Colorado Can Do More to Open Teaching Doors to Talented Outsiders

Are our schools and officials doing enough to ensure that enough skilled and effective candidates are getting into classrooms to teach kids like me? A recent Wall Street Journal article suggests the answer is still No, but a successful program is showing there’s hope for more change:

Unions keep saying the best people won’t go into teaching unless we pay them what doctors and lawyers and CEOs make. Not only are Teach for America salaries significantly lower than what J.P. Morgan might offer, but these individuals go to some very rough classrooms. What’s going on?

It seems that Teach for America offers smart young people something even better than money – the chance to avoid the vast education bureaucracy. Participants need only pass academic muster and attend the summer training before entering a classroom. If they took the traditional route into teaching, they would have to endure years of “education” courses to be certified.

The American Federation of Teachers commonly derides Teach for America as a “band-aid.” One of its arguments is that the program only lasts two years, barely enough time, they say, to get a handle on managing a classroom. However, it turns out that two-thirds of its grads stay in the education field, sometimes as teachers, but also as principals or policy makers.

The article goes on to point out some of the positive outcomes from a new study on the effectiveness of Teach for America. Brooke Dollens Terry, a friend of the Education Policy Center who does similar work in Texas, followed up with a letter to the Journal that hit the nail on the head:

If America wants to increase learning and help its students compete with other countries, states should examine the Teach for America model closely and evaluate if their state certification policies encourage or deter the brightest individuals from entering the classroom.

Colorado is doing well in some areas of teacher quality, but we certainly can do better.