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

Thursday, October 10, 2013

TFA is Losing Its Luster

There is still good, quality, genuine education going on around the country despite the anti-teacher, anti-intellectual and misogynistic meme of accountability and performance, test scores, and measuring every student every year, over and over and over again, on standardized fill in the bubble sheets.

TFA, just like so much of corporate education reform, fails to acknowledge the "appropriate role of a TFA recruit" in a school where there are experienced teachers who have devoted their lives and their careers to a particular school and community and its children. 

And so, TFA'ers, who are bright and probably had a good, genuine education are smart enough to see that this is not the answer to educating the children in urban areas who suffer from poverty and lack of resources. One way people can make a difference is if teachers and professors stop writing letters of recommendation for young college graduates with a 5 week teacher boot camp to go into public schools as "teachers" all across the country. Put the money where it belongs and pay TFA'er to work "with" or "be mentored" and give the education of the nation's children real meaningful opportunities with two adults in a classroom. These kids don't need more tests, they need more teachers, social workers, librarians, camps, activities, and health care.

Why I Stopped Writing Recommendation Letters for Teach for America

And why my colleagues should do the same

So competence is one core issue here. Another one is race. Rooted in the corporate discourse around reform, charter schools, and “urban revitalization” is the hope that the (mostly white) elite class and free-market ideologies will combine to solve every social ill. Meanwhile, whole communities of African-American and Latino men and women are being warehoused in prisons, the racial income gap is widening, and urban communities of color are being gentrified out of their neighborhoods. TFA—and the charter schools that function as TFA’s biggest partners—perform a similar kind of gentrification by ridding cities of veteran teachers of color. Despite what you might hear, there is no teaching shortage. Schools and districts fire their unionized, more expensive professional staff in order to make slots for the cheaper, eternally revolving wheel of TFA and other nontraditionally certified recruits, who quickly burn out.
The simple fact is that students who apply to TFA are not trained to be teachers. So by refusing to write TFA letters of recommendation, we’re merely telling our students that we can’t recommend them for a job they’re not qualified for. An increasing amount of research shows that TFA recruits perform at best no better, and often worse, than their trained and certified counterparts. What’s more, they tend to leave after just a few years in the classroom. Would a biology professor write a recommendation to medical school for an English major who’s never taken any core science courses? That would be strange. It would be even stranger if the professor knew the English major was just going into medicine for a few years, as a way to boost his resume, before ultimately going on to a career in public relations.

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