By Kyle Olson
NEW YORK – Teach for America has been a breath of fresh air for public schools around the nation.
The group recruits top college graduates to spend several years teaching in some of our nation’s worst schools.
Most of these graduates did not plan to become professional educators, but they want to make a difference in troubled communities. They are focused on helping underprivileged children learn, and they have little interest in compensation issues or union political schemes.
That, of course, does not sit well with teachers union officials. They think Teach for America instructors are invading their turf and taking job security away from longtime union members.
Maybe they are. That’s probably a good thing.
The unions like things the way they have always been, with decent pay, benefits and job security, but little expectation for real learning in the classroom. When young TFA instructors prove it can be done, they make life uncomfortable for the longtime teachers who have not performed very well at all.
After the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, union leaders and other leftists saw an opportunity to attack Teach for America.
Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis slammed the group in the context of the tragedy, saying TFA’s policies “kill and disenfranchise children from schools across this nation.”
What a crock.
Just a few weeks prior, unconvicted domestic terrorist and education professor Bill Ayers called TFA instructors “educational tourists” and “a fraud on every level” and said their efforts will actually “undermine teaching.”
Appearing at a “Change the Stakes” meeting, Ayers implied that TFA has “no vision for the collective voice of teachers” and that TFA instructors are “not serious about the enterprise.”
That depends on what the “enterprise” is. If it’s helping kids learn, TFA instructors are very serious. If it means promoting silly union political efforts, they tend to have little interest. They actually put kids first. What a breathtaking concept for American schools.
It is hard to gauge how serious Lewis is about education, given Chicago Public Schools’ 54 percent graduation rate,
or the seriousness of Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson, given the fact that only 7 percent of 8th graders in his district are proficient in reading.
But they’re in it for the long haul, so apparently results don’t matter.
For 20 years, Teach for America has been focusing on results and improving educational outcomes for very needy children. Administrators in dozens of school districts across the nation will testify about the positive contributions they’ve made before moving on to other careers.
Can the same be said for Lewis, Johnson and the rest of the “real” teacher leaders in America?