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TFA in the Suburbs?


Robert Pondiscio, writing on the blog of the Core Knowledge Foundation, has an idea for Teach For America's Wendy Kopp: Instead of sending all these young and inexperienced teachers into the nation's lowest-performing schools, why not arrange things so they could serve as "pinch-hitters" in high-performing schools, while experienced, master teachers from those schools take on stints (possibly for increased pay) in disadvantaged areas with the kids who need them most.

Think of it. Our kids who are furthest behind would get what they really need-the best teachers, not just the best-intentioned teachers. Meanwhile, your freshly recruited, elite college grads can learn their craft at a high-functioning school, leaning to become yet another great teacher alongside competent professionals instead of being overmatched in the trenches among other neophytes and burnt out teachers.

Nice idea, Kopp replies, but that's not the way it works:

I don’t think this would be a good thing for urban and rural kids. It is a rare person who has what it takes to excel as a teacher in a low-income community, and it’s not at all a given that teachers who do well in more privileged communities will do well in urban and rural areas. ... The individuals who come to Teach For America are coming because they want to work with the nation’s most disadvantaged children (and it is unlikely that most of them would decide to channel their energy toward teaching in more privileged contexts), and in fact their motivation to level the playing field for them is one reason for their success.

Hat tip: eduwonk.


Wendy is absolutely correct! It takes a special kind of teacher who is up to the task of working with the nation's most disadvantaged students. I know all to well because I work at such a high school. I am the on campus suspension teacher and I work very hard trying to motivate students to want an education and to do well at school. Unfortunately, many teachers at my high school do not share the same attitude and thus many of our students end of dropping out. That's why a "highly qualified" teacher has NOTHING TO DO with how many years a teacher has taught or how smart he/she are. A highly qualified teacher is someone who works hard to help ALL students become successful.

I have taught in an inner city school for 6 years now and I'm pretty sure that inner city schools are low performing because of the misbehaved kids and the ignorant parents, not because of the quality of teachers who work there. People may be taken back by that comment, but it's the truth and the only way to fix the low performing schools would be to educate the parents so that they could raise their children to value education and behave in school. We have a lot of TFA in my school (9 this past year). They teach for two years, get their masters and leave for law school. They have good intentions, but they are not teachers.

Also, there's something called the "because of" factor. Inner city kids who excel, do so because of their teachers. Suburban kids who excel, do so because of their parents and where they are from.

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