Nonprofit Newswire | TFA for Sustainable Schools?

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February 3, 2010; Huffington Post | Teach for America is a powerhouse organization, a brand name that everyone knows about from poignant press stories of highly motivated young TFA teachers, but most people don’t know the dimensions of how much TFA influences specific school districts. In Washington D.C., the chancellor of the public school system, the incredibly controversial Michelle Rhee, is a fan of hiring TFA teachers.  She is in a running battle with the local teachers union, not only as a result of her peremptory dismissal of 266 teachers this past fall, ostensibly for budget reasons, but due to her recent off-handed charges that she got “rid of teachers who had hit children, [and] who had had sex with children.”

Perhaps her popularity with unionized teachers can’t get any lower, so in a Huffington Post item written by Thomas Edsall, a Washington Post reporter, Rhee is revealed to be ready to “unilaterally impose a new teacher evaluation system that will result in widespread dismissals of teachers who fail to meet minimum standards.” This is clearly meant to get rid of teachers who might otherwise be protected by tenure and union rules. Of interest to NPQ readers are the number of teachers hired by the D.C. Public School system from Teach for America versus traditional hiring procedures. In 2004, for example, of 434 new teachers hired by DCPS, 49 came through Teach for America, 65 as D.C. Teaching Fellows, and 320 through traditional methods. Interestingly, the average college grade point averages of the TFA teachers was 3.5 and 63.9 percent came from ‘highly selective’ colleges and universities. Compare that to the traditionally hired teachers with average GPAs of only 3.03 and only 11.2 percent from “highly selective colleges and universities.” The head of the New York City school system attributes education improvements in the Big Apple to a number of initiatives, including the City’s “hiring of 2,000 teachers from Teach for America every year.” Those of us with kids in the D.C. Public Schools have long wondered which of the young teachers we see in the schools are TFAers. They don’t wear TFA tags of any sort, and we parents might never know.  The high GPAs and fancy schools are part and parcel of the TFA profile. One wonders how long these TFA teachers will stay in the profession, how long they’ll stick it out in some of DC’s less prestigious school locations, and whether in the end, the high GPAs from the Ivies and other prestige schools really mean that they’re so much better as teachers than the dedicated teachers we’ve seen whose educational pedigrees might be from less “selective” colleges, perhaps, god forbid, from state schools.—Rick Cohen

  • Lonnie Fuller

    What do you have against TFA?