Teach For America, the national program that recruits graduates from elite colleges to teach in public schools, will for the first time train some candidates in blended learning methods this summer, rather than send them to its own traditional training sessions.
The San Francisco Bay area region of Teach For America will place its 120 new recruits in a training program run by the Summit Public Schools, a charter school network with a national reputation for its pioneering use of blended learning, which combines teacher-led instruction and self-paced student learning online.
In the fall, the teachers will be assigned to schools – charters and traditional public schools – in and around the Bay Area. Some say they will help seed new methods of teaching in those schools.
“We believe that technology has a unique role to play to help kids learn in their own way, and their own pace, and in helping teachers rethink how they use their time in the classroom,” said Eric Scroggins, executive director of Teach For America in the Bay Area.
Because it recruits young college graduates without formal training in teaching, Teach For America has always had its own intensive summer training program. The national organization provides a training model that local groups can use, but a few local organizations, including the Bay Area branch, have developed their own teacher training models.
Scroggins said, and the national TFA confirmed, that the Bay Area branch is the first to make blended learning a focus of the teachers’ preparation for the classroom.
The Teach For America program has received criticism for a high rate of turnover, and this year, for the second year in a row, the number of applicants to the program dropped. But some say the program offers benefits to schools, even if some teachers opt to leave the profession after their two-year TFA commitment.
In the Silicon Valley, for instance, they might go on to create new technology to help solve problems they encountered in the classroom. At least one well-known technology startup, Clever, was co-founded by a former Teach For America member who says he drew inspiration from his time as a teacher.