Part of Teach for America's theory of change is that some portion of its alumni will move on to positions that will enable them to take action towards educational equity. Their experience in the classroom, reasons TFA, will cause them to have the desire to make that change, the leadership skill to rise to a position in which the change can be made, and the experience to make the right kind of change.
You could quibble with all of these, but it's the third that worries me the most. Whatever these alumni learn is leading them to some very questionable choices about what change is needed. I'd argue that this is due to the TFA model.
For instance, TFA alumni with power are loudly demanding pay-for-performance schemes and an end to teacher tenure. Teachers are lazy, they explain, and need to be measured and threatened into adequate performance.
I've heard this from both alumni and CMs in the classroom. What they don't get is that all the drive and energy they're putting into their classrooms during their two years is necessary groundwork. The teachers they decry as lazy already put those hours in. Their handmade games are printed, laminated, and cut. Their lesson plans need annual adjustment, which is a lot faster than building a unit from scratch. They spent four hours painstakingly making worksheets on the computer a few years ago, so now all they need to do is hit "print". Parents and children know them, so they don't need to spend so much time making up discipline plans: veterans have authority in and of themselves (not to mention years of experience that enable working classroom management plans).
So what the CMs assume is that veterans are lazy. They don't have the understanding or experience to know what they don't know. And when they take their incorrect understanding to leadership roles, they make teaching harder for everyone.
Similarly, TFA's alumni are big into data and testing and DIBELs and data-driven instruction and all that stuff. Indeed, data are important. But the veteran teacher knows the limitations of the tool, and is capable of doing the on-the-ground, informal assessment that should really drive instruction. I don't need to give regular formal assessments in reading to guide my instruction. I can tell you - and show observational data to back it up - what my students know and need to learn. But observational and informal assessment is harder than formal assessment. You have to do it yourself: decide what you're looking for, how you will know if you've seen it, what you will do if you don't, and so on. Give a formal, standardized assessment and it will tell you - no pedagogical knowledge needed.
Again, this is where the incomplete understanding of the TFA alumni makes my job harder. Because they don't really know what teaching reading is, they demand students read nonsense words and be judged upon their ability to do so. I'd rather teach my kids to read. Assessments like these waste my time and teach nothing.
I could go on like this for ages, but I think the point is clear. If you're creating educational leaders who make change, you should want them to push for important changes that will make a positive difference. TFA alumni aren't pushing for those changes - smaller class sizes, decent classroom conditions and funding, etc. The changes they imagine are pointless or punitive. I believe this is due to their brief classroom tenures. They don't understand what they don't know, but they're willing to punish me and my students for their lack of knowledge.