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Media: TFA Gives Access, Gets Glowing Story


TFA's fancy candidate selection process gets a big sloppy wet kiss from writer Amanda Ripley in the new issue of The Atlantic (What Makes a Great Teacher?).  TFA gave Ripley "unprecedented" access; in return she gave them a national magazine feature story devoid of critical or even outside voices. So busy describing things and gushing about the counterintuitive results, Ripley never explains why we should care about a relatively small teacher preparation program whose circumstances are so different from most other teacher prep programs (and whose participants don't even stay in classrooms very long).  

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I don't know if this matters at all, but the teacher pictured isn't actually in TFA.

I agree, I don't think many of my former editors would have been too happy if I turned in anything as one-sided as the Atlantic article. Now, I think the findings in TAL, or how TFA goes about their business *is* something worth caring about, but for more political reasons, not for anything mentioned in the article.

Alexander,

How many people studied your above article and the graphs, and the complicated issues surrounding IDEA and stimulus funding, as opposed to the morality play of The Atlantic?

The affluent readership of the Atlantic would never send their kids to the 17 schools where TFA teachers did better. But they are curious about the morality play.

Its great drama watching a few extraordinary individuals wrestle with urban education, poverty, or health issues, or breaking into major league sports, or high finance, or climbing mountains, or visiting China, or anything. Do thet get burned out and fail, or do they succeed and get burned out, or do they move on to new challenges or whatever?

Like with so many issues, the Atlantic presented a provoctaive essay. It is little to do with the complex world of urban education.

Naked self-interest, but Diana Senechal has a great take on this on the Core Knowledge Blog:

http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2010/01/07/there%e2%80%99s-no-such-thing-as-%e2%80%98teaching%e2%80%99/

thanks, robert --

schemel's take seems to be that TFA is picking for the wrong things (score increasers rathe than subject matter experts, for example). agree or not, this is just the kind of questions and concerns that are left out of ripley's article.

other takes include andywonk, who touts the article as exploring an aspect of TFA that's rarely discussed

http://www.eduwonk.com/2010/01/teach-for-america-alums-not-becoming-astronauts-and-other-articles.html

over at the wpost's wire blog, bill turque notes the links between what rhee is trying to do with DCPS and what TFA is trying to achieve

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dc/2010/01/building_the_better_teacher.html

any other views? let us know.

/ alexander

This strikes me as fairly typical. People in the media are in a sense embedded with the innovators who are most fun to cover. Of course, this isn't to knock TFA or its new data (which seem pretty interesting), but educated readers won't really get the whole story. Just for credibility's sake, reporters should acknowledge the whole story.

But I do think reporters have been too reliant on talking points.

"embedded with the innovators." That's it, exactly.

Embedded with the innovators? Bang! Give that man a blog. (Oh, wait. He already has one).

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