Moreover, reports on the effectiveness of TFA are not encouraging. There is a substantial body of rigorous research disputing Kopp's claims that TFA volunteers produce remarkable results in minimal time. Two of those studies, in fact, have concluded that TFA volunteers are significantly less effective than either veteran teachers or even traditionally-prepared new teachers. (See the National Education Policy Center's "Teach for America: A Review of the Evidence" or Philip Kovacs' article in EdWeek, "Teach for America Research Fails the Test.")
Other nationally recognized and respected researchers, Stanford's Linda-Darling Hammond and Northern Arizona's Barbara Torre Veltri among them, agree that the students of TFA's volunteers have simply not achieved the amazing test score gains that the organization claims they have.
And yet, Gayle Manchin, vice president of the state Board of Education, is affronted by the Legislature's attempt to exercise some caution regarding who teaches children. She finds offensive the idea that teachers should at the very least have degrees in the fields in which they aspire to teach. Arguing that TFA's "got a program that's working" and demanding to know why the Legislature is "trying to fix it," Mrs. Manchin objects that "it works in other states."
No, it doesn't. The research says otherwise.
You don't have to read the research, however, to recognize that the assertion that TFA volunteers are better than other teachers, new or veteran, doesn't pass the common-sense test either. Ask anyone who's done the job. Nearly all teachers struggle at least a little the first few years. So do new doctors, new attorneys and new engineers. Getting a degree and/or licensure is just the beginning of learning one's field. Professionals know that.
The attempt to circumvent the difficult and time-consuming preparation of teaching professionals by encouraging short-cuts such as TFA suggests an inclination for the quick fix over a meaningful effort to solve the problems of a profession that finds it increasingly hard to attract bright and promising young people -- and favoring quick fixes is unworthy of those who are supposed to be upholding the best interests of students.
Or perhaps she actually preferred the replacement referees.
Nicholson is a professor of leadership studies at Marshall University's Graduate School of Education and Professional Development.