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How Teach for America Could Train Better Teachers

One of the requirements that states need to satisfy in order to qualify for money through the Obama administration's Race to the Top is adding alternate paths to teacher certification. While that's the sort of mandate that makes those who run schools of education guffaw, Jonathan Zimmerman, professor of history and education at NYU, says it offers the profession the opportunity to retain more Teach for America students—a pool of people that he says are more pedigreed than those who normally attend schools of ed.

His idea, which he revealed in an op-ed in The LA Times this weekend: Schools of education should recruit Teach for America participants for an apprenticeship year of training before they enter the classroom. (Right now, they get only a five weeks.)

Why would this training succeed when so many other ed school programs have failed? First of all, it would be eminently practical. Too many current education students graduate with a new jargon — "activity-based learning," "multiple intelligences" and so on — but without the actual skills they need to teach.

But if a TFA-type organization partnered with an education school, it could demand curriculum changes, requiring us to impart hands-on methods instead of arid cliches. Schools of education tend to change slowly, but this is one change they should quickly embrace, because the quality of the students would be so much higher than our norm.

Any TFA alums out there who'd care to weigh in on the idea?

Photo (cc) via Flickr user Tulane Publications

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