Not all students have the luxury of having updated books, computers or classrooms. Some don’t even have a permanent teacher. David Govea is one of 20,000 nationwide and four CSUN students who’ve attempted to not only give students in low-income communities a stable education, but a quality one.
CSUN graduate student, Govea, said this will be his last year working for Teach for America (TFA), a highly selective program that assigns recent top college graduates who commit to teach for two years in underprivileged schools across the country. He feels the program is providing the students with a full-time teacher rather than a substitute.
‘The program is providing a great service to these underprivileged populations,’ said Govea who teaches 6th grade History at the Community Charter Middle School in Lake View Terrace. ‘They are given a full-time teacher, which a lot of these schools don’t have, It’s very beneficial for the students.’
New teachers working under TFA have gained the reputation of being more effective teachers than their more experienced colleagues.
A study published by the Urban Institute in 2008 found high school students taught by Teach for America teachers outperform their peers, even those taught by fully certified teachers. The positive difference of having a TFA teacher was three times greater than having a teacher with three or more year’s experience.
‘We seek exceptional students and leaders from all backgrounds and career interests who have a track record of achievement,’ said Lorraine Anderson, a spokeswoman for the program. ‘We also seek individuals who have the potential to achieve, based on the skills and strengths that we’ve determined over time leads to success in our classrooms.’
In order to qualify for the program recent grads must have an average GPA of 3.6 with an average SAT score of 1320.
According to the program, 95 percent of corps held a leadership position in at least one activity while attending their undergraduate college or university.
For the 2008 corps, 20 percent of applicants were accepted and this fall, 3,700 incoming corps members began their two-year teaching commitment, according to the corps profile.
Steve Holle, CSUN’s student teaching coordinator of elementary education, said the program is separate from CSUN and that he’s been approached from students interested in pursuing a teaching career.
‘I have written four letters of recommendation for students that have approached me about participating in the program,’ Holle said. ‘I think this is an excellent option for students, it gives them the ability to work with diverse students.’
Jessica Cornick, a CSUN graduate student who also teaches at the Community Charter Middle School, said she feels the program has good intentions but feels it lacks in other areas.
‘Their heart is in the right place but I don’t feel they provide much support to their corps members,’ Cornick said.
Cornick said she understands the area she teaches is not as dangerous as other areas of Los Angeles, but feels she should get the same support as any other corps member.
Since its inception 18 years ago, a recent study by the Urban Institute, found on average high school students taught by TFA teachers performed better on state-required exams, especially in math and science.
The controversy surrounds whether or not these teachers should be allowed in the classroom because of their lack of experience or course work in education.
Anderson said the students or corps’ members, go through a rigorous training before they set foot in a classroom.
‘They have an intensive training program just like any other job before they are assigned a school,’ said Anderson who added that those who finished the two-year program stay on to advocate for better education for these students.
‘More than 14,000 Teach for America alumni are working in education and many other fields to continue advocating for students and families in low-income communities,’ said Anderson.
According to a 2007 survey of alumni, two-thirds of alumni are working or studying full-time in the field of education, almost half of them as classroom teachers, Anderson said.
Thirty-five percent of corps’ members in 2008 were majors in social sciences.
Jane Hannaway, director of Urban Institute’s Education Policy Center, said school systems working to improve their neediest schools are finding that focusing on teacher selection has much more of an impact on student learning than focusing on teacher tenure.
‘We don’t know whether it was because of the credentials or because of some motivation that came from being a TFA teacher that made the difference,’ said Hannaway in an article published by the Urban Institute. ‘But the results were clear: students performed better when they had an inexperienced TFA teacher than when they had a veteran educator at the black board.’