Thursday, January 27, 2011

TFA Members, Year 3+

Eduwonk writes that the number of people signed up for Teach for America's upcoming summit "should put to rest the idea that corps members just do two years and move on".

But I think he's confusing two separate questions here:

1.) Do TFA corps members remain in the classroom?
2.) Do TFA corps members remain engaged in education?

It's a fact that most do not teach long, if at all, past their two year commitment. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though it does make it impossible for TFA in its current form to be a large-scale solution for the teacher quality problem.

But I've always argued that the second question is more important. There's a bevy of anecdotal evidence that TFA members move on to other careers (both within and outside of education) that impact our educational system. We're already seeing TFA alums serving as principals and superintendents, and in the next decade I think we'll see a growing number of TFA alums taking leadership roles in academia, government, and other fields as well. To me, this will be the largest impact of TFA in the long run.

So, regarding his post, I don't think a large turnout would say anything about the first debate, but it would say an awful lot about the second.


David said...

It worries me that people who have spent so little time in the classroom are moving into administrative positions so easily.

You don't really have the credibility to be a leader of teachers in a school unless you have really gotten to the stage in your teaching development when you spend every day with questions about how to improve, but no one else can tell because it looks like you have it mastered.

So this trend is an awful trend in my mind. I'm sure it's happening because TFA grads work extremely hard and stand out against the crowd, but I'm not convinced that hard work is sufficient to be a leadership candidate in education.

Corey Bunje Bower said...

I don't actually know this, but I'd imagine that those TFA members who go into ed admin jobs probably tend to teach longer than those who move into other fields.

We'd have to know how many years of teaching they do before moving to administrative jobs before we can conclude that they're too inexperienced when making the switch.