Giving Compass' Take:

Since Colorado has a dwindling number of pre-school teachers, Teach for America is now training their teachers in early childhood education. 

Some critics of Teach for America say the organization should focus on funding systemic solutions to issues within the education system. Can Teach for America consider tackling education at this level?

• Read more about the U.S. teacher shortage. 

Hiawatha Davis III, a 21-year-old Seattle native who majored in Africana studies in college, someday hopes to practice civil rights law. Ariel McPherson, 22, who grew up in a low-income family in Colorado Springs, sees education as a way to break down systems that oppress people. LeAnn Walker, 22, who comes from a tiny Missouri town, eventually wants to have a hand in education policy-making, but for now is happiest working with children.

All three are newly minted Denver preschool teachers, part of Teach For America’s inaugural foray into Colorado’s early childhood sector. After a six-week summer training course in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and another six days of training in Denver earlier this month, they and five other corps members have begun teaching 3- and 4-year-olds around the city.

Teach For America’s expansion into preschool here has prompted both enthusiasm and trepidation. Some advocates say the move will help bulk up the state’s spindly pipeline of early childhood teachers — a longstanding problem in Colorado, driven by the field’s low pay and the common misconception that early childhood workers are low-skill babysitters.

But Teach For America’s preschool initiative also raises familiar critiques about the 27-year-old nonprofit, which generally has supplied beginning teachers to low-income K-12 schools.

Kathy Schultz, dean of the school of education at the University of Colorado Boulder, voiced concern on both counts.

“Teach For America has a lot of political power and access to fundraising, and I would prefer them to use that for long-term changes rather than short-term stopgap solutions,” she said. “If they really want to make a difference, it’s not just slotting teachers in for two years.”

While the new early childhood corps members generally have bachelor’s degrees in subjects not directly related to early childhood education, the training they receive through Teach For America makes them eligible to teach preschool in Colorado.

Read the full article about Teach for America by Ann Schimke at Chalkbeat