With the aim of bolstering corp members' efficacy during their first year in the classroom, Teach For America has announced a pilot program designed to increase training and support for new TFA recruits.
The program will offer a yearlong pre-service training program focused on learning theory and practical pedagogy, cultural competency, and classroom experience to college juniors who applied for early admission to the 2015 teaching corps. TFA recruits currently learn basic teaching methods during a five-week "institute," followed by two years of on-the-job support as they fulfill their teaching commitment. After piloting the program for two years, TFA will identify best practices for improving the program in the future.
A second initiative announced by the organization will increase ongoing support for teachers in their third, fourth, and fifth years of teaching, with the aim of boosting retention rates among TFA alumni. Pilot programs ranging from teacher practice communities led by alumni to coaching of alumni by TFA staff members are being developed in twelve of the forty-eight regions where TFA works. According to a 2008 study, while between 50 percent and 60 percent of TFA alumni stay in their schools to teach at least a third year, only 15 percent stay for more than four years.
Critics of TFA have argued that the five-week "institute" is insufficient to prepare new teachers for the realities of the schools and communities in which they work, Education Week reports. In announcing the new initiatives in a speech to TFA corps members, co-CEO Matthew Kramer framed the changes as part of the organization's evolution.
"We're not the same organization we were in 1990," said Kramer. "At twenty-four, we're more diverse as a corps and a staff. We're doing more than ever to teach and practice effective cultural competency, early childhood education, special education, and STEM training....Of course, there is much more to do. We need to keep our minds open to change and innovation as we continue to find new and better ways to do right by kids."