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Teach for America
Teach for America

AIR DATE: July 7, 2010

Teach for America scours the country looking for the best and brightest college grads to join its ranks as teachers. Those teachers then go through a whirlwind training course and then placed into some of the toughest schools in the country.

Those schools are largely minority and have some of the poorest kids in their respective districts. So what are Teach for America recruits doing differently in Clark County? And how successful are they? We continue our summer series on education with a look at Teach for America.

We talk with the group's executive director as well as one former and one current TFA teacher.

Allison Serafin, Exec Dir, Teach for America Las Vegas Valley
Jonathan Thatcher, Program Dir, Teach for America Las Vegas Valley
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    Continuation of the last post:

    So maybe you are young and inexperienced and unrealistic enough to work eighty hours a week trying to make kids with IQs of 80 into college material, but this country is never going to find enough suckers and delusional people to stick it out in education working those kinds of hours for lower pay than most other college grads in order to try to achieve what is impossible.

    And THAT is one of the major problems with education - expecting way too much for way too little from teachers, under way too stressful conditions. I see T for A reinforcing that rather than helping.

    KrisOJul 1, 2010 10:04:18 AM
    You really think that it's your obligation as a teacher to cause kids with low IQs to have the same outcome as kids with high IQs? And you really think that's possible?

    Honestly, thanks to all the good, effective T for A teachers for their hard work, but facing reality and having common sense are also important teacher qualities. It is no wonder that Allison Serafin is no longer in a classroom; otherwise, reality might have to creep in eventually.

    Also, please see the comment I made previously about the hours T for A teachers put in. I've both read and heard that they routinely put in about 80 hours a week. My understanding is that there are also loan forgiveness and higher education stipends involved, so that helps supplement their low incomes, but I hope T for A teachers understand that they are, to some degree, undermining a system where it is simply unrealistic to expect people to work 80 hours a week for years, because they are causing some people to have unrealistic expectations for teachers. If they are the high-minded, socially-conscious people they purport to be, they ought to have some consciousness about their undermining of labor. TBC...

    KrisOJul 1, 2010 09:58:24 AM
    From "I have over 10 friends who are either currently in TFA or have gone through the program (they recruit heavily at my undergrad and take lots of people every year). In general, I would say about half of them have enjoyed their experience. One quit before X-mas of her 1st year because of the lack of support she was receiving and because her kids were so out of control (to no fault of her own) she feared going in there everyday knowing the Principal wasn't helping. Two friends quit after a year. One friend in it now really wants to do the 2 years because she thinks if she signed a contract she should stick with it but is very unhappy. And another friend did her 2 years, realized that TFA made her hate the public school system in America, and now she's in law school." another: This past week I over heard one of the TFA teachers talking about the amount of outside time the TFA program also takes up. Including teaching and TFA meetings she said she puts in anywhere from 80-100 hours a week in. She loves it though and is getting great support from her school." How many years will she love working 80-100 week for peanuts?
    KrisOJul 1, 2010 09:46:19 AM
    After listening to Allison Serafin for just a few minutes, I'm already ready to barf. Apparently T for A teaches its participants that one of the problems with education is that teachers have low expectations due to race and income. Bull. More "blame the teacher" rhetoric.

    However, actual teachers who stay in the classroom rather know that there are REAL differences that do affect education - such as IQ and effort, and NOT race and income. Sorry, but not all kids should go to college. Providing equal opportunities is not the same as demanding equal outcomes for every single student.

    Also, the statistics I'm hearing from her about T for A people staying in ed are not what I've read.

    (By the way? Would you inform her? that there is not a question mark after each half sentence? I hope she doesn't teach language arts?)

    Good for these young people for working long hours for low pay for a couple of years, but don't expect them to last, and don't expect teachers who are in for the long haul to work 80 hours a week for thirty thousand a year. They are not all so impressed with T for A as these two.

    Incidentally, I'm a teacher who attended an Ivy League, but not T for A.

    KrisOJul 1, 2010 09:32:08 AM
    No teachers are ever fired in order to hire TFA teachers. And 50% of the TFA teachers stay in teaching. In my experience the TFA teachers results are astounding and the data recording required by TFA for their teachers to track their students progress is above and beyond anything required by school districts. TFA is an inspiration for our educational system in the country and a vital, effective training ground for new, vibrant teachers.
    Judy QJul 1, 2010 09:26:07 AM
    I think that Teach for America (TFA) is just a refuge for Ivy League college grads who don't know what to do after they graduate. TFA only has a 33% retention rate, not to mention that the their teachers don't bring the students scores up all that much. The funding used to keep TFA going would be better utilized by training teachers who are already working in our schools & actually plan to stay there. Also TFA should consider getting teachers who actually came for the ghetto & not all these Ivy league rich kids. TFA also causes schools to fire teachers for temps that won't be there for long.
    Tina RezJul 1, 2010 09:01:31 AM
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