Monday, November 25, 2013

No one really wants to admit that Ivy Leaguers don’t want to teach.

Teach for America continues to get major kudos for getting “the best and brightest” to sign up to jump into the public education arena.  At Harvard, 18% of all graduates are looking to sign up for Teach for America!  Amazing!
The only problem is that they really don’t want to teach in America.
I read Joanne Jacobs a whole lot.  It’s one of the blogs that I turn to when my blogroll has gotten to big and I need to read those good articles before I go on a slash-and-burn campaign in Feedly.  The problem with Jacobs is that she is fairly anti-public schools.  Although she doesn’t like to admit it, her KIPP book shows generalizations towards public education teachers as lazy, and ripe to put off problems on parents.  Much of her solution revolves around Teach for America, where apparently really “high end” colleges are pumping out the next generation of Jamie Escalantes* for public education consumption.  Sounds like what colleges are supposed to do, right?
Except that TFA teachers aren’t teaching.  Studies show that nearly three-quarters of TFAers are not in the classroom after the five year mark.  For those keeping track at home that is nearly a 25% increase in the lack of retention from the standard college credential programs.  Ouch.  And only 14% actually stayed at the schools that needed them the most, the one’s that TFA was supposed to create the most positive change.  Double ouch.  But wait.  What if Ivy Leaguers really don’t see education as the priority?  What if Ivy Leaguers see education as some kind of Peace Corp venture?  You know, head off to a foreign land, teach the natives about civilized American culture, and then come home to the land of milk and honey.  Nah, those kids are wayyyyy to smart for that.
“The majority (56.59%) of those in the (student) sample indicated that, when they applied to TFA, they had planned to teach for two years or less.”   
Look Daddy, I can make my soul feel pure by actually trying to teach the masses!  Or as Walter Isaacson stated recently,
As Walter Isaacson put it at this year's Washington Ideas Forum, there's a perception that "it's beneath the dignity of an Ivy League school to train teachers."
When over half your teaching candidates have no intention of staying within the profession over the course of two years, you really are not trying to create professional educators.  Isaacson is wrong about perception because it’s reality.  And why is it reality?
“Only 3.8 percent of American families make more than $200,000 per year. But at Harvard University, 45.6 percent of incoming freshman come from families making $200,000 or more. A mere 4 percent of Harvard students come from a family in the bottom quintile of US incomes, and only 17.8 percent come from the bottom three quintiles.”
I love me some profit motive.  And show me two married public school K-12 teachers that make $200,000 a year between them and I’ll show you more Ivy Leaguers entering the profession with the intent to actually stay.  That’s a Newhart dream of course and so we are left with a bunch of Ivy League students that want to maintain their standard of living a whole lot more than they want to educate America’s youth, although there are plenty of people that really want to show you that Ivy Leaguers put out better teachers. 
No, I’m not advocating throwing Alex Rodriguez money at public education.  But don’t complain about the system if you really aren’t willing to take the problem seriously.  Teach for America has some interesting ideas…..that aren’t working.  College credential programs have great ideas…..that aren’t working.  New educator mentor programs…..aren’t working (BITSA?  Seriously?)  So invest in education like you mean it and stop with some holier-than-thou Ivy League panacea.
*Jamie Escalante got his degree and credential at Cal-State Los Angeles, which to my knowledge is not Ivy League.
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