The Washington Post ran a very interesting piece last week on an innovative program to help military veterans become classroom teachers. It is operated by the, ahem, Defense Department. (If you don’t want to register at washingtonpost.com, you can read an abbreviated version of the piece in yesterday’s Examiner).
Troops to Teachers, which has placed about 11,500 teachers nationwide in 15 years, is one way the Obama administration aims to draw more men and minorities into schools and fill demand in the fields of math, science and special education.
About 82 percent of the former soldiers, sailors, Marines and other veterans who sign up are men. (About a quarter of all teachers are men, according to one estimate.) Nearly 40 percent of Troops to Teachers participants are members of racial or ethnic minorities. The program has put more than 2,000 black men into classrooms.
The recruits are producing results. A recent study found that Florida students taught by Troops to Teachers participants made greater gains in reading than peers taught by teachers with similar classroom experience. In math, students in Troops to Teachers classrooms outperformed those in other classes — even when the other teacher had more years under his belt.
“Honestly, at first, we thought a military officer dealing with today’s fifth-graders and seventh-graders was not going to be very effective,” said William A. Owings, an Old Dominion University education professor and one of the study’s authors. “We found out that is totally untrue. We have come to believe that you’re looking at life experience . . . that has a lot of crossover into good classroom skills.”