Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Grads at top schools flood Teach for America !

A couple of things hit me about this short article:

- Instead of saying 'Joe Shmoe founded Teach for America', they give the credit to the University (Prestigious Princeton!!) , i.e. 'Founded by a Princeton Graduate' ... a nameless graduate ! Saying 'Princeton' give the program the imprimatur for it's success .. the actual founder's effort seems secondary .

- They give no reason for the 'surge' in applications , so there is an implied undercurrent in the article that many graduates of top schools are 'giving back' and acting altruistically. My take is that a number of them are probably trying to get their college debt reduced by working 2 years for the program. Also many may have found the job market less than attractive for their particular major. The reporter didn't ask one question about 'why the upsurge in interest' ? He simply implies that the answer is probably positive, whereas the real reason may be more mundane and pessimistic, i.e. Humanities and social science grads , from top schools no less , laden with heavy debt, are being forced to work in the most crime-ridden and impoverished schools in America in a stagnating economy.

It may not be as dismal a picture as I've painted here but these could be significant reasons for the 'popularity' of the program .

- They don't indicate how many people who are placed by the program wind up completing their 1st year . Or go on to try a 2nd year , or more . How many take up teaching as a career? Outside of this program the dropout rate for new teachers is phenomenally high in cities like NY, especially in the toughest schools.

- The surge may be explained more by the economy being not so good at the moment (depending on your major to some extent) than altruism. So some people are looking at teaching as a stable job with good benefits and lots of time off and they have few alternatives.

If some of this is true then the value of a college degree, even at the best colleges, may be less than advertised . This is not something that the colleges want known, as another round of college freshman line up to pay close to $50K/year for their sheepskin.

May 14, 2008
Teach for America Sees Surge in Popularity
Teach for America, the program that recruits top college graduates to teach for two years in public schools that are difficult to staff, has experienced a year of prodigious growth and will place 3,700 new teachers this fall, up from 2,900 last year, a 28 percent increase.

That growth was outpaced, however, by a surge in applications from college seniors. About 24,700 applied this spring to be teachers, up from 18,000 last year, a 37 percent increase, according to figures released by the organization on Wednesday.

The nonprofit program sent its first 500 recruits into American public school classrooms in 1990. It has a large recruiting staff that visits campuses, contacting top prospects and recruiting aggressively. Founded by a Princeton graduate, it has always carefully sifted through applicants’ grade-point averages and other data in recruiting. But with the numbers of applicants increasing faster than the number of teachers placed, it was even more selective this year than before, the organization said.

About 11 percent of the graduating class at Yale applied, 10 percent at Georgetown and 9 percent at Harvard, said Amy Rabinowitz, a spokeswoman.
It was the No. 1 employer on many campuses, including at Duke, Emory, George Washington, Georgetown, New York University, and Spelman, Ms. Rabinowitz said. The campuses with the largest number of recruits, however, were large, prestigious public universities. About 90 recruits are from the University of Michigan, and about 60 from the University of Illinois, while Wisconsin, Berkeley and the University of Texas are each sending 50 recruits, Ms. Rabinowitz said.

The program will place teachers in 29 locations this fall. Those include many of the nation’s biggest cities and some largely rural states, like South Dakota, where about 50 recruits work on Indian reservations. About 1,000 recruits teach in New York City schools.
Teach for America’s budget is $110 million, up from $40 million in 2005.

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