"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Is Teach For America the answer?

Valerie Strauss had a conversation with education writer, Jay Matthews on her The Answer Sheet blog. They discussed Teach for America.

So-called reformers want to get rid of bad teachers, yet they talk about how wonderful it is that, after 5 weeks of training, TFA students go into schools and "teach." This topic has been covered before, but the point is, as Valerie Strauss makes below, that teachers need to be trained and trained well. High achievement at an Ivy League University does not guarantee top quality teaching. Good teachers usually take years to develop, through training and experience. The neediest schools into which TFA trainees go need the best teachers we have to offer, not the ones with the least training.
"I don’t think that people with great SAT scores who go to Ivy League and Ivy League-plus schools are necessarily any better fit to be teachers than students who don’t. That reeks of elitism. Aren’t you the one who wrote the great book Harvard Schmarvard?

"Teaching is not a science, even if Michelle Rhee says it is; it is an art, and it requires a lot of learning. Because many traditional educational programs are wanting doesn’t mean that teachers don’t need serious solid training. It means our programs need to be improved. The idea that TFA/similar programs are any better at producing them than the traditional route seems, at best, unproven.

"Can you get a great teacher by plopping anybody -- from Teach for America, or similar programs -- into a classroom after five or so weeks of training? Sure, but outliers don’t make good policy. I won’t mention how insulting it is to professional teachers with traditional training."

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