It recently came to my attention (see here and here) that TFA has been seeking $50 million from the Fiscal Year 2011 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which should be close to being passed. This would double the funding they received in the FY 2010 bill. What's particularly scary about TFA's move to get this increase in funds is the rationale they use to argue for it.
Letters (here and here) sent around congress this spring claim that "a growing body of independent research....has conclusively shown that Teach For America corps members have a positive impact on student achievement."
Are you kidding me?!?! Conclusively??? Independent???
Even scarier: "Teach For America is prepared to undertake significant growth over the next several years and has the potential to double in size by 2016, but this can only be accomplished with a significant increase in federal support."
Is that really what we want? More money for incompetent, temporary teachers (and don't take incompetent as an insult - no teacher in their first few years of teaching can really be considered competent)?
I recently had a pretty in-depth conversation with a teacher I worked with at CHEC who's in TFA. He told me he thought his five-week experience at the institute in Philadelphia prepared him pretty well for the classroom but that he didn't feel like he really got very many helpful teaching strategies from it. He told me, for the most part, they just put him in summer school classrooms and let him go at it, and then talked to him about what he could change. Five weeks later he was teaching in DCPS where he, like so many other teachers at the school, was treated absolutely horribly (an administrator actually pulled him out of an assembly in front of the students to yell at him in the hallway). Because he doesn't plan on sticking with teaching and will be going to medical school in a few years, he will stay at CHEC despite the toxic environment. I asked him what he thought about TFA's impact on education as a whole. He told me that the best thing it did for him was show him that he wants to work with kids when he becomes a doctor. I told him I worry that's the problem with TFA, that it does great things for its corps members but the students being experimented on end up receiving sub-par educations. He kind of just nodded and said, "I know what you mean..."
So hey Congress! How about instead of funding band-aid solutions that cure some of the symptoms of educational inequity, let's fund some programs that get at some of the root causes. Oh right, you're all just a bunch of politicians....nevermind then.