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Teach For America... The New Peace Corps?

By Samuel Reed III on Aug 27, 2009 01:25 AM

Let me start off with a disclaimer. I am a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Botswana, RPCV 88-91). 

I am a self-confessed believer in the value of public service. I even persuaded my reluctant son, Thato, to join AmeriCorps in between his college matriculation and finding himself. He volunteered at Harding Middle School. It would have been a financial hardship if he didn’t have parental support, but that’s another blog post.

It should not come as a surprise that I value the public service mission of the Teach For America (TFA) program.

Interestingly, in some circles, TFA is described as the “New Peace Corps.” Based upon my Peace Corps service and experience working with TFA, I recognize some parallels between both organizations.

Both TFA and Peace Corps attract bright, talented, and highly motivated people. The recruitment process and the application processes for TFA and Peace Corps are  rigorous and selective. According to a major TFA donor's Carnegie Reporter article, “Teach For America: A Band of Thinkers and Doers,” in 2007 approximately 18,000 people applied to become TFA fellows. Nearly 2,800 offers were made, which gave the program an acceptance rate of roughly 19%. The average GPA for an accepted corps member in that year was 3.6, and 94% of accepted applicants held leadership positions on campus.

There is some criticism of the Peace Corps' recruitment and placement practices. See Robert Strauss’ New York Times opinion piece “Too Many Innocents Abroad." But when I reflect on the 40 or so Peace Corps volunteers in Botswana who went through training with me, we had MBAs, law degrees, doctorates, Ivy league educations, state college and liberal arts backgrounds; all around impressive folks. Of course, we had a few slackers and folks simply looking for a third world tourism jaunt. Those folks in most cases didn't complete their two-year commitment.

Both TFA and the Peace Corps are great programs, but they both have flaws. Their missions are problematic because they are both linked to social justice and altruism while constrained by political and social forces outside of the control of the best intentions of their recruits.

Altruism can be a good thing. However, when I signed up for the Peace Corps, I didn’t sign up for purely altruistic reasons. I had recently graduated with my MBA from Atlanta University--at the time, one of the leading producers of black MBAs in America. I didn’t want to enter the corporate world like many of my colleagues. I wanted to run my own business, but I didn’t have enough capital or life experience. So the Peace Corps was an excellent option for me to incubate my entrepreneurial passion.  

II’ll admit this was a plush assignment for a Peace Corps volunteer.  I worked as an Operations Officer for the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), a quasi-public company that served as the main agency for commercial and industrial development in the country. I volunteered an additional year beyond my two-year commitment and eventually leveraged the experience and contacts I made at BDC to start up and run an information service and training company. After spending a total of eight years in Botswana, I returned to the U.S. and enrolled in the Peace Corps Fellows program for RPCV at Temple University to obtain my teaching certification.

During my tenure as a Peace Corps volunteer and while chasing my entrepreneurial dreams, I questioned if I was making any meaningful impact in Botswana. The gap between the rich and poor seemed to increase while I was in Botswana. Was I a mere puppet inculcating a "free enterprise" philosophy to support our government’s foreign economic policy agenda in sub-Saharan Africa?

Peace Corps volunteers, knowingly or not, support US foreign policy agendas.

I entered urban education hoping to leverage my international experience, and to address pressing domestic inequities. I figured I could make an impact as teacher, in my hometown that some compare to a third-world country.

"Together we can do this" is the motto I found on TFA's Web site. Detractors will point out that TFA is merely a band-aid, which undermines traditional certified teacher education programs, discourages teacher retention by only limiting fellows to a two-year commitment, and only serves as a portal for fellows to figure out their post-graduate and professional goals toward higher earning careers, such as law, medicine, or business.

While serving as a co-facilitator for the TFA Summer Bridge course developed in conjunction with the Graduate School of Education (GSE) at the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Writing Project,  I attended a guest lecture by Dr. Ravitch, co-director, Center for Collaborative Research and Practice in Teacher Education. Dr. Ravitch challenged the mostly 20-something--few were mature career changers--fledgling teachers to resist the “white knight mentality.” She emphasized that teaching isn’t the “noble notion” romanticized in Hollywood. “It’s a job.”

Kind of like the Peace Corp motto, I remember. “It’s the toughest job you will ever love."

Most TFA fellows complete their two-year commitment. According to Dr. Portnoy, the Director GSE/TFA Urban Teacher Master's and Certification Program, the retention rate in Philadelphia is between 92% and 97% for first and second year fellows. TFA fellows in Philadelphia including the current crop, number over 500 teachers. Half of these fellows remain in urban education beyond their two-year commitment. Some relocate to other cities as teachers, move to charter schools, or take up educational policy or advocacy positions. The national retention level is higher than in Philadelphia, at closer to 60%.    

I know that some people do not like the fact that TFA's two-year committment has a built-in turnover motivator. Sadly, if the inequities in schools did not exist, maybe there wouldn’t be a need for a TFA model. Similarly if there were no such vast socio-economic gaps in developing countries, the Peace Corps would have long worked itself out of a job.

The net benefits of both programs are worth the risks and rewards. Sure, some TFA fellows will leave teaching and go get their MBAs, start businesses, go to medical school, or maybe join the Peace Corps. But just as I was made a better person from my Peace Corps experience, so will this “2.0” group of public servants.

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Comments (32)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2009 5:12 pm

This post is right on though maybe not in the way the author intended. Was the Peace Corps really created because of vast socio-economic gaps in developing countries? Even if it was, how many of those gaps are created by economic policies that originate in the US and other "1st world" countries? How many of the countries the Peace Corps operates in have US military bases, or have populations that are squeezed because of structural adjustment policies imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, or are dumping grounds for the toxic wastes and sweatshop labor of major corporations based in the US? In the overall global economy and the environment, the Peace Corps emerges as the "positive face" to counteract the disastrous impacts of global US economic and military policy. As a friend of mine who went into the Peace Corps in Africa told me "after being there for several months, I realized that it the problem of the people was not one I could solve [doing whatever project he was working on] - their problem was French logging companies coming in and deforesting their ancestral lands, leaving them with nothing. They needed organizing and direct action, not service."
Now let's turn our attention to Teach for America. Bankrolled by large companies like the Gap that thrive off of mis-educated, low end, service sector, insecure retail labor (what kind of workers are they hoping are churned out of the public education system?) it is also hard to trust the "public face" of TFA. Many TFA members and supporters insist that TFA exists because of the inequities in schools. Instead, TFA is a symptom of the inequities that exist and the market logic that is trying to capitalize off the existence of those inequities. The entire structure of our public school system is based on and replicates inequities. Charter schools and privatized schools (2/3 of new charters are run by private corporations) thrive off the use of TFA because it creates a temporary, non-organized labor force that will constantly cycle in and out of the system. Therefore, the expansion of these market-solution educational reforms is in itself completely dependent on the existence and constant expansion of TFA. So yes, there are similarities between the Peace Corps and TFA. Both put forward "positive, young face" that masks a larger, connected, and detrimental strategy to poor people in this world. Both attract a lot of great people who want to make a difference in the world, but quickly become loyal to an organization that is part of a larger system that they seem to rarely investigate or question. And both are based upon the expansion of neoliberal theory and practice that instead of solving the root causes of inequities, seeks to capitalize on their existence.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2009 7:52 pm

Well put.

Submitted by Samuel Reed III on August 27, 2009 8:00 pm

Thank you for this insigtful response .  I agree that the Peace Corps was not really created to to deal with the vast socio-economic injustices in developing countries. And both the Peace Corps and TFA do put on a "positive face" on market driven forces that marginalize poor people.

When I signed up as a Peace Corps volunteer and worked with TFA I was not blinded by the "do good" rhetoric. 

Again I thank you for your response and pushing me to think more critically about my own position.

 

Submitted by Philly High School teacher (not verified) on August 28, 2009 6:59 am

While I agree that both the Peace Corp, TFA and similar organizations are often used to "sanitize" inequity and promote "feel good" versus systematic change, the experience may have an impact on the individual regardless of the institutional flaws. Change doesn't happen with one person but the collective experience hopefully creates more critical, creative thinking people who see the world through a difference lens than promoted by TFA or the US government. I have known a number of Peace Corp volunteers who at least lose the sense of "U.S. exceptional ism" often drummed into U.S. curriculum / historiography. I don't know if that degree of challenge to one's world view happens in TFA.

I also don't think there is a parallel between TFA and the Peace Corp. as "voluntary service." TFA corp members earn the same salary and benefits as any other teacher - plus they get funding for college. ("Regular" Philadelphia teacher receive no funding for college.) This is NOT a volunteer experience. Peace Corp, like individuals who volunteer with religious organizations such as Jesuit Volunteer Corp, Mennonite Central Committee, Brethren Volunteer Corp, Mercy Corp, and a number of other religious based groups, earn a stipend. This is more akin to your son's experience with AmeriCorp. To live on a stipend, often in a group household, and especially in another country, is very different from living in Philly. (Most TFA teachers I know live in very comfortable and "happening" sections of Philly - they are not "in the hood." It would be similar to a Peace Corp volunteer going to London or Paris versus a rural area of Zimbabwe, Bolivia, or Laos.)

Submitted by Sam Reed (not verified) on August 28, 2009 10:15 am

Philly High School Teacher,
Thank you for your response. Although I was a "volunteer" in Botswana, I regaled in fact that I didnt have bills- life without bills volunteer or not is the best-. I also received a modest travel allowance. My stipend afforded me to live moderate -relative middle class- lifestyle in Botswana.

The City Year -Ameri Corps, stipend my son recived on the other, would have landed him on welfare if we did not supplement for him.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2009 1:05 am

Exactly....both organizations missions/vision reflect attitudes of "the intelligent missionaries on a mission to SAVE people of lesser knowledge". However, the assumption is that the countries recieving the services of these two agencies lack intelligence....no, they are simply deprived of resources - material and human. The deprivation is a result of the American and Europeans raping Africa of her natural and human resources. So.....how can one take a missionary posture when the funding sources of the Peace Corps and TFA are those who are taking these resources!!!!!

Submitted by f (not verified) on August 27, 2009 11:26 pm

I appreciate your response Samuel. Too often discussions concerning the merit of the educational reform strategies that have been popularized by corporate interest is side tracked by a quick defenses of individuals. Yes TFA volunteers are bright, earnest and concerned citizens. This is however is not the point.

Honest school reform efforts will focus (as so clearly stated in the first response) on solving the root causes of inequities not seeking to capitalize on their existence. Your willingness to consider this thought and allow it to influence your thinking is essential to having a true and sincere intellectual discourse.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2009 2:33 am

i have a close friend who did TFA. she is incredibly smart, dedicated and concerned about the unequal education that poor students in the US receive. she was looking for a way to help fix the problem of our broken school system. she finished her TFA stint in '07.

recently, she told me that TFA was "an orchestrated distraction." she said that it was a way to steer people like her away from actually challenging the system; a way to take people who are deeply concerned about inequity and steer them away from looking at the systemic reasons why some students have such a low quality of education. she said TFA was a way to make her feel like she was making real change without actually changing anything. after TFA, she was very disheartened and decided to leave the education field. i wonder how many other TFA teachers end up feeling this way?

Submitted by jd2718 (not verified) on August 28, 2009 7:20 am

"TFA's two-year committment has a built-in turnover motivator. Sadly, if the inequities in schools did not exist, maybe there wouldn’t be a need for a TFA model."

In my city (NYC), at least, TfA recruits displace other new teachers who are far more likely to stay longer. Our schools, our kids, they need more stability - but TfA destabilizes.

Jonathan

Submitted by Bruce Greene (not verified) on August 28, 2009 4:21 pm

I'm a semi-retired 33 year teaching veteran. I left the classroom 3 years ago and am now supervising beginning teachers. 40 years ago I served as a VISTA volunteer. We called it a domestic Peace Corps back then. I'm in agreement with much that has been said here already. TFA might better be called "Teach a little while for America." I certainly don't want to be too critical of any program that might offer innovative, enthusiastic teachers and curriculum where it's most needed, but I've come to believe that many times the interns are ill prepared for what they find. As we all know it takes time to learn the craft of teaching.
I'm also fascinated by the discussion about altruism and social justice as financed by corporate and government interests. I recently completed a memoir on my life as a VISTA in 1969. (Still looking for an agent , if anyone 's interested) Back then we understood the contradictions of working at home in an officially declared, but underfunded, "war on poverty" while our government was spending billions monthly to fight an undeclared, immoral war in Vietnam. (Sound familiar?) I recall many discussions with my colleagues about whether or not we were being co-opted, channeled, isolated, rendered ineffective. In the end, we felt our experiences and activities were important. We've come to believe that true social change moves a bit slower than we'd like but it does happen. By the way, my pay as a VISTA volunteer was $180. monthly.
I'm hoping both my book and enthusiasm for teaching will help others sort out these issues.

Submitted by Sam Reed (not verified) on August 30, 2009 6:05 pm

Bruce,

Sounds like an interesting book. Look forward to hearing more about it once you have a book deal. Have you consider internet publishing?

Submitted by Bruce Greene (not verified) on September 1, 2009 3:59 pm

Thanks Sam. I'm still hoping a book deal is possible, but nobody's taking any chances in this economy. I'm considering internet publishing. It's definitely what's happening these days. Any advice about that? I know many former students of mine would like to read about the early days of VISTA and since I'm not in it for the money (well, for much money) perhaps that's the way to go. I'll keep you posted. keep up all your good work.
Bruce

Submitted by Vinicius (not verified) on August 28, 2009 6:53 pm

TFA is used by large urban school districts as a bandaid. TFA, like charter schools are used by the top administrators to cover their lack of intelligence and experience on how to lead, delegate and engage the teachers in public schools into building real authentic school reform. Present big city school districts do not engage their teachers in a real way. Dog and pony staged photo opportunities do not count. Let us be honest. The folks who run the school districts are afraid of the teachers in the classrooms. Afraid to called out for not having the integrity to be honest that they do not no how to support real school reform or do not want to provide the resources necessary to bring it about. Knowing they are not doing the right thing, these educational CEO's and managers decide the best way to do their is mandate, mandate and mandate. These clowns are so far from the classroom that they may or may not know the harm that inflict on teachers and students. They mandate so much paperwork or keying in of data, that instructional time is eaten up. Teachers work in schools and each school is a community. Money and resources should be allocated to build the professional capacity of a whole staff. Time must be built into the day so there is real collaboration time to strategically plan and evaluate the practice. If school districts were really about supporting each school community, TFA's maybe would stick around a bit longer than they do.

Submitted by Sully (not verified) on August 30, 2009 8:51 pm

As I read the report, "Professional Learning
in the Learning Profession", I had to think about how off kilter professional development is set up. The report describes how building professional communities and their professional capacity by having time built in for strategic and deeper reflective thinking is necessary for improvement. I think we have the beginnings of a measure to judge any head of a school district in terms of their staff development process they have put into place.

This first installment provides a baseline assessment of what works and what is happening in states and other nations to provide us with useful benchmarks against which we can measure state and district progress,” says Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of the NSDC, which is sponsoring the research. “Taken as a whole, the effort will be the most comprehensive attempt to measure and monitor what states and districts are doing in professional learning to improve quality and results.”

Leaders of school districts can't hide anymore behind using charters, TFA and other smoke and mirrors rhetoric. We now have benchmarks to hold those who are not held accountable!

We the public must hold these administrators accountable!!

http://www.srnleads.org/resources/publications/nsdc.html

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 31, 2009 9:03 am

"Test scores are up...violence is down...students are graduating in record numbers...the violin program is super...grain harvests are up...military production is steady...there is no problem...there is no need to worry...the Motherland is calling..."

- Pravda...circa 1975

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 1, 2009 10:55 am

I appreciate the honesty of the your writing. It seems like you were able to reflect on the benefits and drawbacks to the style of service you experienced in the Peace Corps.

One of the benefits of TFA and Peace Corps for young grads is that these jobs offer that elusive social control mechanism: affordable or free healthcare.

I'm currently doing small scale volunteer service and am skirting by with some low coverage short-term health insurance. I know countless young people who are getting by on a prayer in terms of health coverage while pursuing dreams of service and art.

Universal health care would make public service much more realistic as an option for poeple who's parents can not be a cushion.

Submitted by Erika Owens on September 1, 2009 10:47 am

 Totally agree with the statement about universal health care! I'm at a loss as to why this consequence doesn't come up more often. I guess it is a little intimidating to think about just how freeing it would be to be able to do what you want and take the jobs that you want, without huge individual premiums or lack of insurance hanging over your head! Wow. 

This does get back to AmeriCorps too. When I did it, they told us that the health insurance they offered was pretty paltry and so if you had access to other care you should keep it. But TFA teachers get their benefits (and actual salary!) through the districts they work in so it's a completely different situation.

Submitted by Sam Reed (not verified) on September 1, 2009 9:49 pm

Erika,

You served in Ameri-Corps too. I think we should write our senators about this health care issue for these volunteers. They work in diffifucult environments as well. And provide valuable service to the public. The least we could do is provide them with decent heath insurance.

Like I said, my son would not have survived during his Ameri-Corps service without our parental support. I met one TFA who said, she applied for welfare support - she wanted to be indepedent of her parents' support-. when she served in Ameri-Corps.

I did appreciate the level of health service I had while I was in the Peace Corps. It was totally freeing to have that "safety net" in place while I was doing my service.

Submitted by Theresa (not verified) on September 4, 2009 10:23 am

I know this is a little late, but these comments fascinate me. The blogosphere is such a wonderful place – all these uninformed opinions being touted as fact… it would actually crack me up if it wasn’t so sad, dangerous, and potentially harmful to children in our city. Not one of these people said anything that could be proven or added anything relevant to a discourse about TFA and its effectiveness. “My friend did TFA and now she’s disenchanted with public education” – seriously? Maybe it was working in a dysfunctional school that made her disenchanted! Is it TFAs fault that her principal was a bozo? That her colleagues didn’t care? TFA works. The only comprehensive high school in the city that made AYP this year was Rhodes. Rhodes has an amazing principal, Ms. Wayman. And oh by the way Ms. Wayman tries to fill every vacancy she has with TFA teachers. Mr. El-Mekki at Shaw took in as many TFA teachers as he could, and turned around Shaw Middle School. People who are doing this work successfully – and actually know what they are doing, and know what they are talking about – praise TFA and want more TFA teachers teaching our children. Adults who have their own egos and agendas at stake, and make decisions based on that, perceive TFA as a threat to them, so they try to take it down with anonymous posts on blogs, and stories about “my friend”. Which camp are you in?

Submitted by Anonymous on September 4, 2009 10:26 am

Theresa – thanks for turning this monologue into a dialogue. I did Teach For America, and I left the District after my two year stint. I left disenchanted with the SCHOOL DISTRICT, not with public education, Philadelphia, children, teaching, or anything else. The School District is broken. The school I taught at was broken. Kids weren’t learning. I’ve stayed in the classroom, and now teach at a charter school. This school treats me respectfully, and like a professional. More importantly this school makes decisions based on what’s best for CHILDREN. Not adults, or special interest groups. The School District is not public education – it is a DELIVERY MODEL for public education. It is a delivery model invented in another era, in another context. It is a hopelessly outdated model, one that needs major reform, or to be done away with completely. The point of public education is to make sure we have an educated populace, not to make sure incompetent people have jobs they cannot be fired from.

Submitted by afellowteacher (not verified) on September 4, 2009 11:02 am

Hold one everyone – isn’t it a little cliché, not to mention patently unfair, to paint all teachers and all schools with a single brush? I’m a TFA Corps Member, and I’m staying at my placement school after my two-years are up. Our school’s not perfect, but everyone here is working for kids, and trying their hardest to help our kids. Theresa’s post touted two schools that are working (although I have a friend at Shaw who says since Mr. El-Mekki left the school isn’t what it used to be), and there are others – Cook-Wissahickon, Stanton, to name just two more – that are doing it without TFA teachers, I believe. Demonizing the district or making veiled accusations against the PFT isn’t going to do anything. The biggest thing TFA does is get talented, high-achieving individuals into classrooms and to stay in education. The TFA website says 66% of its alums stay in education after their 2-years is up. It also says 1 in 10 report that when they start TFA they think they’ll stay in education. That’s thousands of people from top colleges and universities getting into, and staying in education, because of TFA. How can that be bad?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 4, 2009 5:06 pm

afellowteacher, it may seem unfair, but consider putting in several years of college to get your teaching degree only to see others taking a summer course for a month or two then SUDDENLY they are teachers too !. Wouldn't you be upset about all the time and money you had to put in to get your teaching degree, Hell, we might as well put teaching degrees in Crackerjack Boxes as the free prize.

As for the claim that 66% "stay in education" is somewhat deceiptive. Many leave the classroom for administrative positions (the most notorius being Rhee, the terror of Washington DC). The actual number of TFAers that remain in the classroom after two years is something around 33% (I know it was listed in another post on this blog by the TFA head in Philly).

Submitted by E Favorite (not verified) on September 6, 2009 11:36 am

Teresa – certainly what you say anonymously on a blog is no more valuable or valid than the other differing views stated here, right? People are discussing their opinions and experiences just as you are. If I wanted to generalize, I could say that your aggressive, denigrating response to people expressing views different from yours is typical of TFA participants. How misleading would that be?

To anon of 9/4/09 -`17:30. I’ve also often heard that statistic that 66% of TFAer stay in education after their 2 year commitment, but have never heard HOW LONG they stay in – which is extremely relevant. If anyone finds out, please post it here. If the information is simply unavailable (i.e., unmeasured) that is also telling.

I just read another questionable statistic in a 2007 Business week article http://www.businessweek.com/careers/content/sep2007/ca20070913_229347.htm "According to a 2007 survey of principals conducted by Teach for America, 95% feel that corps members are as effective as other beginning teachers in terms of overall performance and impact on student achievement.”

Fine let’s say that’s accurate. Then what is the justification for putting so much money into a program that is no better than what is already in place?

Submitted by Erika Owens on September 6, 2009 1:57 pm

In regard to that stat, I think the argument would be that what's in place is not bringing in enough teachers. Meaning, that TFA is taking spots that would be filled by a succession of long term subs, not teachers who actually graduated with an ed degree and did student teaching. This argument also seems to be central to huge union blowback in places like Boston where the district proposed hiring TFAers at the same time as they were laying teachers off. The response there was that the TFAers were going to fill positions that the teachers being laid off weren't certified for, but that argument did not appear to be very convincing. If TFAers can get certified quickly in these high need areas, why not allow the laid off teachers the same opportunity?

Teachers get into the classroom through a variety of paths, but clearly, the TFA path inspires strong reactions on both sides. Personally, I think a lot of that has to do with the attitude (and Kool Aid drinking apparently necessary) that is a huge part of TFA. It's not just another path. They have a distinct mission, which they have every right to. But you have to be prepared for people not to agree--and I would hope that defensiveness is not the only preparation available. 

Personally, TFA's way of spreading their mission is what I find very offputting. In conversations you see online people aren't able to respectfully disagree; TFA jumps into the equation and it's an antagonistic discussion. I think part of that is TFA's doing, not just grumpy people online. When I read about TFA I don't get the feeling that intelligent people can disagree, I get the impression that TFA is the right way and people who disagree are just in the way. Maybe that's what you have to do to be a successful group, but it is the type of attitude that just fans the flames of discontent with their work. 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 6, 2009 1:23 pm

Teresa, you accuse those of us who aren't impressed by the TFA program of the exact same things you are guilty of. Check your own ego before you accuse others. Many of our opinion are "informed", based on experience with TFAs and those we know. The daughter of one of my friends just finished two years down in Texas as a TFA. She got hired in Washington in a classroom with an aide and another teacher (something the majority of Philly school lack) and has already given her 30 day notice. School has barely started there and she can't control the kids even with the extra help. The TFA program does not truly prepare applicants for the realities of the urban classroom. Putting in "fresh fish" that are unprepared for the real situations they will encounter in the classrooms is alot more "potentially harmful" than posters blogging about what they find wrong with the TFA program. Your guilt trip is misguided. What's so strange about "disfunctional schools" and "bozo principals", that would be the majority of Philly public schools at the moment. Welcome to the club. Are you really that naive to think those are not typical of many schools? Many of us have been fighting to fix that, but are continually ambushed by carpetbaggers like Vallas and Ackerman who want to use quick fix solutions like TFAs. Of course, principals love TFAs because they can easily be bossed around. Teachers with experience know what works and most principals resent that.

TFA shils like you, Teresa, are going to dis anybody who dares to question this program. The fact is, you can find the same criticism all over the US in any education blog. People have to post anonymously because of the vindictive nature of the Philadelphia School Administrations. If you'd spent any time teaching in a Philly classroom you would have known this fact. That does not make criticism of the TFA program any less valid. Quick fixes rarely work and are always espoused by those who aren't planning to stay for long, anyway.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on September 6, 2009 1:52 pm

bozo principals? noooooo...

Submitted by f (not verified) on September 6, 2009 2:08 pm

As a principal and a member of the site selection team at a full site selection school, I and the other members of our team are interested in hiring intelligent, energetic, passionate individuals. The teacher candidates we interview that fit this description are people who have expressed the point of view that they intend to make education their career.

It takes an enormous amount of energy and focus on the part of our school team to support a novice teacher. In addition it requires years of practice, reflection, commitment to continuing education, and life experience for a teacher to become an effective educator. We see no sense given this perspective to hire someone who plans on remaining at our school for only two years. This is one of the two main reasons we are not interested in hiring TFA fellows.

Our second and equally important reason for not utilizing this potential staffing pool (TFA) is our concern for the long-term well being of our students. Many of the children we serve have suffered too often from the lost of an adult who they have grown to trust. How well would we serve our children who need stability in relationships as well as environment to set them up for yet another potential sad lost when the TFA teacher moves onto another educational pathway or other career?

Submitted by Bruce Greene (not verified) on September 6, 2009 7:28 pm

Theresa's comments, while passionate are ill informed. She's no doubt frustrated but needs to realize that it takes time to become a teacher. Even the best "natural born" teachers take a few years before they feel comfortable. Veteran teachers know that comfortable is loosely defined here.
Having taught and lived in a community for 35 years, I agree that stability is crucial. In dealing with a student population that that depends on continuity, a two year stint in a classroom, while certainly useful, leaves much to be desired in the long run. I don't doubt for a minute that TFA interns are bright and innovative. They certainly have the right motivation and energy level needed.
What trouble me the most is that a career in teaching is something someone is expected to sacrifice a real salary in order to achieve. What a sad comment on this culture.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on September 6, 2009 10:23 pm

F...Philly principals are known for being intelligent, er, um, passionate, and er um...ah...gosh...honest...right?

Submitted by f (not verified) on September 7, 2009 8:08 am

anonymous,Sun, 09/26/2009 -22:49.

Take a moment please and consider this quote from Theresa before you add your next divisive and combative comment.

"The blogosphere is such a wonderful place – all these uninformed opinions being touted as fact… it would actually crack me up if it wasn’t so sad, dangerous, and potentially harmful to children in our city. "

You might consider joining into the dialogue as opposed to constantly taking pot shots at anyone whose views you do not share. I would be interested in hearing why you do not support the efforts of the school district of Philadelphia

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2009 7:35 pm

anonymous...

words are so dangerous? who died and made you school CEO?

Submitted by E Favorite (not verified) on September 8, 2009 9:35 pm

"harmful to the children" -- words that are the last refuge of a coward

it's a phrase meant to stop all conversation; to shame people; to show one's own superior concern for children and to hide one's own lack of understanding or desire to really help children, especially if it involves examining and perhaps changing one's own entrenched, self-serving views.

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