Wall Street Journal editorial page weighs-in on Teach For America. It’s harsher than it needs to be but the basic point holds up. All these superintendents who want more TFA teachers want them for a reason.

5 Replies to “WSJ On TFA”

  1. Let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose the state of Virginia decided to ban teacher unions and allow all districts to hire like TFA. The state would run a 5-week bootcamp for new teachers. District leaders would hire any one they thought would be a good teacher. STarting salaries would be the same, but teachers might be able to get larger salary increases if their work was exceptional.

    How many new teachers are hired in the state Virginia each year?

    Would the applicants be the same population as TFA?

    My guess is no. What lures applicants to TFA is the mystique of exclusivity and elitism. Everyone knows that TFA’ers are the best and brightest. It’s another feather in your cap. It’s much sexier than just being hired as a teacher.

    Plus, it appears that about 150,000 new teachers are hired each year nationally. See this site for that reference.

    That’s more than the combined number of graduates at all Ivy League colleges each year. That’s more than 30 times the number of graduates at the elite public universities, like UNC, Umich, Ucal berkeley.

    There’s simply no way to lure the elite group of applicants that TFA now gets to fill that many teaching spot. What’s needed is a way to make sure that new teachers from non-elite backgrounds are as capable and skilled as TFA’ers.

  2. The final notion expressed in the WSJ article is pure rubbish–“Don’t tell the teachers unions.”

    Most of us who follow education policy would accept that there is little depth to the general population’s understanding of education policy, but the WSJ has hit the new shallow watermark. Note to Journal: Management hires new employees–not the union. In its own frustration with union positions on merit pay and due process protections, the WSJ has somehow confused the extent of union influence. The unions represent employees after they are hired not before.

    Yes, there is evidence of trade unions in large urban centers historically influencing the hiring process in the last century. This was mostly done as a protection technique for ethnic groups—you couldn’t get into the ironworkers union if you were not Irish, etc… I don’t what century the WSJ is in, but where I live I don’t ever see teachers union representatives waiting in the parking lot to accost Human Resource personnel telling them “You better not hire that highly skilled Yale grad for the math position or we will break your legs.”

    Now, after teachers are hired, the union’s preferences for representing those who are less advantaged will be evident. Once again why the big surprise? You mean the union might be more inclined to stick up for the single mother who is still in debt because of her teaching credential and masters degree over the trust fund Ivy Leaguer in the TFA program? Of course it will.

  3. Hey Lou,
    My estimate of the % of TFAers who have a trust fund is <1%. What's your estimate?

  4. Lou-

    The unions have everything to do with keeping management from structuring the jobs such that they would appeal to TFA types.

    You prove that the unions don’t exert direct influence on hiring, but the whole point is their indirect influence.

    The typical “highly skilled Yale grad” is not interested in a job featuring pay rises for lockstep seniority and b.s. ed-school coursework, because they would rather go somewhere that rewards talent and achievement.

    How amenable, then, are teachers unions to management’s interest in changing the aforementioned state of affairs? Not very, I somehow have the impression.

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