One of the charities my family supports is Teach for America. Among other things, we sponsor a local teacher in the program. A bunch of our friends were kind enough to chip in with gifts for the kids in her class and my wife and I delivered them last week at the Phoenix Collegiate Academy, a charter school in South Phoenix for 5-8 graders.
The fun of delivering the presents was reduced later on finding out that at almost that same moment, another group of kids was being killed in Connecticut. But through a strange series of articles that seemed to have used the Sandy Hook massacre as an argument for teacher unionization and against charter schools (yeah, I don't get the connection either), I found out that teachers unions hate Teach for America. Which means that I will likely double my contribution next year.
Postscript: Teach for America began as a senior thesis at Princeton. Its key idea is to make teaching a viable job option, as least for a few years, for top college grads. The program is quite selective, and combines talented highly motivated young people with a proven teaching approach. They then drop these teachers into the public school system, often in classrooms with a high percentage of kids who qualify for school lunch programs (ie low income).
It's clear from the article that teachers union and education establishment types hate these teachers. Since they make a contrast by calling themselves "professionals", the presumed implication is that these young people are unprofessional. Its amazing to me that anyone who has spent even ten minutes in a room with a group of TFA teachers could be so hostile to them. I have met many of them, and they are a consistently amazing bunch who are both smart and genuinely love their kids.
I was skeptical, and still am a bit, of the notion of throwing great teachers into a failing public school system. They clearly help individual kids, which is why I am still behind it, but they do nothing to help the overall system. It's like sending great engineers into Solyndra -- at some level, it seems like a waste (though I am impressed with this particular charter school, which seems to be doing a good job with the limited resources it has -- it gets far less money per pupil than the average public school in Phoenix but does a better job given the demographic of its students).