California is considering legislation that would ban Teach for America, an organization that recruits college kids for a short stint as teachers in inner city schools. Teach for America (TFA) looks attractive, with a pitch like the Peace Corps, urging bright college kids to serve society by teaching in the most troubled schools that have difficulty finding good teachers.
The group is disturbing to many traditional teachers because they reinforce the notion that teaching is something we can all just jump into, undermining the notion of teachers as professionals; after all, everyone knows how to be a teacher because we all went to school ourselves, right? Traditional teachers spend years in college earning a degree in education to qualify for their teaching credentials, but the young TFA teachers get only a five week crash course.
School districts pay TFA teachers the same as starting teachers, but have to pay many thousands of additional dollars as a fee to TFA, a fee that the California Assembly threatens to ban. California further threatens to bar TFA from the troubled schools that need the best teachers, and that are the only places where TFA places their teachers. A very low percentage of the young TFA teachers remain in the classroom after their short teaching stint, so TFA doesn’t offer a long term fix for the shortage of good teachers in bad schools.
TFA annoyed traditional teachers recently when they seemed to encourage their recruits to cross picket lines in the Oakland teachers strike, and they have annoyed teachers unions by their close affiliation with charter schools, a teacher union bugaboo.
Get a group of teachers together and it won’t be long before the conversation turns to bashing TFA. It looks like I’m the only cartoonist in our PoliticalCartoons.com group who has drawn anything on this topic –which is interesting in itself. Since the controversy about TFA isn’t in the news much, my cartoon takes the form of an explainer. I expect we’ll hear much more about TFA and the professionalism of the teaching profession if the proposed California legislation passes.
Here’s my cartoon.