The readings and podcast for Monday shed light on the controversial nature of Teach for America. Both the authors are critical of TFA and the way that it does more harm than good for kids in the classroom. I think the fact that people such as Neha Singhal, who were selected to participate in TFA and then dropped out, are willing to speak so openly about their experiences and offer a criticism of the program helps validate the various claims that many teachers employed by TFA are actually detrimental to a child’s education.
In reality, many intelligent, ambitious graduates use TFA as a stepping-stone for their path to a “real job” such as one in law, medicine, or business. Being a teacher is rarely in the cards and being chosen to teach through a very selective program serves as a tremendous resume booster for those looking to go into other industries (Darling-Hammond, 23). Part of the problem is that the elite often make up those chosen to teach. Since TFA is known for placing newly-hired teachers in underprivileged schools and districts, many of the teachers have grown up in environments quite different from where they are about to teach. Darling-Hammond’s article cites Ann Cook, a teacher and co-director of a New York City public school that succeeds with students that were failed by other schools. I in some ways agree with Cook’s assertion that TFA recruits could be the least likely to succeed when teaching those children to whom they can hardly relate. She proposes an alternative in which TFA sends its recruits to privileged suburbs and private schools where the classrooms are more likely to mirror their own experiences (Darling-Hammond, 24). While I think that this does take away from Wendy Kopp’s original intent of TFA, clearly the way things are going now is inefficient and some form of change would be more effective. Do you think that directing recruits to more privileged areas would be a better move for TFA? Or is keeping the program the way it is now and focusing on improving the training program a more effective way of bettering the system?
The Hartman article bashes TFA by picking apart and analyzing the apparent justifications of the program. Part of it touches on the issue of standardized testing that we have encountered throughout this course. Kopp and Michelle Rhee, who is the Chancellor of Schools in Washington, D.C., continue to claim that standardized testing is the most effective way to quantify accountability. Additionally, they claim that these tests provide evidence that their efforts are working. This notion goes back to the issue of priority and how programs such as TFA are neglecting to put a child’s education over their own success. Teacher success turns into the number one priority (here, discussed out of the realm of TFA) so teachers do not lose their jobs.
In finding out more about how TFA really works, it is alarming how much value holding a comprehensive, “official” degree in teaching means over merely being selected for your academic talents through TFA. As Maddy mentioned in regards to the podcast, former TFA recruits themselves admit that it is a problem for the children, qualified teachers, and recruits themselves that the qualified teachers cannot secure jobs because of spots reserved for TFA recruits. Based on the problems we have seen stem from TFA, do you think that doing away with the program would be the only way of “fixing” the negative effects it has on students in the classroom? It is evident that the program looks to provide the recruits with a rewarding and enlightening experience while making the kids they teach the guinea pigs that help them have that experience. Once the teachers finish their term (if they even do), they often venture out into the corporate world with no intention of ever turning back. The students, meanwhile, are trapped in the cycle of receiving teachers lacking professional training and personal understanding to help them in the classroom.