Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America

Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America

Donna Foote / Feb 19, 2020

Relentless Pursuit A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America A revealing look inside a national phenomenon Teach For America which since its founding in has pursued one of the most daring and controversial strategies for closing the educational achieve

  • Title: Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America
  • Author: Donna Foote
  • ISBN: 9780307265715
  • Page: 398
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A revealing look inside a national phenomenon, Teach For America, which, since its founding in 1990, has pursued one of the most daring and controversial strategies for closing the educational achievement gap between the richest and poorest students in the country.The story is set in South Los Angeles at Locke High School, an institution founded in 1967 in the spirit of reA revealing look inside a national phenomenon, Teach For America, which, since its founding in 1990, has pursued one of the most daring and controversial strategies for closing the educational achievement gap between the richest and poorest students in the country.The story is set in South Los Angeles at Locke High School, an institution founded in 1967 in the spirit of renewal that followed the devastating Watts riots but that, four decades on, has made frustratingly little progress in lifting the fortunes of the area s mostly black and Latino children Into this place, which resembles a prison as much as a school, are dropped a group of recruits from Teach For America, the fast growing organization devoted to undoing generations of disadvantage through a fiercely regimented selection and deployment of America s best and brightest Nearly twenty thousand top college graduates apply for two thousand slots Then, with only a summer of training, the lucky ones are sent to face the most desperate of classroom environments.Giving us a year in the life of Locke through the absorbing experiences of four TFA corps members Rachelle, Phillip, Hrag, and Taylor Donna Foote recounts the progress of their idealistic but unorthodox mission and shares its results, by turns exhausting, exhilarating, maddening, and unforgettable As the four struggle to negotiate the expectations of their Locke colleagues most conventionally trained, many skeptical and the relentlessly exacting demands of the overseers at TFA headquarters to say nothing of the typical stresses of youth , we see these young people assume a level of responsibility that might crush a seasoned educator Limited training must often be supplemented with improvisation in a school where Rachelle s special ed biology students prove to need remedial reading urgently than lab work, while Taylor s ninth grade English classes show themselves equal to discussing Shakespeare Through it all, these teachers are sustained not only by the missionary fervor of their cause but also by the intermittent evidence that they can make a tangible difference.Without romanticizing the successes or minimizing the failures, Relentless Pursuit relates, through the experiences of these four new teachers, the strengths, the foibles, and the peculiarities of an operation to accomplish what no government program has yet managed to overcome one of the most basic and vexing of social inequities, a problem we can no longer afford to ignore.

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    About "Donna Foote"

      • Donna Foote

        Donna Foote is a former Newsweek correspondent who has covered many of the major stories of our times While based in London, she reported on political and cultural affairs in the U.K the war in Northern Ireland, Princess Diana and the British Royal Family, the War in Afghanistan, and Pakistani politics under Benazir Bhutto As Deputy Bureau Chief of Newsweek s Los Angeles Bureau, she covered the Rodney King riots, and both OJ Simpson trials She also wrote extensively on education She lives in Manhattan Beach, California with her husband James Shalvoy and her fourteen year old son James.


    1. Hmm's hard to separate the content of the book from my feelings on the topic. I'll try. So this journalist follows four Teach for America corps members through their first year(s) of teaching. She gives background on the organization and the work that these teachers--and their cohorts--are doing to improve inner city schools. It's fairly objective, and in that regard, a 'good read.' But I was still cringing while reading it.Personally, although I am all for supporting educational reform, I think [...]

    2. I am never sure if I want to read books about being a teacher. Since I am a teacher, I don't like being hit over the head with warm fuzzy "you can change the world one wonderful child at a time!". And being a teacher every day, do I really want to think about teaching even more by reading a long book about it? This book was worth it. It's basically an ethnography of four first-year Teach for America teachers in a very bad LA high school. Interspersed with their individual stories is the story of [...]

    3. Overall it was very interesting, but something bothered me for most of the book, even though I couldn't quite put my finger on what for a long time. It finally crystallized when I hit this bit, which is on page 211 of the copy I read:"But the powerful teachers union, the UTLA, protected tenured teachers regardless of their classroom performance. There was a process in LAUSD to either get rid of bad teachers or make them better--but it required administrators to jump through hoops. Under the rule [...]

    4. This book follows the immensely popular yet controversial Teach for America (TFA) organization. TFA is an organization trying to close the achievement gap by putting educated 'teachers' into under performing schools for a couple of years. The recruits work on a masters and view the experience as an intense post-grad program. The book specifically focuses on 4 teachers placed in Locke HS in Watts, CA (a very bad neighborhood and school) and their experiences. I loved learning about their struggle [...]

    5. I think this book does an excellent job of bringing to life the struggles that TFA teachers go through. It doesn't dwell on awful conditions or cute kid stories, but explains what's in the head of the corps members, their TFA advisors, and other education people as the year progresses and tough decisions have to be made. TFA CM's are often accused of using TFA as a stepping-stone to other careers, and I think this book shows, at a minimum, that when they do leave a school or the profession, it i [...]

    6. Does teaching have to be a twenty-hour-a-day job? Can it be a lifelong profession or does everyone burn out after a couple of years? Why is it so difficult? Why aren’t more children learning? How can we make it better?This is the story of a group of Teach for America teachers working in one of the worst schools in America, a high school in urban LA. Some of the stories were so horrible I couldn’t imagine how I would last a month. Some of the teachers produced excellent results with the stude [...]

    7. 371.3 Well written and interesting account of 4 new teachers, recently graduated from the accelerated Teach for America program as they tackle teaching in an inner city L.A. high school. The sections dealing with the history of the program are alittle dry.

    8. I've been resisting reading this book for a long time, but I found it to be pretty fair and balanced. Better than I expected, although I still don't like the title.

    9. Foote goes behind the scenes and into the classrooms and personal lives of TFA teachers assigned to a tough high school in South Los Angeles. The year includes many challenges, daily failures, and the ultimate rewards that good teachers will recognize.

    10. “Relentless Pursuit” is an interesting look at the Teach for America program. The book alternates between telling of the history and mission of Teach for America and going through the ins and outs of a year in the lives of a handful of corps members. Teach for America, though obviously not a solution to educational woes in the United States, are certainly a step in the right direction in my opinion. Anything that gets more of our most talented people into the teaching profession, even if onl [...]

    11. Follows closely four Teach for America (TFA) teachers (sorry, "corps members" -- TFA jargon is thick on the ground in this book) through their first year in a highly challenging Los Angeles high school. I found it ultimately pretty depressing, as a lot of bright people of good will working their behinds off do not suffice to get the school turned around as a whole, though there are some nice moments and success stories with individual kids and to some extent classrooms. That's not the author's f [...]

    12. Incredibly inspiring. Not just for educators, for anyone engaged in leading a dynamic, growing organization. The passion and dedication of everyone presented in the book is infectious. The challenge Teach for America presents their corp members with is nothing short of monumental. It's a miracle that any of them at all get through their first year. It humbled me to hear of the perseverance in the young teachers and the organization as a whole. I found plenty of parallels between my own work mana [...]

    13. I’m so excited that my library finally had this book! Yay! I think what I admire most about this book is that Foote does not seem to have any sort of agenda other than real curiosity about a program—Teach for America—and how its ambitions play out in “the real world”. Many books about education-in-America-today seem to stem from a simmering rage (rightly so) and/or a desire to present a certain idea in a certain light. The author of “Ms. Moffett’s First Year”—a book I really li [...]

    14. This interesting book follows four members of the Teach for America class of 2005. Teach for America recruits college students near graduation that have shown leadership, perseverance, and ability to motivate. They put the recruits through a five week education "boot camp" to teach them classroom management, lesson planning, assessment techniques among other skills that are supposed to prepare them to teach. Then they are placed in some of the worst schools in the country (in this case Locke Hig [...]

    15. Teaching for America in Crips TerritoryBy DIANA WAGMANReading Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America is inspiring, frustrating, exhilarating and exhausting. Inspiring because of the students who learn and grow and graduate despite violence, unwanted pregnancy and poverty. Frustrating because the Los Angeles Unified School District and the federal government want to make learning secondary to testing. Exhilarating because the four young teachers profiled in the book str [...]

    16. I almost went from a small urban school district to the larger bureaucratic bloat of Los Angeles Unified School District. Three years ago I was offered a position to teach English and work with TFA teachers at Locke High. I didn't because of the divide among the staff and upheaval of Green Dot possibly taking over this beleaguered school. Sorry if this review is enmeshed with my soapboxing. LAUSD is too top heavy; if you go to the district office in downtown L.A you visibly see more tax dollars [...]

    17. My sister, Krysten, asked that I read this book. She is a Teach for America (TFA) alum and thought I would gain a better perspective of her experience by reading Foote's book. The author takes five 2005 corps members who are assigned to Locke HS in LA and follows them throughout their first year teaching with TFA. She intersperses the history, mission, and philosophy of TFA within the anectdotal sections of the book. I think those parts were the most difficult to read - TFA is as bad as the mili [...]

    18. A fascinating read not simply in recounting the challenges of 4 first-year TFA teachers but of the growth of TFA. It has successfully and very deliberating seeded a new generation of educational leaders not wedded to the status quo -- why are schools of ed not similarly seeking to encourage teachers to be visionary leaders, to ask questions and press for change in circumstances in which the needs of children are clearly not a priority? (And an M.Ed in educational leadership isn't this.) TFA's us [...]

    19. I admit it. I considered Teach for America. I suppose you could say it was a “Plan B” for me. But after reading this book I realize as a “Plan B”er I never would have made it. Never mind the rigorous admissions process involving rounds of interviews and calculated formulas, the duties bestowed upon TFA corps members demand nothing less than amazing tenacity and voracious devotion. Foote’s book weaves stories of four young teachers at a South Central Los Angeles high school with histori [...]

    20. I used to be pretty cynical and pessimistic about the impact of Teach for America. Part of this is because of an alternative spring break trip I took in college, where we shadowed TFA and my host Corps members could only talk about their "guaranteed-ins" to whatever grad schools they wanted because of TFA's prestige.But after spending a semester in a class full of new TFA Corps members, on top of reading this book, I certainly have a newfound respect for the organization and people that do it.If [...]

    21. As I expected, this book made me feel proud of the organization I work for. I loved reading about how the corps members handled their classes, changed their perceptions and actually taught some "left behind" children how to pull ahead. The book doesn't always paint a rosy picture of the "touchy-feely-ness" of the organization, and that is something that I have recognized since day one. They are a very data-driven, scientific organization that doesn't put much stock in emotions or gut-feelings. W [...]

    22. Teach For America is one of the most well known non-profits in the United States. The program draws accomplished college graduates from some of the best colleges in the US. It is an elite program that is not without controversy. How good of an idea is it to put new college graduates through intense training and expect them to do well teaching in adverse situations? How much of a return on investment can the program expect when TFA teachers are only committed to two years? Are the students helped [...]

    23. This book follows several first year Teach for America members teaching at Locke High School in Los Angelos during the 2005-2006 school year. In addition to covering the experiences of the teachers, the it delves deep into the history and ethos of Teach for America. I'm a sucker for books about education to underprivileged students, so I ate this book right up. I also found the information on Teach for America to be interesting as I know realize I didn't know that much about the organization oth [...]

    24. I was disappointed with this book. While I enjoy reading books about education, making connections, and applying the things I read to my own education experiences, this book left much to be desired. I am not convinced that Teach for American is the answer for education reform, though I do agree that there are benefits to the program. It was interesting to follow six TFA teachers, but I am not convinced that creating "good" teachers and having them teach for only two years is the answer. I know t [...]

    25. I have been working this fall as a tutor for kids who cover literally the entire expanse of the LA Schools spectrum, from premier private prep schools to failing LAUSD monstrosities. I have been reading a great deal about LA schools, trying to learn more abouthe mysterious ways of this city. This was an interesting accoung of 4 teachers from TFA who worked in one of the worst public high schools in South Central (that has since been taken over by a charter school organization). While it was not [...]

    26. The best window I've found into the troubles and travails of a TFAer. Foote definitely buys into the image of the TFA teacher as a "shining light" in the educational system -- but she gives great insight into the work and dedication it takes live up to that name. The most interesting part of the book, for me, was the struggle the teachers faced in dedicating their lives to the cause. As one of them puts it, "I care about the cause, yes. I care about these kids, I want them to succeed. But I don' [...]

    27.  Teach for America.  This is a vivid and sympathetic picture of the difficulties of teaching and the dedication of our teachers, who make a difference in the lives of our children, whether or not you think Teach for America is an answer to the US educational challenges.Compelling reading.Read the full review at the Oregon Scribbler.

    28. This book was a very objective and moving account of a year in the life of some Teach for America employees. I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters that focused on the teachers themselves and their trials, failures, and moments of success in the classroom, and found myself bored/skimming over the more detailed accounts of Teach for America protocol and/or history. Having taught in the inner-cities of both Detroit and Louisville as well as in more prosperous schools over the years, I felt a profound s [...]

    29. I found this book fascinating. Foote did a great job of making the lives of the four teachers she followed sooo realistic that I could imagine being in the classroom with them. (I wish Fergus had done so well in One Thousand White Women.) The methods TFA uses to monitor teachers are so different from what I was used to that I wanted to know more. Who thinks up these approaches and why does TFA not borrow more from other established programs? I finished the book being very impressed with the youn [...]

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