Sunday, February 10, 2013

Point/Counterpoint: Corp teachers receive top-notch training and support

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In our weekly Point/Counterpoint feature, we invite knowledgeable people (usually two) to express their views on a current topic. After reading each other's columns, our guests then write rebuttals on the RoundTable blog, where readers can join in the conversation.

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Corp teachers receive top-notch training and support

Teach for America trains more teachers for low-income communities than any other organization or institution in the nation. It is also among the most studied teacher preparation programs.

North Carolina, Louisiana and Tennessee have conducted statewide studies on the correlation between teacher preparation programs and teacher effectiveness. All three concluded that TFA teachers had a greater impact on student achievement than other new teachers. The answer is yes to the basic question, "Are TFA teachers effective?"

There are a few reasons why TFA teachers are largely effective. First, TFA's professional development is top-notch. It was the best professional development I've ever had, and included intensive pre-service training, one-on-one instructional coaching and frequent classroom observations and feedback. This exceptional professional development was what I missed most once I completed the program.

Second, TFA painstakingly selects corps members based on character traits and experience that predict success for teachers in low-income communities, including a deep belief in the potential of all kids, demonstrated leadership, past achievement, perseverance in the face of challenges and humility. These traits drive corps members to quickly figure out what they need to bolster student learning.

As a study from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of Connecticut demonstrates, 61percent of TFA teachers stay in the classroom for at least a third year. Many of the others go on to assume high-impact roles in education outside the classroom, including careers as school leaders, within school districts or in public policy.

There is no magic in TFA's method. Rather, it is a well-researched mix of selection and training that results in effective teaching and a long-term commitment to educational excellence and equity. It is neither wise nor fair to exclude teachers coming through alternative programs with proven records of success. Fighting educational inequality is a fight for all of us, and I'm proud of TFA's role in it.

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