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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 07/11/2010

A new look at Teach for America

By Valerie Strauss

Around the country today thousands of young Teach for America recruits are getting a crash course in how to teach students in low-income urban and rural schools, a job they have promised to do for the next two years.

The recruits are recent graduates from elite colleges, most of whom do not have a background in education, and they have been the subject of a running debate about how well they can serve needy schoolchildren.

Teach for America began in 1990 with 500 teachers in six communities and has grown to more than 8,200 individuals teaching in 39 rural and urban areas, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, the Mississippi Delta, and the Washington D.C. region.

Following are highlights of a new review of independent researchvidence on the program, an analysis conducted by Assistant Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig of the University of Texas at Austin and Assistant Professor Su Jin Jez of California State University at Sacramento.

They conclude:
*More than 50 percent of Teach for America teachers leave after two years and more than 80 percent leave after three years. [About half of all teachers nationwide quit after five years, according to the National Education Association.]
-Teach for America proponents say that the program is aimed not only at supplying teachers to needy schools but also improving the teacher labor supply and shaping individuals who will care about education in their future jobs on Wall Street, in Washington, or elsewhere outside the classroom.

*Studies indicate that students of novice Teach for America teachers perform significantly less well in reading and math than those of credentialed beginning teachers.

*Most studies find that those Teach for America teachers who stay long enough to become fully credentialed (typically after two years) appear to do about as well as other similarly experienced cedentialed teachers in teaching reading, and do as well as, and sometimes better than, a comparison group in teaching math.
--The study said it is difficult to know if that is a result of additional training and experience or from attrition of less effective Teach for America teachers.

*About a third of Teach for America’s operating costs are paid by the public through federal, state and local funds. For example, in 2008, the program was funded this way: 33 percent from public funds, 26 percent from foundations, 20 percent from individuals, 15 percent from corporations, and 6 percent from special events.

*Teach for America teachers make up about 0.2 percent of the country’s several million teachers.

The analysis concludes that proponents who see the prgram as providing urban and rural schools with “outstanding recent college graduates,” and opponents who see it as only a short-term remedy that “may not even be better than what it aims to fix” are both correct. It says:

“The studies reviewed in the previous section indicate that, in the short-term, when compared to other underprepared teachers hired into many high-need schools, they may compete well with similarly trained and situated non-TFA teachers (even if just marginally better and only in mathematics).

"However, TFA opponents are correct, too. TFA teachers appear less effective in both reading and mathematics than fully prepared entrants teaching similar students, at least until the TFA teachers become prepared and certified themselves.

"While the small number who stay this long are sometimes found to be more effective in mathematics than other teachers, their attrition rate of more than 80 percent means that few students receive the benefit of this greater effectiveness, while districts pay the costs of high attrition. In addition, TFA provides only a (small) fraction of America’s teachers to a small number of America’s schools, and likely has little to no impact outside of its participating schools. Unless it starts admitting larger swaths of college seniors and potentially watering down the quality of its corps members, it will not ever comprise more than a small fraction of America’s teachers.

"Finally, even in the limited cases when TFA has a positive impact, it is consistently small; other educational reforms may have more promise such as universal pre-school, mentoring programs that pair novice and expert teachers, eliminating tracking, and reducing class size in the early grades."

It recommends that policymakers and school districts:

*Support Teach for America staffing only when the alternative hiring pool consists of uncertified and emergency teachers or substitutes.

*Consider the significant recurring costs of Teach for America, estimated at over $70,000 per recruit, and press for a five-year commitment to improve achievement and reduce re-staffing.

*Invest strategically in evidence-based educational reform options that build long-term capacity in schools.

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By Valerie Strauss  | July 11, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Research, Teachers  | Tags:  research on teach for america, research on tfa, teach for america, teachers and attrition  
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Comments

Thanks Valerie. How nice that these bright young things get to experiment on urban kids. My kids.

Of course, Rhee has plans to make sure that there is virtually no teaching going on anymore, what with her plans to test even the youngest children until they drop. (See Bill Turque's article today...)

I like how Diane Ravitch sums it up, it's worth the time to watch the video clip:

http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2010/07/diane-ravitch-rocks-nea-convention.html

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | July 8, 2010 6:55 AM | Report abuse

TFA salaries 2007
Wendy Kopp $268,585
Matthew Kramer $274,050
Em Rossy $204,775
Kevin Hoffman $229,643
Aimee a Davis $179,500
Elisa V Beard $182,637
Gillian Smith $200,325
Jeffrey Wetzler $203,925
Elissa Clapp $189,219
Aylon S Samouha $182,861
Andrew D Kopplin $164,037
Jemina R Bernard $162,325

Total $2,441,882

2007 Expenses
$124,550,696
That year TFA trained 2,892 corp members who began teaching
Roughly $43067 per teacher

TFA IRS Form 990 for FY08 is here:
http://www.teachforamerica.org/assets/documents/2007_990_FY08.pdf

That is the source for the salaries.
In that year, the organization received about $24 million from the government.

They do not have a more recent 990.

Posted by: edlharris | July 8, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

The general public needs to recognize the difference between outstanding college grads and outstanding teachers. It seems like a simple distinction, but one that many people are not making. Perhaps this is because TFA makes a costly PR effort to morph the two concepts.

Imagine the public accepting that outstanding high school athletes were the same as outstanding soldiers or that outstanding math majors were the same as outstanding accountants.

Posted by: efavorite | July 8, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

As a former TFA teacher, I'll acknowledge that there are some flaws to the organization...BUT I'll point out a couple of things that the report does not mention:

1) The report does not account for how principals choose to utilize TFA teachers. In my own experience, the principal asked me to teach a reading class even though my TFA placement was as a social studies teacher. As a result, I was teaching a reading class even though I had not been trained to do so....nor had I or TFA ever claimed that I was trained to do so.

While I don't know the circumstances nationwide, I do know that many other fellow corps members I know were pressed into teaching reading when their primary subject area was something else.

2) The report compares TFA attrition rates to turnover rates across the entire teaching profession....which is misleading. TFA teachers are often placed in the worst schools...and the turnover rate should be compared with the overall turnover rate in THOSE schools.

I can say that I was one of only two TFA teachers in my school....and yet our school regularly turned over 30-40% of the staff each year (obviously, most of those who left were NOT TFA teachers).

3) It's easy to investigate and criticize TFA teachers for their attrition rate....but people rarely examine why school districts and principals are unable to retain those teachers. Teachers rarely leave schools that are stable, well-supported, and well-managed.


Posted by: holzhaacker | July 8, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

holzhaacker

You are right about school districts placing TFA teachers in positions for which they are not qualified.

Many TFA teachers are placed in special education classes. This is an area where season teachers have great difficulty but TFAers are expect to perform. I know of an situation where a TFA teacher was asked to replace an AP Physics teachers and had no experience in teaching physics.

If the federal goverment keeps paying the top personnel of TFA (including Rhee's ex-husband), the system will continue this silly practice. There is much money to be made from these young people.

Cannnot wait for WP editorial on this one.

Posted by: bnew100 | July 8, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Agree that the TFA contract with corps members should be longer than two years, but no more than five.
Interesting that the rabid critics of TFA also are known for believing "real" teachers not only deserve, but need ultra job security (lifetime??) to do their job well. Even Ravitch supports this policy direction. It is part of the ole bulwark of 'job security is number one,' letting some sizeable number of children suffer with those waiting for retirement, educators disdainful of their students, and various kinds of ineffective teaching. When you make teaching the independent variable in the education equation (from the standpoint of teacher benefit, not education, even though responsibility for educational achievement is often shunned by teachers), this is what you get.
The steep decline in DCPS proceeded without any TFA teachers involved. Can't blame them for that, but what was the role of teachers in this steep decline?

Posted by: axolotl | July 8, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I'm for whatever REALLY works...but, like the report states, the money spent on TFA placements could be better used to reduce class sizes and/or to provide the quality professional dev that addresses specific teaching weaknesses...rather than generic, all-for-one/one-for-all prof dev activties. I have been teaching a long-time and have seen many band-aids applied to education...TFA is just another band-aid of another color. As educators, our experimentation in the name of reform is akin to moral negligance to our children.

For holzaaker: Placing teachers in front of classes they are not certified to teach or that they have never taught is common. I am an art teacher...I have been told to tutor math and ELL....some who can't speak a word of English. I am also expected to teach sp ed kids and have had not one spec ed class. In my school district, they place teachers in classes they have never taught to get rid of them.

As far as attrition: While your point is valid, I can't be too sympathetic to a group of "teachers" who teach for 2 years as though it is the peace corps...or volunteer work. If the only reason you agree to become a teacher is to pay off your college debt...then you went into teaching for the wrong reasons...and probably would never teach in the first place...as a "temporary" teacher or otherwise.

And I agree with your last statement 100%. And that is an issue that is often swept under the rug in education. Interesting since most critics feel public education should be more like the private sector...but, a high-turnover rate in the private sector is seen as a negative...with someone having to answer the question, "why?"

Posted by: ilcn | July 8, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

The above comments by TFA grads clearly reveal a mismatch between TFA teacher competencies and their assigments. There is also a mismatch between their recent training and the typical high school curriculum where students and teachers change what they do and with whom every 45 minutes in response to a bell in the usual academic silos. Young people selected for TFA have a natural advantage in being prepared to work in the team-oriented, computer-assisted modern workplace. So why not modify the curriculum to play to their strengths while bringing experienced teachers into that workaday world that is so much more relevant to kids than the traditional factory model high school. For example, TFA and experienced teachers could be in the classroom at the same time co-teaching such basic subjects as math, reading, oral and written communications, basic computer applications, and career selection and employability skills. There is such a team taught program where the same group of teachers works with a group of 25-60 students 5-8 hours a day for 8-12 weeks (300 total hours). The program typically improves math and reading scores by 2-3 grade levels, and universities and employers both report the graduates are work and college ready. Write me if you'd like to learn more at bsels@aol.com.

Posted by: bsels | July 8, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Didja know that Kamaras is married to an exec. at TFA?

Posted by: givemeabreak8 | July 8, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

holzhaacker wrote: 1) The report does not account for how principals choose to utilize TFA teachers. In my own experience, the principal asked me to teach a reading class even though my TFA placement was as a social studies teacher. As a result, I was teaching a reading class even though I had not been trained to do so....nor had I or TFA ever claimed that I was trained to do so.
______________________
Traditionally trained teachers are utilized the same way. Since reading and math are what is tested, all teachers in lower performing schools are expected to focus on those areas which often includes teaching a class or tutoring in those subjects regardless of one's area of expertise. This is just another symptom of the test craze that is inherent in today's schools.

Posted by: musiclady | July 8, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

It seems like a stretch to call this independent research when the organization that published it is largely made up of teachers unions and the authors highlighted on the webpage are faculty from ed schools, since these are the two groups most threatened by alternative certification programs.

http://greatlakescenter.org/about.php

Posted by: amr11 | July 8, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

arm11:

Much of what is quoted above is empirically provable fact, so your claim of bias doesn't really hold up. The facts really speak for themselves.

Having talked to many applicants (accepted and rejected) for TFA, it's often only one of several alternatives undergrads pursue. Although my sample is hardly scientific, I suspect its representative. The two most frequently cited reasons for applying I hear are 1. to pay off undergraduate debt and 2. to bolster a resume for entrance into a high powered or competitive grad school program. The last reason usually cited is the sincere desire to pursue a career in teaching.

I think imposing a minimum five year commitment would be appropriate considering the investment.It would also streamline the application process by eliminating the less committed candidates.

However, as noted in other comments, I also, feel that there should be some strings attached to administrators who accept TFA teachers that they must be placed in an area for which they are at least minimally qualified. Finally, I do think the money would be better spent reducing class sizes and improving the quality of ongoing staff development that teachers can attend on the clock. Training and development occurs on work days for most professions and trades. Teachers are expected to do this on their own time for no compensation and often at their own expense. Consequently, only the most dedicated among us pursue involvement in professional organizations and conferences, for which many of us pay to attend and participate in.

Posted by: buckbuck11 | July 8, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that the rabid critics of TFA also are known for believing "real" teachers not only deserve, but need ultra job security (lifetime??) to do their job well.
axototl

Care to name names, axototl???

Could they be my cat I had put down because he was rabid?

But like your made-up name, your point is like a big ole' sack of s#@&.


Posted by: phillipmarlowe | July 8, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

In today's economy, when fully certified teachers are graduating college jobless and districts are laying off their newest hires, there is no justification for continuing a program like TFA.

There are a few specialties like special ed which could use more teachers but small incentive programs for fully certified teachers in those areas would be more worthwhile.

Posted by: speakuplouder | July 8, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

edlharris, thanks for the stats.

TFA....what comes to mind is a massive land rush of sorts, but rather involving taxpayer funds. Plus, of the noted 26% of funds coming from foundations, remember that plenty of that money is also derived via grants from also sourced from taxpayer funds. Whatamess. What a wretched filter system by which precious education dollars are collected by such an array of profiteers throughout such time consuming and tedious manipulations of justifications. Imagine patients seriously ill or dying and tho' there is enough medicine available to aid all to recovery, the chosen mode of delivery is such that the potency of the medicine is unnecessarily diminished/diluted all along the way.

Perhaps Obama just doesn't want the unemployment rates to rise on his watch, thus, the beasties consuming vast education $$$ must continue this parasitic feast. No, it is worse than that. He isn't just passive. Obama is an enabler of mammoth proportions.

Posted by: shadwell1 | July 8, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't TFA charge districts a placement fee for it's "teachers"? I read somewhere that school districts pay up to $30,000 directly to TFA for each recruit hired. Can anyone confirm or refute this?

Posted by: Incidentally | July 8, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh, sorry for some of the choppy sentence structure on my prior post. Just too easy to rewire a thought and only halway delete and rewrite a sentence or two. Plus, emotion....this topic of pickpocketing the public makes me more prone to typos and such.

Posted by: shadwell1 | July 8, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I'll say upfront, I am a TFA alum, no longer teaching, but I can definitively say that my time teaching has altered my professional trajectory such that I now work to address social 'issues' specifically with an eye towards reducing inequity in education and opportunity. I don't know how well these surveys capture the section of TFA alums that are no longer formally in education, yet have been influenced to address social factors that affect education as a direct result of their time in the classroom.

buckbuck, i'm not sure that arm was saying there was deliberate skewing of data, but it is relevant that the research was conducted by groups that have a specific interest in the future of TFA (and not necessarily a supportive interest). I haven't looked at their methods, but even the selection of a non-TFA comparison group has major implications. as several posters have noted, TFA typically places in under-resourced, under-performing schools -- in other words, schools that are less desirable employers for new education grads/certified teachers. comparing these TFA affiliated schools/outcomes/retention/etc to a nationally representative cohort by definition presents a biased picture.

speakuplouder, this goes to your point. it's not that TFAers are 'taking' jobs from newly minted education grads in this down economy (though in some cases that may be true). in the vast majority of situations, in the absence of TFA, these teaching positions would be filled by emergency hires, or not filled at all. a classroom in chevy chase is not quite the same as a classroom in anacostia. it's hardly an apples to apples comparison, and it's important to consider that difference.

Incidently, to the best of my knowledge, the school districts do NOT pay x-dollars to TFA per teacher hired. teacher placement is not a moneymaker for TFA. perhaps you were reading a figure for how much money a district invests per TFA-er for training, etc. though that still seems like a high figure.

i'm not saying that TFA is the answer (i don't think there is a single 'the answer'). but i think it is part of a valid response to the education crisis that faces this country.

Posted by: sayday8 | July 8, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I will answer my own question. I did a little searching, and I found the factoid in an article in the Spring 2010 issue of Rethinking Schools, Looking Past the Spin: Teach for America, written by Barbara Miner. The fee is NOT $30,000.... that did seem ridiculous, didn't it? The placement fee is $2000 and referred to a deal with the St. Louis school district, which is under mayoral control. I wonder if these are negotiable fees depending on the district...?

This from the Miner article:
"Peter Downs, president of the elected school board, summarizes TFA’s role in one word: “privatization.” He says that the mayor, not the district, first invited TFA to St. Louis, in line with reforms such as for-profit charters and the privatization of services in curriculum development, teacher recruitment, maintenance, and food service. As part of its contract with TFA, the district pays $2,000 a year to TFA for each of its recruits."

Does that seem like a significant premium for budget-stretched districts to pay for first-year teachers (on top of regular salaries & benefits)?

Posted by: Incidentally | July 8, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Good sleuthing, Incidentally. I stand corrected, but I strongly suspect that deals such as that are very much locality-specific. There was no such placement fee where I taught (a rural region). It would be interesting to know more about the St. Louis context and the relationship the mayor has with the school board there. Personally, I wish TFA didn't collect money upon placement, but if that is what it takes to work with the school system, I'll defer to those on the ground. As far as the amount, in the grand scheme of budgets, that's pretty darned small, especially when you consider that TFA-ers enter the school system on the very bottom rung of the salary ladder (as all first-year teachers do), so one could argue that the city nets a savings by reducing its salary obligations through hiring less experienced teachers. And that leads into a whole separate argument...

Posted by: sayday8 | July 8, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

@holzhaaker

I think you make some good points. My contention is that TFA is being "sold" as a cure-all to teacher retention, inequitable staffing in poor rural and urban areas. The truth is that TFA is an expensive, unecessary bandaid that allows a corporation to make substantial public money off the labor of good young people while simultaneously NOT delivering on their real goal: Developing a stable and talented teaching pool. The idea that districts actually pay TFA for professional development that covers basic classroom management,lesson plans and the essentials of state standards in content areas is absurd. That is most certainly covered in any 4 year education program and at no extra cost to the tax payer.

The bottom line is this: TFA fails to do its basic service.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | July 8, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate the tone of this discussion. Too often discussions such as this deteriorate into worthless name calling. Thanks to all involved so far.

I'd like to address the issue of teacher tenure. I've worked in a strong union state, and a right to work state. I've seen poor teachers in both states, for, I believe, the same reason: administrators don't want to take the time (or don't have the time) to do what needs to be done to get rid of them. Without union protection, I have seen a promising new teacher canned because of personality conflict, not teaching ability. My former union president always said the union does not exist to protect bad teachers, just to make sure all teachers had due process. I guess my point is, I'm tired of unions/tenure being blamed for all problems in education. Experience matters: I'm a much better teacher today than I was 10 years ago.

Posted by: maryanne4 | July 8, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Great article...should be sent to every school superintendent in the country...typo in article...(who see the prgram)

Posted by: blue_moon916 | July 8, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

@holzhaacker

You must have missed the memo from TFA Celebrity Michelle Rhee, because you wrote:

"3) It's easy to investigate and criticize TFA teachers for their attrition rate....but people rarely examine why school districts and principals are unable to retain those teachers. Teachers rarely leave schools that are stable, well-supported, and well-managed. " (Elipses in the original)

Failures are always the teacher's fault, never that of the students, teachers, larger social issues, and certainly not the school administrator.

TFA teachers leave in astounding numbers after one year or two years because they are inexperienced, unprepared academically and emotionally, and often ineffective.

Unlike the experienced teachers other TFA heroes and groupies on this thread denigrate so easily.

I think I have read about 4 or 5 blogs this year by new teachers in various urban school districts that ended abruptly when the TFA teacher-blog author quit midterm into the school year, leaving the kids high and dry.


Posted by: Trulee | July 8, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

I work in St. Louis public schools. The school building that i work in had two TFA teachers last year...one of them moved with her husband to Indiana for this next year. The one who is moving had been in the building two years and has been the best and most-liked math teacher in the building during her tenure. The other is a Language Arts teacher and, while I haven't seen her work as much, she seems to be doing very well and the students respond well to her teaching. We've also had some in the past (even before my tenure) that I've heard were duds. I don't know that St. Louis still pays TFA for the referral...especially since layoffs and early retirement are the norm as we fight a $58mill budget shortfall. Interesting article.

Posted by: allenmoore1 | July 8, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

As a current TFA math teacher and former student of public policy, I thought it interesting to read the study cited by this author.

I would encourage other readers to also take the time to read the 14 pages of content and the couple additional pages of citations that comprise this paper. (I will not refer to it as a study, as it does not present any new research.)

Factors to consider as you read:
- Author does not cite statistics of TFA teachers actually leaving the profession, only the placement school. There is a significant difference.
- Author switches back and forth between 2 year commitment, 3 year retention, and 4 year retention without distinction, while admitting that national retention rate for teachers at all types of schools (including suburban or private) is "about 50 percent."
- Author gives no consideration to the charter school sector, which is increasingly hiring non-credentialed teachers. In these cases, how might it affect the school to hire a TFA teacher versus a non-credentialed teacher?

Lastly, I will ask that we find some statistics for teacher retention in low-income, high-poverty schools like the ones TFA targets. The criteria TFA uses to select schools is that 83% of students must be on free or reduced lunch. If we can find a study that can say that TFA teachers are leaving in numbers higher than traditionally educated teachers at this specific type of school, I'd be willing to make a 5 year commitment to my placement school.

Posted by: nbrar | July 9, 2010 12:08 AM | Report abuse

Regarding "placement fee." Michael Tipton, Exec. Director of TFA in Baton Rouge reported to me that the Louisiana Dept. of Education Superintendent Pastorek has had a contract with TFA the last two years for almost $1 million. Since charters as well as traditional public schools in La. pay salaries with what are called MFP funds allocated to each district by the DOE, the contract evidently pays for something other than salaries. This while certified teachers are being laid off in the state and NBCTs are no longer being paid a salary supplement out of DOE funds. Efforts to privatize are no secret in our state. And our TFA teachers DON'T get paid these fabulously high salaries reported. However, charter administrators do. Charters are sucking the blood out of public school systems.

Posted by: lbarrios1 | July 9, 2010 2:03 AM | Report abuse

@nbrar- Please explain why it is deemed necessary for school districts to compensate TFA for training its teachers *on top of* teacher salaries & benefits?

I, like most other teachers, paid for my own education courses and even a Masters in two areas of certification. I get paid about 2k more per year for my Masters. I rarely, if ever, get remunerated for PD's. I get Act 48 credits from my state which are required for me to retain my certs.

We in Philadelphia currently have an "interesting" scenario. Our district has a big budget shortfall (shocker? no). We allowed in many more schools to be "turnaround" schools this fall forcing the transfer of hundreds. At the same time, these charters and outside managers will be hiring their own teachers with differing cert requirements. As such, TFA'ers will be placed in *district schools*! Why, why why?

This absurd scenario has just doomed employment opportunities for the hundreds of students teachers who just got certified and already have taught in Philly classrooms. Many even had job offers that needed to be rescinded.

What the heck kind of logic is it that, in a tight economy, we taxpayers are paying *extra* for completely inexperienced teachers?

If TFA is so good, I say send them to the charter schools. Philly teachers have overwhelmingly refused to apply for employment at their "turnaround" schools.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | July 9, 2010 6:07 AM | Report abuse

First, I need to disclose that I encouraged many of my best students to consider TFA as a possible post-graduation avenue.


These kids address an outrageous aberration in the American educational system, namely the emphasis of form over content. I will talk of mathematics which is my expertise. An American math teacher need not have a math degree, as is the case in the rest of the civilized world. Many graduates of teaching colleges have an appalling understanding of math, and they carry their utter lack of understanding to the classes they teach.

That is the opposite with the TFA kids I know and are teaching math. They have an excellent understanding of the subject, and they join TFA out of a sense of civic duty. They are placed in challenging environments that no teaching certificate can prepare you for.

Like doctors, teachers must first do nor harm. An under prepared teacher will harm generations of students. I meet many of them in my college classes.


TFA kids need to be celebrated. They have many great career choices but they choose to help the less privileged amongst us.

Posted by: wahtever | July 9, 2010 6:31 AM | Report abuse

Whenever I read the words, "Studies show," or "the analysis concludes," I become suspicious. Who did the studies? Where? When? How was the analysis done? What were the controls? And who are Assistant Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig of the University of Texas at Austin, and Assistant Professor Su Jin Jez of California State University at Sacramento? What are their credentials, and what is their experience in conducting such "studies"?

I would want to know answers to these questions beore I'd pass judgment on the effectiveness of the TFA program. In the meantime, I'll go with my own anecdotal observations, which go against the conclusions of this new study. The TFA teachers I've observed (admittedly not a lot) have been better teachers, in all subjects, than most so-called "trained teachers" churned out by most schools of education.

As to the salaries of the top administrators at TFA, well, weigh these against the salaries of all the top administrators in education. They're all overpaid. That's the American way: Pile the money on at the top, and skimp when it comes to those in the trenches.

Posted by: abstrart | July 9, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

@wahtever-

TFA kids need to be celebrated? For what? for being a well-intentioned member of a group that perpetuates the cycle of teacher turnover at the neediest schools?

You point out a major difference between U.S. education schools and their international counterparts: content area studies. You also should be aware that countries (for example, Finland) where recruitment to teacher colleges is from the top 25% of graduates, teaching is also a culturally revered career. In other words, being a teacher may not pay as much as a banker, but is still considered a dream job. Teaching in these countries is not a means to pad a resume but a respected, professional *career* path. Not a means to pad a resume before grad school.


Posted by: Nikki1231 | July 9, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

wahtever says: "TFA kids need to be celebrated. They have many great career choices but they choose to help the less privileged amongst us."

I say:
TFA is a jobs program for the people who need it least.

Posted by: efavorite | July 9, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

@efavorite- I'd say it isn't even a jobs program but, in this current economy, I admit you are right. I have no complaint against the TFA teachers, but their management has a system that borders on a scam perpetrated on taxpayers. Of course, districts are complicit.

That said, I'm all for the most motivated and high achieving college students entering into the teaching profession. I just wish there was some impetus for them to *stay* in the classroom for several years. 2-3 is just the beginning.

I get the sense that there is this sort of selective amnesia on the part of some TFA supporters. Are they forgetting that it is the very districts these young people are working in that are paying for their training? When they leave the district, whether for charters or private schools or fundraising, this means that the district has to find *more* candidates and start/pay the training all over again.

How are taxpayers getting their due when the TFA teachers leave? Yes, other teachers move on as well but here's the catch: the district didn't pay for their training.

Any TFA cheerleaders going to answer this?

Posted by: Nikki1231 | July 9, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

sayday8 says: "I am a TFA alum, no longer teaching, but I can definitively say that my time teaching has altered my professional trajectory such that I now work to address social 'issues' specifically with an eye towards reducing inequity in education and opportunity."

That's really great - and I say that in all sincerity. However, I think you could have altered your professional trajectory the same way if you had been a teacher's aide for two years - instead of spending taxpayer's money to further your own, already excellent education.

Posted by: efavorite | July 9, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Here’s another idea – instead of a 2 year TFA commitment, have a 1 year commitment as a teacher apprentice. You’d still be selected as elite grads of elite schools, and then there would be just one week of training to orient you to the high-poverty school environment. Then you’d be assigned to a master teacher, whom you would help out with regular teacher’s chores and sometimes get a chance to teach the class, with feedback from the teacher. If after your year, you want to continue in teaching (and your master teacher thinks you’re a good candidate) you sign up for a FIVE year commitment and a deal to have teacher training costs reduced.

If you decide teaching is not for you, you’ll still have involvement in this elite program on your resume and the experience working with the less privileged without gobbling up taxpayers dollars while experimenting on our most vulnerable youth.

Posted by: efavorite | July 9, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

efavorite: As yet another TFA alumni, although I don't agree with all of your sentiments about the program, I agree with your suggestion for a teaching apprenticeship program. I advocated for that throughout my TFA experience.

The fact is, there are numerous ways to approach teacher preparation. I know a lot of people for which the TFA process worked well, and it turned them into excellent teachers. Some people are just ready to hit the ground running. For me personally, I don't think it was the best method and it was an extremely difficult two years.

I think the real key to addressing the very difficult question teacher preparation is to provide multiple pathways. Don't dog TFA just because it isn't a cure-all. There's no reason TFA as it currently exists can't coexist with traditional teacher preparation and more authentic apprenticeship programs.

But the bottom line is to recognize that there is very little that can prepare a person for what it is like to teach in the inner city, and attrition is going to be a difficult issue no matter what.

Posted by: acjohnson55 | July 9, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

"*More than 50 percent of Teach for America teachers leave after two years and more than 80 percent leave after three years. [About half of all teachers nationwide quit after five years, according to the National Education Association."

This is not a valid comparison. Almost every single TFA teacher is placed in a school of extremely high need. At the very least, the comparison with non-TFA teachers should be made only with non-TFA teachers in the school systems where TFA has a presence. I'm not saying that TFA will come out with lower attrition, but I guarantee the numbers will be much closer.

Posted by: acjohnson55 | July 9, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

efave, I appreciate the thoughtful suggestion, though I have to strongly, strongly disagree with your conclusion. It's always difficult to answer the 'what if?' questions had our lives taken another turn. I can't speak for anyone else, but I can speak for myself. While it is true that I would probably have ended up working on some sort of social justice issue even in the absence of TFA, I absolutely do not think it would have been related to education. It simply wasn't on my radar in such a compelling way. I do not know if you teach or have ever taught. But the only thing like teaching is, well, teaching. Not assisting teachers, not apprenticing, not running an after-school program. Teaching. And that is leaving aside all the other things that I learned through that experience related to all the other forces acting in the lives of my students outside the schoolhouse walls. Sure I could read about it, study sociology, etc etc etc but there is no replacement for the value of living in working immediately amongst worlds and communities that are frankly hidden from public discourse, often quite by design.

Those lessons are ones I had not learned elsewhere and learning them through this hands-on experience was not my driving goal. It just came with the territory. And those lessons literally inform what I do every day. Sure it could have happened some other way. But it hadn't yet in my life. And I didn't live a cloistered existence. I don't deserve a pat on the back, but I would like to honestly share that TFA shifted things for me. And for the vast majority of current and former TFAers I know.

I believe I was an inexperienced but good teacher. Did my kids deserve a better teacher? A thousand times yes. They deserved the best teachers. Unfortunately, the best teachers are in scarce supply at low-income, high-poverty schools.

And to clarify, I had good, not great education, certainly not elite. I didn't join TFA to pad my resume (though I know some -- not most -- do). I absolutely did not do TFA to finance my education or further it in a formal sense. I hate to sound so defensive here, but it's a common meme that gets thrown around awfully easily. And you know what, darn it all, taxpayers money goes to a hell of a lot of truly morally bankrupt ideas. I don't find TFA to be one of them.

Posted by: sayday8 | July 9, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

@Nikki1231: As an alumni of TFA in Baltimore, I don't know what the actual numbers are, but if you view this article, you will see that at least in Baltimore, the City traditionally contributes only nominally to the cost of training (http://www.examiner.com/a-1518788~Teach_for_America_expands_with_Baltimore_City_grants.html)

It's important to realize that each TFA region operates more or less autonomously, so the funding picture is completely different from place to place. To be fair, TFA could do a better job of being transparent about funding, but there isn't a simple answer.

So the money may not be coming from the district, but that's not to say it's not coming from federal grants. If so, TFA is essentially acting as a conduit for getting federal education dollars into Baltimore, and as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing.

Posted by: acjohnson55 | July 9, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

To call TFA a jobs program or a resume padding exercise shows very little understanding of urban teaching. I can tell you categorically that there is no way you can survive two years in an urban teaching job without a passion for education. Whether someone is TFA, a traditional teacher, or whatever else, that is something you can bank on.

There are certainly people who make the mistake of thinking they can teach just as something to do, and unfortunately, some of these people end up in TFA, despite the organizations efforts to screen them out. By and large, most such people don't even make it through the training process. In most regions, retention during the school year is over 90%.

For those that leave during the year, it usually comes down to factors much more complicated than some idea that they had just joined TFA as "something prestigious to do for 2 years".

Look, it is easy to sit back and criticize if you have never attempted to teach in the inner city. But one thing that can be said about TFA teachers is that we got our hands dirty to make a difference. I will be the first to say that I wasn't the best teacher in the world, but I have a whole stack of letters from students to prove that I made some kind of difference from them.

Posted by: acjohnson55 | July 9, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

acjohson-

I teach in the inner city in special ed. West Philly is no joke. Perhaps my perspective is different because, unlike many TFA'ers, I went back to teach in the same poor neighborhood I came from. Not much surprises me.

I don't criticize the passion or commitment of the teachers in TFA. I question its validity as a program that actually provides talented teachers to high needs schools. This is STILL not appropriately answered by any of the repsonses. Frankly, the constant refrain of "we had to teach in the most challenging schools" is one you could hear from ANY newer teacher in Philly, D.C., Baltimore etc.. Lordy, I could say that. The difference is I'm raising my teaching game every year, looking to improve the Autistic Support program in my school, and I'm also there for my students. Don't you get it? They need us in the classroom.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | July 9, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

To sayday8 @12:05PM: I appreciate your comments. They seem very honest and balanced and they help illuminate the complexity of the debate.

to acjohnson55: The comment that TFA teachers "got our hands dirty to make a difference" is a poor choice of words and a revealing metaphor to those of us who hold doubts about organizations like TFA. I for one worry that for every sayday8 whose sense of social justice is deepened, there are other TFAers whose class/race ignorance may in fact become amplified and more entrenched. Equating teaching children who are marginalized by class/race with "getting dirty" raises that red flag.

Posted by: Incidentally | July 9, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Hi acjohnson,

I followed your link but it had difficulty loading, so I did a search in the Examiner for TFA. This is the quote I pulled from the 2008 article. I believe it's the article you provide a link to:

"The city announced Friday that, for the first time, it will help fund the program. City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake delivered a $50,000 grant to Teach for America officials.

The money, part of a $3 million budget for the program in Baltimore, including $325,000 from the city school system and $336,000 from the governor’s office, will be used to help recruit and train more teachers."

--------------------------------

Almost $700,000 dollars is "nominal"?

I'm pretty sure our city contract is for $2 mill but that could change given the economic climate in PA.

Again, I am thrilled to see new people come into the profession, but with taxpayer funding, they really need to stay in the schools where they are needed. As a reminder, every time a TFA'er leaves and gets replaced with another, the taxpayer dollars flow again. Those of us who were certified in college or grad school paid our own way.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | July 9, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

It’s good to hear from so many TFA people – too many discussions about TFA are without TFA input. I agree, there’s no substitute for the experience of teaching, but don’t think it’s worth having a huge, overblown program to provide a life-changing experience for some people – anymore than I think war is worth it because it makes a lasting impression on those who fight it (not the best analogy, I know, but valid enough to make the point). TFA is presented to the public too often as a means of saving inner-city schools, by bringing in the “best and the brightest.” I think you would admit that while you might have been excellent college students, you were not excellent teachers – by virtue of inexperience, if nothing else.

Here in DC, Michelle Rhee conflates “high quality teachers” with new TFA recruits. Not so – you may be excellent teachers someday, but not yet. But thanks in large part to TFA PR, the public doesn’t know this. Instead, they think “Isn’t it noble – the best and the brightest, willing to help the least amongst us.” It’s demeaning to the kids and to the regular teachers and puts the focus on YOU, where you know it doesn’t belong.

I’m not against TFA; I’m against the glorification of TFA.

As I’ve said elsewhere, TFA is not the solution to American education any more than the Peace Corps is the answer to foreign policy. It does more good than harm, let’s say, but usually helps the people in the program more than it helps the people it serves. That’s OK, but let’s be honest about it.

TFA is 20 years old – it there were impressive TFA educational accomplishments, we would certainly know about them. The TFA PR machine would not keep it quiet. All I’ve seen so far is Michelle Rhee’s completely undocumented but oft repeated claim that while in TFA, her students went to from the “bottom to the top” – from the 13th percentile to the 90th in reading. Really?

If TFA alum want to help education, I wish more of you would speak out about it the way you are doing here. And I wish more TFA alums would acknowledge that while the program has value and helped YOU (which comes across in your comments here), it should not be considered as a serious solution to improve American education.

For more on TFA from a teacher’s perspective, please see the Urban Teacher's Education blog. He has done a couple of pieces on TFA, most recently:
http://www.anurbanteacherseducation.com/2010/07/seriously-scary.html

Posted by: efavorite | July 9, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Totally enjoying this discussion, by the by.

I agree with acjohnson that it is critical to remember that teach TFA region is relatively autonomous, and there's a real spread in terms of effectiveness (define as you will) from one to the next.

I think it's a mistake to conflate TFA with a serious solution to the educational crisis in the US. And I realize that proponents and opponents conflate the two. In my mind, TFA is more of a stop-gap measure. I think it would be more than fantastic if TFA could work its way out of a job so to speak, however idealistic that may sound.

I worked in a rural area. There was not a pool of qualified applicants to fill the teaching positions that TFAers filled. (Side note: I know of at least one region that TFA purposely avoids because there is an overabundance of local people who are able to fill teaching positions.) I think it's great that motivated teachers were brought there to work. I don't think that my delight over that is mutually exclusive with my sorrow that the motivated teachers were novices or that only about 30% continued at their original placement past two years. Like I said, stop gap. That's why I think TFA = solution is a false bar to attain. Of course TFAers benefit, but really so can schools and students. And I think it's valuable to think broadly about what 'success' for TFA might mean. To wit, examples from my school: enrollment in college or community college went from 10% to 65+% within three years of TFA in the high school. (That's not all on TFAers, but they were major contributors); grade level increases in reading, more than grade level increases in math in TFA classrooms; the reinstitution of a music and band program; the removal of a corrupt school superintendent (yes, led by TFA because as 'outsiders' we were able to speak out in ways that the local community couldn't) and the first school board elections with true community participation in a generation (previously SB was dominated by local elite).

Of the four TFA in my school/year, 1 is now a school leader, 1 still teaches though elsewhere, 1 is a college counselor and advisor for at-risk youth, and 1 works with public health programs affecting vulnerable youth.

Posted by: sayday8 | July 9, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Sayday8, Thanks, I’m enjoying this too. You say, “think it's a mistake to conflate TFA with a serious solution to the educational crisis in the US. And I realize that proponents and opponents conflate the two. In my mind, TFA is more of a stop-gap measure.”

Good – how about you write an article about that and try to get in printed in edweek or in the Washington Post? I’ve never seen anything like that in print from a TFA alum. Maybe Valerie Strauss would be interested. Seriously.

The statistics you provide from your former school are quite precise – did you do a survey? Can you give us the name and location of the school? What did the staff do there to encourage college enrollment? Any stats on how many kids actually entered college and then graduated?

Regarding the corrupt superintendent – yes, I can see how teachers planning to leave anyhow wouldn’t mind speaking up, but that could have also been other teachers on their way out to other jobs or retirement. It was a good use of your situation, but not a justification for TFA.

I’m happy to hear about the post-TFA careers of your cohorts. People frequently have formative experiences that affect their whole lives. Again, it doesn’t justify TFA and certainly not the glorification of TFA. The program should be more about the effects on kids than on their teachers, right?

I really do think the public would benefit from hearing directly from you and some of your colleagues. I’ve often wondered why there were not more articles written about TFA from the personal perspective of TFA alums. Really, besides the recent research done about TFA, I’ve only seen one very negative article by a former TFA teacher (I’m pretty sure) who had a horrible experience in which he was falsely accused by a parent and actually jailed and sued. Everything else has been promotional material by TFA staff or by journalists touting the benefits of TFA.

Posted by: efavorite | July 9, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

As a teacher, who worked as a teacher's aide while getting my license and taking grad school classes, I can say that classroom experience while in the classroom myself truly helped me to see who I wanted to become as a teacher and how to do it. I think TFA should consider having their participants work in classrooms as assistants and see what truly goes on, and learn the ins and outs of teaching while getting trained simultaneously. It just depends on their aim- do they want to create high quality teachers or just fill in blank spaces? What's best for the kids? I think an apprenticeship type position makes the most sense. Gaining experience and practice without high stakes pressure seems a more conducive environment to creating prepared, balanced and motivated teachers.

Posted by: amy77 | July 9, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

According to the column, the study "recommends that policymakers and school districts:
*Support Teach for America staffing only when the alternative hiring pool consists of uncertified and emergency teachers or substitutes."

Say what? There are legions of certified, qualified, experienced substitute teachers trying to break into the ranks of full-time classroom teachers. Many have subbed for years in hopes of developing contacts that could lead to jobs. Please don't dismiss all subs as lousy teachers. It's not true. School districts would do well to consider many of their subs for full-time jobs before they turn to inexperienced TFA grads.

Posted by: barbarachina | July 9, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Incidentally: To imply that I meant that inner city minorities are dirty is not only disingenuous but insulting. To clarify for you, as specifically as I can, most people have no problem sitting back and commenting on inner city education based on information they have from summaries of studies and from second and third hand accounts, but it takes a different level of commitment to actually participate in trying to make a difference for these kids.

I said get your hands dirty, because it's not a clean-cut job. There are no easy methods or answers, no matter how you were trained to be a teacher. Attempting to paint my comments so negatively only distracts from the constructive aspects of debating the best ways of reaching these children.

Posted by: acjohnson55 | July 10, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

efavorite: Even as a TFA alum, I am not a person who will mindlessly defend everything about the organization. Still, I don't think it's true that TFA means more to its participants than it does to the kids it's designed to serve.

I have been frustrated with TFA on many occasions, and let me assure you that they are the first to admit that they are not perfect. TFA is not interested in peddling a one size fits all solution to the education crisis. It is about continuously searching for new methods, and maybe, above all, producing well-informed leaders who will work inside and outside of the classroom to address the achievement gap. If TFA's only purpose was to be an alternative to "evil" traditional certification programs, I would agree that it has failed.

I think the debate really comes down to the perception that TFA supporters believe that teaching colleges are out of touch and unnecessary versus the view that it is not generally possible to produce top quality teachers with only several weeks of training. In reality, there is some truth and some falseness to both points of view, and I don't think there's any value in bashing one method or the other.

I think any progress on narrowing the achievement gap is going to require all hands on deck: teacher's colleges, TFA, substitute-to-teacher programs, and almost assuredly programs that haven't even been implemented yet.

amy77: I agree that having people be aids first, then teacher would be excellent. I wish

barbarachina: I also agree that many substitutes can be excellent teachers. But why put down TFA when both ideas have potential benefits? I think the best answer is to make sure that those interested in teaching get the best possible preparation for them, and what's best is going to vary from person to person.

Posted by: acjohnson55 | July 10, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

efavorite: Even as a TFA alum, I am not a person who will mindlessly defend everything about the organization. Still, I don't think it's true that TFA means more to its participants than it does to the kids it's designed to serve.

I have been frustrated with TFA on many occasions, and let me assure you that they are the first to admit that they are not perfect. TFA is not interested in peddling a one size fits all solution to the education crisis. It is about continuously searching for new methods, and maybe, above all, producing well-informed leaders who will work inside and outside of the classroom to address the achievement gap. If TFA's only purpose was to be an alternative to "evil" traditional certification programs, I would agree that it has failed.

I think the debate really comes down to the perception that TFA supporters believe that teaching colleges are out of touch and unnecessary versus the view that it is not generally possible to produce top quality teachers with only several weeks of training. In reality, there is some truth and some falseness to both points of view, and I don't think there's any value in bashing one method or the other.

I think any progress on narrowing the achievement gap is going to require all hands on deck: teacher's colleges, TFA, substitute-to-teacher programs, and almost assuredly programs that haven't even been implemented yet.

amy77: I agree that having people be aids first, then teacher would be excellent. I wish

barbarachina: I also agree that many substitutes can become excellent teachers. But why put down TFA when both methods have potential benefits? I think the best answer is to make sure that those interested in teaching get the best possible preparation for them, and what's best is going to vary from person to person.

Posted by: acjohnson55 | July 10, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

We also need to look at one of the biggest supporters of TFA, hedgefund manager Whitney Tilson. Raad more about him and other ed deformers at my blog http://southbronxschool.blogspot.com

Posted by: sobronxschool1 | July 11, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

acjohnson says, " I don't think it's true that TFA means more to its participants than it does to the kids it's designed to serve."

This is something you could hope for, but might not ever really know. In contrast, you readily know what TFA has done for you. It's very tangible - a pay check, prestige of being accepted into an elite program, a meaningful experience, financial assistance for graduate school, an entry on your resume.

Posted by: efavorite | July 11, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

If the experience of doing TFA was just for the benefits for me, I would have just quit. I joined as someone who already had a graduate degree in engineering, and I could have made twice the amount of money I made teaching if I had simply took an engineering job. On the other hand, I did experience depression, stress like I had never experienced before, and the health issues that come with it. So you might say I made some very tangible sacrifices in joining the program, as did my three roommates during my TFA term. Obviously, for some other people TFA does open doors to a better career, but you can't just generalize.

Believe me, I understand your skepticism about the impact TFA has. I felt the same skepticism pretty much every day, waking up to go try to teach. And I say "try" because when I arrived at the building, teaching is not always what occurred. But this was not unique to me and my TFA preparation--every teacher at a tough urban school struggles, regardless of method of preparation.

On the other hand, I also know, mostly in retrospect, that I did make a strong, positive, lasting impression on many of my students. Most of my students volunteered to write letters to me on their last day of classes, and without exception, the kids talk about things they learned. I say this as humbly as I can, because I know I wasn't the best teacher in the world. I honestly though there were many kids that hated everything I stood for as their teacher and learned nothing from me.

As far as test results, yes tests are important, but to be honest, most of my students were nowhere near ready for the material I was supposed to teach them. My students tested on an average of a 5th grade level of math coming into 9th grade, and were expected to pass a high school algebra exam at year's end. Obviously, the results weren't pretty, but I stand by them. I just point this out to say that the question of what is learned in a classroom at a rough school can't always be measured by standardized test, for better or for worse.

So believe what you want about who gets the most benefit out of TFA. In my personal experience, it's certainly an imperfect program, but so is everything else. I think that despite valid criticisms, most principals and superintendents continue to CHOOSE to partner with TFA because it truly is a positive, effective piece in the puzzle, not a self-serving drain on resources.

Posted by: acjohnson55 | July 12, 2010 2:34 AM | Report abuse

As a former TFA corps member (and current math and statistics teacher) I just want to point out a few problems with the study mentioned above.

1.) The study finds that 80% of TFA teachers leave within 5 years. The study does not make mention of what they leave for -- many TFA teachers go on to work at high-performing charter schools (like KIPP, a program founded by TFA alums). These individuals are still teaching high-needs students, just not in their original districts.

2.) Many of the statistics cited for teachers reference the entire teaching population -- including the majority of schools that perform well. Teach for America places teachers in our nation's worst schools. In order to compare turnover, test scores, etc., researchers need to compare TFA teachers to teachers in similar school settings.

3.) It is fact that TFA teachers make up only .2% of the teacher work force -- nationwide. However, TFA only places in ~30 regions. In cities like DC, TFA teachers make up a much larger percentage of the teacher work force and therefore have a much larger impact locally.

This study was funded and conducted by teachers unions and schools of education -- both groups that have the most to gain by discrediting TFA. That doesn't mean their results can't be trusted, but we should investigate the statistical rigor of their claims. In the three areas I've mentioned here, this study falls short.

Posted by: quadrserum | July 12, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

Acjohnson – actually, our feelings about TFA are pretty similar and your description of your teaching rewards and challenges are like those of any serious, dedicated teacher, regardless of their path to teaching, TFA or otherwise. Maybe you would not have had experiences like that if not for TFA, but they are typical of teaching. My main beef with TFA how its marketed to the public as being as being a solution to improving student achievement that is superior to others being offered.

I also want to comment on this statement of yours:
“As far as test results, yes tests are important, but to be honest, most of my students were nowhere near ready for the material I was supposed to teach them. My students tested on an average of a 5th grade level of math coming into 9th grade, and were expected to pass a high school algebra exam at year's end.”

This sounds like an honest, plausible common sense statement. You should know that this kind of thinking (or at least speaking) is not welcomed in the DC public schools. Michelle Rhee holds teachers completely accountable for student achievement, despite students' learning level or other outside factors.

Posted by: efavorite | July 12, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

It is interesting that this article sites research that contradicts the findings of many independent studies of TFA in the recent past, yet fails to mention those studies at all. It is clear that TFA has its gaps and short-comings when it comes to being "a" solution to the achievement gap in this country, but you have to look deeper than studies conducted by professors simply looking at achievement data. As a TFA alum, I can tell you that in 2009, 100% of Principles in Indianapolis surveyed, whom had had TFA teachers in their school building, said they were pleased with their performance. Also, a fellow corps member of mine was voted Teacher of the Year at her building, in her FIRST year of teaching, and although I did not win that award for my building, I did have my principle's vote (the overall selection was decided by a popular vote of the teachers). So before you judge the people in TFA as "wasting taxpayers' money," I suggest you dig down a little deeper and see what is really going on.

This article also did a horrible job at highlighting the long-term goals of TFA. It mentions a talking point from the website and then completely disregards the change that is coming about from TFA alum. If you think about it, a lot of the starting teachers, 20 years ago, were age 22 - 25. If you do the math on that, these original corps members are reaching their early to mid-40's right now. That being said, look out for people to begin popping up. See Colorado for instance, where they just recently passed ground-breaking legislation that completely revolutionizes how teacher evaluation is performed in their school districts. A piece of legislation sponsored by non other than CO State Senator and TFA Alum, Michael Johnston.

That is just one example of many, and keep your eyes and ears open for more as these "golden years" of TFA role through.

If you are so concerned about teacher quality, you should trumpet the legislation passed in CO, and push for national legislation on the matter. I will tell you this though, TFA is not shaking in their boots because teacher evaluations will be based on teacher performance, but the Teacher's Unions are.... That should tell yo a little something about the quality of the product that is represented by either organization. Teach For America teachers will have to live up to the same standards as the rest of the teachers will in CO, and they do not seem to mind, so why do the teacher's unions?

Just some food for thought; and moving forward, I would get the perspective of an insider when you are formulating arguments either for or against TFA, besides, it is this article that states these teachers are some of the brightest citizens we have to offer.

If you have any questions about TFA and want an insiders view of the organization, post a question and I will try to answer it.

Posted by: Teacher4America | July 12, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Teacher4america says, "100% of Principles in Indianapolis surveyed, whom had had TFA teachers in their school building, said they were pleased with their performance."

That's nice. Now did the principals feel about their other teachers?

" it is this article that states these teachers are some of the brightest citizens we have to offer."

Yes, they are very bright - that doesn't mean they are good teachers. They are very bright, untrained, inexperienced teachers. A few may be great right out of the box. Some will never be good, no matter how bright they are, because they are just not suited to teaching.

Some will eventually be good teachers, but most do not stick around long enough to find out.

As I said earlier - I'm not against TFA - I'm against the glorification of TFA.

Posted by: efavorite | July 12, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect efavorite, I think your mindset is very deficit based. You completely disregarded the other information in my comment about the overall vison of change for Teach For America, highlighted by the CO state senator and Chancellor of DC public schools, to focus on a statistic I gave about principles in Indianapolis. Instead of taking the statistic and moving forward, you decide to step back and ask a weighted question with an answer seemingly already in mind.

But since you did ask a question, I will happily answer it with both my experiences and the overall sentiment that exists at the administrative levels in urban school districts across this country.

In 2009, IPS riffed a number of elementary school teachers, all based on seniority. I know for a fact that my principle fought to keep my job in her building, but was unsuccessful in her battle against the teachers union and the status quo. I know this was the case for a number of elementary teachers in the district and I know my principle had several people in mind that she wanted to let go of in my place. So the satisfaction rating for other teachers in the same buildings was in fact LESS THAN 100%! My principle sent veteran teachers into my classroom to observe my Behavioral Management system! Something TFA trained me to do, and certainly a best practice, but something that was failing to be executed in the other "Veteran Teacher" classrooms in my building. Now don't get me wrong, most of the teachers in my building were great! They learned from me just like I learned from them, and did it happily. But what you are doing is looking at one article which references a study conducted by two professors who ANALYZED DATA GATHERED BY OTHER INSTITUTIONS, and concluding that as a whole TFA teachers are less effective than traditional teachers. Here is another fact for you, I will not share exact numbers, but in 2010, almost twice as many students in my 6th grade math classes passed their standardized test than those in the IPS school that I previously worked at. A class taught by one of these veteran teachers.

What people need to realize is that you are not going to get a Biomedical Engineer from Wash U in St' Louise (One of my fellow corps members) to teach anyone, let alone students who need them most without programs like Teach For America. People who have the work ethic and willingness to sacrifice for these children.

What principles see in Teach For America corps members are professionals who want to improve, who want to learn, who will do anything to succeed with their students. That's what we need, and the truth is, you find that less and less as you look at veteran teachers.

It is also interesting that you are quick to site success stories from Teach For America corps members as the exception to the rule... But when a "traditional track" teacher is successful, it is because of their schooling... Just something to ponder.

Posted by: Teacher4America | July 12, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

"What people need to realize is that you are not going to get a Biomedical Engineer... to teach anyone, let alone students who need them most without programs like Teach For America. People who have the work ethic and willingness to sacrifice for these children."

"What principles see in Teach For America corps members are professionals who want to improve, who want to learn, who will do anything to succeed with their students. That's what we need, and the truth is, you find that less and less as you look at veteran teachers."

Which by implication means... teachers who go the standard route and earn a credential with the intention of entering teaching as an actual career choice are somehow none of these things? Your arrogance is breathtaking!

BTW... it's principals who manage schools. Principles are the rules that guide one's conduct.

Posted by: Incidentally | July 12, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

After leaving a charter school that was very heavy with TFA folks 2 years ago, my son still talks about how stressful the experience of lack of classroom management and not so great teaching had on him. So as a parent, with first hand experience with TFA (And who lives in DC and is sick of the nepotism, and gaming of system by TFA's famous Ms Rhee) I am through with the TFA entity.
The TFA heavy science /math enrichment charter refuse to have science fair and other enrichment when parent volunteered to assist, there were constant and major discipline mess ups... such as
A teacher ripping up a paper airplane (to break up children fighting over a paper airplane) Gee I know its frustrating, but cruel shouldn’t be part of the teacher rulebook.
A former TFA, NLNS Administrators apologizing for suspending a child after allowing the child to be bullied for 2 years, when strikes back. Why didn’t he stop the bullying?
Teachers with poor classroom management routinely using collective punishment such as no recess for the entire class because so and so did such and such.
Teachers who lacked cultural competency disciplining black kids while letting children of other backgrounds slide for the same behavior- we're talking about something as basic as differential enforcement of rules for running in the hall. Not difficult to be consistent there.
Can I say this nonsense doesn't happen in environments that aren't 90% brand new teachers who are technically still in training, Nope...but I hadn’t seen it our not so great public school where all of the teachers were certified. So we left the glitz glamor and marketing of the TFA all the way charter and returned to a neighborhood school where all teachers are certified and where I can honestly say we haven't experienced such unprofessional behavior again. So in the hope of never having to see a child subjected to such nonsense, If you want to teach...

1. Get Certified first.
2. Don't drink the Wendy Kropp Cool Aid, We urban (or rural) families truly can wait until you are certified so you know what you are doing with children.
3. Develop some cultural competency so that you can place children's academic issues in a real life contexts and won't burn out quickly. you'll also discipline in a more balanced way.
4.Realize it's elitist (and probably classist and racist) to think that because TFAers have been privileged to have the highest access to educational attainment that they are the bees knees and should be teaching anyone's children without the proper training. Teachers like all professionals needs to make a long term investment upfront in learning their craft.My child and my neigbors' children deserve the best-which is what TFAers got--- otherwise they wouldn't have gone to a highly selective college.
It is unfortunate that the TFA organization has sold the public a short term bill of goods at a very high cost. But at least people are waking up and no longer deluded by the hype.

Posted by: janetcamillebrown | July 12, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Well, perhaps I just like the direct approach, but it seems to me like most Teach For America detractors need to observe more classrooms, led by both traditionally and alternatively certified teachers. Base your decision, either way, on more than hype from either side.

Also, please ask yourself what you are doing, besides posting on forums, to better the educational opportunities of children in low socio-economic areas.

I feel confident that students of teachers that care about them and show that care by holding them to high academic expectations care little whether their teachers were taught how to teach by ed. schools or Teach For America.

Ground your arguments in how the students are doing, and everyone will be a bit happier with the consensus.

Posted by: josh2010 | July 12, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Once again, missing the point of a critical and eminent concept to peddle homophonic mistakes in an comment.

I have no problem with a well formulated, informed opposition to Teach For America, all I ask is that you seek to understand the entirety of the movement and the results that are being realized across this country. Instead of simply looking at the "implications" of one's comment first, look at what it explicitly states:

"Now don't get me wrong, most of the teachers in my building were great!"

It is not elitist to point out that someone with a Biomedical Engineering degree from Wash U chose to teach for two years. Rather, it sheds light on the fact that many people out there want to help, and TFA introduces those individuals an incredible opportunity that many of them choose to take. That is a reality, there is a reason that more and more districts are tightening certification standards to ensure that teachers have a firm grasp themselves on the content they are teaching. Once again, these moves are opposed by the status quo that is promulgated by the teachers unions, but welcomed by reform organizations like TFA and many others.

TO the comments made by the parent of the child who attended a charter school in Washington, DC, it is your perception that this movement needs the most! Everything you said in your comment is viewed as advice, and many organizations are open and willing to listen to critical feedback such as the feedback you have to offer. I think it is extremely concerning that you had such incredibly negative experience with a charter school, but I would encourage you to not project that experience on TFA as an organization and their efforts to close the achievement gap.

In all honesty, that certification people place so much weight on is merely a piece of paper. Talk to many teachers from all areas of the country, and they will tell you that nothing can prepare you for the classroom. And to further respond to your certification concerns, most TFA teachers are pursuing a graduate degree while they are teaching, a common practice by educators, but a clear indication that TFA is continuously trying to increase their craft. Furthermore, most certification programs are theory based and lack the practical skills TFA offers in their training. Look it up

I admire the passion and vigor anyone places on this issue, these difficult conversations are exactly what we need, as long as they remain productive. I encourage everyone to move beyond the talking points, beyond "Wendy Kopp's Kool-Ade" and seek to understand the real issues of educational inequality. It is not the new teacher v. old teacher conflict that has suddenly been thrust forward in the media as alternative route programs begin to take hold in education reform, it is about what is best for the kids. And if you go into the schools where TFA teachers are working, you will see that they are often at the same level and above the performance levels of their peers.

Posted by: Teacher4America | July 12, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Also, when discussing the effectiveness of Teach For America and other alternative route programs, be careful to compare the training they are receiving to a traditional certification program, because it is the traditional certification programs that have been in place the entire time the achievement gap has widened and widened (since the 1950's). TFA is a response to a crisis, a crisis that developed under the rules and regulations that opponents of Teach For America trumpet as the more appropriate way to do things.

It is with great humility that I say this, because I am by no means the teacher I want to be, but my students did perform higher than the district average this past year, and that says something. All I am saying is, what is the answer if not TFA, the consequences of allowing the status quo to continue are unimaginable. I encourage those opposed to alternative route organizations to promote other reform ideas and strategies. We do not have time to discuss why things are good and why things are bad. Jump on board with what you think is effective, and if there is not anything out there that you agree with, develop your own strategy, because in the mean time, the only people suffering are the kids, and it is not helping them to sit back and criticize TFA, because what we have left is the systems of lack of accountability and free reign after you earn tenure that allowed this crisis to develop.

Posted by: Teacher4America | July 12, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate Teach4America that you are genuine in everything that you advocate. As am I. But I don't waste my time with the 'your parent feedback is so critical approach anymore' not when parents are pretty routinely ignored by educational reformers.And why are unions your issue when they are not the controlling factor in teacher quality?
Be straight up yourself and address what is underlying those 'achievement gaps' . Oh heck address what is the cause the US achievement gap with just about every other major country and how off track we really are regardless of whose teaching. unionized or not We simply don't have a focus on having all children access academic rigor in this county, we never have---plain and simple. And yet we are distracted by the possibility of a .2% TFA solution, charters and other constant chatter.
The same rigor that got you ready for biomedical engineering is not readily available for my son in this city. I may have found one place where he can take Algebra in the 7th grade-one out of how many schools...And I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure TFA hasn't equipped you to bring rigor to students in 6 weeks of training despite what may be a genuine desire to do so.
Rigor requires training in inquiry based approaches to learning, collaborative teaching, parent family and community engagement, effective future focused school business partnerships to provide students with invaluable internships and real life application. All of the above takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and persisitence. Nope our national lazy butt is focused on testing and back mapping of student data to some standardized piece of crap that has all but replaced curriculum. (And yes I do like colorful language.)
BTW Title I soccer mom. Thanks for the link to the Ravitch Video. Unlike myself Ravitch has more positive views of TFA (Ms. Rhee-not so much)

http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2010/07/diane-ravitch-rocks-nea-convention.html

So I'd like to say bye by to educational reform and hello to well rounded rigor.. rigor ... rigor!

Posted by: janetcamillebrown | July 12, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

janetcamillebrown, thank you for your civil, productive dialogue. Just to clear the air, I am not the Biomedical Engineer from Wash U, that is a colleague of mine. I am actually a first generation college graduate that was raised by a single mother in a community that most would consider "lower socioeconomic." I graduated from a public institution on scholarships and loans. That said, I am by no means putting myself in the shoes of the students I serve. I have some similar experiences, but there are a number of situations they have dealt with that I never had to. I just couldn't leave the perception that I was "tooting my horn" out there like that, haha.

Next, I would really challenge you to seek a more broad view of TFA and their development structures. Rigor is what TFA continuously pushes! One of the main critiques of the organization from within, by the teachers, is that the goals they set for students are too rigorous, I certainly disagree, but that is a topic for another conversation. TFA pushes their corps members to strive for 1.5 years of growth in reading, that is often 2 and three times the growth that students have been averaging during their educational careers. If you are in DC, I would certainly encourage you to visit the TFA office there and seek out more information about the ongoing support of corps members throughout their 2 year commitment. You are absolutely correct about the need for innovative pedagogical methods, such as inquiry based and collaborative teaching, and TFA corps members receive professional development on these strategies in real time. I am not sure what certifications you are looking into, but many of the programs that are feeding teachers into urban and rural schools do an anemic job of teaching such strategies and once those teachers are out, they are on their own to seek out professional development, and the reality is that they often do not.

I encourage you to take a look at the recently published book, "Teaching As Leadership," based on the TFA teaching model. The model every TFA teacher has been trained on since the beginning of this century. If you research it, you will find that there are a few undergraduate programs that are adopting it as their text book to educate their "traditionally" certified teachers. I hope claims of deficiency in the TFA training prove false, because many undergraduate students are beginning to be trained on the same model.

To your comment about parental involvement, I couldn't agree more. As a matter of fact, one of the principles of the Teaching as Leadership model is "Invest Students and Other Influencers." One strand of that principle reads: "I-6 Respectfully mobilize students' influencers (e.g., family, peers, coach, pastor, etc.)"
It seems like TFA training is spot on with what you are pushing for there....

To view the entire rubric:
http://www.teachingasleadership.org/sites/default/files/Teaching%20As%20Leadership%20Rubric.pdf

Posted by: Teacher4America | July 13, 2010 12:07 AM | Report abuse

Furthermore, I humbly disagree with your assessment of my ability to provide my students the rigorous educational opportunities they deserve. Although you disagree with the measure, standardized tests are what we got, and the students I had the privilege to work with passed at a rate higher then my districts average, so I would have to disagree with your assessment of my ability.

Next, I currently work at a Charter school that is staffed and led by many TFA corps members and alum. Our school is over 90% free and reduced lunch and we REQUIRE EVERY ONE OF OUR EIGHTH GRADERS TO TAKE ALGEBRA 1. Now it is not the seventh grade opportunity you are looking for, but I am sure that if your child showed proficiency at that level, he would be afforded the opportunity to take the 8th grade class and then possibly look into partnering with a high school to finish out his eighth grade year in geometry. Please don't look at this as an anomaly, this is what you get when you group together a number of dedicated, motivated, relentless group of individuals that believe in the power of children, and these are the type of people that you find when you enter a TFA classroom.

Lastly, I speak of Teacher Unions because as many often do, I sometimes fall into the trap of penning TFA v. the Unions. It is easy to do because the Unions are what often represent the traditional track teachers that are referenced in this article. The unions are the ones who protect tenured teachers from losing their job, even after performance has been evaluated and proven detrimental to the children! That is why I speak of the unions, and it is admittedly irresponsible, and an easy trap to fall into.

In all honesty, I do this so your child does get the opportunity to take Algebra in the 7th grade, and that is why the majority of ALL teachers do it! However I am at a stage in my life where I am able to make the necessary sacrifices to help ensure that happens. Many teachers are unable to stay after school and buy pizza once a week for tutoring sessions at a nearby pizzeria, inviting all students to attend. As a matter of fact, I was called "crazy" by the same "veteran" teachers this article trumpets. Not because they were able to reach their desired results using only their time in the classroom, but because they thought it was not worth it! I think my principal would not say she was satisfied with them... But I am assuming.

All in all, it sounds like there are a lot of opinions out there that are based on information presented in Editorials and other studies that may more may not hold much credibility. I aim to give answers to questions and address concerns about the organization from an insider perspective, someone who knows exactly how teachers are trained in TFA. Surprisingly, if you look into it, you will see TFA addresses a lot of the concerns you may have.

Posted by: Teacher4America | July 13, 2010 12:23 AM | Report abuse

Yes, that seems to be the argument for TFA and reformers in general, - To me it sounds like, "Us vs the status quo. These are desperate times, so go with us!" This is not a very thoughtful approach and it’s extremely self-serving.

Also, "I encourage those opposed to alternative route organizations to promote other reform ideas and strategies."

OK, check out this one:
http://www.vincegrayformayor.com/education

It's Vince Gray's education plan for DCPS if he becomes mayor of DC. It centers on four key principles:
1. Continue smart education reform and make it sustainable;
2. Look at education as a lifelong endeavor;
3. Work with students, parents, public school employees, and the community as part of the solution, not scapegoats for our problems;
4. Restore accountability and sound management to our schools.

Posted by: efavorite | July 13, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, the first part of my response above got cut off. The whole thing is copied below.

Teacher4america says, "All I am saying is, what is the answer if not TFA, the consequences of allowing the status quo to continue are unimaginable."

Yes, that seems to be the argument for TFA and reformers in general, - To me it sounds like, "Us vs the status quo. These are desperate times, so go with us!" This is not a very thoughtful approach and it’s extremely self-serving.

Also, "I encourage those opposed to alternative route organizations to promote other reform ideas and strategies."

OK, check out this one:
http://www.vincegrayformayor.com/education

It's Vince Gray's education plan for DCPS if he becomes mayor of DC. It centers on four key principles:
1. Continue smart education reform and make it sustainable;
2. Look at education as a lifelong endeavor;
3. Work with students, parents, public school employees, and the community as part of the solution, not scapegoats for our problems;
4. Restore accountability and sound management to our schools.

Posted by: efavorite | July 13, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

janetcamillebrown: I understand your frustrations with TFA teachers your child has had in the past, and all I can say is that nobody is perfect. But I wouldn't allow that experience to color your view of the whole organization. After all, you wouldn't blindly trust any old school just because it's staffed by traditionally certified teachers, would you?

Teacher4America sounds like just the sort of teacher TFA endeavors to attract. If there are people who can be so effective in their first two years of teaching, without 4 years of Ed school, should we not be bringing them in? To me, this is the key question. Some refuse to believe that this is possible, but there are many living, breathing examples of it in action.

Will 100% TFA teachers turn out to be so effective? Of course not, but the organization is CONSTANTLY revamping its recruiting, selection, and training procedures to reach that goal. If there is one thing TFA is not, that would be "complacent".

So trust and believe that for every legitimate complaint that is brought up about the organization, someone within is being assigned to address it, and that's one thing I have a great deal of respect for when I talk about TFA. I truly believe the attitude of high standards and no excuses that the organization brings has raised the bar across the board.

Have a look at Wendy Kopp's book "One Day All Children". The absolute relentless pursuit of her goal in establishing TFA is the drive that the organization still embodies today.

And to efavorite: I say all this not to glorify, but just to point out what TFA brings to the table in the districts with which it partners, supplementing, not replacing, the strengths that are already present.

Posted by: acjohnson55 | July 13, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

A unifying issue with both the TFA teachers and "traditional" teachers is where they earn their degree. Most programs are rooted in theory and not practice. That's why "half of all teachers" quit after five years; teachers leave school and enter a classroom with few ideas on how to run the classroom. George Mason is an example of a school that is based on practice, so is Hunter College in New York City.

Posted by: delray | July 13, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

"Teacher4america says, "All I am saying is, what is the answer if not TFA, the consequences of allowing the status quo to continue are unimaginable."

Yes, that seems to be the argument for TFA and reformers in general, - To me it sounds like, "Us vs the status quo. These are desperate times, so go with us!" This is not a very thoughtful approach and it’s extremely self-serving."

It seems that the things people say about TFA often "seem" to be viewed in a negative light. It is not, don't question TFA just join us, it is "don't question TFA w/o providing anything else to help solve the problems that exist in our education system.

I took a look at the mayoral candidate's website that you posted.

"Vince has gained an incredibly wide perspective on our school system and fixing it once and for all is his life’s mission."

I am not 100% positive, but from what I read, he does not have any experience in the school system other than being a student, who went to an elite private undergraduate school (He sounds like the same TFA teachers you talk about, stepping into education with limited experience from an illustrious institution, hoping to change the world). His wife was an educator, and a top educator in DC for that matter, but i am not sure how "incredibly wide" of a perception that gives an individual.

His reform sounds like he promotes a strong chancellor (which is what DC has now) but managed heavily by a very visible mayor. A mayor who is not "certified" in teaching, a qualm that many seem to have shared about TFA teachers.

You see, there is always a negative road to take when a new reform/reformer steps up to bat, but who is to say that this gentleman will not be great for the children in DC, you cannot simply judge it based on paper. I am very surprised that you would highlight such an individual as candidate Gray, but I am willing to hear what he has to say, from the mouth of the individual who is leading the reform, before I determine how I feel about the plan.

All I ask is that you do the same for TFA. Skepticism is fine, and actually it is healthy, but there is little time for cynicism ,because there are children on the line!

Posted by: Teacher4America | July 13, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I disagree delray. I think half of teachers quit after five years because in many places, the job of a teacher is totally insane. There MAY have been a time when teaching could be considered a cushy job, and there may be places where this is still true, but in most low-income schools, teaching is incredibly challenging and stressful, that is, if your intention is to educate at the same level as a wealthier area.

I know that most non-teachers probably won't believe me. All I can say is that many TFA people leave the classroom to become doctors, lawyers, business people, engineers, and all sorts of other careers. Many will tell you that their 2 or more years of teaching was the hardest thing they ever did.

To me, the talk about raising salaries is a non-issue. The much more fundamental issue is overall quality of life for teachers, and until that gets addressed in a serious way, turnover will always be a problem.

Posted by: acjohnson55 | July 13, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

teacher4america - I believe I know more about TFA than you do about Vince Gray. I've read quite a lot about it, because there is quite a lot out there to read.

FYI: GW is not an elite school. Gray is a 1-12 product of DCPS and his late wife was a DCPS teacher. He has presided over the DC City Council for the entire time that Rhee has been here and has a good grasp of the issues. You could have found that out with 10 minutes of googling.

By the way - I reserve the right to question anything without having a plan to fix it. Can I not point out that the road is bumpy without knowing the best way to smooth it out?

That kind of argument is just a way to turn off criticism.

The urgency argument is similar (The alternative is unimaginable! Kids are on the line!)- It becomes an excuse for doing whatever you want to do, because thinking it through or changing course is presumed to be worse for your noble cause.

Posted by: efavorite | July 13, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

GW costs $55,000 a year, room and board, and is the 53 ranked national university, which qualifies as elite to me. However, the point I was making is that it is the type of school that many critiques of TFA say produces the elitist idealists who decide they want to save the world without any ability to truly relate to their students or skills to teach them.

You are right, you reserve the right to question anything, but that mindset gets us absolutely nowhere. If you are the type of person who feels that "point(ing) out that the road is bumpy without knowing the best way to smooth it out?" is the way to go, then I have wasted the time I have put in on this comment board to try to invest others in becoming passionate about this issue, because clearly that is not what you are looking to do. Good luck with pointing out the flaws in things you come a crossed in your life, and let me know if that mindset ever gets one of those problems resolved. I'll tell you now, it won't. You will need people like those in TFA that are willing to do something about it.

Next, I did that research you suggested before posting and came up with a different conclusion. If you believe that "presiding" over an issue as a politician all of a sudden makes you an expert, then we have a fundamental difference in opinion and we never will agree. However, it is interesting that you promote a candidate who wants to play a large role in education reform, and place mandates on teachers, who is not accredited himself; but you discredit an organization because it places teachers into classrooms on transitional certifications.... Something just doesn't match up for me. You are ok with the leader not being certified in education, but not the people who are working for that leader...... that is just a tough pill for me to swollow.

If you do the research into TFA, you will find it is serving a great deal of children and doing great things.

I suggest these following pieces of reading to help broaden your understanding of the organization:

- One day all children... by Wendy Kopp
- Work Hard. Be Nice. by the KIPP Founders
- Teaching As Leadership by Steven Farr
- TFA Principal Survey
http://www.teachforamerica.org/about/documents/2009_Principal_Survey_National_Results_Highlights_08_09.pdf

My intentions this entire time has been to maybe convince one person, just one, to become an advocate for the children that attend these failing schools. I hope these readings will help develop that in you. If you have any interesting articles, that discuss first hand accounts/data about TFA, please feel free to share them.

Posted by: Teacher4America | July 13, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Teacher4america: I am an advocate for children who attend failing schools, although I would put it differently - I'm an advocate for children who are having difficulty in school - for whatever reason.

So are many other people, some of whom don't share your mindset but still, care deeply about children.

I think TFA is doing good (if not great) things - and so are a lot of other, unsung, people who don't make a big point of what other great things they could be doing instead of teaching.

Vincent Gray or any mayor doesn't need to be certified in education, anymore than he needs to be certified in health or law enforcement in run a city.

You say, "If you are the type of person who feels that "point(ing) out that the road is bumpy without knowing the best way to smooth it out?" is the way to go, then I have wasted the time I have put in on this comment board to try to invest others in becoming passionate about this issue, because clearly that is not what you are looking to do."

Then consider your time wasted - not because I'm not passionate about the issue, but because you couldn't convince me to your point of view and for you, that’s a waste of time.

Here’s what I think – you have no idea how indoctrinated you are. In my opinion, acjohnson and sayday8 are not indoctrinated; you are. It’s no surprise that all TFA alums are not alike. Still, it’s nice to have direct evidence. Thank you all for the conversation.

Posted by: efavorite | July 13, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

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