Thursday, March 10, 2011

Teach For America?

Each spring for the past three years, school districts all across the country have been cutting teaching positions by the hundreds. We’re talking licensed professional teachers who went through a real teacher education program. Then, in fall, when school districts find that their budget is slightly larger than expected and they have a shortage of professionals, they bring in the TFAers…..Teach for America.

Teach for America, like pay-for-performance, is another one of those ideas that sounds good on paper, but when it comes right down to actual practice, leaves a lot to be desired. Here’s how it works: TFA recruits newly graduated college seniors, puts them through a 5 week training program in the summer, and then places them in high-need, low-income inner-city schools. Schools where many veteran teachers (with years of experience and a teacher education program under their belts) often do not want to go…

Even worse, when a school district asks for TFA recruits, they sign a two year contract with these “teachers”…meaning, that during the next round of budget-induced reduction in force, teachers who have experience and certification will receive pink slips, while TFA “teachers” will keep their jobs for another year.

What makes a TFA teacher more qualified to teach students than a licensed, certified teacher that has gone through a teacher education program and passed the required exams? Most of TFA’s recruits are recent graduates who can’t find jobs in their own field, or who want to pad their resumes with something that appears “noble” and “selfless”. These teachers are here today and gone tomorrow. How does this really help the students?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these individuals can’t become excellent teachers, but starting out, they have even less skill and training than your average first year teacher. The first year of teaching, even for someone who went through a teacher education program and was equipped with the appropriate classroom management skills, is trying at best. I can't imagine walking into a classroom with only 5 weeks summer training under my belt! This can cause a nightmare experience for both teachers and students.

Then, let's take a look at their "summer training". How many of the people that are training and evaluating these TFA "teachers" are actually (or have been) educators themselves? How many of these trainers have spent one minute in the classroom in any capacity other than as a student? According to the article linked above, half of that summer "training" consisted of the recruits being thrown into a summer school classroom. Sink or swim for teaching? Really?

Even worse, why are these individuals taking jobs away from tried-and-true teachers? TFA was developed at a time when the economy was in full boom and class sizes were getting smaller and so there truly was a "teaching shortage". However, now the economy is bad, career teachers are losing their jobs, and yet TFA continues to add districts to its ever-growing list of placement options. Seattle, WA is the latest city to consider signing a contract with TFA, despite the fact that most of the schools targeted to receive TFA teachers are overwhelmed with applications for their open positions.

Let's hear your comments- which programs with 5 week summer training sessions do you want to subject your children to?
Surgeons for America
Pilots for America
Dentists for America
Anesthesiologists for America
Gynecologists for America
Nurses for America
Tattoo Artists for America

1 comment:

  1. Love it. I agree 100 percent!

    (Also, I'm laughing about Pilots for America. Just like journalism and education, it sounds a lot more fun than it actually is.)