‘Shit shows’ or ‘like-minded schools’: charter schools and the neoliberal logic of Teach For America

Elisabeth E. Lefebvre, Matthew A.M. Thomas

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36 Scopus citations


Over the past three decades, two neoliberal educational reform efforts have emerged in tandem–the charter school movement and Teach For America (TFA). This paper critically examines the relationship between these entities through the lens of TFA corps members placed in charter schools, and explores two types of schools described by interviewees, namely, ‘shit shows,’ and ‘like-minded schools.’ Grounded in corps members’ teaching experiences, this paper argues that even at its best, the close partnership between TFA and charters can create a mutually reinforcing educational subculture that is isolated from broader educational discourses and practices. At its worst, this partnership can result in the ill-advised ‘propping up’ of under-funded, mismanaged, ill-equipped charters that might otherwise struggle to find adequate staffing and, consequently, close. This paper suggests that these two tendencies–toward corps members’ insularity and poor placement–have the potential to conflict with the charter movement’s and TFA’s stated purposes of improving the quality of schooling for disadvantaged and marginalized students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-371
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Teach For America
  • charter schools
  • neoliberalism


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