TFA vs. Teaching

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3v3ryth1ng
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TFA vs. Teaching

Postby 3v3ryth1ng » Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:30 am

Do you think schools look upon these softs as similar? In other words, does having the TFA "brand" help you more than if you were to just become a teacher on your own?

I'm asking because A) I don't think it's been asked before, and B) I've read that some schools have a special interest in TFA corps members. I'm wondering if I should give those schools a shot (they're in the reach category for me) with my non-TFA teaching experience.

P.S. - please post your negative/cynical comments in another thread. Yes, we are all aware that LSAT/GPA matters most, and that law school is a terrible idea, etc.

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BeerMaker
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby BeerMaker » Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:58 am

Schools should look at it the same. A teacher in an economically disadvantaged area has exactly the same responsibilities as TFA. Schools are all about the name brand mumbo jumbo that comes along with TFA or the Peace Corps. You'd be better off having the Peace Corps on your resume than if you actually went over seas and made a difference on your own. Again, it's all about the name brand.

CanadianWolf
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby CanadianWolf » Sun Dec 18, 2011 8:43 am

Although BeerMaker's points are reasonable & not inaccurate, TFA is a stronger soft than teaching largely due to the TFA selection process & the number of scholarships reserved at elite law schools just for TFA alums. Research TFA admissions for TFA partner law schools & some other law schools. Northwestern, Chicago, Penn, Harvard & most, if not all other T-14 law schools, actively seek TFA graduates as applicants. Some, such as Chicago, reserve up to 5 scholarships for TFA alums per class. Careerist did an article in 2010 noting many prestigious law firms interest in TFA graduates who also did well in law school due to their community involvement, leadership skills & caring attitudes.
Applications for TFA are soaring at undergraduate schools such as Yale & Harvard. Overall, almost 50,000 appplicants compete for about 4,500 TFA spots per year. At least one top law school admissions dean remarked that TFA & the Peace Corps are clearly among the top soft factors that are valued by admissions.
TFA does not, however, equate to an automatic acceptance or scholarship to a T-14, but it is a favored soft.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:05 am, edited 2 times in total.

CanadianWolf
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby CanadianWolf » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:03 am

Research law schools' view of TFA through individual law school websites. One tier one law school actively seeking TFA applicants writes that TFA applicants are given fee waivers & priority review noting that TFA grads are valued as models of leadership & community service, etc.

The emotionally charged posters in the other thread seem to have reacted to a misreading & misinterpretation of other posts. TFA is not an automatic acceptance to a top law school nor is it a substitute for other admissions' factors; TFA is a very strong soft favored by most, if not all, top 14 law schools & others due to the leadership development & community involvement of its members.

duckmoney
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby duckmoney » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:42 am

Almost any law school would give preference to a TFA alumn over a teacher with 2 years experience teaching at the exact same school. TFA is extremely competitive, so they know they're getting top candidates by selecting TFAers. It's also very prestigious in elite circles, so law schools would want to say "we got X TFA graduates", whereas saying "we got X low-income teachers" doesn't do much for them.

Another reason I would contend, and I have no way to prove this, is that teaching is still considered a blue-collar job by elites. People see "teacher" and don't think "this person wanted to work hard and give back to the community," they think "this person couldn't do any better than a low paying job that gives you tenure and a 3 month vacation." TFA, through its branding and prestige, has overcome this stigma for its alumni, especially since a sizable majority of its members leave the classroom after 2 years and a big chunk go on to law school or grad school. However, a non-TFA teacher doesn't get this benefit, and is still considered a grunt in a noncompetitive, nonprestigious, and easy job.

I obviously don't think these characterizations apply to the vast majority of teachers, but I bet admissions committees (overtly or not) will hold these characterizations, which is why TFA is so sought after and considered a meaningful soft while teaching in the same school is no better than any other work experience, and may be worth even less.

Of course, none of this is relevant because GPA / LSAT are all that matter.

LaRon James
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby LaRon James » Sun Dec 18, 2011 10:35 am

I think all of these points have merit, but I also think the effect may not be relevant due to saturation of the market. There are extreme numbers of tfas applying to t14 so it's not like adcomms need to make any special considerations to get a certain quota of tfa alums. It's the same phenomenon that occurs with undergrad recruiting on campus; if everyone has a strong resume item (attending Harvard Yale Princeton undergrad, for example) it won't provide a boost even if the factor is highly regarded.

MrAnon
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby MrAnon » Sun Dec 18, 2011 10:44 am

I can't for the life of me understand why a TFA applicant, who can't get a more dynamic job and decides to take two years in a structured program, with a set exit point, is considered somehow better than someone who applies on his/her own to become a teacher and fully immerses him or herself into the school and the community. The TFA people are here-today, gone-tomorrow. The TFA applicant knows it, the school administrators know it, the students know it, the parents know it. How is that ever helpful to society in any way shape or form? "Here's our teacher Mr. Anon, its his second year at the school and at the end of it he is leaving forever for grad school." What sort of impact can be made in two years and how is it useful? The truth is that most TFA applicants could not find other work if they tried. Those I have met are not qualified for science jobs or finance jobs. The question for them is law school now or law school later?

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kwais
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby kwais » Sun Dec 18, 2011 10:55 am

MrAnon wrote:I can't for the life of me understand why a TFA applicant, who can't get a more dynamic job and decides to take two years in a structured program, with a set exit point, is considered somehow better than someone who applies on his/her own to become a teacher and fully immerses him or herself into the school and the community. The TFA people are here-today, gone-tomorrow. The TFA applicant knows it, the school administrators know it, the students know it, the parents know it. How is that ever helpful to society in any way shape or form? "Here's our teacher Mr. Anon, its his second year at the school and at the end of it he is leaving forever for grad school." What sort of impact can be made in two years and how is it useful? The truth is that most TFA applicants could not find other work if they tried. Those I have met are not qualified for science jobs or finance jobs. The question for them is law school now or law school later?


have to agree with this somewhat. Our schools have serious issues and most TFA people I know just see it as a resume item. I've heard that the attrition rate is fairly high for a program with such high admissions standards. I imagine that individuals have made a difference here and there, but I don't think the program is that great. Those resources should be spent on people who really want to teach.

CanadianWolf
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby CanadianWolf » Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:12 am

Although TFA has been criticized for its short-term teaching stints for most participants, TFA argues that its impact is more lasting since many TFA grads enter professions & careers that impact public policy &, therefore, affect an even greater number of lives over a longer period of time.

Also, many T-14 law schools have multiple scholarships for TFA graduates.

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dextermorgan
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby dextermorgan » Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:25 am

MrAnon wrote:I can't for the life of me understand why a TFA applicant, who can't get a more dynamic job and decides to take two years in a structured program, with a set exit point, is considered somehow better than someone who applies on his/her own to become a teacher and fully immerses him or herself into the school and the community. The TFA people are here-today, gone-tomorrow. The TFA applicant knows it, the school administrators know it, the students know it, the parents know it. How is that ever helpful to society in any way shape or form? "Here's our teacher Mr. Anon, its his second year at the school and at the end of it he is leaving forever for grad school." What sort of impact can be made in two years and how is it useful? The truth is that most TFA applicants could not find other work if they tried. Those I have met are not qualified for science jobs or finance jobs. The question for them is law school now or law school later?

It's the selection process, not the actual program, that makes it prestigious. Law schools don't actually care about some poor schoolchildren, they care about what they can say on an admissions webpage.

justinp
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby justinp » Sun Dec 18, 2011 12:49 pm

MrAnon wrote:I can't for the life of me understand why a TFA applicant, who can't get a more dynamic job and decides to take two years in a structured program, with a set exit point, is considered somehow better than someone who applies on his/her own to become a teacher and fully immerses him or herself into the school and the community. The TFA people are here-today, gone-tomorrow. The TFA applicant knows it, the school administrators know it, the students know it, the parents know it. How is that ever helpful to society in any way shape or form? "Here's our teacher Mr. Anon, its his second year at the school and at the end of it he is leaving forever for grad school." What sort of impact can be made in two years and how is it useful? The truth is that most TFA applicants could not find other work if they tried. Those I have met are not qualified for science jobs or finance jobs. The question for them is law school now or law school later?


It's a signaling thing, not a substance thing. Getting hired for TFA is a useful proxy for being a hard-charging, smart, disciplined person. But even more important than that is the fact that it's a proxy for also being an extroverted, interesting person who interviews well, and will therefore be likely to land prestigious clerkships, V5 firms, gov't honors programs, etc. Which the school wants for absolutely obvious reasons.

It makes perfect sense from the POV of the school.

duckmoney
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby duckmoney » Sun Dec 18, 2011 2:21 pm

dextermorgan wrote:It's the selection process, not the actual program, that makes it prestigious. Law schools don't actually care about some poor schoolchildren, they care about what they can say on an admissions webpage.


Yes, THIS

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3v3ryth1ng
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby 3v3ryth1ng » Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:29 pm

From what I gather in these responses, It sounds like what I kinda expected (and feared): being a part of TFA is more helpful as a "soft" item than just becoming a teacher on your own. If you're in undergrad, on your way to law school, take note.

duckmoney
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby duckmoney » Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:37 pm

3v3ryth1ng wrote:From what I gather in these responses, It sounds like what I kinda expected (and feared): being a part of TFA is more helpful as a "soft" item than just becoming a teacher on your own. If you're in undergrad, on your way to law school, take note.


Yes, but this probably will never be helpful to anyone. Most people who want to be teachers (along with most professional educators and education academia) despise the idea of teach for America. They don't like these no-it-all yuppies who think they're so smart and too good for teaching coming in to pack their resume and take jobs away from "real" teachers for 2 years before they go to law school. Meanwhile, most TFA applicants would not otherwise be teaching; they would otherwise get a (presumably low paying) job or go straight to grad school.

Very few people will ever make the decision "Will I do TFA for 2 years before law school or just teach for 2 years before law school?"

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3v3ryth1ng
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby 3v3ryth1ng » Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:43 pm

duckmoney wrote:
3v3ryth1ng wrote:From what I gather in these responses, It sounds like what I kinda expected (and feared): being a part of TFA is more helpful as a "soft" item than just becoming a teacher on your own. If you're in undergrad, on your way to law school, take note.


Yes, but this probably will never be helpful to anyone. Most people who want to be teachers (along with most professional educators and education academia) despise the idea of teach for America. They don't like these no-it-all yuppies who think they're so smart and too good for teaching coming in to pack their resume and take jobs away from "real" teachers for 2 years before they go to law school. Meanwhile, most TFA applicants would not otherwise be teaching; they would otherwise get a (presumably low paying) job or go straight to grad school.

Very few people will ever make the decision "Will I do TFA for 2 years before law school or just teach for 2 years before law school?"


I totally get what you're saying. I've seen many TFA teachers quit because their actual preparation is shit. While most of them were bright (which, IMO, should be a huge prerequisite for becoming a teacher), plenty of them just had no idea what they were really getting into. It's not something you should do just to pad a resume.

On the other hand, I wish I had done TFA because they pay for your degree, and they do some work to place you (takes out some stress of the job hustle). To top it all off, it looks better on your resume. If I could do it all again, I'd do everything the same but add the TFA brand next to my work experience.

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danielhay11
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby danielhay11 » Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:16 pm

kwais wrote:I've heard that the attrition rate is fairly high for a program with such high admissions standards.


Just for the record, this is objectively false. TFA attrition closely matches the attrition rate of new teachers in low-income communities, and well over half of all TFA teachers remain in teaching beyond their two-year commitment. But the point of this thread isn't to argue with "no-it-alls" [sic] who make it up as they go.

Re the OP: I have no first-hand knowledge of how adcomms evaluate TFA, but I suspect what has been said here so far is accurate. But don't forget that you can use your PS/DS/resume to give adcomm members a better understanding of your teaching experience, and in the process strengthen your soft. Did you choose to teach in a low-income school or high-needs subject? Did you assume a leadership role within your school community? Did you go over and above to invest students and families in their education? Did you overcome obstacles with students, curriculum, administrators, etc? TFA has become a proxy for certain leadership qualities, but there's no reason to believe you can't demonstrate those same qualities in a traditional teaching route.

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kwais
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby kwais » Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:22 pm

danielhay11 wrote:
kwais wrote:I've heard that the attrition rate is fairly high for a program with such high admissions standards.


Just for the record, this is objectively false. TFA attrition closely matches the attrition rate of new teachers in low-income communities, and well over half of all TFA teachers remain in teaching beyond their two-year commitment. But the point of this thread isn't to argue with "no-it-alls" [sic] who make it up as they go.

Re the OP: I have no first-hand knowledge of how adcomms evaluate TFA, but I suspect what has been said here so far is accurate. But don't forget that you can use your PS/DS/resume to give adcomm members a better understanding of your teaching experience, and in the process strengthen your soft. Did you choose to teach in a low-income school or high-needs subject? Did you assume a leadership role within your school community? Did you go over and above to invest students and families in their education? Did you overcome obstacles with students, curriculum, administrators, etc? TFA has become a proxy for certain leadership qualities, but there's no reason to believe you can't demonstrate those same qualities in a traditional teaching route.


So what's the attrition rate for new teachers in low income communities? (asshole)

pdeturk
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby pdeturk » Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:25 pm

kwais wrote:
danielhay11 wrote:
kwais wrote:I've heard that the attrition rate is fairly high for a program with such high admissions standards.


Just for the record, this is objectively false. TFA attrition closely matches the attrition rate of new teachers in low-income communities, and well over half of all TFA teachers remain in teaching beyond their two-year commitment. But the point of this thread isn't to argue with "no-it-alls" [sic] who make it up as they go.

Re the OP: I have no first-hand knowledge of how adcomms evaluate TFA, but I suspect what has been said here so far is accurate. But don't forget that you can use your PS/DS/resume to give adcomm members a better understanding of your teaching experience, and in the process strengthen your soft. Did you choose to teach in a low-income school or high-needs subject? Did you assume a leadership role within your school community? Did you go over and above to invest students and families in their education? Did you overcome obstacles with students, curriculum, administrators, etc? TFA has become a proxy for certain leadership qualities, but there's no reason to believe you can't demonstrate those same qualities in a traditional teaching route.


So what's the attrition rate for new teachers in low income communities? (asshole)




What does the attrition rate of teachers in low income communities have to do with the attrition rates of highly selective programs?

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kwais
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby kwais » Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:26 pm

pdeturk wrote:
kwais wrote:
danielhay11 wrote:
kwais wrote:I've heard that the attrition rate is fairly high for a program with such high admissions standards.


Just for the record, this is objectively false. TFA attrition closely matches the attrition rate of new teachers in low-income communities, and well over half of all TFA teachers remain in teaching beyond their two-year commitment. But the point of this thread isn't to argue with "no-it-alls" [sic] who make it up as they go.

Re the OP: I have no first-hand knowledge of how adcomms evaluate TFA, but I suspect what has been said here so far is accurate. But don't forget that you can use your PS/DS/resume to give adcomm members a better understanding of your teaching experience, and in the process strengthen your soft. Did you choose to teach in a low-income school or high-needs subject? Did you assume a leadership role within your school community? Did you go over and above to invest students and families in their education? Did you overcome obstacles with students, curriculum, administrators, etc? TFA has become a proxy for certain leadership qualities, but there's no reason to believe you can't demonstrate those same qualities in a traditional teaching route.


So what's the attrition rate for new teachers in low income communities? (asshole)




What does the attrition rate of teachers in low income communities have to do with the attrition rates of highly selective programs?

this is my point

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AreJay711
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby AreJay711 » Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:30 pm

Any benefit that TFA gives can likely be matched by a well written application essay.

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3v3ryth1ng
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby 3v3ryth1ng » Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:33 pm

AreJay711 wrote:Any benefit that TFA gives can likely be matched by a well written application essay.


I sure hope so :P

...and, of course, having a higher GPA and LSAT.

lsatcrazy
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby lsatcrazy » Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:03 pm

--LinkRemoved--

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franklyscarlet
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby franklyscarlet » Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:08 pm

lsatcrazy wrote:http://www.biljohnson.com/thoughts-on-tfa.html


Lulz at that blog citing the onion.

viacavour
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby viacavour » Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:17 pm

I think you have to recognize that TFA and a career in teaching aren't the same thing. TFA intends for their corps members to go to get careers in law in the government. The idea here is that TFA alumni will continue to advocate for children in low income communities and continue to make a difference once they have left teaching.

I am in no way arguing that this actually occurs, just that this is their stated objective.

Aside from that, TFA is preferred over other teaching for the reasons already said in this thread, that admission to TFA is highly competitive and serves as a proxy for brightness/intelligence/drivenness. Being a TFA corps signals to law schools that you are a certain type of candidate.

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3v3ryth1ng
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Re: TFA vs. Teaching

Postby 3v3ryth1ng » Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:17 pm

lsatcrazy wrote:http://www.biljohnson.com/thoughts-on-tfa.html


True story. Too bad it makes me feel like an asshole for leaving :(

The whole education systemically flawed though, and society in general is sick. I'm convinced that it won't change if we keep doing things the same way, even if we staff every classroom with amazing teachers, and even if we throw billions more into education. The guy who wrote this article would probably agree with that. I'd be willing to wager he has no idea how to fix it either.




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