Friday, June 27, 2008

Sam Singer: Where Teach for America goes wrong (And Troops to Teachers gets right)

Sam Singer: Where Teach for America goes wrong - Opinion

Well crap, this 21 year old kid hits the nail right on the head.

Proponents claim that little by little, Teach for America can change this. That by enlisting only the academic elite - corps members carry top-tier credentials, and studies show them to be more effective than permanent faculty at participating schools - Teach for America is cultivating a commitment to public service and education among some of the brightest minds of our generation.

But hold your applause: According to The New York Times, of the trifle more than half of participants that actually remain in education, most do so in an administrative capacity. Turns out Teach for America hatches superintendents and curriculum planners far more frequently than it does teachers. If these numbers are on target, this isn't a teacher training corps - it's an incubator for would-be deans and well-rounded law students. [emphasis mine]
He forgot to mention that TFA is also good for producing bloggers, books, and charter school systems, but he still nails it though. His best line, though, is this:

Any grandeur that primary education had left was lost the moment we forced trained professionals to share faculty lounges with unseasoned college grads, many of who finished their final semesters with blood-alcohol contents that rivaled their grade point averages.
I might take issue with the term "trained professionals", but you get his point.

And just to add a comparison to Sam's first point:

According to the latest performance report from the Department of Education, the percentage of Troops to Teachers participants who remain in teaching for three or more years after placement in a teaching position in a high-need school is 88% for 2005, and 84% for 2006.

Once again, I think it's safe to say that TTT beats TFA.

Of course you don't see the NY Times or any other major newspapers writing semiannual puff pieces on Troops-to-Teachers.


Anonymous said...

You are exactly right. TFA doesn't fully prepare teachers, but then again, most universities don't either. Prospective teachers need to be partnered with mentor teachers and have more time in actual classrooms. The fact that many TFA teachers end up in administrative positions is interesting. Is it the salaries that pushes TFA teachers out of the classroom? Is it more important to make the policies than to actually teach?

It makes sense that Troops to Teachers is a more successful program. I am not that familiar with it, but coming from a military family I can speak about the traits my relatives have. (Hard-working, disciplined, organized, can-do attitude) I have also seen firsthand the work of Teach for America students. I can only write about two in particular. They seemed to want to be more of a friend to students, the cool person in the school students could go to when they had problems, and often would undermine the classroom teacher. They made excuses for inappropriate behaviors by telling teachers the students had difficult home lives. So my own personal experience with TFA has not been promising. And I am not a cynical, jaded teacher. I welcome every teacher to the profession because quality teachers are desperately needed. I want teachers to stay at my school. High retention is one indicator of a school that is working. I want to work with teachers that want to stay at my school. It's hard to see teachers stay 1-4 years and move on.

Writing books - I wish I had the time. I have learned a great deal in my 15 years teaching. I am too busy teaching, going to school, raising my family, and attending professional development workshops.

I read some of your previous posts about homework. Check out 'The Homework Myth' by Alfie Kohn.

NYC Educator said...

I agree that most universities don't prepare teachers. When I went for my MA, I had a lot of professors who were well-versed in the subject area. I learned a lot about language acquisition and linguistics.

But in the few education courses that were required, as a new teacher I still had plenty more experience than those who were supposedly training me, as they'd only had college teaching experience. Teaching paying college students is far different than teaching high school kids, and I've done both.

The answer is to add course taught by experienced teachers who have experience controlling kids, who have tricks that they'll share with prospective teachers. It's pretty simple.

Maybe one day it'll cross the minds of the VIPs who run school systems and colleges. But if it's all the same, I'm gonna sit while I wait.