Does Teach For America's Summer Institute Really Prepare Teachers for the Classroom?

Institute guru Susan Asiyanbi responds to some of the common critiques of the intensive process.

Over the next few weeks, 5,200 new Teach For America members will become first-year teachers in some of this nation’s most challenging school settings. In lieu of a traditional, year-long teacher preparation program, they just spent five weeks attending one of the organization's eight summer training institutes. That short time span makes the institute an intense experience, and critics say it can’t truly prepare corps members to teach.

The institutes are overseen by Susan Asiyanbi, Teach For America’s executive vice president for teacher preparation, support and development, who draws on her personal experience growing up on the South Side of Chicago and working as a corps member in Newark, New Jersey, as well her Kellogg M.B.A. We caught up with her to find out what the organization is doing to improve its training program, and got some answers to some of the common critiques of the process.

GOOD: What does a typical day at the institute look like for a corps member?

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When Will Teach for America Teachers Shake the "Savior" Stereotype?

Ohio governor John Kasich offensively calls TFA corps members the "calvary". What gives with the persistent stereotype?

Here's one image problem that Teach For America can't seem to shake: TFA teachers as saviors. The stereotype of their teachers (called corps members) as the great hope coming to save poor students of color from lazy, regular teachers reared it's head again on Wednesday thanks to statements by Ohio governor John Kasich.

Kasich signed a bill that will allow TFA corps members to be hired by school districts in the state starting with the 2012-2013 school year. He called the bill a "landmark day for Ohio education" and clarified that allowing corps members to come to Ohio isn't an attempt to replace current classroom teachers. You may not agree with Kasich's point of view, but that's pretty benign as far as statements go. However, things went south when Kasich then referred to corps members as "the cavalry", saying

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That Plan to Close Half of Detroit's Schools? It's Really Happening

Paging Eminem: Michigan just approved the insane plan to shut schools and raise class sizes in the Motor City to 60 students.

Eminem's acclaimed Super Bowl advertisement for Chrysler told the world that despite what you've heard, Detroit is making a comeback. Tell that to the city's children, because the State of Michigan has sounded the death knell for Detroit Public Schools. DPS's Emergency Financial Manager (EFM), Robert Bobb, has received approval for his plan to shut down half of the city's public schools over the next two years, raising remaining school class sizes to 60 students. The decision could be the tipping point that pushes Michigan into Wisconsin-style protesting.

Bobb's solution addresses a $327 million budget deficit and will reduce the current 142 schools in the district down to 72 by the 2012-13 school year. The plan will likely drive more families out of the Detroit, setting up a domino effect of even more financial problems for the schools.

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