The Debt Deal’s Gift to Teach for America
Teach for America places recent college graduates from top universities as teachers in America’s neediest classrooms. After five weeks of training, the new recruits are sent into the field to work their magic … or not.
In its early days, TFA was seen as a way to use the energy and brilliance of bright college students to boost the achievement of students near the bottom of the education ladder. TFA recruits are required to serve two years. Some wash out before their first, and very few stick with teaching after their second year. Most use their TFA experience as a stepping stone to pursue careers outside education. Some have become school system administrators and education policy makers. After two years in the classroom.
While I admire the original intent of Teach for America, I have misgivings about how TFA participants are being used as a stopgap for real teacher improvement. Rather than use highly experienced teachers (who might also be union members), school districts around the country throw these idealistic greenhorns into the lions’ den.
It pays to have friends in high places. Under the budget deal worked out in Washington a few days, language was introduced to expand the assignment of TFA recruits into at-risk classrooms.
On page 20 of this bill passed by the House, it says:
SEC. 145. Subsection (b) of section 163 of Public 5 Law 111-242, as amended, is further amended by striking 6 “2013-2014” and inserting “2015-2016”.
The law that is being amended includes the highly qualified provision, which Teach For America and other school reformers had persuaded legislators to pass a few years ago.
Under No Child Left Behind, all children are supposed to have highly qualified teachers, school districts are supposed to let parents know which teachers are not highly qualified, and these teachers are supposed to be equitably distributed in schools. They aren’t. It turns out that teachers still in training programs are disproportionately concentrated in schools serving low-income students and students of color, the very children who need the very best the teaching profession has to offer. The inequitable distribution of these teachers also has a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities.
There is no concrete evidence that TFA recruits, as a group, perform any better than experienced career teachers. It’s another example of how politics and networking benefit some, while neglecting those who need help most.
For more details about the redefinition of “highly qualified teachers,” read washingtonpost.com .