There is a commenter here, Alec Timmerman, who is an inner-city teacher in St. Paul. In response to the post yesterday, The Alice Seagren Paperwork Reduction Act, he posted a long comment, which I commend to you all. Here’s his pithy conclusion:
I teach at a school that is only 5% white. The best kids in the world. Ever. We have the best teachers in the world. It takes most of them a couple years just to get over the culture shock when they are rookies. It takes a couple years before students learn to trust that they aren't just going to leave them, like so many other adults. We have great teachers. We certainly could use more. We don't need gimmicks. Our jobs are hard enough. Coming in without training is unethical treatment of the students.
When I was much younger, I thought that the value of experience was highly overrated.
But it is a conceit of Teach for America to believe and to claim that its barely trained and largely untested (in a classroom) recruits are just the ticket for inner-city classrooms. And there is plenty of conceit to go around when it comes to describing Teach for America. If you look at S.F. 2757, or H.F. 3093, you will see that the description of programs (Teach for America, really) to be approved is sprinkled with words like these:
best teacher practices;
intensive preparation (that’s the 200 hours, or five weeks);
intensive peer coaching;
high quality, sustained, intensive, and classroom-embedded staff development (does anybody have any idea what that means?)
If that doesn’t sound to you like it was written by some marketing flak at Teach for America, you aren’t paying attention. And as mentioned before, the House and Senate versions of this hymn of praise to Teach for America are nearly identical. Does anyone have any real doubt that the bills were written by Teach for America itself?
Of course, the peer coaching and mentorship that the bills tout are to be conducted, inter alia, by guys like our commenter Alec, who clearly has time on his hands to baby sit.
It sounds like there would be a lot of, um, “intensivity” going on for people who aren’t going to stick around for more than a couple of years anyway. In the Stanford study that was cited here earlier, the researchers found that the Teach for America recruits caught up to the regularly-licensed teachers after they were in the schools (Houston elementary schools in this case) for a few years, but by the time they caught up, they were gone.
Please read again the quote from Alec that opens this post.
But it shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone – certainly not the authors of these bills – that the Teach for America recruits are in it for the short haul. All you have to do is look at the Resources for employers and grad schools page on the Teach for America site:
Teach For America corps members and alumni are smart, goal-oriented individuals who have a proven track record [albiet a short one!] of outstanding achievement and exceptional leadership skills. After their two-year teaching commitment [italics are mine], our alumni work in all fields - education, policy, law, medicine, business, the nonprofit sector, among them – and assume leadership roles in their professional and civic lives.
There are several free and easy ways you can get your opportunities in front of interested Teach For America alumni and corps members.
Ah, yes; Teach for America must be quite a resume builder!
And next year, Alec can field questions from students about where all the former teachers went.