Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Reacting to the Script: Teach for America Teachers' Experiences with Scripted Curricula

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Reacting to the Script: Teach for America Teachers' Experiences with Scripted Curricula

Article excerpt

Introduction

Former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's departure from the School District of Philadelphia as well as a loss of approximately 320 million dollars created an atmosphere of "needing to do more with less" as the 2011-2012 school year began in Philadelphia (Herold, 2011). As the face of education in Philadelphia's public schools changes in response to budget constraints and politics, current Teach For America (TFA) corps members' roles have also changed. In 2003, TFA placed 160 corps members in Philadelphia, and since then TFA has approximately 300 corps members teaching in the region each year (Teach For America [TFA], 2012, Greater Philadelphia). The Philadelphia Public School Notebook describes the effect of the recent budget cuts on TFA teachers: "Among the more than 1,200 teachers laid off by the District due to cutbacks were 85 of the 90 second-year TFA corps members" (Mezzacappa, 2011). The majority of these second-year TFA corps members have been relocated from school district to charter-managed schools, many of which have adopted scripted curricula (J. Lytle, personal communication, September 28, 2011). While the School District of Philadelphia announced in February of 2012 that they will no longer mandate the implementation of scripted curricula (Herold, 2012), the charter schools in this study were not required to follow this mandate.

This study sought to understand the following question: How do second-year TFA teachers placed in charter or turnaround schools in Philadelphia experience scripted curricula in their classrooms? A goal of this study is to examine the different ways TFA teachers experience scripted curricula. An additional aim of this study is to contribute to the overall understanding of the effects of educational reforms, such as scripted curricula, on teachers and their autonomy and efficacy. The goal is not to evaluate TFA or the effectiveness of scripted curricula; rather, this study examines how TFA teachers perceive and experience such curricula.

Wendy Kopp founded TFA in 1990 with the goal that "one day, all children in our nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education" (Kopp, 2001, p. 174). TFA attempts to solve the problem of educational inequity by recruiting "our nation's most promising future leaders, invests in the training and professional development necessary to ensure their success as teachers in our highest-poverty communities, and fosters their ongoing leadership as alumni" (Kopp, 2008, p. 735). As a part of TFA, teachers, selected through a highly competitive process, commit to teach for two years (Heilig & Jez, 2010; Kopp, 2001; TFA, 2012, Who We Look For). After this commitment, TFA's goal is to "build a massive force of leaders working from inside and outside education who have the conviction and insight that come from teaching successfully in low-income communities" (Kopp, 2008, pp. 734-735). TFA has become an exclusive and selective program that permits corps members "to do good and do well" (Labaree, 2010, p. 54).

This study examines how these second-year TFA teachers experience scripted curricula. My interest in teachers' experiences with scripted curricula developed out of my practice as a former TFA corps member and middle school language arts teacher in Philadelphia for five years and a current university-based mentor to first-year TFA teachers. Second-year teachers were chosen because while they are still new to teaching, they at least have one year of experience. Additionally, the study explores the perspectives of these second-year teachers because of their experience of being laid off from the School District of Philadelphia.

Rationale and Significance of the Study

No Child Left Behind's (NCLB) focus on standardized testing opened the door for standardized curricula (Milosovic, 2007). Many schools have implemented scripted curricula with the goal of increasing standardized test scores (Gill, 2007). …

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