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ERIC Number: ED545516
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 269
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2675-7744-3
Schools Make Teachers: The Case of Teach for America and Teacher Training
Maloney, Patricia Ann
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale University
Teach For America, founded by Wendy Kopp in 1991, now boasts nearly 25,000 alumni and 5,000 current teachers, known as corps members. The culture of Teach For America, which is built on these corps members, is a culture of achievement. They have completed college as high-achievers, so they typically expect that trajectory to continue in their future careers. Their past successes have led them to believe that if they work hard enough to overcome an obstacle, then they will succeed. At the outset of their two years in low-income classrooms, they accept the ethos of personal responsibility for their students' achievement. By the end of their two years, some - the "achievers" - have cemented their belief in personal responsibility, correlated with their own success (as measured by their students' increased test scores). Others--the "strugglers"--have lost their faith in hard work, test scores, and their own self-efficacy, blaming their failure on their own personality flaws or the deficiencies of their administrators and students. What causes these disparate outcomes for what was initially such a homogeneous group? I argue that the organizational and cultural characteristics of particular schools either foster or undermine the corps members' culture of achievement through personal responsibility. These disparate school settings cause them to become achievers or strugglers. This dissertation focuses on the mechanisms that produce these outcomes, and their consequences for the corps members and students who experience them. Without the key supports, in other words, TFA teachers are likely to fail. With those supports, they are likely to succeed. While both groups consistently maintain a belief in teachers' personal responsibility for student achievement, the achievers use their experience of success to more firmly solidify this belief. Specifically, schools that are disproportionately likely to produce achievers have administrators who are (1) readily available at all hours and able to answer corps member questions about the daily practices of teaching, (2) have specific, achievable, and adaptive goals for corps members that are based on standardized tests, and (3) foster a hierarchically representative socio-professional network for faculty. The corps members are highly likely to succeed in such a setting, which then leads to less overt racial conflict between students and teachers and generally better relationships overall. Corps members thrive in such a situation. The schools that produce disproportionate numbers of strugglers also have administrators, but they are far removed from the teachers' classrooms, and provide little to no guidance on teaching. The administrators' goals seem unclear, fostering confusion and even fear amongst faculty, and their discourse blames teachers alone for any pedagogical failures. With only the educational training provided by TFA to fall back on in such a situation, the teachers quickly lose heart, blame themselves for failure, and become depressed and immobilized. They attempt to survive their two years in the classroom while planning their escape from teaching. They experience higher levels of interpersonal conflict and, at the end of their two years, they report that they have become more racist and more hopeless about the education system. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A