Thursday, October 17, 2013

Debate about Teach for America

Yesterday I read a critique of Teach for America on Slate by a former alumna and now Professor of Education. 

Today I posted that critique to Facebook. A friend, an employee of TFA, sent me a critique of the Slate article by another employee of TFA, Justin "Juice" Fong. These two articles are getting a lot of comments on my Facebook wall and I want to get in more of a dialogue. I have friends who have done TFA and love it and I have friends who despise it. Please keep it civil. 

Below is my critique of Fong's critique:

I have read other posts by Fong before, so I am aware of him and his writings about TFA. Overall I think it is a good critique, but it raises more questions for me.

I am glad TFA is trying to get people to stay past two years. Why not do something bold and make it a five year commitment? I know of a program like that in Chicago. I talk to Princeton students who will go do two years in US and then go to graduate school or law school. They specifically do TFA because it will look good on resumes when they want to apply. 

Also I would argue that ending up in an education nonprofit is not the same thing as staying in a classroom teaching. I think that is what the Slate author is implying that people aren't staying in the classroom. I would love to see that data from RI about how many stayed in the actual classroom. Is it half of 70%? Or 3/4th? What will it look like in 10 years? What is TFA's goal for retention? Fong himself 10 years later isn't in a classroom. So are disadvantaged students supposed to accept having a new teacher their whole school career, just because they go to a school with a lot of TFA staff and turnover because of it? 

Another critique that I have heard and the Slate author alluded to is that TFA is more interested in Ivy League and top private school students than public school students. What are the stats? Yes it is good that the corps are getting more diverse but where are they coming from? Lets talk about the differences in privilege of a Ivy League student compared to a public university student. Also how many are education  
majors? Seeing posters around my college back in 2007, I received the impression that they wanted everyone besides education majors?

When a school district is downsizes, does TFA downsizes its corps accordingly? Or are long term teachers losing their jobs to TFA members? What is TFA doing in Chicago, for example? (My friend at TFA responded that some Corps members did lose their jobs as well as alumni in both Chicago and Philadelphia.) Is TFA sending less corps members there because of that, so there is room for new teachers who have MATs who want to teach there?

What about the Slate author proposal of having TFA members be co-teachers with a veteran teacher or teaching assistants for the first year? Wouldn't that help members receive more training and students to have an incredible education experience.

I think it is sad for Fong to compare SAT scores of Education majors with college GPA of TFA members. Really that is not the same comparison at all. So no one can be a good teacher if they didn't do well on a test in high school? One of my teachers in high school didn't complete college until late in life (if she ever did), but damn she was one of my best teachers ever and had other teachers' respect. Over my life, committed teachers have help me more and they probably were not always the top of their college class. Yes it would help to have more smart teachers, but I would want teachers who are passionate for the job too and in it for the long haul.

What do you think? Hopefully Juice will answer some of my questions because I would like to hear his responses.

1 comment:

  1. IMHO you're too nice to Fong. He compares working for TFA for ten years to teaching for ten years. The first counter point he does is very hand wavy. He links to an opposition researcher that is paid to dig up dirt on teachers unions. And just the way he says "teaching experience" sounds like a marketing pitch.