Have you just started your Teach First programme? It’s time to quit

Teach First has just begun its new programme with their Summer Institute. Judging by the busy twitter feeds, students are throwing themselves into the programme. But this letter written by Katie Osgood, aimed at those students who have just started out with Teach for America, is sobering reading and can be applied equally to those students signed up for this year’s Teach First programme.

Have you just begun your training with Teach First? If so, as she says, you should be congratulated on your acceptance into this prestigious programme, but the right and honourable thing to do now is to quit:

It is summertime, which for those of you newly accepted into Teach for America, means you are enduring the long hard days of Institute.  I congratulate you on being accepted into this prestigious program.  You clearly have demonstrated intelligence, passion, and leadership in order to make it this far.

And now I am asking you to quit.

Teach for America likely enticed you into the program with the call for ending education inequality.  That is a beautiful and noble mission.  I applaud you on being moved by the chance to help children, of being a part of creating equality in our schools, of ending poverty once and for all.

However, the actual practice of Teach for America does the exact opposite of its noble mission.  TFA claims to fight to end educational inequality and yet ends up exacerbating one of the greatest inequalities in education today:  that low-income children of color are much more likely to be given inexperienced, uncertified teachers.  TFA’s five weeks of Institute are simply not enough time to prepare anyone, no matter how dedicated or intelligent, to have the skills necessary to help our neediest children.  This fall, on that first day of school, you will be alone with kids who need so much more.  You will represent one more inequality in our education system denying kids from low-income backgrounds equitable educational opportunities. …

You have a choice to make.  TFA may ultimately benefit you personally, it may open doors to lucrative careers, help you get into prestigious law and graduate degrees, even give you direct paths into high-paid jobs in the worlds of education, business, or politics.  It may even make you feel really good.  But are you willing to participate in the destruction of the common good of public education, destroy the teaching profession, and deny needy children experienced long-term educators who would gladly take jobs filled by these TFA novices? Are you willing to do great harm to children and communities for your own personal gain?

Please make the right choice. And then join those of us on the ground fighting for REAL reform.  We need your passion and drive.  But we absolutely do not need you, without proper preparation, in our neediest classrooms.

If you truly care about the education of our most disadvantaged children, then you should spend a few minutes reading the rest of her letter. Whatever Teach First say, these children need experienced and qualified teachers – not someone like you who is just at the start of their teaching career. You have many strengths and you will, in time no doubt, go on to be a successful and inspirational teacher. But you are working for an organisation with a flawed methodology. You deserve proper preparation and training. And our neediest children deserve well-qualified, experienced teachers. Please make the right choice.

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