Teach for America Overrated

by PATRICK MATTIMORE | 5/16/05 5:00am

To the Editor:

Emily Chenel's opinion about the Teach for America program ("Improving Teach for America," May 10) is more of a revelation about the programs' applicants than the program itself. As Chenel points out, the program now attracts high percentages of Ivy League applicants and rejects them at a rate of 8:1. Accepted applicants get minimal training and the chance to teach at some of the worst public schools in the country.

The program does not turn out accomplished teachers. An April 27 report in Education Week based on conclusions from a Stanford University research team found that "students learn more from certified teachers than they do from uncertified teachers, even when the uncredentialed teachers are Teach for America recruits ..."

With a year of post-collegiate training (less if a teacher wants to take teaching requirements as an undergraduate or teach on an emergency credential), Chenel and others rejected from Teach for America can easily walk into the classrooms where they would have been placed as Teach for America graduates. Will they? Probably not. Why?

Because being selected as a Teach for America teacher is really a lot more about the resume value and the competition for the program than anything else. If Chenel and some of the other 15,000 rejected Teach for America applicants want to get a teaching experience, they don't need the program's imprimatur to get it.