challenging during the program’s inception that was evidenced in memos of meetings and emails with CMs, university stakeholders, and task force members creating infrastructure for communication and expediency. These challenges were noted frequently in the transcriptions of interviews with stakeholders from the university and TFA alike. Data highlight that collaboration is difficult, especially when vision and programmatic alignment do not occur first.


During the first year, stakeholders on both sides of the partnership were focused on the instrumental practices of survival and triage. Questions arising about the actual support of teachers through the program of study were tabled due to the immediate need to address urgent structural difficulties. Specifically challenging was the question of HOW we could navigate the complexities of these two disparate systems when there were, as one university stakeholder stated in her interview, “misaligned expectations . . . on everybody’s part; the students, TFA personnel, our departments.” One university administrator remarked that despite both organizations’ commitment to beginning the partnership, “neither group understood all of the things we had to solve . . . [and] didn’t have the knowledge base of what the problems were going to be. . . . All of those pieces . . . were unknowns because we had not run this kind of partnership before” (University administrator, Interview). We discovered the range of systems not in place or that were rife with complexity only when difficulties arose that brought those challenges to light.


One sticking point was related to the difficulty navigating the multiple bureaucratic practices required in the application of AmeriCorps funding toward university registration. CMs were unsure of the TFA and university based individuals who could facilitate this process. The following is an email from a CM to a TFA administrator after the first year of the partnership.


I have a million things to do this summer and one of them is to figure out/ make sure that I am all caught up with my payment to [the university] for the 1 course I took. I was planning on applying my AmeriCorps award toward any money owed to [the university]. I have no idea who to contact, where to see my actual award and apply some of it toward [the university]. I do not want to receive (sic) calls from a collection agency later this Fall if I do not take care of this in a timely manner. So if you could please let me know how I can simply and easily get the AmeriCorps award applied toward any money owed for the 1 course taken with [the university] this school year, that would be great. Thanks so much and have a great summer! (Casey, second year CM in an email to TFA Leadership)


A university administrator summed up the strides taken by the university and TFA in the first year of collaboration in the following way:


We’ve learned a great deal . . . we’ve brought together a task force with representatives from admissions, and registrar, and student accounts, and financial aid and each of the departments. We’re trying to get a sense of the systems in place and what needs to be done in the systems . . . to ensure a smoother matriculation. (University administrator, Interview)


Now, in the beginning of our fifth academic year of partnering, we have created multiple structures to facilitate matriculation processes and developed a Web site with information, forms, and contact information TFA CMs need to understand the unique aspects of being both a CM and a university student. In the hopeful words of one of our primary university stakeholders, “I don’t see [procedures] . . . as being a problem next year . . . we’re coming along, we’ve learned a lot, we’ve come up with an action plan, and we’re implementing it for the next wave” (University stakeholder, Interview). Due to the perennial turnover of TFA leadership, it has remained difficult to benefit from a sense of historicity. We encounter similar challenges year after year.


RESPONDING TO CONSTITUENT NEEDS


As the university based department chair and the program coordinator of the Early Childhood Education Master’s of Education, we worked to shape a certification program around the articulated needs of CMs. At the beginning of this partnership, we were charged with creating and implementing a collaboration between the department and TFA, working to develop courses and engagements that built upon the conceptual framework of the college and the collaborative shared missions of TFA and our university. We constantly felt like we were “building a ship while sailing it,” creating a program while simultaneously having to initiate said program. A university administrator described the process in the following way:


Because we had to do this in a hurry, we had to map onto the existing alternative certification program of study, which doesn’t necessarily fit Teach For America students . . . [because TFA students] are teachers of record immediately and [students in the other program] . . . are more like student teachers, so the program, by definition, needed modification. (University administrator, Interview)


Trying to gain an understanding of all of the moving parts simultaneously was taxing as this existing program of study was altered in order to be responsive to the previous training CMs had received through TFA and their context as practicing teachers of record. In order to identify, understand, and respond to those needs, we created an active design team made up of CMs helping us to “balance [CM] suggestions and concerns with the required content and rigor of our program” (Rachel, written reflection of a second year CM). A university administrator who had observed the unfolding of our partnership and the creation of our program remarked that we have been “effective . . . in adjusting the delivery and trying to make this model accessible to the students and flexible for their needs.” Stephanie (written reflection of a second year CM) stated:


[The program coordinator] has worked tirelessly to create a rigorous, flexible, and worthwhile program for us. Countless times I walked out of class feeling equipped, rejuvenated and repositioned to attack the [achievement] gap . . . [The program coordinator] never ceases to advocate for a program that best serves our teaching trajectories in terms of curriculum design, class scheduling, and perhaps the most important quality of our work, emancipatory teaching. I am certain that I couldn’t get this kind of tailored experience in any other certification program.


In spite of our attempts to respond to the needs of the CMs, there were times when lack of communication between systems and leadership created parallel structures and expectations, and CMs suffered the consequences. Rebecca, a second year CM explained this in her written reflection,


For example, in our [university] classes we participated in a collaborative process of descriptively and holistically reviewing and describing a child’s entire experience at school and then deciding upon an action plan to adapt, or improve on that specific student’s educational experience. But two days later, a Corps Member might have to meet with their (sic) TFA Program Director to discuss their curriculum plan in depth, look at specific data, analyze a tracker, and then make curriculum or pedagogical adjustments. These two systems and processes, while so closely related, were in no way mutually honoring or inclusive of the other. What we did with one organization really had very little to do with our engagements with the other organization.


Each partner had practices and norms that did not include the other, even when they were quite similar. These redundancies and disconnected processes often made it feel as if we were partners more in name than in actuality. Unfortunately, changing practices proved to be more complex than merely creating systems and structures for communication.


Each year of the partnership has posed its own challenges of creation/recreation. During the second and third year of our partnership, we jointly wrote, ushered through accreditation, and rolled out our new Masters of Arts in Teaching in Early Childhood Education based on input from CMs and TFA Alumni. This dynamic sense of innovation and responsiveness in a very short period of time has been both exciting and at times enervating for program faculty and students alike. University faculty strove to create practices and learning trajectories that best met the articulated goals and needs of CMs and their pupils while crafting programmatic experiences that were coherent, comprehensive, and focused on preparing teachers to bring about educational equity and to promote structural change. These levels of responsiveness are critical for those who are working to prepare teachers in both university and TFA organizations as we honor and build upon candidates’ prior understandings, articulated needs, and learning and teaching contexts.


STRUGGLING TO CREATE AN AUTHENTIC AND SUSTAINABLE PARTNERSHIP

CMs have been instrumental in the design, content, and form of this program throughout our partnership both individually and as representative members participating in our active design team. The design team has been a space where CMs have shared their voices and vision of the potentialities of this collaboration to support urban teacher development and to have a positive impact upon the achievement gap. Perspectives from those most closely affected by the collaboration are revelatory. A sampling of student voices follows and substantiates the possibility and promise (as well as the difficulties in implementation) of this partnership.


Unfortunately, during the first year CMs were caught in the troubled waters of our bureaucratic systems and there were many technical aspects of our partnership that were created while we were in motion. This meant that CMs had to navigate a range of unfamiliar systems (immunization, financial aid, registrar, etc.) while they were simultaneously teachers and graduate students. The level of stress and anxiety that this caused was painful for all involved. Becky, a second year teacher stated,


I understand that in the first year of a new collaboration, there are kinks that still need to be smoothed out. Unfortunately, when there was a group of stressed-out first-year teachers asking for specific help, there seemed be a “you are an adult, you can take care of it” sort of response. (CM’s written reflection)


However, her experience with the content and coursework was more positive. She continued, stating, “I appreciate the collaboration between [the university] and Teach For America and feel that with the underlying theme of social justice and educational equity, my work for each organization has been complimented instead of complicated.” In considering the role of the partnership and the role of each institution, Kate, another second year CM explained that the systems had worked well in tandem to offer critical support.


The program has been complementary to established support roles within the Teach For America organization. The two have worked well together to provide a multifaceted support system and learning experience. The student teaching and literacy courses were more beneficial for me in regards to improving my lesson delivery and reflecting on my teaching practice as a whole. The role of my TFA program director however, was more focused on examining student data, adjusting instruction, and consistently setting and meeting goals for high levels of student achievement. I think these two entities worked cohesively to provide beneficial tools that have ultimately led to much of my success. (CM’s written reflection)


Brenda, a first year CM teaching in fourth grade explained that the collaboration had not only supported her development, but also caused her to engage in her continued professionalization as an educator through further study of content area pedagogy. She explained, “I found this experience to be so empowering that I decided to stay on to receive my masters. . . . I owe my development as a teacher and my student’s success to the collaboration efforts between TFA and [the university]” (CM’s written reflection).


As we consider our vision for the future of our partnership, the ways that CMs interpret their experiences over time and their vision for ways we can continue to be responsive and supportive are the voices that shape our continued efforts. We are particularly excited as some of our first CMs are joining us as graduate faculty and coaches as they enroll in our doctoral programs. The vision, leadership, and perspectives of CMs themselves help us “keep it real and keep it relevant” (Kristine, CM’s written reflection).


CONCLUDING THOUGHTS


If universities and TFA are to coprepare teachers and leaders to work for educational and structural reform, we are obligated to study the tensions inherent when seemingly similar systems seek to negotiate, interact, understand one another, and work together (Meyers, 2002; Fullan, 1991, 2001; Sarason, 1971, 1996). Learning to teach is hard work (Darling-Hammond, 2003; Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Lortie, 1975). Adding institutional stressors unfairly burdens novice teachers. When we engage collaboratively to support and develop beginning teachers, whether the partnership is between a university, a nonprofit, or a district/school, we must listen carefully to the voices of novice teachers to ensure that the structures we put into place facilitate, rather than obstruct, their professional development (Collay, 1995; Fisher & Many, 2014; Many et al., 2012; Many et al., 2011;Miller, 2008; Sanheltz & Finan, 1990; Stevens, 1999; Swars et al., 2009).


In our empirical and coconstructed self-study (Nastasi et al., 2000) we wanted to present an emic understanding of a joint partnership for teacher development. We attempted to move beyond the veneer of mutuality and cooperation that is merely indicated by “words on the page” (Sarason, 1971, 1996) to reveal through the lived experiences of a range of stakeholders the practices that frequently place colleges of education and TFA in direct opposition to one another (Ballou & Podgursky, 2000; Darling-Hammond, 2000; Labaree, 2010; Lahann & Reagan, 2011).


This type of self-study considering the content and processes of partnerships between TFA and other institutions (Costelloe, 2008; Heineke et al., 2010; United States Department of Education, 2010; Veltri, 2010) is particularly relevant in a time when such partnerships continue to be encouraged and incentivized (Heineke et al., 2010; Koerner et al., 2008). We hope others who endeavor to craft and sustain resilient collaborations may avoid challenges we have encountered and build upon our hard won successes. It is this dynamic conception of ourselves as organizations, and our confidence that a partnership that brings together the strengths and visions of distinct organizations is possible and is a story worth telling.


An examination of where we are at this point 5 years after the partnership officially began has been instructive, revealing both limitations and affordances. Freire’s (1998) concept of “unfinishedness,” ( p. 51) that we are never finished “being” nor are we finished “becoming” in relation to each other, is one that resonates with us throughout this partnership. While this partnership story continues to unfold, we have learned several lessons from this process with implications that seem both salient for university faculty and TFA leadership working to develop novice teachers and transferable to other partnerships being crafted between organizations with similar missions enacted in varied ways.


1.

Contractual negotiations require substantive involvement (time and voicedness) of the individuals who are going to be living out the partnership. Collaboration can neither be forced nor one sided, and it is critical that the initial forging of the partnership is mutual and crafted by those who will be most significantly involved in and influenced by the collaboration.

2.

Pragmatic and procedural glitches and challenges anticipated and acknowledged by the framers of the partnership contract from its inception can prevent many problems before they occur and can decrease the need for reactivity. Triage is incredibly time and energy intensive and can become a distraction from the real intention of the partnering.

3.

Longitudinal involvement from stakeholders provides and develops historical and institutional memory. Without these long-term stakeholders partnerships struggle with many of the same pitfalls, year after year, and it is most difficult to maintain and continue positive trajectories and paradigmatic shifts. This sense of historicity is particularly critical for the development of trust, the building of mutual relationships, and the capacity to have a longitudinal and sustainable collaboration.

4.

Mutual respect and commitment from stakeholders across organizational boundaries nurtures a deeper understanding of the other and fosters regard for the efforts and work of the other. In the absence of this regard, the work of either organization can be undermined.

5.

Corps member representation has the potential to transform the practices of both partnering organizations that purport to serve them. We benefited by honoring and being informed by their voices and experiences. CMs volunteered to represent their colleagues on an advisory design team with university faculty that helped not only address the pragmatic hurdles but also design and conceptualize curriculum, content, and the creation of the program itself. This group gathered over meals in faculty homes, creating safe spaces, developing relationships, and fostering trust and mutual regard. The decisions that came out of those meetings between university faculty and CMs were some of the most fruitful and relevant. Similarly, TFA met with CMs to solicit feedback and to inform supportive practices. Unfortunately, it was challenging to have these types of conversations with leadership from both organizations present.


As we engaged in this study, we not only discovered more meaningful ways to join forces to best serve CMs but also learned more about ourselves. This mutual inquiry required trust, challenging conversations, and a reflexive and self-critical stance from stakeholders across organizations and also by those served by the partnership. We recognized that such reciprocity of commitment would remain necessary if we were to promote lasting change, making our two disparate systems generative, innovative, and transformative.


Despite these efforts our partnership remains tenuous. Three years ago, Rachel, one of our second year CMs who taught first grade, optimistically expressed her hope for the longevity of our partnership, stating, “In the simplest terms, we have been through it together! . . . We have weathered the transitional storm of merging three entities [the university], Teach For America, and ourselves for the common cause of serving our students.” After two years of collaborating, our TFA coresearcher expressed her hope “that this [partnership] could be something we could sustain for future years for our Corps Members and that it would work out.” Stakeholders from both organizations have articulated the sentiments of one university administrator, stating that “it is still very, very hard work.” In fact, at the time of this writing, TFA has become its own certifying body and the future of our partnership and mutual commitment has become increasingly uncertain, further substantiating that this story is unfinished.


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APPENDIX A


Leadership, University Faculty and Coaches, TFA PDs Interview Protocol

What were your hopes for the partnership?

Can you tell us more about your role in the creation of the partnership? Can you tell us more about the implementation of this partnership?

What was your experience through the creation and implementation of the partnership?

What do you think was effective? What do you think was ineffective? What are your suggestions?

What are your continued goals as we move forward in the partnership?

Endnotes

iAuthentic & Sustainable Partnership





Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 10, 2014, p. 1-32
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17603, Date Accessed: 10/23/2021 6:46:24 AM

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About the Author
  • Barbara Meyers
    Georgia State University
    E-mail Author
    BARBARA MEYERS is Chair of the Department of Early Childhood Education. She is interested in systems-level educational change and teacher development. She has taught undergraduate and graduate students including TFA Corps Members.
  • Teresa Fisher
    Georgia State University
    E-mail Author
    TERESA R. FISHER, coordinator and instructor of the ECE Master of Arts in Teaching program, supports urban elementary teachers working for social justice. She has joined preservice and practicing teachers inquiring into their practices and pedagogies and worked to create and maintain partnerships with schools and nonprofits to foster teacher development for critical change.
  • Monica Alicea
    Georgia State University
    E-mail Author
    MONICA ALICEA is a recent graduate and a Gifted Education Specialist with 22 years of teaching experience. She has been researching this program for 5 years. Her research specifically focuses on teacher development through reflection and coaching.
  • Kolt Bloxson
    Georgia State University
    E-mail Author
    KOLT M. BLOXSON is a doctoral student and a Teach For America alumnus. Her research interests include teacher development, mathematics education, and social justice education.
 
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