In the fourth installment of the AJC series on teacher quality in today’s newspaper, reporters examine the growing group of Georgia teachers who don’t have education degrees or traditional teaching backgrounds but are now staffing some of the state’s most challenging schools.
Teachers who have gone through some of the gold-standard alternative programs contend that they are well prepared for the challenges of urban classrooms.
The AJC is making this occasional series on teacher quality available only to subscribers. You can read the full article by picking up a copy of today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution or logging on to the paper’s iPad app. Here is a link to the AJC digital options, including an E-subscription, which gives you the actual paper online.
And here is an excerpt of Part 4:
Thanks to federal Race to the Top funding, Georgia is investing nearly $25 million to attract hundreds more such teaching candidates who bring a variety of advanced degrees and work experience to the classroom. These teachers, the state thinks, will expand the educator talent pool and bring new ideas from their previous careers. They also enter teaching willing to take on the challenge of working in some of Georgia’s poorest performing schools.
Federally funded Troops to Teachers helps qualified active duty, National Guard and reserve unit leaders make the transition to teaching. Georgia employs roughly 900 teachers from the program. Teach for America is a national network that enlists mostly new college grads and some career-changers to work in low-income schools. The state is spending $15.6 million in federal Race to the Top grant funds during the next four years to help fund 30 percent of Teach for America’s budget. Weir is one of its new recruits.
State money could grow Teach for America’s ranks in Georgia from 380 to nearly 850 teachers, according to the state. Another national organization, the New Teacher Project, will get $9.1 million in state money to recruit 105 to 175 alternate route teachers to rural Georgia each year.
TFA candidates, who enter the program tasked with getting poor students to perform on par with wealthy kids in public and private schools, receive a five-week cram session on classroom instruction and management. TFA managers drop by regularly to observe instruction and interview students on their satisfaction with lessons.
Georgia Association of Educators president Calvine Rollins still takes issue with local districts hiring teachers who have taken an alternative path instead of hiring traditionally trained, veteran teachers. National Education Association officials also have voiced concerns about the corps’ high turnover and inexperience. “Teachers have been laid off all across the state,” Rollins said. “Our teachers are better qualified than any person who has gone through just a five-week training.”
About two in five Teach for America corps members bail after their two-year commitment is up, according to a 2010 study. The national retention rate for the program is 89.4 percent for one year and it drops to 61 percent beyond two. The annual retention rate for Georgia teachers is 90.8 percent.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog