Teach for America, the education powerhouse that has sent thousands of handpicked college graduates to teach in some of the nation’s most troubled schools, is suddenly having recruitment problems.For the second year in a row, applicants for the elite program have dropped, breaking a 15-year growth trend. Applications are down by about 10 percent from a year earlier on college campuses around the country as of the end of last month.The group, which has sought to transform education in close alignment with the charter school movement, has advised schools that the size of its teacher corps this fall could be down by as much as a quarter and has closed two of its eight national summer training sites, in New York City and Los Angeles.
And I'm sure that recruitment crisis has nothing to do with this:
The economic momentum evident late last year carried into 2015, the Labor Department said Friday, with American employers adding 257,000 jobs in January as wage growth rebounded and more people joined the workforce.With new figures on the last two months of the year, 2014 turned out to be the strongest year for job gains since 1999. The government revised upward the already-healthy figures for payroll gains in November and December, increasing their estimate by 147,000. All told, the economy added, on average, 260,000 jobs a month over the course of the year. 1999.“This is the best employment report we’ve had in a long time,” said Guy Berger, United States economist at RBS. “The labor market looks like it’s in really good shape as we head into 2015.”Average hourly earnings rose 0.5 percent in January, the biggest monthly gain in more than six years, though it followed a disappointing increase in December that left the average for the two months running at just over 2 percent, in line with the recent trend.Still, the overall picture was so strong, Mr. Berger said, that the Federal Reserve might begin its long-awaited move to raise short-term interest rates in June, a step many economists had been expecting to be delayed until September.
And indeed, the Times reports that is one of the problems:
Leaders of the organization say their biggest problem is that the rebounding economy has given high-achieving college graduates more job choices.“It’s so different from three years ago, where suddenly you have candidates that may have an offer from Facebook and Wells Fargo and an offer to join the T.F.A. corps, and clearly, the money is going to be radically different,” said Lida Jennings, executive director of the Los Angeles office of Teach for America.
But this might be the bigger issue:
When Haleigh Duncan, a junior at Macalester College in St. Paul, first came across Teach for America recruiters on campus during her freshman year in 2012, she was captivated by the group’s mission to address educational inequality.Ms. Duncan, an English major, went back to her dormitory room and pinned the group’s pamphlet on a bulletin board. She was also attracted by the fact that it would be a fast route into teaching. “I felt like I didn’t want to waste time and wanted to jump into the field,” she said.But as she learned more about the organization, Ms. Duncan lost faith in its short training and grew skeptical of its ties to certain donors, including the Walton Family Foundation, a philanthropic group governed by the family that founded Walmart. She decided she needed to go to a teachers’ college after graduation. “I had a little too much confidence in my ability to override my lack of experience through sheer good will,” she said.
And of course the biggest might be that after years of attacks on teachers, the teaching profession and teacher benefits and job protections, it's just not a very appealing career choice:
Teaching in general has been losing favor. From 2010 to 2013, the number of student candidates enrolled in teacher training programs fell 12.5 percent, according to federal data.
Andrew Cuomo's about to make teaching an even less appealing career in New York State if he gets his reform agenda.
I can't see Cuomo's desire to link 50% of a teacher's ratings to test scores, fire them if they're deemed "ineffective" on those scores two years running by an NYSED algorithm, weaken tenure such that few teachers will ever get it and streamline the 3020a discipline process so that teaching becomes an at-will position will make the career, such as it is, more appealing.
Ed deformers have been very successful at transforming the teaching profession over the past ten years into a data-driven career with little autonomy and few protections - so successful that few people want to become teachers either in TFA or out.