I have written several times about the concerns I have about Teach For America (see Why I Oppose Teach For America Coming To Sacramento).
A new independent study has just come-out reinforcing those concerns. You can read about it in The Washington Post’s column, “A New Look At Teach For America.”
I am perhaps the weirdest of all of the TFA alumni- I spent 3 of my four college years in a traditional teacher preparation program, then switched majors in my senior year to English. Then realizing that I did indeed want to teach I joined TFA (during one of its first years). That was over 14 years ago, and I am still teaching.
I have to be honest and say that NEITHER TFA nor the traditional preparation program prepared me for the classroom.
The traditional teacher training that I had, from a private Jesuit college with a good reputation, did teach me to write detailed lesson plans, but didn’t tell me what to do when a kindergartner started kicking me or any of the other less than pedagogue perfect situations that I have faced in the real classroom.
My TFA training seemed mostly focused on idealism as well. The training might have changed since then, but at that time we had a summer of training in LA shadowing a teacher, many seminars which were oriented more around the idealism of teaching versus the reality I have since faced.
I honestly believe that there is no training program, short of an old fashioned and LENGTHY apprenticeship that COULD train someone for what they will face once the door closes and you are alone in that classroom with your class.
But I also respectfully disagree with your assertion that TFA is doing more harm than good.
Teachers, no matter what path they arrive by are as individual as snowflakes.
Some TFAers, as well as some traditionally trained applicants, and alternative certification applicants (which is the road TFA was taking when I started) are going to be exceptional, others abysmal, and the great majority are going to fall somewhere in the middle.
Some will make teaching their career, some will decide it is not for them, and some will stay too long and burn out (unfortunately taking some of their students with them.)
Most TFAers come into the classroom with a great deal of idealism and energy- they sincerely want to change the world one classroom at a time. Some do better at it than others. And yes, there is a revolving door policy for many TFAers- but they go on into business and the private sector with at least the knowledge that teaching isn’t all summer vacations and getting off at 3pm every day. And as teachers we can definitely use SOMEBODY in the private sector having an inkling of what we deal with day in and day out.
Now as for the schools letting go of seasoned teachers to hire TFAers or alternative certification program applicants, or other green recruits. I do disagree with that policy- but I think it boils down to economics. Many districts think that by hiring someone at starting pay, versus keeping on a seasoned teacher, they are helping their budget. They just don’t look past the dollar signs to see the kids that are being affected.