That quote is from an article titled “Why I did TFA, & Why You Shouldn’t.” It was penned in October 2011 by Gary Rubinstein, who worked as an alumni recruiter for TFA beginning in 1998.
The basic premise of TFA was to seek out and recruit outstanding college graduates for two years of teaching in schools where there was a shortage of qualified teachers. It was never intended as a mechanism to supplant and displace qualified and available teachers. When it began, in the very early 1990s, the potential for employment among college graduates was pretty dismal, so recruiting for a two-year guaranteed job was pretty simple.
Under-resourced school districts were eager to tap this new source, based on the premise that any teacher is better than no teacher. With the burden of educating a bumper crop of kids, the logic of that premise is evident.
In Cobb County, the conditions which TFA was created to address, do not exist and have not, in my recollection, ever existed.
Several of the schools and districts to which TFA has staked bragging rights, as being indicative of results and improvement in learning that they are capable of creating, have fallen into discredit as cheating scandals, some involving TFA members, have surfaced in Atlanta, New York City, Baltimore, Chicago, Houston and a half-dozen other large school districts scattered from the east cost to California. As you might expect, Dallas, Texas, where Cobb Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa introduced the program when he was superintendent of the Dallas schools, is one of those areas hit by cheating scandals.
While the extent of the cheating and its impact on test scores has yet to be determined in most of these areas, the mere existence of the cheating scandals most assuredly requires we question the real value of TFA.
Consider that TFA recruits are only required to commit two years to the program. Consider, also, that a high percentage of them are gone by the third year. What then? Do we go out and get some more and come up with another $4,000 each to run them through a generic “five-week boot camp” and start all over with rank rookies? How many times can Hinojosa raise money for this program from the private sector before he dips into the general fund?
There is no definitive peer-reviewed research that demonstrates TFA recruits are better teachers than fully credentialed educators. In fact, the rationale behind hiring unqualified, uncertified people with fewer hours of training/education, for the job, than the state of Georgia requires one to have in order to be a licensed nail technician, is a little hard to grasp. Is not the education of our children vitally more important than our nails?
Why has there not been a letter sent to the parents in the district, stating there is a possibility that their child will be the learning experience of a temporary employee? Much of the TFA recruiting effort touts TFA as a training ground for bigger and better things. Little or no emphasis is placed on teaching as a lifetime career, only as a stepping stone. Are we, as parents, willing to allow our schools and, most importantly, our children to be a training ground for someone with little or no interest, beyond what he/she can personally benefit from the time?
A common sense question to ask those like Hinojosa and Board Member David Morgan, who support this program, is, “What documentable data makes you believe that the TFA candidates have some magic solutions to the problems in our schools, when, in fact, they are just out of school themselves, with little or no education/training for the job we are asked to give them?”
Does it not stand to reason that an experienced and dedicated teacher will have a much better background for teaching our children than a hit-and-run recent college graduate looking for a guaranteed job?
The questions about TFA are legion. Yet our school board representatives seem afraid to ask them. The reasons to forgo it are many. Yet our school board representatives appear afraid to say “no” to Hinojosa.
We, as stakeholders, need to tell our school board, in the strongest possible terms, to stop this fiasco now.
Pete Borden is a retired masonry contractor from east Cobb.