Teach for America is poised to lose its dedicated $18 million grant from the federal government and will instead have to compete for a bigger pool of money with other organizations that train teachers, reports the Washington Post today. The Department of Education presents the proposal as a good thing for the nonprofit, since they could receive more money. But, of course, the agency spokesperson says losing the guaranteed level of funding for the risk of competition is hard.
It's difficult to think of many teacher-training programs on the scale of Teach for America, which placed 4,100 teachers in schools around the country last fall, according to the Post. In New York, the city government pays for new teachers to earn their master's degrees if they teach for public schools through the New York City Teaching Fellows program, and before heading D.C. public schools Michelle Rhee, a TFA alum, founded the New Teacher Project to help career changers make the transition into teaching. But it's hard to imagine those programs will take away more in grant money than Teach for America does.
The competition could help solve a central issue many have with the organization -- its efficacy. Detractors love to say that teachers from its program are no better trained than those from any other program, displace more experienced teachers, and that many TFA alumni leave education after their two-year commitment ends. A recent study found that its alumni are not more dedicated to service, by some measures, after they leave. And the investigations it does on its teachers' effectiveness have spawned bigger conversations about what makes a great teacher. Traits like "grit" and "life satisfaction" may mean more than the traditional measures we think of, like having the kind of educational background TFA's recruits tend to.
So conversations about how well TFA recruits and trains teachers, and how well other organizations do, might be more public if they're all competing for the same grants. And that might help settle some of these issues and recruit great teachers in the process.
-- Monica Potts