RALEIGH, N.C. – In response to an essay criticizing the Teach for America teacher training program in the Washington Post, Warren County, North Carolina Superintendent Ray V. Spain contributed his thoughts to the newspaper in support of program.
Renowned union sympathizer and Post columnist Valerie Strauss highlighted an essay by a former Teach for America teacher, who believes the program that recruits high-level college grads to teach in public schools is hindering more meaningful reform.
Spain’s response shows why the former TFA teacher’s conjecture doesn’t reflect reality.
From the Washington Post:
As a superintendent, I am always glad to see questions of teacher preparation and training come center stage. Often though, as these debates unfold, I cringe. The latest emerged last week, when an alumnus of Teach For America declared that the program had “run its course.” In doing so, he fell victim to an all too common trap – the siren call of the silver bullet.
Every day, Teach For America corps members and alumni work to meet the needs of the children and families in my district. Silver bullet? No. Critical aspect of the pursuit of educational equity in our highest-need schools and communities? Absolutely. From where I sit, Teach For America hasn’t “run its course.” It’s hitting its stride.
Like so many rural districts, mine faces a true teacher shortage – particularly in subjects like math, science and special education. Teach For America helps to address this – offering our principals access to a national pipeline of diverse, accomplished candidates committed to excellence. Best yet, research shows that, once hired, these corps members make a measurable difference.
For each of the last three years, the University of North Carolina has compared teacher prep programs statewide and found that corps members have a consistent, positive impact on student achievement. And so, while I’m sorry to hear this particular alum’s reflections on his time in the classroom – teaching is certainly not for everyone – the data tells a very different story.