Straight Out of College and Into the Classroom: How Inexperienced Teachers Are Affecting Education

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Straight Out of College and Into the Classroom: How Inexperienced     Teachers Are Affecting Education

    Education reform is sweeping the nation and with it comes Teach For     America and similar teaching corps and fellowships, such as Chicago     Teaching Fellows, NYC Teaching Fellows, and Teach NOLA. The purpose     of these programs is to train recent college graduates and other     young professionals, after they go through a rigorous application     process, to become classroom teachers.

    Teach For America is an extremely controversial aspect of education     reform. Those who advocate for it believe that it will be part of     the long process that turns around the failed public education     system. Enthusiasts believe that bringing in some fresh faces –     teachers who are well trained, young, and enthusiastic – will turn     the system around. However, there are critics of this idea too.

Teach For America’s original mission statement comes split in two parts:

  1. Provide understaffed schools and districts with capable teachers     to fill those positions.

  2.     Create a greater movement to impact education through awareness and     advocacy.


While no one argues that this is a nice idea, many critics of     Teach For America and similar fellowships question the motives     behind such programs. As it turns out, Teach For America corps     members are not only filling vacant teaching positions in high-need     schools, but they are also replacing veteran teachers. Because corps     members are government employees they are much cheaper for schools     to hire, leaving many seasoned teachers who do not measure up to the     standards set by high stakes testing without jobs.

    However, some of the major issues with Teach For America come from     not only sustaining but also contributing to a problem of veteran     teachers losing their jobs. Corps members in these fellowships have     an extremely high turnover rate. In fact, many of them, inadequately     prepared for the stress of working in a high-need school, leave     before their two-year contract is even complete. When Teach For     America fellowship members vacate these positions, they are often     refilled with others from the same program, thus creating a pipeline     of different teachers who usually stick around for only two to three     years.

    If Teach For America is replacing veteran teachers with equally     skilled new teachers, then this is not necessarily a problem, though     it does contribute to a school culture where kids are less able to     rely on their teachers to stick around.

    Teach For America teachers are held accountable by their students’     performance on high-stakes tests and, like other teachers, are     rewarded with monetary “incentives” that will, in theory,     inspire them to work harder. The organization is partially founded     on the idea that teachers’ unions are holding back education     reform and, as such, Teach For America members are not allowed to     unionize.