My husband is an accounting professor. Two weeks ago he received a perky email from Anh-Thi Mouradav out of Nashville’s The New Teacher Project (TNTP) Teaching Fellows looking for him to forward her email request to accounting students who would make, in her words, “highly-effective math teachers.” He was quick to reply telling her that it is a very mistaken notion that a degree in accounting makes you a good math teacher.
For anyone who has forgotten, TNTP is Michelle Rhee’s baby from before her DC Chancellor years, although some say it is really Wendy Kopp’s baby. I don’t care whose baby it is, it is one baby I don’t like. Teaching Fellows are just like Teach for America (TFA), only you don’t have to be fresh out of college. TNTP kicks out the local school district’s personnel department (oh they might stick around) and then they take charge mostly hiring their own.
I guess they are satisfied with accounting majors teaching math and middle school. Most of them were never real teachers either.
I posted something about this accounting/math email on Facebook and had several interesting and well-received responses. All of the commenters, including the daughter of an accountant, a degreed math expert and a professor who has written a book about Teach For America, understood, like my husband, that accounting degrees, while good for doing accounting, do not automatically make good math teachers.
I figured my husband’s response to Ms. Anh-Thi taught her a thing or two. And, if nothing else, at least she would give some thought to approaching those out of a field for particular fast track teaching assignments.
Au contraire. Several days later my husband got a second email from her which shows that when TNTP recruiters recruit anything goes.
Thank you very much for your response. Our program has a great training for those interested in teaching math but did not major in mathematics – we call that track “Math Immersion”. In addition to training in teaching fundamentals and techniques, Math Immersion also provides additional help and support in math content knowledge. We have found in the past that several of our Fellows with accounting backgrounds have the logical thinking that helps make them successful math teachers in the classroom.
If there are accounting students interested in teaching but perhaps in another subject area, we do also provide another option that may be of interest to them: middle school general content.
Would you still be willing to forward along our program information to you graduating students?
Many thanks in advance for your time.
Teaching Fellows Programs
No! will still be his answer. The New Teacher Project, now found in almost every big city in the country, is sure to run over whatever career teachers are left standing. And school districts who don’t want to pay teachers gladly hand them the power to make the school personnel decisions having to do with teachers.
Math Immersion? Do any of us really know what Teaching Fellows (like TFA) are taught? Who are the great teachers who teach them what they need in five weeks? Other Fellows? TFA? Or do they have one real teacher teaching hundreds of them all at once online across the country? I’d like to know.
What I do know, is that these Fellows, like TFA, can often be found in schools, running to get help from the career teacher whom they probably will eventually replace.
And it is interesting that those who slam teachers or real education schools, because they don’t think teachers get enough content preparation, don’t seem to fuss about speed training in these fast track teacher programs.
I know for a fact that many parents are very worried about the kind of mathematics instruction their children are getting. How well-prepared are math teachers these days?
I also have to laugh at Ms. Mouradav’s reference to teaching middle school content…another area she seems to think you can slide into quickly and easily, I’m assuming with five weeks of Middle School Immersion.
Yet, middle school is one of the most challenging developmental periods in schooling. It is definitely not for the faint of heart, and it demands much study and understanding—certainly a crash course won’t do it.
Years ago many states began demanding middle school credentials—special coursework and extra time dedicated to understanding this important grade level. What happened there?
Did I add that Teach for America and Teaching Fellows have decided they can be teachers in special education? I think this has been happening all along, but now they advertise it. Don’t believe the shortage talk. This is another concerted effort to replace career teachers.
They are emboldened.
They know the corporate know-it-alls adore them and will throw a few million their way in every city across the country—along with millions of our tax dollars. School district leaders will shed phony tears on the nightly news about being forced to lay off career teachers while they are concurrently, eagerly holding job fairs for TFA and Teaching Fellows down the street.
But unfortunately, for our students, and the good old USA, the simple fact remains—accounting students are just not math teachers in five weeks. They aren’t middle school teachers either—or special educators.
What should parents do?
It’s simple. Ask your children’s teachers where they went to school. Ask them about their degrees. Are they real teachers? Do their degrees match the subject they are teaching?
Ask your principals how many teachers in the school have degrees in the subjects they are teaching. Don’t be shy. Put them on the spot and start demanding real credentialed teachers!
And you real career teachers—get out your sheepskin/s and hang them on the walls. Let parents know who you are and where you came from.
My husband wondered what he should say to Ms. Anh-Thi besides telling her he still would not recommend their program to his students. I told him to send her a copy of my post even though I doubt she will Tweet it.
Emily Cupples says
Your blog here allows the ignorance to speak for itself. District leaders have the option to hire TFA and Teaching Fellows. It is their discretion. They are told if they absolutely cannot find a better fit for the positions to pull from the TFA pool. They undergo rigorous training to ensure they are effective educators, and if their score card is low they are pulled. They do not receive a teacher licensure. It also aids in bringing top talent to the city it serves in. It helps to recruit and retain young fresh talent. No traditional teacher is losing a job because someone would rather hire a fellow. They are losing their jobs because they are ineffective educators. Just as would happen with fellows. So go bash some other problem somewhere else and stop allowing your dumb founded notions to pollute the web. Last but not least, the low income areas teaching fellows are serving coincidentally would not have the resources to find your post. You’re actually not helping a problem, but growing it. So on behalf of the education gap and poverty of our country, thank you for writing a hott check for our future.
Nancy Bailey says
Emily, Thank you for your post even though I must disagree with you. All children deserve teachers who study long term and who plan on making teaching a career. Most TFA or the Fellows don’t stick around long enough, no matter how well meaning they are when they start out. I know there are traditional route teachers who leave too, but not as much. And TFA and the Fellows most certainly are directly competing for the jobs of traditional teachers. Check on the research. This debate is everywhere and a lot of parents are tired of it and want regular teachers. This is not a topic I pulled out of the air. I also think it takes much longer to become a teacher than the current amount of time TFA and the Fellows suggest. Many of the these individuals wind up requiring help from the veteran teachers they are meant to replace.
Emily Cupples says
Right. And when teaching as a career does not work out, where do those TFAs and Fellows go? Something pertaining their traditional degree path.
Research and studies shown show teachers do not leave for a dislike of the profession, but a dislike of leadership and community. So the problem lies in retainment due to administration and support. This is for any teacher, not just TFA. The only factor is TFA has a different degree than teaching, and are able to seek other positions.
And as far as training time. When the education model began laying foundation, you didn’t go to school to become a teacher. You studied mathematics or history and then became a teacher. The “teaching degree” came about when women began to attend college, and the country saw this as a good way to further segregate the genders. So your argument would be valid if you were preaching on the effectiveness of women in the profession, but not Non- Traditional VS. Traditional. IF THIS WERE THE CASE, FELLOWS WOULD HAVE LOWER SCORES.
The Fellowship and Residency programs encourage people to pursue other degrees. If and when a teacher decides they would rather do something else, they are equipped to transition. There is a foundation of the subject, and a training to teach it. Instead of how to teach, and no foundation.
Sarah Puglisi says
My daughter Sylvia is one of these teachers, one without teacher credentials, teaching special students in a private high school academy in LA ,and teaching math at the Korean hagwon. I probably misspelled that. I’m learning a great deal about Korea, so is she, She takes Korean, not in her spare time-teaching full time in two settings means she has no time. But for the sake of argument let’s just say Sylvia exemplifies this thing that was someone’s idea-getting highly skilled minds into education. People from “outside”. She has her degree from Caltech and she’s been brilliant all her life. And she’s an incredible teacher. I’d like to credit my husband and I, both teachers, for that but actually I think it was largely the fact she is very analytical. As she went through all the stages of her education she was polished and she thought about the meta-whatever that was going on. She was extremely good at relationship building and very good at getting in the mind of the teacher and fellow student. She has demonstrated that she not only is good at this-she’s excellent at this. Driven, unsatisfied with letting kids slide, determined to be that thing that helps that child love learning and see themselves as capable.Taking on the hardest challenges. A fire in her.
I went to those education classes ( CA made me repeat them so I did it twice) and very, very, very seldom did those programs actually teach that. If you think you got that there-ah we have left reality….What my kid does was not taught in an ed course. And now those programs are very good at getting their pupils on the testing page. That’s what they do now-fine tune that skill. When I deal with young student teachers, like the one who told me he could not read a book to my first graders because of his dyslexia, I seldom see content knowledge and -for instance-excellent math skills. And we can gloss over this. Except there is the truth that most of Sylvia’s peers at Caltech, 99%, did not pursue teaching in areas of poverty or need. No they did not. As in my high school, almost none of my peers became teachers that reigned in the upper quartiles. They pursued something else. And I think the reason why is that the system of public ed, especially where I teach, is just too hard. One of Sylvia’s peers went into TFA to Baltimore- and got out-not for lack of teacher training but for the actual conditions of the work.
Violence, low pay, beatings (figurative) by admins, poor leadership, no supplies, on and on…. the reality of the work. I left my teacher chair accidentally at my work. I just transferred. I can’t just go get it. I bought it for 200, why not? It’s already been appropriated by someone who was allowed to do so. Thus it is. An atmosphere like that, Syl’s friend decided was not somewhere to start a life. She went in with the reasonable expectation of kindness and care, respect and dignity at least at the site and district level. But these are the things we are not talking to yet. The reality.
I do not agree with this comment to you because it is rude. It is sniping and it doesn’t honor folks who do work that is good in really hard days. I do not think accounting majors will go into elementary teaching unless jobs are so impossible to find that then a teaching job looks viable. Basically in the economic downturn TFA kids took teaching jobs because the economy was so bad. Almost none for the pay-it’s awful-but to do something meaningful until they could go into their field. If I’m wrong they’d be in schools of education. Will they have top notch communication and teaching skill. They may or may not.
My daughter at Caltech developed incredible skill in collaborative process, in presentation, technology integration, problem solving on and on. She was trained in it very specifically because research scientists and engineers HAVE to have it. Think of it like this-she has been trained to work at NASA-can you imagine not wanting her teaching kids if you can get it…. And all of that aids her success as a teacher. Nothing in teacher training comes close to what that kid got in terms of thinking creatively, using skill.sets that are something to watch when she teaches-say in my room. we are fooling ourselves if we don’t get that. She’s incredibly ready to present content.
One thing I noticed , and I throw this in, is content left with NCLB, largely.
Syl definitely understands why that”s a bad idea. Most everyone I work with, those trained in ed programs said absolutely NOTHING the last twelve years about that. They couldn’t even raise an alarm but they could bully a colleague into silence. And status quo.
So….what to do with this…. pay teachers better wages, make teacher ed programs more about content, learn from one another, bring kids from fields into the profession in positive ways, look at teacher leadership.
And stop denying the fact that a degree from “Phoenix University” is the same as one from a school like Caltech. These folks I work with are not trained equally and it’s a very difficult thing but a true thing. Math is a wonderful way to differentiate it as I hear my peer teachers happily telling me that they don’t need to learn advanced math-they only teach K. It’s a strange thing, but a real thing that hurts us as a profession. Love of learning and discipline to be good at it require highly motivated, qualified folks.
There’s a lot to be done in the ed world.
Nancy Bailey says
I am not against alternative teachers, Sarah. Your daughter is brilliant and like her parents–passionate. There is a always a place for dedicated teachers from outside the ed. school route. She likes what she is doing. And I know state university ed. schools can improve. But fast-tracking, like I think you agree, is not the answer. Certainly a revolving door teacher corp is not the answer either. But thanks for your well-thought out comment.
Sarah Puglisi says
Oh and though she’s sniping I think Emily is on point about training. Excellently on point. I have two degrees in my fields and then I got ed degrees. But I work with many that seem to think a lack of subject matter excellence is acceptable. She’s too on point to criticize. But I would ask her to understand that rapid in and out of these folks-pretty destabilizing in schools. Lots of variable in play here. If teaching is a life long desire-there’s real good in that. But..too much for one afternoon.
Nancy Bailey says
I think you are saying you really didn’t like your ed school? Well you are not alone. I guess I was fortunate with both state schools that I attended in the ’70s.
But I would still argue that teaching, in order to be a real profession, requires much more than a short time stint on how to prepare students for testing. I know in special education there is a real pedagogy. You really are taught to understand development and disabilities.
I leave this reply to you Sarah, but it is for Emily as well. Thank you both for your views and taking the time to post. And feel free to respond if you care tool! Best.
Sarah Puglisi says
I like my ed school. It was easy is what I am saying. I took 30 hours at a time. It was not difficult. I would think in ALL ed you should be taught those disability pieces. And a lot more. It was easy because …..my view was schools were seen as a lesser position than say an engineer was going into or a doctor. I have always thought that if the training were as rigorous as med school we would be in fantastic shape. I think so. I had an art degree-wish I’m sure many find laughable but that training was extremely good. So good I also got an art ed degree and that training was tremendous. I went into teaching with good supports, no doubt about that and some time to develop. But that training in creativity-that’s the piece that served me in teaching. Bill Thomas my art ed teacher was an astoundingly good teacher of a future teacher. I had mentoring. I do not think dropping a kid in a violent hood unsupported is a model for building teaching skill. TFA, I hope, has improved that tactic. They come under criticism I think for implying that they can do the impossible-eradicate the issues poverty and neglect have bred. They cannot. They will have successes I’m sure. But the deep issues -these are there for our world to discover. In a deeply divided society NO entity can save us. We will need to come together for that.
Nancy Bailey says
I’m sorry. It sounds like you are supportive of TFA and like programs.
I think these programs have built themselves around the hook that ed. schools were no good. I would argue some were and some were not. I think today they are more a mixed bag due to their lack of standing up for themselves and the efforts to privatize. There are a lot of for-profit online schools, and who knows what is being taught.
Who’s teaching the TFA and the Fellow classes? I’ve often wondered.
I agree that regular ed. teachers should get a foundation to understand SPED areas, but I still think there is an important place for teachers dedicated to a specialty like Autism for example. You can’t learn everything and there is much to learn in these separate areas.
I had to get certified through coursework in every area of special ed. before being allowed to teach in those areas, and I believed then and now that it was important. I think it is to the detriment of the students to be in overcrowded classrooms with a disability and no support.
The intent, I believe, and posted the other day is to get rid of SPED. I can’t imagine a TFA teaching in special ed. with minimal preparation.
All of this said, we may disagree, but you are still one of the best art teachers around whom I greatly admire! Thank you, Sarah!