Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The biggest scandal of Teach for America?
There has been much discussion and debate about how Teach for America undermines our public schools by encouraging the deprofessionalization of the teaching force, and “perpetuates systemic inequalities” especially in urban schools. In many districts, TFA has used its political clout to get its recruits hired, as in Chicago, while thousands of experienced teachers are being laid off. Gary Rubinstein, a former TFA corps member, has been a fierce critic of the inadequate training that the organization provides. Edushyster recently wrote that the TFA has become a primarily a “placement agency” to staff charter schools rather than public schools – and in the process is fueling the privatization movement.
All the above is true; but in my mind, the most shocking aspect of the organization is how in many districts, including NYC, raw TFA recruits are assigned to special education classrooms almost exclusively –because this is the biggest shortage area. See the recent Independent Budget Office report on p. 24 – showing that 80 percent of TFA recruits in NYC public schools in 2010-11 were working as special education teachers; and 68 percent of Teaching Fellows (a similar program for mid-career recruits, run by TNTP).
That to me is the biggest scandal. Instead of doing something to stanch the outflow of special education teachers assigned to those children who clearly need teachers with the MOST training and experience, TFA and TNTP fill in the gap, year after year, with the least-trained recruits, who only stay one or two years and perpetuate the problem.