Education

Not Hot for Teachers from Teach for America[*]

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Columnist Ron Hart looks at the way in which teachers unions are responding to Teach for America, a program that puts new college graduates in failing classrooms:

According to truly independent studies done by the Urban Institute, "On average, high school students taught by the Teach for America corps members performed significantly better on state-required end-of-course exams, especially in math and science, than peers taught by far more experienced instructors. The TFA teachers' effect on student achievement in core classroom subjects was nearly three times the effect of teachers with three or more years of experience."

So what does the unionized education establishment do when confronted with such good news? They only hire 3,700 of the 25,000 applicants who want to truly help kids. They badmouth the TFA program, and with their friends in the Democratic Party, who fear an educated electorate, put up barriers to such competition for their entrenched jobs.

More here. [Note: Mistaken link corrected]

reason on education here.

[*]: Please accept my proactive apology for such a bad headline.

Update: Blogger and film critic extraordinaire Alan Vanneman not only pointed out the bad link above, but directs me to the actual Urban Institute study about Teach for America, which is online here.

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  1. That link goes to some wingnut yammering about “the Hil-Da-Beast” and “Slick Willie” and rehashing how much he hates hippies.

  2. There’s a perfectly legitimate reason that TFA is highly selective. By making their entrance process highly exclusive, TFA makes what would normally seem undesirable (teaching poor kids) into a status symbol. While the unions are to blame for about 90% of educational problems, I doubt this is one of them. If TFA were to accept more graduates, the status of the program would decline alongside the quality of newly minted teachers and their effectiveness.

  3. Yeah, wtf with that link, Nick?

  4. Please accept my proactive apology for such a bad headline

    Not a problem. If you had referenced Van Hagar instead of Van Halen, that would be a problem.

  5. and with their friends in the Democratic Party, who fear an educated electorate

    I’m sorry, but that part was just hilarious. It’s really easy to make digs at teachers unions without resulting to borderline conspiracy theories, but some people just can’t manage. As if there’s any chance of the electorate becoming “educated” enough to compeltely dismiss the bull they get from both the Democrats and Republicans

  6. Ok – wtf with the “remember me” gremlins? I totally changed it before I posted.
    Anyway, I’m Mitt Romney, everybody

  7. I’m no fan of the Democrats, but to say they “fear an educated electorate” is a mite uncharitable. It’s not like the GOP plays to the higher intellectual crowd, either.

  8. You’re wrong, Reinmoose. But I agree with Mitt.

  9. the Democratic Party, who fear an educated electorate

    Most succinct description of Democrat strategy I’ve ever seen.

  10. The line about an uneducated electorate couldn’t be more true. It’s working to perfection this year.

  11. and… umm… resulting? Should read “resorting”

  12. wtf with the “remember me” gremlins?

    If you have two threads open in different tabs or windows, they are sharing the same cookie. Use joke handles in this way with caution.

  13. Yeah, I’m with Wiglestat (though I can’t RTFA since the link isn’t to the article). If TFA is being really selective, isn’t that a possible reason why their average results are so good?

    Furthermore, is this an argument for expanding this government program? Because if so, I’m confused. What website is this?

  14. If you have two threads open in different tabs or windows, they are sharing the same cookie. Use joke handles in this way with caution.

    I’ve been really successful in the past, and I know all about the cookie caution, but my most recent post was as myself in this thread and that’s usually enough to bring the default back to what I last posted as

  15. I always knew that there was something odd about that Mitt Romney guy. To find out that he is really just Reinmoose’s sock puppet is actually sort of comforting.

  16. There’s a perfectly legitimate reason that TFA is highly selective. By making their entrance process highly exclusive, TFA makes what would normally seem undesirable (teaching poor kids) into a status symbol. While the unions are to blame for about 90% of educational problems, I doubt this is one of them. If TFA were to accept more graduates, the status of the program would decline alongside the quality of newly minted teachers and their effectiveness.

    Amen to all of this. As an undergrad I worked in the campus writing center helping people polish up papers. There was this one girl who was in my major (biology) and desperately wanted to get into TFA. Her application essay was laughably bad, bordering on Engrish except for the fact that she was a native English speaker. The conclusion was actually a little racist–“The poor black kids at my summer job just didn’t know better until they met me because their families suck!” She was sure that they’d take her because of their need for science teachers, but even that couldn’t save her.

    I have the sneaking suspicion that a lot of TFA applicants are only marginally prepared for the real world, and that’s the limiting admission factor.

  17. Could it be that the Teach for America teachers are so successful precisely because the program is so selective?

  18. The real reason that the Democrats are suspicious of Teach for America is that it is one of the most effective vehicles for throughly disabusing bright, motivated Ivy League kids of their liberal idealism.

  19. h-dawg :
    If only.
    I knew a girl who was super democrat, tried TFA, quit, and now advocates even MORE government intrusion into education.

    Also, do you think they all go into it thinking it’ll be like Sister Act 2?

  20. There’s a perfectly legitimate reason that TFA is highly selective

    Catching terrorists at the airport is hard work.

  21. And so is developing the Tennessee River.

  22. “a girl who was super democrat” sounds like the lead-in to a P.J. O’Rourke joke.

    Actually, I don’t know what the applicants are thinking when they go in, but I know that most of them are thinking “this is FUBAR” on the way out. But I’m not surprised that a good number of them think that the government just isn’t doing it right.

  23. Reinmoose,

    I believe thats what TFA is going for. IIRC, the founder of TFA came to my school to speak. She said the objective of TFA wasn’t really to recruit teachers per se, but to recruit young professionals. The goal was to get two to three years out of them before they went into the real world. Then the TFA’ers would become ‘advocates for education.’

  24. While the TfA program is selective, it appears that the value of education courses is NOT a requirement to be an effective teacher.

    What is required to be an effective teacher –

    Above average intelligence
    In depth knowledge of the subject matter
    Preparation prior to presentation
    An honest give a damn attitude.

    Education degrees are noticeably absent from that list.

  25. …my proactive pre-emptive apology…

  26. While the TfA program is selective, it appears that the value of education courses is NOT a requirement to be an effective teacher.

    And THAT is why the teachers’ unions oppose the program, not because of any paranoid “fear of an educated citizenry” conspiracy.

  27. *rubs forehead*

    How do I get through to these keeds?

  28. Reminds of a news magazine show (20/20, Dateline, something) on last week about a teacher who thought she’d have it easy teaching in some ghetto neighborhood just because she was black.

  29. line about an uneducated electorate couldn’t be more true. It’s working to perfection this year.

    I find this comment highly ironic considering the fact that Teach For America is one of the “Public Service” programs that Obama has been promoting so heavily, and that many Reason writers and H&R commenters have faulted him for doing so.

    Hmmmm?

  30. How do I get through to these keeds?

    HAHAHAHAHAHA

  31. Education degrees are noticeably absent from that list.

    I respectfully disagree. I have a masters of education as well as a “real” degree in liberal arts. I did teach for a short period of time but now have a finance-related (read: much better paying) job.

    I had loads of subject-matter expertise in what I was teaching (history), but I can honestly say that what I learned in my teaching classes was far more valuable in the actual performance of my job than my knowledge of history.

    Are there naturally gifted teachers who can go into a classroom and help kids learn without taking ed classes? Sure. But I don’t think there are very many.

    Of course, maybe my program was unusual. For one thing, my instructors were VERY skeptical of the teachers’ union (we were told in no uncertain terms that we should never hang out with the other teachers in the lounge because it is a “cesspool of negativity”).

  32. If the “Democrat” party wants an uneducated citizenry, why do all of the people who can’t tell a noun from an adjective vote Republican?

  33. The real problem here for teachers is they’ll have to compete for students’ sexual favors with attractive young college graduates.

    You can’t blame them for being upset. It’s totally unfair.

  34. The TFA teachers’ effect on student achievement in core classroom subjects was nearly three times the effect of teachers with three or more years of experience.

    Gee, what a shock: teachers in a meritless gov’t-run system that doesn’t reward performance don’t get better with experience, but instead just stop caring.

    If only there had been a massive failure of a world-spanning political system that was able to teach us this sooner!

  35. If the “Democrat” party wants an uneducated citizenry, why do all of the people who can’t tell a noun from an adjective vote Republican?

    Obviously Republicans seek out a sizeable contingent of the chronically underinformed/undereducated as well.

  36. I applied last year to be a New York City Teaching Fellow, but wasn’t accepted — similar selectivity to TFA. I’d been teaching science courses to non-science majors in college for years, and I’d like to teach scholastically if I could get a job casually (i.e. without orienting myself toward a teaching career) that paid my living expenses, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  37. Education degrees are noticeably absent from that list.

    Everyone’s right, they are being selective. That’s why their results are so good.

    why do all of the people who can’t tell a noun from an adjective vote Republican?

    That’s not what they said in the HBO movie “Recount”.

  38. who fear an educated electorate

    Oh, come on.

    And I see that no one going to mention the significance of these teachers being recent graduates, just starting out in life, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and who haven’t gotten burned out yet. You try teaching the same subject year after year and see if you manage to inspire most of the students who walk through the door.

  39. Hart is the new PJ O’Rourke! He is funny and on target making his points much like Jon Stewart does on the left.
    If TFA can get that many good applicants, why can’t the public schools? One has to be a unionized zombie to get a teaching job, bought in to the Left.

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