Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How TFA harms education...

I originally posted a version of this post over in the comments at The Socratic Method:

While I admire the mission of TFA, I am starting to have an issue with what I perceive as TFA elitism. For such a tiny percentage of classroom teachers, they have a large percentage of the education media coverage. They fill a niche, but TFA is never going to fix the system. Furthermore, the focus on overachieving young do-gooders minimizes the endemic issues present in the education system; poor education schools, poor pedagogy, and poor working conditions.

Imagine if instead of focusing on the glory boys of TFA, the media started focusing on school districts like Gering, which D-Edreckoning has profiled. By doing nothing more than adopting a curriculum and pedagogy that has been around for 20 years, the school has made amazing progress. They haven't started recruiting Ivy League graduates, they haven't thrown dollar after dollar at the program, they haven't relied on the public social welfare programs; all they have done is improve the way they teach.

Will the media pay attention... of course not, not while they have the glamour boys of TFA to profile... because it’s a much more interesting story to read about a Yale graduate working in the inner city using sheer strength of will to teach low income students, than it is to read about some small midwestern school district using methods like direct instruction. After all, if only those teachers would try a little harder... the system would be fixed. Please...

Update: Obviously TFA hating is starting to get trendy. Check out Teach For America-Debunking the propaganda. I also found a great summary of studies done of TFA effectiveness over at the NCATE website, of course I think the NCATE is as big a problem as TFA.

7 comments:

MsMalarkey said...

You make some great points. TFA is just a band-aid on a bigger problem. I have met a few who were very good (my school gets a lot of them) but many more who were mediocre at best. Unfortuntely, many of the ones with the most potential do not stay in the field.

They do have an AMAZING PR machine, as the Debunking TFA blog has pointed out.

Being smart alone does not a teacher make.

Kris said...

I am a current teacher who was "rejected" by TFA for being too white and therefore not being able to truly understand kids from diverse backgrounds (the comments made by my TFA interviewer after making it to the second round.) In hind sight I'm glad I was accepted into TFA and the road I took was definitely the right one for me but the experience I had going through the interview process and the bitterness of the young man who interviewed me has soured me on my former admiration of TFA. TMAO has brought some of that back but it's still not the program it would like to think it is - IMHO.

Anonymous said...

I do not think that TFA should be allowed to hound the students in our universities. I feel that their their recruitment methods are close to dishonest. They make each senior feel as though they are in the program..hounding them( almost daily in some cases) with emails and calls. The process is long and involved..and they don't tell the students who are interested how many spots they have..AND why ???!!! I think because as published in The Washington Post a few days ago that there are fewer than 5,000 teaching positions open this year and they have had 14,181 applications received this fall and expect about 23,000 more by the end of Feb.

Danielle said...

I was accepted to TFA and left after the second week of the training program. I agree that the recruiting process is dishonest. I went in thinking that TFA teachers got much better results than other teachers. I was horrified when I learned that this was not the case, and I quit soon after.

ventura new house said...
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Anonymous said...

Apart from the 'dishonest' recruiting techniques, the point is that college students should be interested in the mission of TFA, not quit after training because they think it is 'unjust.' TFA holds high standards and has outstanding applicants. If you don't get in, it's not because you're 'too white' - it's because you don't have the academic qualifications, the leadership experiences, or past showing of perseverance.

Danielle said...

I am very very interested in the mission of Teach For America. I am so interested that I felt it necessary to resign my position when I learned that they spending approximately $25,000 per recruit (not including salaries) and the corps members were achieving few results in the classroom.