This video, slideshow, and article brings up a great perspective. Most of the content pieces that I have found about Teach For America have painted it in a negative light. However, this is shows all of the benefits that one set of schools received from included Teach For America corps members in their classrooms. In Birmingham, Alabama, 15 TFA corps members were chosen to teach in the classrooms. There was a lot of debate on whether or not the school district should do this, because like many other people, they were afraid that the new teachers were not going to be prepared enough. However, the corps members were a hit with the school. There was one story in particular that stood out to me. One teacher that was hired went through the traditional four year education major as a undergraduate. She decided that she wanted to join Teach For America simply because she liked their philosophy. Many of the teachers mentioned from this school placement said that they are very dedicated to what they do and they like that they are able to see the positive impact that they are making every day. The school district liked them so much that they are going to hire an additional 15 TFA teachers.
I really like this slideshow, video, and article. I mentioned in some previous insights that I thought TFA might not be as great of a program as the traditional four-year model because the dedication would not be there from the people who are recruited. However, I could not be more happy to be wrong. It seems to me that the people in this school are extremely happy with the decision that they made to become a TFA teacher. Hearing information like this gives me hope that I was right in saying that the program does have the opportunity to improve and become better. As long as all TFA teachers are like the ones hired by this Birmingham school system, I see no need for TFA to be criticized as much as they are.
This video shows a sample lesson that someone would give during their final interview for Teach For America. This video shows that during the final stage before a potential corps member finds out whether or not they are going to be hired, they have to give a 5-minute lesson plan. The person presenting this sample lesson plan says that a safe method to use while presenting your plan in the interview is to use the "I do, we do, you do" model. I was not sure what she meant by that while she was doing the lesson, but I think it implies that the teacher does something, then the class does it along with the teacher, and then the students do it by themselves.
While I think it is great that videos like this exist for people to understand what goes into making lesson plans and becoming a teacher, I cannot believe that Teach For America makes part of their decision based on a five minute sample plan. I do not think that five minutes is enough time to make a judgement on whether or not someone is going to be an effective teacher. I have been doing my best to sound as objective and least biased as possible when it comes to the Teach For America program, but this video makes me realize that I really do not think that Teach For America is such a great fit for this country. While it is great that they make an attempt to send corps members to areas that need a lot of help, this does not make sense. I think that the program would be more effective if corps members were education majors, who went to a summer training that told them some additional necessary skills they would need in order to work effectively in areas where school districts are in dire need for great teaching. I think that allowing for only five minutes to show what you know in regards to teaching undermines the time and value that goes into having to learn eight semesters worth of undergraduate classes to become a teacher. I now see why the researcher from the first article I found about Teach For America decided to test the facts. I think that people should begin to question Teach For America and the steps it takes to ensure that the most qualified people are being asked to get a final interview for the program.
Five weeks of training was not enough to prepare me for a room of 20 unruly elementary-schoolers.
Victoria Bellmay's insight:
This is a very long and personal journal account of a young woman who decided to go through the Teach For America Program. I won't go into all of the details (since there is a lot of information that is presented), but I am defintely going to go over two points that stood out to me the most from this. The first is the following quote taken directly from the site: "TFA teachers “don’t know how to deal with discipline problems, because they’ve never dealt with a class with more than 10 kids—there’s no way to deal with so many potential problems when they’ve never been practiced.”" This is one thing that I think presents a big problem. The woman who wrote this story mentions that during Institute, the training that each future TFA corps member has to attend for five weeks over the summer, future teachers are only given 10 hours a week to aid students with work. On top of that, groups of students are given multiple teachers to work with, which makes it a lot easier to ensure that each student receives the one-on-one attention that they need in order to succeed. However, I feel like this does not prepare corps members properly for the job of becoming an elementary teacher. In fact, I would argue that this would be enough to make a teacher quit. Most classrooms in public schools have well over 20 students in them, and the teacher has to be able to attend to each of those student's needs...all by his/herself. This connects back to the first research article that I posted about TFA, mentioning that data has suggested TFA is not a more effective way to prepare future teachers than traditional models. The ability to become overwhelmed by students easily clearly shows that there is not enough preparation for these teachers, in my opinion.
The second thing the author goes over is TFA's push to close the achievement gap by focusing on increasing performance on standardized test scores. While this may be the best way to preprare teachers for getting ready for schools (since they will inevitably be pushed to improve or maintain the standardized test scores of their students), this woman shows that TFA's main standard of success for corps members is their ability to improve scores. TFA is quick to imply that traditionally trained teachers are not able to do so, but their corps members can. I personally think this is ridiculous. As I mentioned with the video I found about the woman who had a positive experience teaching in a New Orleans school, I think a student's performance depends a lot on how teachers approach the classroom. I personally believe it would be better for TFA to focus on finding corps members that are passionate about teaching and will be dedicated to it would be a much better way to determine who gains admission in the program, rather than focusing on accepting students who are the most competitive of all high achieving applicants from a particular recruiting school.
Meet Lindsay Ordower from Mount Holyoke College. She came to Teach for America determined to succeed. But on any given school day, Lindsay's classroom was on...
Victoria Bellmay's insight:
This is a video that interviews one TFA contributor who notes that she has learned a lot about her experience through Teach For America. She is an example of a student who went to college, majored in something completely different from education, but decided to go out on a limb and apply for TFA. The video focuses a lot on her struggles that she has overcome as a teacher in a lower socioeconomic area in New Orleans.
There are a couple of things that I took away from this. First of all, it shows that corps members can in fact be very effective for teaching. In a previous post, I mentioned that one researcher pretty much disproved all of the reasons why TFA teachers are more effective than teachers who are trained traditionally. While I agree that their preparation seems as if it would leave future teachers not nearly as prepared as people who take the traditional routes, stories like this make me realize that the experiences that people have with Teach For America depends completely on the individual. This story makes me realize that it's not necessarily what the background of the teacher is or how they were prepared, but it is more so the motivation of the teacher that can make a difference in the classroom. The video focuses greatly on the strides this teacher takes to make sure her students make academic progress with her studies and some of the bumps that she has to overcome along the way. I strongly believe that dedication is what is really key for effective teaching.
(see bottom of post for a new note) My last post stirred up a controversy in facebookland and twitterville. I want to use this space to clarify some of the reasons why I do not write letters of rec...
Victoria Bellmay's insight:
This is not something I'm writing an insight on, but I felt the need to share this blog essay that this woman wrote. It is FANTASTIC. Mentions that she thinks TFA would be better if it were only open for education majors to apply to. Very interesting concept, talks about a lot of TFA debate. Great post and highly suggest reading.
This design was selected as the winner of our company-wide Garments for Good contest in support of Teach For America, a nonprofit organization that trains and places recent college graduates and professionals in under-resourced communities...
Victoria Bellmay's insight:
I have focused a lot on why there is ineffectiveness in TFA, but I have decided to change up how I am responding to things a bit and take the Teach For America debate for a whole new spin. I was shopping with my mom in J. Crew over Thanksgiving break, and I specifically remember seeing this t-shirt featured on one of the tables. I thought it was strange at the time that a t-shirt that donates 100% of its profits to TFA would be featured in the store. But then all of a sudden, something hit me. I realized that as much as people may protest Teach For America, I don't think that it is going to go away any time soon. The organization has created such a strong reputation by recruiting only the best of the best students, incorporating advocacy for their program through upscale retail stores like this, and having a strong alumni network with prestigious jobs.
Therefore, I came to the conclusion that Teach For America isn't something that everyone should resist against. I will admit that I have been biased about the way that I view Teach For America. Instead of protesting why it should go away, however, I think that we should protest the program to show how it can improve. If there is a movement created to improve how TFA is structured, how it chooses its students, which students it chooses, etc., I think that the organization will be able to see its flaws and genuinely be able to improve for the better. Rather than fighting against Teach for America, we should seek to improve it. People who rally against TFA should stop writing about all of the negative experiences they have, and instead turn that frustration into offering ideas for positive ways that the program can be restructured. People who favor and support TFA should also think about ways that the program can be reworked. By combining these opinions together with the opinions of veteran teachers and school districts, Teach For America can be transformed from something that is highly debated into one of the best and most hopeful programs for youth that America has ever seen. I think that TFA has the potential to be great, it just needs a push in the right direction, because after doing all of this research I have come to the conclusion that the program has the potential to be very effective. Picking future corps members based on their personalities instead of their crudentials, incorporating a more intensive and realistic form of Institute, and ensuring that corps members stay in their school districts by increasing the number of years in their contract are viable ways that the program can greatly and easily improve.
Teach for America has become an elite brand that will help build a résumé, and in a bad economy, guarantee a good paycheck.
Victoria Bellmay's insight:
This article talks about the 'branding' that is a result of being chosen to be corps member of TFA. TFA is known for recruiting members from elite schools. One student records that there have only been a handful of Yale students that have been chosen, and that being accepted into the program in some ways is more difficult than finding a successful job after graduation. Students feel as though it is a great resume builder to say that they have participated in their background. These people are indicating that they will not stay in teaching for a long period of time.
This really irks me that some college graduates see TFA as something that can beef up their resume, and may not even stay in teaching for a long time. They usually don't, and they end up leaving the profession before they can really learn much about it. Instead of people seeing it as competition and "my options for jobs after graduating seem dull so I'll just apply for TFA," I think districts should accept those who project longevity. The attitude that the people have in this article makes me really question their passion toward actually becoming a teacher, and makes me think that TFA is not as effective as people may think it is. As I mentioned in a previous curation, I think think that TFA corps members might be harmful for struggling school districts because the teachers do not plan on staying in the school system for a long time. If teachers are constantly changing within the school district, I don't understand how the system is going to be able to improve. Dedication is key. I think that in some ways teachers who come from traditional programs are more valuable in this sense, because they have chosen to pursue teaching as a long term career. This further emphasizes that TFA has to readdress what types of college students they are recruiting. Personality, ability to work with kids, and dediciation to their future career should outweigh an impressive resume.
One of the big edu-stories last week was the release of a shiny new study finding that Teach for America teachers are somewhat more effective than teachers with traditional certification, who are in turn only slightly more effective than Teaching...
Victoria Bellmay's insight:
Opinion article talking about how 'teacher greatness' is not a priority to them, but rather TFA teachers being good enough so that their bosses don't fire them. Very interesting insight, and definitely not something that I was aware of.
This summer, alumni and current teachers are launching the first ever national campaign against the organization.
Victoria Bellmay's insight:
Although the majority of research that I've found had touched on some of the issues that TFA presents, this is the first article that I've found that directly addresses some of the major issues that come along with TFA, and back up all of the claims that they make. This brings up some of the biggest issues that TFA has within their structure. Here is a direct quote from the article addressing this: "The organization’s five-week training program is too short to prepare its recruits to teach, especially in chronically under-served urban and rural districts; corps members only have to commit to teach for two years, which destabilizes schools, undermines the teaching profession, and undercuts teachers unions"
There is one part of this quote that really stands out to me. Since corps members are only required to serve for Teach for America and in remain in the school system for only two years, this brings up some the major issues about the ability to connect with the community. TFA admits that this is an area where their program could improve. I wonder if TFA teachers are really able to connect with students and their communities if they only stay for a short amount of time in their designated schools. Additionally, it seems to me that the school systems TFA are needed in are typically areas that schools need tremendous help in revamping their programs. However, hiring TFA teachers seems counterintuitive. I feel as though in order for programs to work, teachers need to be committed to the school system. I don't understand how major changes would ever occur if the school districts constantly hire new teachers every two years who are not veterans in the approaches that understand how to make schools as successful as possible based on their knowledge from experienced teaching.
A researcher looks at the data and explains what it says and what it doesn't say.
Victoria Bellmay's insight:
One recent study argued that Teach for America (TFA) proved that they were more effective teachers than those who have gone through the traditional four year model of becoming a teacher. However, this shows one researcher who was determined to see whether or not this was actually true. The researcher found that the data does not accurately reflect the demographics of TFA teachers. In this study, only a small sample was used of mostly secondary and middle school math teachers to use as a representation of the population of TFA teachers. The article mentions that most teachers who come out of the TFA program are assigned to elementary schools. TFA has a reputation from being selective about which schools they recruit from, but the researcher found that the school a TFA teacher comes from has no impact on student performance.
I chose to focus on this perspective as the beginning to my curation for Teach For America because it reminds me to be careful about what I read on the internet regarding the program. Before taking the time to research the topic, I had only heard really great things about TFA or very negative views that criticize the program. I have to keep in mind that most content I find will most likely be swayed one way or the other. Keeping this in mind will help me achieve an objective and non-biased look at the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the program and allow me to form my own judgments.
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