I have been following the conversations and debates raging around the value and contributions of Teach for America to the public education system. Like all teachers, they are a mixed bag of success and failure. I discovered that my school participates in the program, and has a number of TFA teachers. What I don't understand, is how my "poor, urban, and needy" school developed a shortage of qualified and motivated applicants. Quite to the contrary, I've never worked with a better staff, and for every opening we have numerous applicants. We don't need TFA, but the program is billed as putting teachers in schools where teachers don't want to be.
This New York Times debate sums up the arguments pretty well. I havn't been terribly impressed with what I've seen from our TFA teachers, that is why I happen to agree most with Patrick Welsh. I also somewhat resent the thought that Ivy League graduates think they can take a short course on teaching, and outperform more experienced and serious teachers. However, it is a mixed bag, and each TFA graduate should be evaluated independent of the program.