No one argues with Teach for America's mission: to help underprivileged students succeed. But some educators have questioned its approach. An unmistakable smugness guides the organization's presumption that smart novices can swoop in to save the day. Some education professors resent what they see as its hero complex and scoff at the idea that newbies can learn to teach effectively in five weeks. A handful of scholars have published articles showing that the largely minority students in Teach for America classes perform worse than their peers, spurring a data war.
Critics object most harshly to part of what makes the teaching corps so alluring to college students: its two-year commitment. Graduating seniors eager for something meaningful to do while they weigh future plans may jump to join Teach for America, which promises an intense, character-building challenge.
The two-year stint may help college graduates' personal development, but is it too fleeting to achieve real change for struggling schools or their students?...
Traditional teacher-certification programs or degrees in education take a year or longer. A prominent criticism of Teach for America is that it's impossible for anyone to learn to teach in five weeks. But the program's officials say their recruits are not just anyone.
Teach for America turns down plenty of applicants who would make good teachers with the traditional year of training, says Nicole Baker Fulgham, a consultant for the program's teacher-preparation team. Instead it goes for the high achievers who can juggle double majors and numerous activities. "For the type of people that we specifically recruit and select," Ms. Fulgham says, "I think the five-week training model works successfully." ...
Teach for America has become increasingly entwined with the corporate world. Several companies, including some of the program's big donors, are hungry for bright, hard-working, prescreened Teach for America alumni. Goldman Sachs, for example, recruits them through the program's Office of Career and Civic Opportunities. Morgan Stanley and Google, among others, allow college graduates who join Teach for America to defer their job offers for two years. JPMorgan pays them a signing bonus of between $7,000 and $15,000 — the norm for college seniors — before they go off to teach.
Graduate and professional schools are also enticing Teach for America participants. About 150 degree programs in business, education, engineering, law, medicine, public policy, and social work, among other fields, give special treatment to members of the teaching corps. Most medical schools offer two-year deferrals, and several law and business schools have established special scholarships to woo veterans of Teach for America....
THE TEACH FOR AMERICA PIPELINE
At many colleges, significant numbers of students decide to join Teach for America. Here are the top 10 participant-producing institutions for the Class of 2006.
U. of Michigan at Ann Arbor
U. of California at Los Angeles
U. of California at Berkeley
U. of Southern California
U. of Notre Dame
U. of Wisconsin at Madison
Washington U. in St. Louis
U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Here are the colleges where Teach for America is most popular, as measured by percentage of the senior class that applied for the 2006 corps.
Claremont McKenna College
U. of Notre Dame
SOURCE: Teach for America
Monday, June 18, 2007