Wendy Kopp: Answering Teach For America's Critics | Summary and Q&A

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January 20, 2011
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Stanford eCorner
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Wendy Kopp: Answering Teach For America's Critics

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Summary

In this video, the speaker addresses criticisms regarding the effectiveness of Teach For America's recruitment and training process for teachers. They explain the importance of recruiting talented individuals from competitive colleges and universities and how their selection process aims to identify teachers who possess the necessary characteristics to be successful. They also highlight the intensive and goal-oriented training program that Teach For America provides. Additionally, the speaker emphasizes the magnitude of the education crisis and the need for innovative solutions, such as getting highly capable individuals involved in addressing the issue.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why do some critics argue that people from elite colleges are not the best teachers for kids?

Critics argue that people from elite colleges may not necessarily be the best teachers for kids because there is a perception that these individuals may not be well-prepared or skilled enough after the summer training provided by Teach For America. They also argue that since this program only requires a two-year commitment, it may not be enough to solve the overall problem.

Q: What is the response to the criticism that Teach For America mainly recruits from competitive colleges?

The speaker acknowledges that Teach For America does recruit aggressively from the most competitive colleges in the country. However, they believe this is critical because it is important to have well-educated and skilled individuals channel their energy into improving the education system. The reality is that the most capable people are not currently choosing a career in teaching, so Teach For America aims to change that by making teaching a desirable option at selective colleges.

Q: How does Teach For America identify potential teachers?

Teach For America has developed a predictive selection model to identify potential teachers. They focus on personal characteristics such as a track record of achievement, perseverance in the face of challenges, influence and motivation skills, organizational ability, problem-solving ability, and respect and humility in working with others. While they prioritize individuals who possess these characteristics, Teach For America recognizes that there are exceptions and that teachers with these qualities can come from various backgrounds.

Q: How does the preparation of Teach For America corps members address the learning curve of being a first-year teacher?

The speaker acknowledges that no free service program can eliminate the learning curve of being a first-year teacher. However, Teach For America has learned a lot about both the characteristics and teaching methods of transformational teachers. As a result, they have developed an intense, goal-oriented free service program that prepares teachers to make significant academic gains with their students in low-income communities. They believe that their program is comparable, if not better, than any other free service program in the country.

Q: What kind of management and training do Teach For America teachers receive?

Teach For America recognizes the importance of ongoing professional development and support for their teachers once they are in unique classroom environments. They invest heavily in this aspect and approach it like any good manager would, ensuring that teachers have the necessary tools and resources to excel in their roles. The evidence shows that principals perceive Teach For America corps members as better trained than other new teachers, and data indicates that they are more successful as new teachers compared to their peers.

Q: How does Teach For America address the criticism that it is just a band-aid solution to the education crisis?

The speaker highlights the magnitude of the education crisis, with millions of children growing up in poverty and facing significant hurdles in their educational journey. Teach For America aims to tackle this crisis by rallying talented individuals to make it their cause and invest in their success. While some critics argue that Teach For America is just a band-aid solution, the organization believes that it is important to have individuals from both within and outside the education system working together to find solutions. They emphasize the need for policymakers and influential individuals to understand the problem deeply and support innovative approaches.

Takeaways

Teach For America addresses criticisms regarding their recruitment and training processes, asserting that they actively recruit from competitive colleges to enlist the most talented individuals. They have developed a predictive selection model and intense training program to prepare teachers for success. The organization acknowledges the limitation of a two-year commitment but argues that it is critical to involve capable individuals in solving the education crisis. Teach For America aims to make teaching a desirable career path and believes that both internal and external solutions are needed to address the complex challenges within the education system.

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