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Certification Program Disappoints


The New York Teaching Fellows program was the subject of a tell-all article in The Village Voice last week. The fast-track certification program, founded in 2000, offers provisional certification, a subsidized master’s, and the opportunity to teach in the country’s biggest school system. This year 20,000 prospective teachers—among them many career changers—applied to the program, with roughly 2,400 earning a spot at the blackboard. Fellows comprise 20 percent of the fall's new hires, but half will most likely quit by their fifth year, according to Department of Education statistics.

Why? According to the article, many fellows give the program an F for administrative bureaucracy, job placement, classroom support, and the quality of the master’s degree. Unprepared for the extent of classroom behavioral issues, many fellows just walk away. Sara Lippi, a fellow who’s staying, told The Village Voice, “You know you have the opportunity to do something positive, but you’re also so ill-prepared in that situation that you could really do harm to these kids…”


As a fellow, I couldn't agree with this article more. Teaching Fellow Program does a poor job at preparing teachers. I remember my summer training being nothing more than an opportunity for fellows to vent about not finding work. I didn't learn how to write a complete lesson plan until January- four months ino the school year! Fortunately, I was in a supportive school, and my first year I taught special ed with an amazing paraprofessional who taught me what I needed to do.

Currently my school mostly hires Teach For America candidates, who come in fully prepared with vast amounts of toolkits, that they even share with non-TFA colleagues.

The sad reality is that Fellows trains poorly teachers who want to stay in the game, while TFA trains extensively candidates who are in it for the preshow- many (not all) TFA'ers I speak to have no intention in staying in education beyond their two year commitement despite making great strides with students. However, those that do stay go on to open their schools or create wonderful additions to their current placements.

I recommend that the NYCTFellows program be overhauled, many of the adjunct professors- although may be great teachers, do not have the skills or materials necessary to adequately prepare future teachers. Without the proper training and support, teachers are bound to fail and it's our students who pay the price.

I couldn't agree more with this statement. As an experienced teacher of over thirty years, I wrote a book that may help teachers in just this type of situation. I taught,briefly, in an alternative certification program and it was woefully inadequate in its preparation of prospective teachers. Even new teachers with full programs at universities often arrive with poor skills. New teachers are prone to stress and burnout more than ever. Mentoring programs and apprenticeships of one to two years should be mandatory.


Chris R

I cannot believe that anyone would blame the FELLOWS program for the faults of the New York City public school system!

I'm a 2004 NYCTF alumna who is no longer in the classroom (I lasted 3 years); I had the same nightmarish experience as everyone else and I couldn't hack it, but to blame the program? You've got to be kidding.

NYCTF didn't make the kids behave the way they did, it didn't make their parents too poor to afford notebooks or breakfast, nor did it make my principal give me and the other Fellow at my school the toughest kids and the hardest teaching assignments. The NYCTF wasn't responsible for the fact that I had to bring my own chalk or provide all the books for my classroom library. It wasn't responsible for the soul-sucking staff meetings and insultingly insipid "professional" development I had to sit through, the bureaucracy or the broken copy machine.

The program did the best it could. At least I got an incredible support network in my FA group and my courses, the only reason I survived at all. And no, my kids weren't harmed by having me. I was new and I learned along the way, but I was good at what I did and my kids knew I loved them. I didn't scream curses at them in front of the class or make them stand in the corner while I berated them, like the veteran teacher next door (graduate of a traditional teaching program); I knew how to spell and punctuate correctly (unlike many traditionally-certified teachers at the school), and I cared. There are no more incompetent teachers coming out of the NYCTF than out of regular programs. Half of ALL new teachers quit within the first 5 years, not just Fellows and not just in challenging districts. Teaching is hard and it takes decades to get good at it, regardless of your preparation.

The school system sucks, and working there is hard. Was it worse than I expected? Absolutely. But could we maybe, just maybe, hold *the school system* accountable for the problems of *the school system*, rather than trying to blame a non-profit group just trying to do its best? Yes, a yearlong apprenticeship program would be better, but where's that funding supposed to come from, exactly? Talk to NCLB and your federal government about that, not the NYCTF.

And a word also about the "bullshit" master's, as I received one of these as well: I was happy to have classes that were in no way academically or intellectually demanding, because they gave me a lot more time to dedicate to my teaching. The master's ought to be waived until you've survived your first two years...but that would have to happen in Albany, not on Livingston Street.

The complaints of the teachers in this article are certainly legitimate, but the target is all wrong. Hold the schools accountable.

For a comprehensive reform proposal see www.Thistle-Seed.com/Campaign.htm

I'm a NYCTF (in my eight year) and I was just as well prepared for my position as any other NEW teacher. By the fourth year, my students were the top academic performers in my school. When I speak to veteran teachers, they share the same observation--colleges can't prepare you for everything encountered in education, and especially not in the classroom! Here's the bottom line--truly good teachers are not a dime a dozen. No matter how they made it to the classroom, good teachers are talented individuals who LEARN how to teach well. And nothing prepares a teacher like his/her students. Students are the true teachers of truly good teachers.

Correction: eigth year
That typo should be good for a laugh or two. Please forgive.

That's eighth. Please forgive, once more. Thank you. (smile)

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • JC, again: That's eighth. Please forgive, once more. Thank you. (smile) read more
  • JC: Correction: eigth year That typo should be good for a read more
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