Teach for America has come under heavy scrutiny in recent months. The organization was imagined over twenty years ago by Princeton undergraduate Wendy Kopp to combat the teacher shortage in urban and rural communities. TFA was to bring recent graduates from elite universities to teach in needy schools.
The idea was pretty simple. TFA was not better for students; it was better than nothing. Providing staff in these schools alleviated overcrowding and research shows that class size does matter in a child’s education.
Twenty years later, school districts are firing huge swaths of educators due to budget cuts. These dedicated teachers lose their jobs through no fault of their own, but find themselves competing for a dwindling number of open teaching slots. One would think that at this point, TFA is no longer necessary. We have a surplus of teachers and until politicians make education a priority and fund more teaching positions, this trend will continue.
Yet in Chicago:
[T]he district has committed to more than doubling its investment in the TFA program that trains college graduates for five weeks then sends them into schools for two years at a time. The Board of Education voted to increase its payment to TFA from $600,000 to nearly $1.6 million, and to add up to 325 new TFA recruits to CPS classrooms, in addition to 270 second year “teacher interns.”
This information was revealed after Chicago Public Schools announced layoffs of over 3,000 school personnel due to budget cuts.
Why would CPS throw more money into recruiting recent college graduates with five weeks of training and no teaching certificates into the district when it lets go of highly-qualified, certified, veteran teachers?
I checked out TFA’s website. Its mission statement is far more grandiose than its original call to staff schools where “chronic teacher shortages occur.” TFA’s mission is now to “provide excellent education for kids in low-income communities” by recruiting “a diverse group of leaders with a record of achievement” who receive “[i]ntensive training.” After their two-year teaching commitment, these recruits “work at every level of education, policy and other professions, to ensure that all children can receive an excellent education.” More…