Teach For America and Education Reform

As schools around the country get ready for summer break, discussions of education reform are coming to the forefront:

http://www.good.is/post/is-an-occupy-teach-for-america-movement-brewing/ 

I have friends and family who have participated in Teach For America and similar initiatives.

The reality isn’t pretty.

For years, stories of novice teachers being thrown into unruly classrooms have slipped into the media. Many argue that Teach For America’s impact on classrooms and retention rates of participants have been less than stellar.

Lackluster performance is always a possibility in fields where results are often judged by intent and good-will instead of results.

We’ve already explored some of the reasons why teachers unions may do more harm than good for stakeholders in the U.S. education system. Part of the problem is the reluctance to criticize ostensibly noble professions (e.g. the military, education, charity work). We tend to let good intentions trump results when evaluating the effectiveness of both the programs and practitioners. Parents and students grow to love their teachers—after all, most teachers are friendly, dedicated, and have a genuine interest in their students well-being.

Unfortunately, as scholastic achievement continues to sag, nothing can be held sacrosanct.

Competition and open discourse drive success. The more insular an organization or nation, the less likely they are to innovate and seek more effective solutions. Divergent opinions and new vantage points can break new intellectual and economic ground. Ditto for a refusal to consider any industry above reproach.

Here are a few more hot-button topics making the rounds in academia:

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/05/20/is-segregation-back-in-us-public-schools

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-05-20/opinion/os-ed-fcat-test-score-andrew-spar-052012-20120518_1_fcat-reading-and-math-scores-from-one-year-teachers

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