Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Teach For All: Constructing Global Education Reform Through a Global Network of Intermediary Organizations (IOs)

Note: This blog is adapted from an article currently under review by Priya G. La Londe, T. Jameson Brewer, and Christopher A. Lubienski. A further analysis of the below topic will be available in this forthcoming publication. Please contact Priya La Londe with any questions.

As local and global education authorities redefine “high quality” teaching and learning, Teach For America (TFA) has continued to garner recognition as an exemplar of “what works”. Since 2007, TFA has expanded into an international organization with extensive reach, Teach For All (TFAll).  TFAll was launched at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2007 (Dillon, 2011) and now operating “social enterprises” in 34 countries, TFAll is the self-proclaimed “global network for expanding educational opportunity”. Building upon TFA’s sociopolitical ideologies that have proven attractive in the U.S., TFAll has established itself as a premiere, global “intermediary organization” (IO) in education reform and policymaking. The primacy of TFAll is noteworthy for two reasons. First, this reflects TFA’s shaping of global education into its model that is informed by its narrow perspective about what is best for “other people’s kids.” Secondly, TFAll represents a key global IO in education reform, a type of policy actor that operates in “localized policy communities” (Ball & Junemann, 2012), which often include a range of lobbyists, think tanks, foundations, researchers, and media actors. It is suggested that the fluid, elusive nature of these networks contributes to their dominance in educational policymaking (Scott & Jabbar, 2014). As such, we find it important to explore the linkages between TFA and TFAll in order to begin to conceptualize the dimensions and anatomy of a global network of IOs engaged in global education reform.

In fulfilling these aims we draw upon several complementary conceptual frames including the Advocacy Coalition Framework (Ball & Junnemann, 2012), Local Advocacy Networks (Jabbar, Goel, DeBray, Scott, & Lubienski, 2014), as well as literature that highlights the important role of foundations in policymaking (Reckhow, 2013; Scott, 2009; Scott & Jabbar, 2014). To examine national and global IONs, we use qualitative case study (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998; Stake, 1995) and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA, Fairclough, 2003).  We draw heavily upon the TFA and TFAll websites, publicly available data from the World Bank, tax refunds, Annual Reports, and existing literature on TFA and IOs. We also draw upon existing network maps such as the below figure, Teach First, from Ball and Junemann (2012) work on policy networks (Figure 1).  

            We find that As an IO that acts as a hub for national-level affiliates, TFAll explicitly facilitates a neoliberal economic and political discourse. The TFALL “theory of change” proposes power through a public sphere (i.e. Teach For All) that opposes the state, mediates the society and state through reasoned opinion, and gains attention and power through supervision (Habermas, 2006).  Change happens through the press and private sector, through consensus politics and gold plating (Sennett, 2007); and through a strong narrative that is grounded in usefulness (Sennett, 2007). The enterprise provides a sense of accomplishment, happiness, betterment, and commitment to the value of transforming their society.  These foundational values at the base of TFA appear to be cloned or replicated in other contexts by TFAll, without the compelling evidentiary basis that reformers have claimed. TFAll’s notable global proliferation demonstrates how the values and dispositions of this brand of education reform can disseminate through formal or informal networks of like-minded advocates in vastly different contexts.

Such findings, at the very least, help move from theoretical work on policy mobilities (McCann & Ward, 2013; Peck & Theodore, 2012; Ball, 2007; Ball & Junemann, 2012) and toward the beginnings of understanding on how intermediaries, such as TFAll, interact with their counterparts in what we might call intermediary organization networks (or IONs) to advance particular education policy agendas. Additionally, this introductory analysis begins to unpack the micro- and macro-level ways the organization is a part of the greater context of global capitalism and “unmaking and remaking of schooling” (McCarthy, 2011).

Figure 1. Teach First

Source: Ball, S. J. & Junemann, C. (2012).  Networks, new governance, and education. Chicago, IL: The Policy Press.

Priya La Londe is a joint Ph.D.-MBA student. Her Ph.D. focus is in education administration; and her MBA foci are entrepreneurship and general management. Priya's research interests include identity in P-12 leadership, globalization and curriculum, and parent engagement in school policy.

The Forum on the Future of Public Education strives to bring the best empirical evidence to policymakers and the public. The Forum draws on a network of premier scholars to create, interpret, and disseminate credible information on key questions facing P-20 education.


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Ball, S. J. & Junemann, C. (2012).  Networks, new governance, and education. Chicago, IL: The Policy Press.

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Habermas, J.  (2006). The public sphere: An encyclopedia article. In, M. G. Durham & D. M. Kellner (Eds.), Media and Cultural Studies: Key Works (pp. 102-108). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Jabbar, H., Goel, P., DeBray, E. H., Scott, J. T., & Lubienski, C. A. (forthcoming, 2014).  How policymakers define “evidence”: The politics of research use in New Orleans. Policy Futures in Education.

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