Each year, the process resumes – like clockwork. Seniors feel the jitters with the onset of classes, because they know it’s time to start contemplating post-grad plans. Just in time, Teach For America recruiters hit campus. Though we applaud the organization’s initiative, their recruitment needs modification.
To be fair, the organization is successful. Numerous studies have argued for the effectiveness of corps members as compared to traditionally educated instructors. The organization employs the best and the brightest and places them in classrooms where they are desperately needed.
Their mission and that of comparable organizations is a worthy one. The education gap in America is a frightening issue that is too often ignored. Thankfully, TFA is working in extraordinary ways to narrow that gap through scientific research into what makes an effective teacher. What’s more, it is broadening the worldviews of Georgetown alumni and other universities’ graduates by exposing them to a far different and less ivy-laden education than the one they received in college.
That said, the organization has faults that cannot be glossed over by its pristine intentions.
Of most concern is the turnover rate a program with a set length, namely TFA, inherently creates. Putting aside the oft-exaggerated number of corps members who quit early, the fact remains that the teaching component of the program is only two years in length. With an initial training program of a mere five weeks, corps members are necessarily learning on the job. By the time they’ve developed a skill set, about half of them – by TFA’s count – are moving on to different careers.
The low retention rate shows an area for improvement in TFA. A large percentage of corps members leave after their term, never to return to education or policy. Though their experiences may be individually beneficial, they fail to have a lasting effect on the face of education.
We need the program. The country benefits from the energy and drive of TFA corps members, but we wish the children it aims to help did not have to become stepping stones for ambitious members. TFA should strive to find a greater fraction of students who want to be teachers or education policymakers and train them adequately as such. Already effective now, imagine how much more TFA could close the gap then.”
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