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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Criticism of Teach for America justified, program needs re-evaluation

    Teach for America, an organization that trains recent college graduates and sends them to schools in low income, urban communities for two year periods, has received heavy criticism lately from current teachers, parents and even alumni of TFA. Recent complaints with TFA have now centered on training their teachers receive and the commitment they are required to make.

    Training typically lasts seven weeks, but a special five week program called Institute is offered during the summer. The idea that a recent college graduate, who isn’t required to have a background in education, can step into a school with only five to seven weeks of training and do an efficient job, is ludicrous.

    TFA requires a two-year sign on but The Washington Post reported that more than 50 percent leave after the two years and more than 80 percent after three. While two years might seem like a long time, it isn’t. Being at a school for two years and then packing up hurts more than it helps especially when you consider that your replacement is probably just as young and inexperienced in teaching.

    Researchers Julian Vasquez Heilig and Su Jin Jez wrote “Teach for America: A Review of the Evidence” and found that in Louisiana, “The percent of TFA teachers remaining by the fifth year ranged from 4 percent to 20 percent. By comparison, for all three cohorts, about 65 percent to 70 percent of teachers who had received standard certification remained after five years.”

    They also found that TFA teachers “scored significantly lower in reading/language arts and about the same in mathematics (worse in grades 4-5 and better in grades 6-8)” than new teachers with education backgrounds.

    Finding an easy and quick solution to TFA’s problems isn’t realistic but that doesn’t mean some aspects of the program can’t be tweaked to benefit everyone with a stake in it.

    The initial training needs to be extended and perhaps working with a mentor in an actual classroom initially would prepare the potential teachers better. Just because TFA members received a good education and have been in school for most of their lives, it doesn’t guarantee you can teach kids and provide them with critical thinking skills and a thirst for knowledge.

    It’s an insult to good teachers everywhere that it’s as easy as a just stepping into a classroom after a few weeks of training.

    TFA should also consider making the sign-on time longer, perhaps four to five years. This would allow TFA teachers a chance to really become comfortable in the classroom while simultaneously weeding out anyone with only a mild interest in the teaching profession.

    While members of TFA may not all necessarily fall into the category of “bad teacher,” the program itself needs a reevaluation in order to better adapt and become a true resource in our communities.

    — Brian Peel is a senior studying history. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or via Twitter @WildcatsOpinions.

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