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4 new articles on Teach for America / (no more TfA here, please)

June 22, 2010 am30 7:15 am

New article by  Barbara Miner on TFA.

Looking Past the Spin: Teach for America

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And from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

Teach For America: A False Promise
June 9, 2010

Alternative teacher training program yields costly turnover while doing little to improve student achievement

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Here’s a new book:

Learning on Other People’s Kids

Becoming a Teach For America Teacher



Barbara Torre Veltri, Ed. D, Northern Arizona University

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Professor Su Jin Jez, of Sacramento State’s Public Policy and Administration Graduate Program, has coauthored an education policy brief titled, “Teach For America: A Review of the Evidence.”, but I can only see this review (the brief seems to be locked from outsiders)

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And my thoughts?

They leave. Usually in two years. By design.

In neighborhoods where schools are one of the few stable institutions, they destabilize them.

They collaborate poorly.

Most carry sharp anti-union animus.

The make our faculties whiter. Younger. Richer.

They keep jobs from those who would stay and work to improve a school.

They almost guarantee that a brand new teacher will be in the classroom two years down the road.

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There is a cost to a school – regularly replacing teachers.

There is a social cost to a school and a community – lack of stability.

There is a cost to the system – we actually pay TfA to supply these temps – and we pay more than for a regularly certified teacher.

Part of what we pay TfA goes for anti-union propaganda. Some may go for pro-test-prep propaganda.

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Were there a teacher shortage, perhaps the case could be made… but probably not.

But we have no teacher shortage here in NY. We have a retention problem. And TfA is part of that problem.

TfAs leave their schools. I read a few days ago about another one. But it’s not some scattered anecdotes – 2 years and out is the norm.

Even the TfAs who (oh, the horror) keep teaching?  They rarely stay at one school. Three I know personally, still teaching, something amazing like eight years. And one has been stable (only two schools). But the other two? 5 schools and 4 schools.

Last year was the Freeze. Few TfA got in. this year the Freeze continues. So again, few should get in.

But there is no need for TfA. Not in NYC. They should not be hired here. Even after the Freeze lifts.

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(TfA teachers, once they are in, are teachers like anyone else. They need to be nurtured and protected, same as we would for any new teacher. Hmm. Same as we should for any new teacher.)

(This post is not about NYC Teaching Fellows. Not the same beast.)

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Amy permalink
    June 23, 2010 pm30 6:21 pm 6:21 pm

    Really respect your anti-TfA views. I have some friends who are corps members, and it’s always the same story. Starry-eyed soon-to-be-grad from elite college (usually) wants to change the world for a year or two before becoming an [insert other career here.] I know many current TfA corps members, and all of them do NOT plan on a career in classroom teaching.

    Do you think TfA would be better if it operated a little bit more like NYCTF? If it, instead of taking kids straight out of college, attempted to recruit career-changers and older adults as well?

    Or do you think that TfA is very intentional in recruiting these “long-term subs,” that if they targeted career-changers, who have had the time to try out different careers and still have that calling for the classroom, instead of college students, that schools wouldn’t be as enthusiastic to work with TfA?

  2. bronxteach permalink
    June 23, 2010 pm30 7:19 pm 7:19 pm

    interesting long article about tfa.

    curious, why do you say nctf is not the same?

  3. pbpcbs permalink
    June 23, 2010 pm30 9:28 pm 9:28 pm

    While the degree varied both between cohorts and within cohorts, Teaching Fellows (I was one) generally went in with the intention of making teaching a medium- to long-term career stage. Most of the TfA I met (not a statistically valid sample, of course) viewed teaching as a good (socially acceptable / positive) pause on the way to better things.

    However, combining the brutality of the NYCDoE and the stresses involved with being an older student with family responsibilities while working caused such attrition among TF that it wouldn’t surprise me too much if the percent of TF entrants who remained in education wasn’t radically different from those via TfA. Certainly higher, but not necessarily radically higher. Over 3 years, the section of my cohort that I was tied to (Lehman College Math) went from around 200 accepted offers to the low-40s in number.

    I would be very interested in seeing any hard statistics about relative (say 5 year) survival rates (i.e. education as a career) for traditional certification, TF, and TfA.

    As to the differences between TF and TfA participants, it depends, in part, on which cohort of TF you look at. Some cohorts were weighted more heavily towards career changers (15+ years out of college) while other cohorts seemed to be TfA clones in terms of age and experience. The differences were in part economically driven (bad economy generated more experienced applicants) and in part NYCDoE driven (older, more experienced TF participants tended to be grumpier and less tolerant of the DoE). My impression, though I can’t back it with any data, is that TF participants became younger and less previously experienced over time.

  4. bronxteach permalink
    June 23, 2010 pm30 9:41 pm 9:41 pm

    i am also a nyctf math fellow, cohort 14. while i was in my very late 20s and was a career changer, for sure MANY of my cohort were fresh out of college. i heard lots of them talk about what they would do next also, though three years in, i think most of us are still teaching.

  5. June 24, 2010 am30 7:20 am 7:20 am

    I think the difference in human material is real, but not crucial.

    I think the crucial differences are between the organizations themselves.

    The NYCTF makes money by preparing (using that word loosely) new teachers for jobs in New York City public schools. There is an ideology, but they do not require a high level of buy in. Plenty of Fellows and former Fellows teach without in any way feeling that they are part of a special club. Many Teaching Fellows don’t last, but their intent coming in is to become teachers. Few of them are thinking about a two year pause on the way to their futures.

    Teach for America is an ideologically driven organization. It is training elite (using that word in a fairly noxious sense) college graduates to be at the forefront of the pro-testing, anti-union, anti-public school education reform movement. Its intent is to give them a taste of the classroom before moving them to an administrative or thinktank or testing or management position.

    The Teach for America corps members themselves usually believe in this mission. They spout the pro-testing, anti-union ideology. And they (usually) move on after two years, to better carry out the mission.

    Read the words of a true believer. You’ll rarely find anything remotely similar from a Teaching Fellow.

    Jonathan

  6. bronxteach permalink
    June 24, 2010 pm30 7:26 pm 7:26 pm

    what’s actually shocking to me is that someone who has taught for just two years can feel COMPETENT to be an administrator or anything serious in education – they simply don’t yet have the depth of experience.

    this is my third year teaching and by far my best. for the past two years i’ve had an 8th grade honors class, taking integrated algebra in a district 7 school (south bronx) where a majority of the kids receive free or reduced price lunch.

    last year, i had 19 students take the regents, 18 pass, and 16 score over a 75, with the average score being a 78. one kid scored over an 85, with an 87.

    in a class that was only a little stronger this year, i had 22 students take, pass, and score over 75 on the regents. my low score was a 78, my high score was a 96, and the average was an 84. i had 7 kids score over 85.

    that’s a pretty big improvement in one year, i think. why did this improvement happen?

    i did not spend an inordinate amount of time on test prep, but this year i felt i ran a much tighter curriculum, challenged my students in new and better ways, while eliminating things that confused students last year. somehow i moved faster, covering every single standard, without sacrificing any depth at all – in fact, i probably went deeper this year.

    i think the improvement happened just because i had one extra year of experience. i am now a third year teacher, who is remarkably better than she was as a 2nd year teacher (who was REMARKABLY better than she was as a 1st year teacher).

    i think it is very arrogant to come into teaching for two years, when you’re still experimenting with the best way to deliver content, engage students, manage discipline, etc, and then think you are qualified to take on system-wide change.

    three years in and i still feel i have a lot to learn in the classroom. i want to be a “master teacher” before i tell others how to do their jobs or go about making sweeping changes to education. do i see things that are “broken” in my school and in the DOE and maybe in education in general? for sure. but until i am experienced enough to truly be considered an EXPERT, i don’t think i should be anything other than a math teacher, just a person trying to make a difference for the 60 kids i teach. the rest of the world can wait until that point.

    • June 25, 2010 am30 1:46 am 1:46 am

      Your view is that of someone who plans on teaching and improving. You could have left out the direct criticism of TfA, and we’d still know that the views you were expressing are not compatible with a TfA approach.

      The ideology and the arrogance and the intent NOT to grow steadily through practice and reflection… they all fit together in a package. And it’s a package we don’t need.

      We do need more people who are trying to become real teachers. Both immediately and in the long run the kids, schools, and colleagues benefit from the attitude you bring.

  7. Jamestsanders permalink
    June 29, 2010 am30 10:34 am 10:34 am

    I think you need to take a closer look at the number of TFA corps members staying in the classroom. I work at a school where 85% are former TFA corps members and everyone has at least 4 years experience in the classroom with no plans to leave. Our school has met AYP every year and 85 percent of our former students will be attending 4-year colleges starting in 2011.

    • June 29, 2010 am30 11:18 am 11:18 am

      Proof by anecdote? Awfully weak. But let’s play. Which school?

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