Monday, November 28, 2011

Big expansion, big questions for Teach for America

In a distressed neighborhood north of Miami's gleaming downtown, a group of enthusiastic but inexperienced instructors from Teach for America is trying to make progress where more veteran teachers have had difficulty: raising students' reading and math scores.

"These are the lowest performing schools, so we need the strongest performing teachers," said Julian Davenport, an assistant principal at Holmes Elementary, where three-fifths of the staff this year are Teach for America corps members or graduates of the program.

By 2015, with the help of a $50 million federal grant, program recruits could make up one-quarter of all new teachers in 60 of the nation's highest need school districts. The program also is expanding internationally.

That growth comes as many districts try to make teachers more effective. But Teach for America has had mixed results.

Its teachers perform about as well as other novice instructors, who tend to be less successful than their more experienced colleagues. Even when they do slightly better, there's a serious offset: The majority are out of the teaching profession within five years.

"I think ultimately the jury is out," said Tony Wagner, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and an instructor to the first class of TFA corps members.

Teach for America teachers work with not just the poor, but also English language learners and special education students. They provide an important pipeline of new teachers. But critics cite the teachers' high turnover rate, limited training and inexperience and say they are perpetuating the same inequalities that Teach for America has set to eradicate.

"There's no question that they've brought a huge number of really talented people in to the education profession," said Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, which advocates on behalf of low-income and minority children, and a longtime supporter of TFA.

But, she said, "Nobody should teach in a high poverty school without having already demonstrated that they are a fabulous teacher. For poor kids, education has to work every single year."


Muslim medical students in Britain boycotting lectures on evolution... because it 'clashes with the Koran'

Muslim students, including trainee doctors on one of Britain's leading medical courses, are walking out of lectures on evolution claiming it conflicts with creationist ideas established in the Koran.

Professors at University College London have expressed concern over the increasing number of biology students boycotting lectures on Darwinist theory, which form an important part of the syllabus, citing their religion.

Similar to the beliefs expressed by fundamentalist Christians, Muslim opponents to Darwinism maintain that Allah created the world, mankind and all known species in a single act.

Steve Jones emeritus professor of human genetics at university college London has questioned why such students would want to study biology at all when it obviously conflicts with their beliefs. He told the Sunday Times: 'I had one or two slightly frisky discussions years ago with kids who belonged to fundamentalist Christian churches, now it is Islamic overwhelmingly.

'They don't come [to lectures] or they complain about it or they send notes or emails saying they shouldn't have to learn this stuff. 'What they object to - and I don't really understand it, I am not religious - they object to the idea that there is a random process out there which is not directed by God.'

Earlier this year Usama Hasan, iman of the Masjid al-Tawhid mosque in Leyton, received death threats for suggesting that Darwinism and Islam might be compatible.

Sources within the group Muslims4UK partly blame the growing popularity of creationist beliefs within Islam on Turkish author Harun Yahya who, influenced by the success of Christian creationists in America, has written several books denouncing Darwinist theory.

Yahya associates Dawinism with Nazism and his books are and videos are available at many Islamic bookshops in the UK and regularly feature on Islamic television channels. Speakers regularly tour Britain lecturing on Yahya's beliefs. One such lecture was given at UCL in 2008 and this year's talks have been given in London, Manchester, Leeds, Dundee and Glasgow.

Evolutionary Biologist and former Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins has expressed his concern at the number of students, consisting almost entirely of Muslims, who do not attend or walk out of lectures.


Half of children who passed entry exam are turned away from British selective schools because there are no places for them

Almost 50 percent of youngsters who passed grammar school entrance exams were rejected because there were not enough places for them, it emerged today.

New figures show that of the 29,500 children who took the 11-plus, 13,800 passed, but 6,100 of those youngsters were not offered places. They failed because they did not meet entry criteria as closely as children, for example, who had siblings at the school or lived further away.

The survey by the Grammar Schools Association revealed 30,000 children competed for places at the 56 grammars - out of 164 nationally - that responded to the study.

If a similar number of eligible pupils were ejected from the other 108 grammars, it would mean nearly 20 more establishments would be needed to meet the demand for places.

Figures, seen by the Sunday Telegraph, do not include children who have narrowly missed a place at 'superselective' schools, which only take the top performers and do not have a pass mark

Last week education secretary Michael Gove promised to provide children with an 'unashamedly elitist' education.

Bob McCartney, the chairman of the Grammar Schools Association, told the paper: 'These statistics demonstrate the great demand for grammar schools. 'The Government continues to blatantly ignore parental choice. Its approach is based on political motivation and not the pursuit of education excellence.'

Wallington High School for Girls, in Sutton, received 1,400 applications for 180 places and had to turn away more than 300 pupils who passed the 11- plus.

An extra £600 million to build 100 more free schools will be announced in Tuesday's autumn statement.


No comments: