Lessons to Learn: Voices from the Front Lines of Teach for America

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9780415945905: Lessons to Learn: Voices from the Front Lines of Teach for America

This is the inside story of the more than 8,000 recent college graduates who have joined Teach for America and committed two years of service to teaching in the nation's most troubled public schools. In the tradition of books by Studs Terkel, Ness combines interviews and essays from TFA members and alumni as well as principals, superintendents, parents, and noted education experts.

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About the Author:

Molly Ness is a Teach for America alumna and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of The Johns Hopkins University. While teaching at Roosevelt Middle School in Oakland, California, she was the recipient of the Jean Wilson Scholarship to the 2000 California Conference for Educational Leadership. She lives in Charlottesville.

From Publishers Weekly:

Ness, who taught for two years in the Teach for America program in Oakland, Calif., surveyed 154 other alumni about their experiences in the program. Founded in 1989 by Princeton student Wendy Kopp, the program recruits college graduates from a variety of fields. Recruits are given only a five-week training program before being sent to work for two years in some of the nation's worst classrooms. Ness organizes her survey responses around the recruit's life cycle: training, job placement and career choice after the program. While there's controversy over the adequacy of the training, almost all the interviewees report satisfaction with some or all aspects of their teaching experience. They believe they've enriched the lives of children and communities, gained new insights into the problems of poverty and renewed their faith in the potential for social change through education. While some 40% of alums remained classroom teachers after their two-year stint, and 20% went on to careers in educational leadership (e.g., founding schools, directing educational policy), others used the experience to move into other social action careers (e.g., law, medicine and public office). While the education establishment still eyes these uncredentialed young teachers with some skepticism, "their raw intelligence, their content knowledge, and their passion" can often make up for their lack of pedagogical training. It's not a perfect program, Ness concedes, but it does do good and necessary work. Although the book suffers from frequent ungainly prose and is often repetitive, it's an affirmation of Teach for America's importance.
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