Tug of War: How Teach for America Flames a Failing Education System

By Kate Peifer | Dec. 8, 2015

"I think law school will be easier than teaching." -Josette Barsano

Josette Barsano knows today is going to be tougher than most. "My day is so much more emotional than it is academic," she said.

She’s mandated by the state to give her students a standardized test to measure their reading ability. She places the test in front of one of her second grade students. According to the state, he should be at or above second grade reading efficiency, but he can barely read at the kindergarten level. Her student begins to cry. “It’s a form of torture in my opinion,” she said.

Barsano is a special education teacher at the Littleton Elementary School District and a third year Teach for America corps member. In 2013, she joined 8,800 active national TFA members and about 870 alumni in Arizona, following a selective application process, multiple interviews, reference checks and a content knowledge test. Teach for America’s contribution to the education system is “the leadership of remarkable people.” And there is no doubt that TFA handpicks the best and the brightest.

But who can stand against a monolith that is the deteriorating education system, when all you are armed with are low school budgets, little pay, scarce training and a lack of support? It’s a feat that even all the money in the education system can’t seem to solve.

Arizona students are not being given the chance to succeed in school. And a lack of teachers is adding to the failing system. Teach for America is a private organization that many believe help the shortage of teachers. However, this isn't exactly the case.

Teach For America: Education Stats. (Graphic by Kate Peifer)

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