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Should Teach For America ask Corps Members for a 3-year commitment?

Teach For America (TFA) alum and Reluctant Disciplinarian author Gary Rubinstein on why TFA should ask Corps Members (CMs) to commit for three years rather than two:

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I say this because I know that after two years of teaching, most CMs have become really excellent teachers. (I’m in my 11th year now, and I don’t think I’m that much better than I was in my third year. I taught for 4 years total in Houston.) Right now there are approximately 3,000 CMs in their first year, 3,000 CMs in their second year in their placement sites. … If TFA made the commitment three years, you’d have 3,000 first years, 3,000 second years, and 3,000 third years. This would be 9,000 teachers with 67% of them being ‘very effective.’ … To me, that’s making a good step toward ‘One day all children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.’

Rubinstein believes adding a year wouldn’t require much in the way of new resources, as most third year CMs wouldn’t require much support. He acknowledges that some applicants might be scared off by the longer commitment, but TFA is so popular right now that the organization should still be able to recruit plenty of motivated college grads. And, he asks, why not offer a choice of a two or three-year commitment, with preferential acceptance for those who choose three years?

A third year might also provide enough stability and experience of making a real difference to keep a larger proportion of teachers in the classroom even longer than three years.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.