Chicago educator Katie Osgood implores Teach For America (TFA) recruits to leave before the school year starts:
TFA claims to fight to end educational inequality and yet ends up exacerbating one of the greatest inequalities in education today: that low-income children of color are much more likely to be given inexperienced, uncertified teachers. TFA’s five weeks of Institute are simply not enough time to prepare anyone, no matter how dedicated or intelligent, to have the skills necessary to help our neediest children. This fall, on that first day of school, you will be alone with kids who need so much more. You will represent one more inequality in our education system denying kids from low-income backgrounds equitable educational opportunities.
She notes that Chicago, where Teach For America places a corps of 500, recently shuttered 50 schools:
As a result, we have thousands of displaced teachers looking for jobs, we have dozens of quality schools of education producing certified teacher candidates-many from the neighborhoods they hope to teach in-all looking for work in Chicago and other urban centers around the country. Just yesterday, I spoke with a fully-qualified new teacher who reported that she will likely have to take substitute positions or do after-school tutoring as there are no full-time jobs being offered in the Chicago Public Schools. Like so many other cities (New York City, Detroit, and Philadelphia to name a few) we have no teacher shortages. We have teacher surpluses. And yet, TFA is still placing first year novice corps members in places like Chicago. To put it bluntly, the last thing our students undergoing mass school closings, budget cuts, and chaotic school policy need is short-term, poorly-trained novices. Teach for America is not needed in Chicago. Teach for America is not needed in most places.
Michael Noll pushes back:
[T]he average classroom experience for U.S. teachers is one year–as per Diane Ravitch, who is no TFA fan. The larger point is that teachers all over the country, regardless of region, are leaving the profession almost immediately after entering it. Partly, they’re leaving because of the lack of union support. But they’re also leaving because schools are, by and large, not supportive environments, either intellectually or professionally or financially. Low-income schools are, of course, hit hardest by this trend. TFA may have imperfect means, but the intentions, I believe, are pure. If teachers leave after two years, that means they spend one more year in the schools than the average U.S. teacher.