Now that I don't have a job, I've pretty much been doing whatever I want, which is pretty awesome. I've been working out more, traveling with friends, and doing some research for a GWU professor on education policy (which has been a really enlightening experience).
I'm currently in New Orleans with an old friend of mine for the Super Bowl. I've never been to New Orleans before and was pretty excited about coming to see it. I've discovered that, for the most part, it's not a place I'd ever be interested in living. It definitely has a flair/zest/flavor that I've not seen in any other city, but the neighborhoods and infrastructure is just an absolute disaster. However, the food has been incredible. My friend is Vietnamese and his family is going all out with the family feasts. I've never had such good pho in my life.
Many of my friend's cousins are in middle and high schools in the NO area, but all private. They all say that nobody in their right mind would put their kids in a public school here, so I'm interested in finding out more about them. We're going to be here until Tuesday or Wednesday, so hopefully I'll find an opportunity to visit one of the public schools and find out what they're really like.
In the meantime, I wanted to share a comparison I've been thinking about for a while concerning TFA, and that is this:
Many TFA supporters claim (and by supporters, I mostly mean people working for TFA and the heads of districts that rely on their labor to constitute significant portions of their teaching force) that research tells us that master's degrees and experience don't necessarily translate into higher student achievement (as measured by standardized test scores). I personally think that this argument appeals primarily to people who have never been in the classroom (or at least to those who haven't been in for more than a few years), and I think it begs the following question:
If brand new teachers with no classroom experience are good for our children who most desperately need quality education, then why don't we have brand new medical students performing our most complicated operations? And how many of us would feel comfortable with someone who's never been in an operation room doing a complicated medical procedure on us?
In my mind, this analogy should totally put to bed the claim that TFA is a solution to the problems facing our inner-city students. The only way I suspect one could refute the conclusion suggested by this analogy is by arguing that the analogy itself is not legitimate. They (those that believe TFA is a valid solution to inner-city education problems) might argue that this analogy is not legitimate in one of two ways:
1) The teaching profession is not nearly as technical nor as detailed as the medical profession, and therefore not as much training is required in order to be excellent at it
2) The consequences of making mistakes in inner-city classrooms are not nearly as disastrous as making mistakes in a life or death operation room.
I would take issues with both of these claims.
The teaching profession is incredibly detailed and requires SIGNIFICANT training in order to be excellent at it. It really doesn't take much longer than a few months in an inner-city classroom to realize this.
The consequences of the mistakes of an amateur in an inner-city classroom are possibly more disastrous than those made in an operation room, ESPECIALLY if students are exposed to these amateurs year after year. Students in such situations are likely SIGNIFICANTLY less prone to be career or college ready by the time they leave public schooling. The effects of this on society at large are pretty significant - just take a look at the unemployment rate of 18-25 year-olds in inner-city environments across the country.
Would any pro-TFA people like to take issue with my arguments here? I'm genuinely interested in your responses.