Crossing the Divide

By Stephen Sawchuk — January 27, 2009 1 min read

The edu-policy community spends a lot of time discussing the relative merits of different routes into the teaching profession. This story from The Los Angeles Times raises what to me seems like an important and understudied question: How do alternative routes like Teach For America and the New Teacher Project affect the composition, culture, and norms of a school’s workforce, especially when that workforce is made up traditionally trained veterans?

The story paints a somewhat disturbing picture of Compton’s (Calif.) experience negotiating this divide, including a fair amount of vitriol between supporters of the various routes both at school sites and among school board members. One TFA teacher reports that her principal told her and a colleague point-blank that he didn’t want them at his school. On the other hand, in 2005, a TFA Compton alumni wrote a scathing account of her experience that local administrators and teachers felt was uninformed and damaging to children.

One can easily imagine novices being frustrated by older peers who are wary of trying new things in their classrooms, and equally, veteran teachers being frustrated by idealistic, “bright young things” who are not always fully cognizant of the challenges of urban teaching. But perhaps we can all agree that this type of friction seems really antithetical to the goals of a close cadre of teachers who work together to learn from their experiences and share best practices, set up professional-learning communities, and strive toward common goals to improve student achievement.

So what’s the secret to getting everyone on the same page?

You tell us.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.