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Opinion: Teach for America Needs to Focus on Improving

Opinion: Teach for America Needs to Focus on Improving

 

Is Teach for America the example of “what not to do when receiving negative criticism?” Is the program stuck from evolving because the organization refuses to focus on improving more than it focuses on taking down critics?

That’s what former alum T. Jameson Brewer says, arguing that TFA is unable to evolve to address the changing needs of the country’s education system because it is too busy focusing on all the wrong things.

“While we all have high demands for teachers, we should also have high demands for federally funded organizations like TFA that seem to believe they are above reproach,” Brewer argues in an article for The Washington Post.

He attacks the 25-year-old organization for continuously producing underprepared and underqualified teachers for the very important roles intended for them- to lead and teach primarily struggling urban, high-poverty districts.

Instead of funneling resources into improving its practices, Brewer says TFA instead focuses its resources on extensive advertising and promotion to combat negative press.

“The organization’s power comes in part from its stunning media presence, and that’s no accident. The organization spends $3.5 million a year on advertising and promotion. As former manager Wendy Heller Chovnick explained to the Nation, communication specialists were assigned to each region, tasked with getting good stories out there and ‘swiftly address[ing] any negative stories, press or media,’” he said.

This approach is detrimental to the organizations future success because it doesn’t leave TFA with the resources or time to grow.

Many past individuals who have went through the program have many major criticisms of TFA. Many say the training is over-simplified and “set teachers up for failure.”

In order to reform itself, Brewer says, TFA needs to adjust to research and evidence that go against its outdated model.

“Decades of educational research have confirmed that out-of-school factors like poverty explain two-thirds of the variance in student achievement. Despite this, TFA has continued to insist that good teachers are all schools need to close the achievement gap. This is little more than a ‘band-aid,’ teaching scholars say. And that message also leads to high rates of teacher burn-out,” he says.

Read the full story here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

10/21/2015

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