Alternative Teaching Programs

In thinking about recruitment of teachers, I realized that not all teachers have come to the profession in the traditional sense. I knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was in the second grade. Upon enrolling in college, I promptly began taking education classes and knew I would one day be a teacher. Four years later I graduated with my degree and teaching certificate and was hired as a teacher of my own classroom!
However, I realize that this path is not the same for all people.
Many people come to teaching after some time in other areas of the workforce.
For many young adults, they enter alternative programs that place you in schools and in which you often work towards a masters’s degree simultaneously. The most notable of these alternative programs is Teach for America. Additionally, there are other smaller and similar programs throughout the country. Chicago has LU Choice, a program run in conjunction with Loyola University and the Archdiocese of Chicago schools, in which participants commit to two years of teaching, live a simple life in community with other program participants, and earn a Master’s degree. I’m sure these programs produce some excellent teachers.
However, with only a two year commitment to teaching, I have to wonder if our nation’s students are benefitting from these programs. The first year of teaching is often quite rough. You are still trying to figure out what exactly you are doing for 7 hours a day with a classroom full of students. It is better the second year of teaching, but you are still a newbie. How many of these alternative teaching program participants actually stay in education in order to make a difference?
I did a bit of research and found this article about teacher retention with TFA. The research found that after 5 years, only about 25% of original TFA teachers were still teaching. For traditionally certified teachers, that 5 year retention rate is about 50%. The numbers aren’t great for either TFA teachers or traditional teachers.
I think part of what our children need in schools is consistency. If our students continue to see a revolving door of teachers, they lose faith and trust in the adults. We need to show our students that we will be there, day in and day out, year after year. With so many teachers leaving after just 5 years of teaching, we need to figure out a better way of retaining teachers.


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