Thursday, March 22, 2012

For TFA or not . . .

The Seattle School Board at last night’s meeting voted 4 to 3 to continue the partnership next year for six Teach for America (TFA) teachers. I know something about TFA, but have not followed the conversations in Seattle and Federal Way, the only two districts with TFA teachers in our state. If you are not familiar with the organization, they recruit college graduates and place them in high poverty schools following a TFA-developed training program. The program is a nontraditional approach that does not require state certification. I have included part of their mission from their web page below

. . . Teach For America’s mission is to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by developing such leaders.

• We recruit committed recent college graduates of all backgrounds to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools

• We train and develop these corps members so that they have an immediate positive impact on their students

• We foster the leadership of our alumni as they address this problem from all sectors

It seems from this Seattle Times article that the vote on this contract has been one of the two most controversial proposals it has considered this year. Fifty community members signed up to speak and of the 20 that did get the chance it appears that the majority were against continuing the relationship with TFA.

I found this quote from the Board President informative and interesting.

DeBell also said the debate over TFA has been distracting to normal district business, especially considering the small number of TFA teachers who have been hired.

"We sure have devoted a lot of time to six teachers," he said.

TFA is looking to increase its presence in the area. Fortunately, our demographics are not aligned with the focus of the program so I don't believe that we will get caught up in the same energy drain that Seattle has experienced.  Given our collaborative culture, even if approached, I find it hard to envision being supportive of TFA teachers in our system. What are your thoughts? Are you supportive of the program or do you see problems with moving in this direction?  l not


Scott Mitchell said...

My concerns with TFA is that I feel it devalues the hard work and schooling that the professionals in our system have work towards. We are not in a teacher shortage and therefore I feel that we should be hiring the professionals that are in our wings waiting to be a part of teaching in our schools. Being incredibly smart, which is what many of the TFA teachers are, does not mean that you automatically have the skill and talent it takes to be a teacher. If a school district were in a shortage of teachers I could see this as an option but the fact is that I have put 5 years of schooling just in education related classes in both my graduate and undergraduate work. This job is a profession and I feel that TFA makes it sound as if anyone can do this work, as long as you are smart and do your five weeks of crash course educational classes.

Jonathan said...

Seems like 'reformers' want to try new things instead of funding what we already have. I understand if a school district is trying to fill a need where no credentialed professional is available, for example, a chemistry teacher, but filling a spot with someone just for the sake of trying something new is silly. TFA should stand for Trying Foolishness Again. :-)