|NEA Denounces Teach for America|
|posted by: Alix | July 12, 2011, 03:44 PM|
Teach for America, a non-profit organization that recruits recent college graduates and professionals to teach in high-need schools for two years, was lambasted at the NEA's annual conference for what they call efforts by TFA to "union bust" in districts across the country.
The highly acclaimed TFA and the nation's largest labor union have been avoiding official positions on their respective organizations despite years of state and local level infighting. In addition to taking issue with the way TFA teachers are trained, in a new business item approved by union delegates, the union accuses TFA of taking jobs from union teachers in locations where teacher positions are scarce.
Regardless of the NEA's new official position, Teach for America is seen as highly prestigious and effective. These teachers, called corps members, commit to teach for two years in one of 39 urban and rural regions across the country after short but rigorous training sessions. Union critics assert that these teachers are not properly trained as they do not attend traditional schools of education and are unlikely to stay in the classroom for the long haul.
The sponsor of the new item, union delegate Marianne Bratsanos of Washington State, further claimed that "anti-union foundations" and "corporations" substantially fund TFA, naming the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. "These corporations work to silence union voices," she said.
Despite the NEA's claims, according to a recent study in Tennessee, the most effective new teachers in the state are being trained by Teach for America, not traditional colleges of education, with the exception of math teachers from Vanderbilt University. Further, TFA claims that on average 60% of corps members stay in the education field after they fulfill their two-year commitment.
In response to the union attacks, TFA Spokeswoman Carrie James told Education Week, "This year, Teach For America received record interest from schools and districts wanting to hire our teachers, and a record number of applicants for the fourth consecutive year. We will continue to work hard to meet this growing demand for our teachers, which we believe is a reflection of the dedication and effectiveness our teachers bring to the classroom." Clearly, TFA's goals remain the same, regardless of union critiques.
The fact is, study after study shows that TFA's dedicated educators are effective in closing achievement gaps among many of the poor and minority students they have pledged to serve. The good work these corps members are doing should not be discounted by a union with a vested interest in preserving monopolies on school districts and schools of education.
What do you think about the Teach for America program?