was posted this morning by my good friend Anthony Cody. Titled Deepening the Debate over Teach For America: Responses to Heather Harding, it appears at his Living In Dialogue blog at Ed Week / Teachers.
A brief explanation. Anthony has over the past few months put up guest posts by people who have been critical of Teach for America. As a result, he psted exchange/interview with TFA's Director of Research, titled Tough Questions for Teach For America: Heather Harding Responds, at the end of which he asked
Readers, what do you think?In today's post, Anthony features detailed responses from people knowledgeable about TFA and about the relevant research, to four of the 7 answers offered by Harding in the first piece.
At the end of his piece, Anthony provides some background on the respondents besides himself:
Barbara Torre Veltri, Ed. D. is ssistant professor in the College of Education at Northern Arizona University, and the author of Learning on Other People's Kids: Becoming a Teach For America Teacher (Information Age, 2010.)Please keep reading.
Jameson Brewer is a traditionally trained educator (B.S.Ed. from Valdosta State University) who struggled to find a job teaching due to the recession. He is now a 2010 Metro-Atlanta corps member teaching high school social studies in the Atlanta Public Schools. He wrote about his experience with TFA here.
Dr. Jason O'Brien is an assistant professor of education at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.
Gary Rubinstein is a former Teach For America corps member who now hosts the Teach For Us blog.
A couple of quick notes.
1. I have reviewed the Veltri book here. Barbara Torre Veltri is a professional colleague with whom I am in regular contact. She appeared at one panel at last summer's Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action, on whose executive committee both Anthony Cody and I served.
2. I have over the years been critical of TFA, to the point that at one point I was called by a VP of the organization and asked for a meeting. At that meeting she tried to persuade me that they had improved the program, and to convince me of that fact gave me access for two weeks to their internal training website. I was not persuaded to change my mind.
3. There are for many of us two key issues about TFA. First, their corps members get only 5 weeks of training before being placed into classrooms, often filled with high needs students, and not at all infrequently at different grade levels or subject matter than they were trained for in that unacceptably short 5-week period. Second, they are not committed to staying in the classroom, which leads to constant turnover in the schools in which they serve. That is NOT good educationally, as any experienced educator can inform you.
4. One might argue that in schools where there was a real shortage of teachers, where classes were being staffed by totally untrained substitute, that TFA corps members were an improvement. But in recent years TFA has moved into schools that do NOT have those issues. That is part of the reason Gary Rubinstein, who used to do recruiting for TFA, has openly criticized the direction of the organization.
I am not going to go through Anthony Cody's post point by point. If you care at all about the future of public education, it is best that you read the entire piece, carefully.
To my mind one thing it clearly demonstrates is that like many at TFA Heather Harding is at best selective in the data she cites on behalf of the organization.
Cody and the others who respond point out the weaknesses of the studies cited by Harding, for example:
With respect to residency programs, teacher effectiveness, and teacher retention: A recent evaluation of the Boston Residency Program found that resident teachers became more effective than other beginners over their first several years in the classroom. Furthermore, evaluations of the longest-standing residency programs in Boston, Chicago, and Denver have identified very strong retention rates for their graduates -- exceeding 80 percent after 4 or 5 years in the classroom. This compares to published retention rates for TFA graduates in New York and Houston of only 10 to 15 percent by year 4. These and other studies have found that the positive effect of a teacher with three or more years of experience is much greater than the effect of any entry program on student learning. Thus, programs that keep teachers in the profession have long-term effects on student achievement.I strongly urge you to read the complete post by Anthony Cody. Teach for America is, unfortunately, continuing to be funded by scarce public revenues, at levels from local school districts up to the Federal government, despite the fact that its own filings as a charitable organization show cash reserves in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
TFA has had a strong tendency to hit back at its critics, most notably going after noted scholar Linda Darling-Hammond who was among the first to publish research challenging the claims of effectiveness by TFA corps members.
And as a reminder, one of the panels at Netroots Nation, at 10:30 AM Friday June 8, is What Progressives Can Do to Stop the War on Public Education, and its description is as follows:
American public education is under concerted attack: Americans are told we are failing in international comparisons, urged to blame teachers and break their unions, turn more of our public education system over to private interests and rely ever more upon tests to make critical decision. These and other tactics are designed to delegitimize and ultimately destroy meaningful public education. Three nationally-known experts explore aspects of that attack and offer specific suggestions of how progressive supporters of public education can fight back.I am chairing that panel. The other panelists are truly nationally know experts, Diane Ravitch and Linda Darling-Hammond.