Teach for America

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Momzoid, Aug 19, 2011.

  1. Momzoid

    Momzoid Companion

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    Aug 19, 2011

    Does anybody know anything about Teach for America? My school has just hired three teachers from this group. We had many teachers in the system laid off in May including two from my school who are still looking for teaching jobs. I was told that this was the only way to get new teachers due to budget cuts. What I really want to know: 1. Are they qualified to teach? 2. Do we really want them in a Title I school? 3. What is it that makes them so special? :confused:
     
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  3. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    As far as I know there is no incentive to hire TFA teachers, nor are they Amy cheaper than any other first year teacher.

    They still have to apply and go through the same interview process.

    From what you said, I am guessing that the district Was only able to hire first year teachers without a masters, otherwise I don't see the economic benefit.

    At the high school level, I don't see why they wouldn't be qualified. Content knowledge is a huge part of success, and hopefully they are motivated to learn as much as they can about classroom management, etc. I started teaching without having done student teaching, and while my first semester was rough, my kids learned a lot and did well. My second semester was great.

    Elementary school scares me. Teaching the little ones seems so hard. I can't imagine trying to do that would going through a full teaching program. Actually, I can't imagine doing it even then!
     
  4. HeavenIsLoud

    HeavenIsLoud Rookie

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    From what I understand you can't join the program if you have a degree in education, so they aren't qualified to teach. The program sends people to title I areas. It was easier for people to get a job through Teach for America than it was for me to get a job with a degree in education.
    Like mollydoll said in a high school I wouldn't see it as a problem because they may have a degree in the content area, but it may be a different story in elementary.
     
  5. sjnkate

    sjnkate Rookie

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    I can't speak specifically for Teach for America, but I have worked with some wonderful teachers who did not have a degree in education. I've also worked with a few awful teachers who did have a degree in education. I wouldn't judge these people until you see how they teach. I understand the frustration with losing good teachers, but these teachers were not part of that decision. They are just people trying to do a job. :)
     
  6. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    I've coached about 20-30 TFA teachers, and about 90% of them have been phenomenal. It didn't matter that they didn't go to school originally to teach. I think there is something to be said for taking methods classes at the same time as student teaching. They get to implement the strategies right away. I know different people have had varying experiences, but mine have been mostly positive.
    The only thing I don't like about the program is TFA seems to train the core members that the "TFA way" is the only way to go, so it can be hard to acclimate them to school procedures, policies, culture, etc.
     
  7. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    I think this might be harsher than you intended. I do not have a degree in education and am an excellent teacher. Since I have a PhD in my field, I consider myself "qualified" to teach my subject area.
     
  8. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    It's a very interesting and long topic - there are actually a few very lengthy threads about Teach for America a few months ago - would probably interesting for you to read them :).

    Briefly, I think it's a problem (Teach for America). It was originally intended to fill vacancies in under-served schools, though that need has since largely disappeared in recent times with budget cuts.

    Another objective has been to interject "raw talent," passion, and energy into "under-served" schools, but that makes several assumptions - 1) that 22 year-olds with energy, talent, and 5 weeks of training are better than those having spent years studying and practicing education, and 2) that schools served by TfA are inherently flawed or poor and need help - just to name 2 problems.

    A very strong benefit of TfA, though, is their mentorship and in-service training programs. They are second to none - far better than any district mentoring/in-service systems that I've ever seen.

    I've actually advocated to several people in the program that TfA should restructure it's mission and objective - rather than utilizing it's resources to put under-educated and under-prepared young people in classrooms, they should use those same (excellent) resources to support new teachers in existing schools. As there are so few areas with shortages of teachers, yet a need for resources for in-service opportunities (of quality) and mentorship (of quality), why not shift focus to supporting existing/new teachers who traditionally qualify for the program?

    -----

    That being said, there are some stellar people that go into the program, and while it may not be fair that they are there and other teachers better-qualified got laid off, it's not really their fault, and many are eager, hard-working, smart individuals looking to make a difference.

    But, to answer your questions:

    1. Are they qualified to teach? In my opinion, most certainly not. They are given a great 5-week prep program the summer before, as well as extensive mentoring & in-service support, but in my opinion university teacher education programs already leave out too much, such as ed psych, thorough individual assessment, RtI, thorough reading intervention, etc. (not that all programs leave this out, but many are lacking). This is NOT to say that they won't be successful, but that that doesn't mean they're prepared. They will likely need a lot of support, or have to do a lot of on-the-job training.

    2. Do we really want them in a Title I school? Maybe. This is going to sound harsh, but as much as I am a critic of TfA's unethical lack of preparation, there are many schools I've worked in where I feel that many of the teachers there, even who traditionally prepared, just aren't cutting it. Some TfA kids come in and do outstanding work because they are highly motivated, ready to stay until 8 at night, pretty bright, etc. Really, I'd say it's a case-by-case, school-by-school situation. So, in SOME schools I'd want them, in some not. Depends on the quality of the existing teachers, and the potential of the incoming TfA kids. As a rule, though, no - we wouldn't automatically want them in Title I school simply because they are in TfA.

    3. What is it that makes them so special? Two things. First, they get a lot of training that's really good. In my opinion, it's not enough, but what they DO get is pretty cutting edge and outstanding. Second, TfA pulls 22-year-olds who otherwise would go into politics, medicine, law, or some other rigorous field and detours them into the classroom - sometimes for a few years, sometimes for a lifetime. There are fairly high standards, so many exceptional students who are gifted intellectually, creatively, or with passion enter the field who might not otherwise. This isn't to say that there aren't exceptionally smart and talented ed majors, but from experience our best and brightest in do not - on average - go into teaching, but into careers with higher prestige and pay in order to support their other life ambitions, such as financial security. TfA sells these young kids on an image of volunteerism and service, which has a status to it, whereas becoming a traditional teacher has a much lower status. As a result, kids are marketed or sold on the idea of teaching differently, and opt in.



    Long answer, and more posts in previous threads, but those are my 2 cents now!
     
  9. smurfette

    smurfette Habitué

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    This, exactly. I've worked with some outstanding TFA's in schools where those who went through traditional education programs wouldn't lower themselves to teach. Now that the economy is what it is, more people may be trying to work in those schools, but not 8-10 years ago. When I was there and the economy was good, the only people who would even consider working at my school were TFA and alternative degree seekers (like me). My biggest problem with TFA (besides Rhee) is that the vast majority leave after two years, so schools that depend on TFA for most of their teachers have turnover rates that are too high.
     
  10. Momzoid

    Momzoid Companion

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    I guess my main problem is that the system did not hire back the teachers they pinked slip and went with this program. Where I live there are 3 universities that have an education program that do a great job teaching teachers. When I applied with the system there were over 300 people on "the list" applying for jobs. It was hard getting in because of so many applicants. In this town you are either an engineer or a teacher! There is no shortage here. The system is broke and apparently this is the way to get "free" workers. On a sad note one of the teachers in my school who was pinked slip came by to speak to the principal about the job openings which were posted. She did not get a call or an interview for her old position. She was never considered. This is having a major impact on the faculty.
     
  11. nklauste

    nklauste Comrade

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    Aug 20, 2011

    What I believe Heaven was saying was that since they did not get a degree in education, they do not have a teaching license (a typical qualification to get a teaching job).

    I know of many of my college professors that had a PhD in their field that could not teach for the life of them. Just because someone knows the content very well does NOT mean they can teach it.
     
  12. maya5250

    maya5250 Comrade

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    I agree.

    Also if a person knows how to teach very well, they may not know their content.

    I think that you need a balance between the two. I think the job pool can come from any program (TFA or an university).
     
  13. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Aug 20, 2011

    I saw something last month that left me with a lot of questions about the district's relationship with TFA.

    When I went in to sign my contract, a group of TFA interns was doing an orientation in my waiting area. They were studying from elementary-level binders and talking about elementary teaching methods, so I assume they were to be placed in elementary schools.

    We have 1000s of laid off and displaced elementary teachers in my district. I thought TFA was in place to fill empty positions in districts with shortages. What's going on here? Is there some kind of funding incentive the district gets for using TFA? Why would they need TFA interns in a non-shortage area? Our only shortage areas are Chemistry and Physics and these TFA students were definitely elementary teaching interns.

    (I have nothing against TFA, by they way. I thought of joining it, but the program was too rigorous for my time schedule.)
     
  14. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    I agree. I was university intern and I felt really lucky to be able to implement strategies as I learned them. And I had the extra support of my university supervisor. This turned out to be crucial, because even though the other teachers at my school were supportive, they were incredibly BUSY. With university support, I didn't have to be a weight tied to their ankle. Being an intern helped me stay ahead of the wave and made my first year of teaching go a lot more smoothly for me and my students.
     
  15. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    I have several thoughts on this issue.

    Firstly: I went through a teacher education program and am a licensed teacher, but I learned more in two years of part-time teaching at a university than I ever did in my pedagogy courses. For me, my practical experience after spending years working on an advanced degree in my content area served me much better than my education courses. Going through a traditional licensure program does NOT ensure that a teacher is effective (and to be fair, neither does experience). I know many phenomenal teachers with no formal training in education as well as many licensed, "qualified" teachers who are ineffective. I don't think it's possible to determine whether or not a teacher will be effective based on how they look on paper.

    Secondly: TFA candidates receive a very small stipend to work at schools, so from what I understand, they ARE less expensive than traditional teachers. This is scary to licensed teachers who are looking for jobs, and since TFA was more useful when qualified teachers were hard to come by, I think the program should take another look at where they are placing teachers or perhaps reconsider the number of teachers they are placing in schools. I don't think schools should view the program as a way to get cheap labor in the classroom.

    Thirdly: I only know of one person who participated in TFA. He was a terrible human being who had no business being in a classroom, and the reason he pursued TFA was because he wanted to find the "easiest and cheapest way" to become a teacher. Of course, this is an n=1 scenario, and I can't possible judge the whole program based on my experience with this one person.

    I think the TFA program was a great thing when there were too many openings and not enough teachers, but things have changed. I just don't appreciate the notion that teachers who haven't completed a traditional education program are somehow unqualified or ineffective. Not all education programs are effective, and it takes a lot more to make a good teacher than that.
     
  16. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    That would be my concern also.
     
  17. smurfette

    smurfette Habitué

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    I would be mad, too, if teachers in my district were pink-slipped, not first on the list to be rehired and then they trucked in teachers from out of the area. In two years, most of the TFA teachers will be gone, while the unemployed teachers might still be around. It seems that community leaders in these places are forgetting about the community...sad.

    To clear up one misconception I saw here, though: TFA teachers are paid by the school district, so they don't get a small stipend, they get a beginning teacher's salary. Where I worked they actually started at a step 3 or step 4. Still cheaper than an experienced teacher, but not a small stipend.
     
  18. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    I must have misunderstood this! My acquaintance who participated in TFA told me it was a small stipend, but it may have simply seemed to him to be a small stipend compared to his salary from his previous job. I was under the impression that he earned less than $20,000/year as a TFA candidate. For all I know, that was the district's salary, but it seemed very low to me to be a full salary.
     
  19. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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  20. Momzoid

    Momzoid Companion

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    Aug 20, 2011

    I was told that the money was from Teach for America. The way it was explained to me is that T for A was funding the teachers and this was the only way to get additional teachers. I guess I should be grateful that we are getting someone. We have classes sizes of at least 26 in all of our K-2 classes so this will reduce our class size which is desperately needed. But I do fear for my students that I will lose after just barely getting to know them. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
     
  21. Momzoid

    Momzoid Companion

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    [I think the TFA program was a great thing when there were too many openings and not enough teachers, but things have changed. I just don't appreciate the notion that teachers who haven't completed a traditional education program are somehow unqualified or ineffective. Not all education programs are effective, and it takes a lot more to make a good teacher than that.[/QUOTE]

    I understand what you are saying. In my case we have too many teachers and someone decided to hire through this program because someone else was funding it. It is simply not fair to those teachers who were pink slipped due to budget cuts that are still looking for work and week 3 of school starts Monday.:dizzy:
     
  22. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    They aren't free - they pay them the same salaries as any other teachers. But, they are entry level teachers - cheaper than teachers higher on the pay scale to hire back. And, there is some political pressure I think to hire them if they qualify.
     
  23. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I agree with your conclusions, as I mentioned in my earlier comments, but points #2 and #3 I'd challenge a bit: TfA teachers are paid the same as entry level teachers (regarding point 2). Regarding point 3, I've personally met a lot of exceptional human beings in the TfA program - as much as I think the program should be discontinued or changed because the original mission/philosophy has changed, I don't think the issue is the quality of the people entering the program. Still, you clearly had your experience, and I'm sure there are others out there like what you've described!
     
  24. Rebel1

    Rebel1 Connoisseur

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    That is sad.
    Can it be that they are also going to pay these young kids CHEAPER versus someone who was paid a lot more?
    It is sad BUT it does happen.

    Rebel1
     
  25. LUCHopefulTeach

    LUCHopefulTeach Habitué

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    One of the girls I graduated high school with is now in Teach For America. She graduated from college with an economics degree and she couldn't do anything with it so signed up for TFA. She's a 7th grade special education teacher and she's struggling. She told me about the program and how she went through 6 weeks of classes on teaching strategies, methods, etc. I personally think this is not enough time to adequately be prepared to teach.

    How do you prepare someone to teach special ed in only 6 weeks? She never wanted to be a teacher and now is a teacher in a very demanding field with only 6 weeks of preparation and education. I think it's not in the students' best interests.
     
  26. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    The lack of preperation is one of my big issues with TFA. To say that someone can be a teacher with a 5 week class (the people I know did only 5 weeks) is ridiculous, and frankly I think it's insulting to the profession and those of us that spent four years (or more) preparing for this career. I wouldn't show up at a hospital and say "I'm really, really passionate about nursing. I just want to help people and this hospital is in a low income area. I graduated from a four year university with an excellent GPA, so obviously I'm a smart person who can learn on the job. Don't worry, I'm going to take a 5 week class before I start to learn everything I need to know. If there's anything my class doesn't cover, I'll definitely learn when I start working with patients!" I don't think anyone in their right mind would think that was a good idea for patients in a hospital...so why we think it's a good idea for our children is beyond me.

    I think one of the things TFA always brags about is that their candidates really know their content. I know 3 people going into schools under TFA this year, and none of them majored in the content area they're teaching in. Honestly, I don't know how they're going to do it. I've mentioned this before, but the first is my friend's sister. She was an English major, a C average student, dropped out for a semester, spent her school loan money on personal items, and is jut not a very responsible person. She will be teaching middle school science. The second is a girl I went to high school with. She was a math major. She will be teaching elementary special ed in my home state- and after job searching last year, I know there is certainly no shortage for elementary mild/mod. teachers, since many people in k-12 programs were more interested in elementary. The third is a girl I went to college with who was a Spanish major. She will be teaching middle school history, another area I know for sure that there is absolutely not a shortage in.

    I think in many places, test scores are low and they have bought into the TFA rhetoric. They think they are getting the "best and the brightest" students who are incredibly passionate about teaching, and this will help their schools get better scores. In many districts, it's already been decided that they will take TFA teachers, so it's not like a TFA candidate and a qualified candidate are both getting a fair interview for the job. In a city in my home state, the governor has mandated that they will bring in TFA teachers next year (these same schools laid off almost 1,000 teachers this last year due to budget), and the schools don't have a choice.
     
  27. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Waterfall, I agree with your comments, and the motivation you see behind school districts partnering with TfA. One clarification, though - each TfA member does, in fact, have to go through an interview as other teachers would, and can still not be hired. No TfA candidate is guaranteed a job - now, whether a district promises to cover them or not I don't know, but principals still have the right to turn down a candidate - that is, unless unspoken district pressure suggests otherwise.
     
  28. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I don't know about the other two girls because they didn't mention it, but I know my friend's sister did not have to interview for her job. She knew she was placed there at the beginning of the summer, and she hadn't met anyone from her school or district until last week. She had to interview with TFA to become a part of the program, but once she got in they just placed her somewhere. The other two girls mentioned "being placed" as well and I didn't hear anything about interviews with the school, but I guess they could have and just not mentioned it.
     
  29. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    That's interesting, and sad. Sad to think that there could have been a much better teacher for those kids...
     

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