Eli Broad and other rich philanthropists pledged $100 million to make Teach for America (TFA) a permanent teacher-training program. This is in addition to a $500,000 grant for TFA from ExxonMobil earlier this month.
Proponents claim that TFA has placed 28,000 recruits into classrooms over the past 20 years, with two-thirds continuing to work full time in education, half of them staying in the classroom as teachers. However, this is not true. Research shows that 69% of TFA teachers quit after their second year and 88% quit by the end of their 3rd year, due in part to their lack of formal training and support, combined with the tremendous stress and pressures facing all new teachers. About half of all teachers (TFA plus fully credentialed teachers) quit within five years.
TFA teachers generally end up in struggling low income schools, where students are most in need of experienced teachers, not neophytes. Recent federal legislation now allows TFA teachers to be considered “highly qualified” under NCLB, contrary to reality: TFA teachers are actually under-prepared and inexperienced.
Why Would Schools Want Inexperienced and Undertrained Novices?
- They are cheaper than experienced teachers (salaries are based on years of experience)
- Charter schools, especially, rely on low-wage teachers to increase their profits
- They are much more malleable and easier to convince to take on extra responsibilities or try new school reforms that experienced teachers recognize as shams
Why Would Anyone Want to Be a TFA Teachers?
They shouldn’t, as they will be thrown into the deep end without knowing how to swim well enough to get to the other side. Their chances of success in the teaching profession, as measured by their ability and desire to continue in the profession are very slim. Yet there were 46,000 applications this year for only 4,400 teaching slots. Why?
- In this economic climate, a teaching job is a pretty damned good opportunity
- TFA teachers receive the same wages and benefits as other beginning teachers in the districts where they work
- Plus, they receive $5,350 at the end of each year of service, for up to two years
- Teaching is a higher status job than many college graduates could get with just a bachelor’s degree in the humanities or social sciences