American Radioworks® Conversation: Does Teach for America Need Reforming?

USS Missouri-firing gun from astern

How about radio media today instead of print? Today American Radioworks® (ARW) released a conversation (“Does Teach for America Need Reforming?”) that I had with Stephen Smith. What is ARW?:

ARW is the national documentary unit of American Public Media. ARW is public radio’s largest documentary production unit; it creates documentaries, series projects, and investigative reports for the public radio system and the Internet. ARW is based at St. Paul, Minnesota, with staff journalists in Washington D.C., Boston, Massachusetts, and Duluth, Minnesota.

ARW produces documentaries and series projects for news magazines, including All Things ConsideredMorning EditionMarketplace, and The World

ARW represents a sustained effort at explanatory and investigative journalism. Principal themes include: public affairs documentaries on major social and economic issues, investigative reporting, documentaries that explore significant social and cultural subjects through stories with strong narrative threads and “living History,” an ongoing effort to document the 20th century American experience through the lives of those who witnessed it.

To listen to the ten minute conversation, click Teach for American may be more costly than valuable. Next week Elisa Beard, the co-CEO of TFA, will appear on ARW to respond.

For all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on TFA go here.

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Categories: Teach For America, Teacher Quality

Author:Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin.

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3 Comments on “American Radioworks® Conversation: Does Teach for America Need Reforming?”

  1. davidgreene207003059
    January 28, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Julian. You know my take on this:

    Ultimately, we are here about how we can educate all of our kids, regardless of their socioeconomic strata, if we stop believing the hype. Instead of hype, we need solutions. School districts must make better decisions. We must force our school districts to force TFA to change. If districts don’t hire TFA and its CMs, TFA must either adapt or die.

    Districts must hire credentialed, new teachers who have had sufficient teacher training and student teaching internships. Districts should only use Teach For America staffing when there is both a shortage of qualified teachers and the alternative is to hire other uncertified and emergency teachers or substitutes. Districts should not assign TFAs to teach special education classes; CMs are not skilled in general education, let alone, SPED law and issues of remediation. Districts should not request or require TFAs to write grants, tutor kids after school, coach, sponsor clubs, or assume ‘extra’ duties during their first year. They are trying to figure out teaching, and that alone consumes their time.

    The public must resolve to take action. They must go to board meetings and make demands to end this craziness called ‘reform.’ They must and can demand that districts and TFA work together with universities to provide committed, well-trained teachers. They must and can tell school boards:

    TFA must be forced to provide schools with people who see teaching as a career, not just a stepping-stone or an altruistic act of community service. TFA and school district financial managers can find a way to co-finance this. A true, financial partnership can and must be arranged to develop career teachers. [Use] the $70,000 that districts pay for two-year CMs to train and support a new teacher more dedicated to teaching as a career. Districts can pay CMs jointly. The $5,000 (finder’s fee) that districts pay to TFA can be used to hire cadres of effective veteran teachers to ‘coach the Corps’ on-site. All districts must provide a dedicated mentor program with veteran teachers or field specialists who want to mentor Corps Members and all new teachers, and have this duty as their full-time job. Top-flight districts and private schools already do this successfully.

    The inadequate, five-week TFA institute must be replaced by a teamed approach with universities to design a longer MAT program specifically for Corps members and their realities and to create career teachers. The first year of that MAT plan must be composed of training, student teaching, substitute teaching, and being paired up as an assistant to a veteran teacher or more experienced Corps Member. As a result, second-year CMs would have the benefit of getting assistance from the incoming, first-year CMs. No graduate classes should be taken the first year. First-year teaching is far too rough as it is.
    CMs need more “do this tomorrow,” and less theory in the beginning of this MAT program and to value the expertise of instructors who are experienced practitioners of the socioeconomic, grade levels, and subject realities that TFAs are dealing with. New CMs and other new teachers must learn different, creative, and interesting teaching and classroom management strategies for all types of students. More focus should also be given to learning about child development, child psychology, and subcultural pedagogy. One size does not fit all.

    Above all, school boards must be forced to understand the commitment by TFA recruits should be to make teaching a career, not a stopover. TFA claims it did a study and that a longer commitment would scare away many of their top applicants. That’s fine. We only want those who will commit to teaching. We want this to be a part of an overall commitment to developing career teachers, as we do career lawyers.

  2. Charlotte Vrooman
    January 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    Thank you for your articulate and thoughtful commentary.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. It’s Sommer Time: TFA alum Critiques Co-CEO’s “Slick Willie” Interview | Cloaking Inequity - February 6, 2014

    […] But with Clinton’s loss, comes Teach For America’s gain.  During a sometimes awkward interview on American Public Media’s American RadioWorks podcast, “Can Teach for America Keep Its Promise?” The interview was a response to Julian Vasquez Heilig’s interview American Radioworks® Conversation: Does Teach for America Need Reforming? […]

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