Thursday, May 06, 2010

Teach for America ....

They just played a radio commercial advocating alternative teacher certification in my state.

The following facts caught my ear --
1) the low percentage of minority students in my state that go on to college (they say 10% -- seems to be more than that.. but, I teach at a suburban CC...). (edited due to comments, since I wasn't paying close enough attention to the commercial_...

2) the success of Teach for America candidates in bringing up test scores etc.

The implication was that the TFA teachers are more successful because they tend to be minoirites.

Umm -- the little I know about TFA says that they prefer students from elite colleges and univiersites and that many TFA folks are not education majors.

Maybe their success is due to the fact that they are well-educated, non-education majors.

I know a couple of peace-corps folks who are now in teaching positions and I know one TFA person. All of them are quite bright, good role models and I suspect they are great teachers. None of them are education majors -- hmmm.

10 comments:

Andrea said...

You are right on! TFA gets candidates who have very good college records, who have a proven record of leadership experience, and who usually actually have a B.A. in the subject they're teaching (in secondary classrooms), which is shown to have a HUGE impact. TFA recruits high-achieving minorities heavily but they are still, for obvious reasons, the minority in the program.

profacero said...

Yes, all of this is exactly true.

Ronald said...

Yeah, I just heard that piece on the radio. Except it said 1 in 10. Which is 10%.

That's the great thing about Teach For America teachers: they are really smart people who can convert fractions to percentages. It's not surprising to me, I guess, that current Minnesota law doesn't require our teachers to pass a basic skills test (reading, writing, math) before being licensed.

Of course, Teach For America teachers in Minnesota ARE required to pass that test. And they had a 100% passing rate. But there I go again using percentages, which are sometimes hard to understand.

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Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

the best teachers are those who know how to LEARN.

Paul Swendson said...

I never got a whole lot from my education classes. I mostly learned to teach on the job. If someone is smart and motivated, they can figured out what to do in the classroom.

phd me said...

However... Why is there a collective assumption that students in teacher education programs are idiots? Why is there a collective belief that teacher education classes are useless?

I take nothing away from TFA candidates' intellectual abilities but they aren't the saviors the news releases imply. They're short-term answers to long-term problems; it's easy, actually, to burn brightly in the quagmire of our public school system for two years when you know you're walking away in a few years.

Sorry, ItPF, TFA just hits a nerve with me. Much more to say but I'll save it for my own soapbox!

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I know from looking into being an education major, that the programs in my (former) area were much more concerned about education theory than competence in the subject matter.

I also know several really bright students who plan to transfer to be education majors. I hope it works out for them.

Although I benefit from being in a union, and probably because I am in a union, I see the harm unions do when they protect teachers who couldn't teach. Heck, I saw it in my own education -- which was at a pretty ritzy public school -- but, the math folks in the middle school were nearly incompetent, so by the time we got to high school we hated math...

Stephanie said...

Yes, TFA teachers come from exemplary academic backgrounds and accomplishments, but those same attributes are also their downfall as a teacher. Many lack people skills and come off very elitist. This hurts them when it comes to working constructively with other coworkers. Many also lack the ability to understand the circumstances and realities of their students because they have never experienced those things themselves. If a person always has been the best at everything, how can they really understand a student who isn't? Many TFA teachers struggle with understanding learning disabilities.

They don't understand why every person can't be like them.

Also, you need to have a solid background in education theory because you can know everything to know about a subject but if you don't know how that to apply to people then it's useless anyway. You don't need a class to study up on your subject matter.

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