"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, July 12, 2010

TFA: "elite brand that will help build a résumé"

Michael Winerip left the education pages of the New York Times just about 4 years ago, with this prescient observation included in his last article:

As readers know, I’m not a fan of No Child Left Behind, the 2002 federal law aimed at raising education quality. Instead of helping teachers, for me it’s a law created by politicians who distrust teachers. Because teachers’ judgment and standards are supposedly not reliable, the law substitutes a battery of state tests that are supposed to tell the real truth about children’s academic progress. 

The question is: How successful can an education law be that makes teachers the enemy?

Well, it is good news to see that Winerip is back, writing a weekly education piece for the Times.  Here is a clip from his first, today, on one of my favorite subjects, Teach for Awhile America:
. . . .Teach for America has become an elite brand that will help build a résumé, whether or not the person stays in teaching. And in a bad economy, it’s a two-year job guarantee with a good paycheck; members earn a beginning teacher’s salary in the districts where they’re placed. For Mr. Cullen, who will teach at a Dallas middle school, that’s $45,000 — the same he’d make if he’d taken a job offer from a financial public relations firm. Ms. Carlson, who will also make $45,000 teaching first grade in San Antonio, said: “I feel very fortunate. I knew a lot of people at Yale who didn’t have a job or plan when they graduated.”
In contrast, the Peace Corps (to which Teach for America compares itself) pays a cost-of-living allowance adjusted for each country where volunteers work, and a $7,500 stipend when the 27-month stint is finished.
While Teach for America is highly regarded by undergrads — Mr. Goldberg said Duke recruiting sessions typically attracted 50 students — it gets mixed reviews from education experts.
Research indicates that generally, the more experienced teachers are, the better their students perform, and several studies have criticized Teach for America’s turnover rate.
“I’m always shocked by the hullaboo, given Teach for America’s size” — about 0.2 percent of all teachers — “and its mixed impact,” said Julian Vasquez Heilig, a University of Texas professor. Dr. Heilig and Su Jin Jez of California State University, Sacramento, recently published a critical assessment after reviewing two dozen studies. One study cited indicated that “by the fourth year, 85 percent of T.F.A. teachers had left” New York City schools.
“These people could be superstars, but most leave before they master the teaching craft,” Dr. Heilig said.
Carrie James, a Teach for America spokeswoman, challenged the report. Teach for America press releases cite a 2008 Harvard doctoral thesis indicating that 61 percent of their recruits stay beyond the two-year commitment. However, that same thesis also says “few people are estimated to remain in their initial placement school or the profession beyond five or six years” — a finding not highlighted in the releases. . . 

1 comment:

  1. I just wrote about this same article. I wish more potential TFA corps members would read it before they apply.