Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Coming to you from the OMG RLY NO WAI??!!!?! desk here at NYC Educator is a link to this brilliant piece of research over at Education Week's Teacher Beat blog. Now I may not be a Harvard researcher, my friends, but I could have predicted the results of this study very easily. In a nutshell, the study finds that "Teach For America teachers who are assigned to teach more than one grade, subject, or out-of-field are more likely to leave their schools—or the profession altogether."

One's first year of teaching is always difficult. No teacher I know, and at this point in my career I know quite a few, has ever said their first year was enjoyable or easy. Everyone looks at it as a necessary step to be endured and survived so that one can come back and do a bit better the next year. The least that any semi-competent administrator can do for any first-year teacher, from Teach for America or otherwise, is to keep the responsibility burden a bit lighter during that first year.

Now that doesn't always happen. I taught three different subjects in my first year of teaching and had a student load that was around 150. One could argue that this was a fairly heavy load for a first-year teacher, but no one particularly cared. I dragged myself through, but thought about quitting plenty of times. If I were an administrator (not, as I've stated here many times, that I'd like to be, but still), I would avoid putting a first-year teacher of any stripe in that situation.

The study named above draws a necessary, if obvious, conclusion: first-year teachers are rarely, if ever, ready for a very rigorous teaching load. But the potentially harmful effect of this study is that administrators might assume that only nontraditionally certified teachers--i.e. TFAs, Teaching Fellows, and the liked--need a lighter load in that first year. I'd venture to say that every single teacher, no matter how superbly trained, needs an "apprenticeship" year that goes beyond student teaching with as light a load as is possible.

The other pernicious effect, of course, is that we have headline news screaming what should be blindingly obvious. But, in education, that's nothing new.
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