While it may be plain to see how TFA’s approach falls short – with recruits receiving insufficient training, placed in some of the most difficult schools, often without adequate support, and then leaving after a couple of years, perpetuating the cycle of poor students receiving poor teaching – it may not be so obvious how to strengthen the teaching profession.
Before looking at alternatives, we should first make sure we’re solving the right problem. Education in the US is often framed as being in crisis, and this crisis is often blamed largely on the supposed problem of “bad teachers” and the unions who protect them. As many researchers and educators have pointed out, this framing of the problem ignores the fact that socio-economic factors trump all others when it comes to achievement of US students. But, teacher morale is at an all-time low and teacher retention is becoming a major problem. There is also growing dissatisfaction from parents, students, and educators about the increasingly scripted and test-focused nature of school. Many schools and districts within the US, and a number of high-achieving countries have shown ways to elevate teaching and learning.
In Reviving Teaching With ‘Professional Capital’, Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves describe an approach to systematically improve teaching. “For high-quality teachers and teaching, this means requiring teachers to be highly committed, thoroughly prepared, continuously developed, properly paid, well networked with each other to maximize their own improvement, and able to make effective judgments together using all their capabilities and experience.” Check out their article for more. There are better alternatives than what TFA is marketing.