Community Post

Schools should consider TFA teachers!! Call the School Board. Show Support.

I’m coming out: I am a former Teach for America alum and I support Teach for America in Seattle-Tacoma. Because the system that we have in place is NOT working to help all of our students achieve, especially students of color. Look at this from Garfield High:

In the 2009-2010 School year, only 17% of African-American students, 29% of Chicano/Latino students, and 28% of low-income students scored at least proficient in the Math state exam. For that same exam 67% of Asian and 91% of White students scored proficient. This is a HUGE gap, and this gap has persisted for decades. Are you okay with these stats? Don’t they make you angry? This is from the State Report Cards:

There is more than one way to be trained as a teacher to effect change, and just because someone completed an education degree does NOT mean they will be more effective.

I am from Seattle and grew up in the Seattle Public Schools. My senior year of college I realized that I wanted to teach rather than work for a political think tank in DC like I had planned. Thankfully, Teach for America realizes that there are eager, brilliant, hard working, mission-driven people who realize “too late” that they can make a difference in a child’s life. So I went to the south and taught high school math. At the end of my second year of teaching in the Mississippi Delta, twice as many of my high school students passed the end-of-year state Algebra I exam as my colleague, who had been teaching for 15 years. Despite not having gone the “normal” teacher-prep route, I made a huge impact.

Then my single mom got cancer, so I moved back home to Seattle. I couldn’t teach because of state law – I would have to go back to graduate school to get licensed and couldn’t afford it. Not all of the TFA alums who don’t teach anymore stopped doing it because they were bad at it – I had family duty. For the last three years I have been working at a local youth-development non-profit, mentoring dozens of low-income high school students, helping them achieve at high school, and matriculate to college. Yes, I am not teaching, but I am part of the solution for helping our students achieve in life — it takes more than just the schools to help students create opportunities for themselves.

The Corp Members of TFA Seattle-Tacoma are 40% non-white, 33% were Pell Eligible in college, and more than half either went to K-12 or college in the northwest. (For comparison, Seattle Public School teachers are 84% white.) Many are bilingual. ALL are eager to give back to the community, driven to work with students, excited to be a part of a team at a school, and will be held accountable by TFA and with TFA’s support they will achieve. Principals should consider Teach for America Corp Members as candidates for their open positions at our neighborhood schools.

Don’t you want the best, most hard-working teachers teaching your kids? Or would you rather have a teacher just because they “did their time” and got credentialed the “right way”? Clearly, good teachers are good teachers – but some people become great teachers the non-traditional way, like TFA. Principals should consider Teach for America candidates in their interview process! Please contact your school district representative or local PTSA to show your support.

For more, read here:

38 thoughts on “Schools should consider TFA teachers!! Call the School Board. Show Support.

  1. Thanks for sharing your story! I’m also a Washingtonian and Teach For America alum. Since 2003, I’ve dedicated myself to justice for underserved kids, first as a teacher (I taught for four years in Texas)and then as a teacher coach and trainer.

    Seattle and the Northwest have been missing out by not having TFA and alternatively-certified teachers. I know that many folks worry that TFA teachers are two-year missionaries. When I told a friend about this worry (15 year veteran teacher of Houston schools, parent, and NOT a TFA teacher) she said, “But I’ve only met one TFA teacher who’s left education in all that time. Everyone stays!” Retention rates are slightly better than those of other new teachers in low-income schools.

    Glad you’re spreading the word.

  2. “Would you rather have a teacher just because they “did their time” and got credentialed the “right way”?

    Yes I would!

  3. There’s a lot to say here but first and foremost, TFA was started to fill a need for shortages and hard-to-place teaching positions. Not enough now and so they are going into places (like Seattle) where there is NO shortage of fully trained and qualified teachers. None.

    Second, bravo for wanting to help but I want a teacher who committed to teaching, not teach-for-awhile until something better comes along.

    Third, no 5-week trained teacher belongs in an ELL or Special Ed class and yet that’s what happens. If your child has special needs, they need a teacher trained to know what to do.

    Under the current crop of TFA recruits, there are fewer African-Americans than in the whole pool of SPS teachers. The current hires are all white woman. Not much diversity there.

    Hiring TFA costs the district MORE money. All the recruits cost an extra $4k per year per teacher. In SPS a “mystery” donor is paying that fee but TFA recruits cost more in mentoring (because they need so much more handholding than a fully trained teacher) AND because TFA is a revolving door of teachers (new ones coming in every two years). There are extra HR costs.

    Lastly, Bill Gates himself says a high quality teacher in every class is the most important thing for a student at school. And yet we want to send 5-week trained teachers into our most high-need schools and classrooms? Don’t those students deserve the fully-trained and qualified teachers that say, Ballard or Bryant or Schmitz Park get? You won’t be seeing TFA teachers in those schools and you have to ask, why not?

    “Don’t you want the best, most hard-working teachers teaching your kids? Or would you rather have a teacher just because they “did their time” and got credentialed the “right way”?”

    Very disrespectful to teachers with experience. Because they are older, they’re not good teachers and just “did their time?” Someday you’ll be 40 young man and someone will say you’re just doing time as well. Most teachers are their best after 5 years.

    “There is more than one way to be trained as a teacher to effect change, and just because someone completed an education degree does NOT mean they will be more effective.”

    This is a funny sentence because (1) it’s “affect” change, not effect and (2) just being young and having enthusiasm also doesn’t mean you will be effective.

    We don’t need TFA in Seattle Public Schools and the low number of hires from school-based hiring teams show that they don’t think so either.

  4. The plea is to call the school board so that schools will consider hiring TfA corps members. Well, that’s what the school board already voted to do. Remember, they are governance and not management. They voted a policy change, approved an MOU with TfA that allowed conditional hires. That opened the door for CMs to apply for jobs. The board just about guaranteed that if they got hired, the board would approve the conditional certificate (since board approval is required by law). Calling the board and pleading with them to tell principals to hire CM is pointless. The board does not have a role there. Seattle schools use site based management. Principals and hiring teams read resumes and conduct interviews and choose the best candidates for their school. I suspect in this recession, with class sizes increasing and so many experienced teachers looking for work that there simply are not enough open positions that inexperienced folk would find jobs. This is true in many fields right now. It’s simply a hard job market.

    Remember, only one in ten TfA applicants plan to stay in the classroom. If you were a principal hiring a new, inexperienced employee, with the extra monitoring and mentoring that would entail, wouldn’t you want someone who seemed more committed to staying for a longer time? Someone who was enthusiastic, but also humble about themselves and willing to learn and be part of a team?

  5. “Don’t you want the best, most hard-working teachers teaching your kids?”

    Yes, and at a minimum, I’d like them to be credentialed.

    Also, a recent study of TFA in Texas shows that a significant number leave after their two year commitment is up.

    “The rate of TFA teachers returning for a third year ranged from 41 (2007 cohort) to 56% (2008 cohort) while the rate for non-TFA teachers ranged from 76% (2005 and 2006 cohorts) to 81% (2008 cohort). The rate for both groups continues to decline over subsequent years with approximately 25% of TFA teachers continuing to teach through their sixth year.”

    Represented districts included Houston.

    Teacher Preparation Programs and Teach for America Research Study, Ware, et al, 2011

  6. Why would a principal want to have a minimally-trained, high-maintenance, neophyte on their staff?! Sucking up all the mentoring resources? Requiring subs in two classes while the TFA-er meets with their mentor on a weekly basis to talk about…what? How Johnny didn’t finish his homework Tuesday? Now it’s Friday. The teachable moment is come and gone and an experienced teacher wasn’t there to deal with it.

  7. Melissa–Eventually, every internet conversation turns to grammar, right? And usually, there’s someone who starts it off by correcting a post or comment, in an attempt to look smarter, or more competent, or something.

    And then, someone has to jump in to correct the grammar cop. Today, that’s me.

    The original story by Alex W. is correct: “effect change” really does mean “create change.” In this case, “effect,” usually a noun (as in “the effects of alternative credentialing programs”), serves as a transitive verb. Strange but true. And totally correct. You’ll find tons of internet resources explaining the quirks of affect/effect if you’d like to know more.

    Of course, none of this has much bearing on the issues. I know that; you know that.

    Neighbor (a TFA alumnus, still a classroom teacher after 20 years)

  8. Aye caramba, last I checked hispanic is considered white. I should know. The real Seattle TFA corps composition is:

    3% African American
    60% “European”
    12% Asian-American
    18% Latin/hispanic
    6% Other
    Total is 78% White

    Seattle fully certificated teacher corps (SPS data) is:

    7% African-American
    79% White
    9% Asian-American
    3% Latin/hispanic
    3% Other
    Total is 83% white

    What is more important is the training and preparation properly trained teachers have in understanding cultural and learning differences. They have interned in schools and actually worked with children (what a concept). It didn’t just dawn on them “OMG, there are no jobs at policy think tanks, I mean, I suddenly have the urge to teach the less fortunate.”

    Furthermore, according to OSPI the retention rate for fully certificated teachers is 80%. According to numerous studies, TFA retention is 20% after two years.

  9. There’s a lot here in Alex’s original post that needs to be explored and considered.

    It begins with the call to action to show support for Teach for America. As has already been noted, there is no point in contacting the school board about this. The school board has already voted – twice – to support TFA and they have nothing more to do except vote to accept every non-credentialed corps members who is hired. Suggesting that people show support by contacting the Board reflects a deep ignorance of Seattle Public Schools.

    Second, using Garfield High School as an example of the deep divide between pass rates by students of various races is either intentionally deceptive or, again, reflects a deep ignorance of Seattle Public Schools. Garfield is home to high school APP, the district’s highly capable program. Garfield is located in a predominately minority community, so a high percentage of the White students there are APP students. This skews the outcomes. Either Alex didn’t know that, which shows his ignorance about Seattle Public Schools and Garfield, or he did know and he wanted to put forward misleading data.

    Then there is the whole idea that the key to effecting change and closing the academic achievement gap is through teacher recruiting. That’s a very odd idea that simply isn’t supported by any research anywhere. It is much more likely that we will be able to get every student working at grade level by identifying those who are not working at grade level and giving them the support they need to accelerate their education so they can catch up to their peers. This sort of intervention is not driven by hiring teachers from one specific employment agency or hiring teachers who came from any one specific teacher training. Hey, if Teach for America knows how to train teachers so they can close the academic achievement gap (a claim that even they cannot make), then why doesn’t Teach for America share that secret so other teacher training programs can use it also? The simple answer, of course, is that they can’t. TFA doesn’t have any secret answer for how to recruit or train teachers to close the gap. The data proves that out. Teach for America has never closed the academic achievement gap anywhere they have ever been.

    Alex eventually drops the real key to what makes Teach for America so damn wonderful: “eager, brilliant, hard working, mission-driven people”. The presumption here – and it is presumptuous – is that those who go through the traditional teacher education are not eager or brilliant or hard-working or mission-driven. That’s not just wrong; it’s also insulting. At the heart of every argument in favor of Teach for America is the idea that the TFA corps members are these special golden people who are just better than everyone else. I don’t buy it.

    If Alex were a TFA corps member for two years he should have completed his teacher certification requirements during that period, so the claim that he could not continue in teaching because he was not licensed is inconsistent with the TFA story. It doesn’t smell right.

    The corps members for TFA in Seattle may be 40% non-white, but the three hired so far are 100% White, so the increased diversity isn’t happening.

    Alex writes that “Principals should consider Teach for America Corp Members as candidates for their open positions at our neighborhood schools.” They should. But is unlikely that they will choose them over the dozens – if not hundreds – of applications they will get from fully qualified, experienced teachers. And, to date, only one principal has hired any of them.

    The State allows for non-traditional paths to teaching certificates – as they should. Teach for America is just one of these and not the best of them.

  10. “Aye caramba, last I checked hispanic is considered white. I should know.”

    No. Within government agencies at all levels, Hispanic is an ethnicity, while White is a race; Hispanics can be of any race, or of multiple races. This distinction reflects the complicated population history of Latin America. So yes, some Hispanics are white (and roughly half of Hispanic-Americans self-identify as such), but some aren’t. Moreover, in most contexts, Hispanics are included amount counts of minorities, whether or not they identify as white. Hence the term “non-Hispanic White,” as a synonym for those who are not minorities.

    Some further reading:

    I realize this is tangential to the main discussion on this thread. But as a professional demographer who lives in the CD, I couldn’t let this one go by without commenting….

  11. Thank you Mr/s Demographer. I obviously have an identity crisis…. I am splitting hairs because I’m tired of TFA’s marketing that, somehow, they’re so diverse. Go to the UW and meet some of the Masters in Teaching students. They would fit like a glove, and would LOVE to teach in the CD. They said as much at a meeting with their TFA alum dean.

  12. Why did anything I say imply you have an identity crisis? If you identify as Hispanic and White, more power to you. Millions of Americans do (including my husband), because they’re from Latin America but all or most of their ancestors were from Europe. That’s different than saying that all Hispanics are White, which is what you implied when you said “last I checked hispanic is considered white. I should know.” More than half of the Seattle area’s Hispanics don’t identify as white (and typically aren’t viewed as white by others) because their ancestry contains some combination of European, Native American, and/or African.

    Again, off the main topic, I know. I’ll shut up now, I promise.

  13. OK, sorry! I didn’t pick that up. And I just get so passionate about demographics I can’t control myself. Seriously :-)

  14. @Charlie Mas.
    First of all, I am a woman. But most people assume Alexes are men, so don’t feel bad.

    Secondly, I am certified to teach secondary mathematics in Mississippi. You can transfer your teaching license to Washington only if you have taught for three years out of state. I did not, and did not want to teach for a private school for only one year in order to go back to teaching public school. I have exhausted all options to find loopholes to transfer my license to Washington, and only will be able to be certified again if I go back to school and receive at the very least a Master’s of Arts in Teaching. So, it’s not fishy at all.

    Finally, all I am trying to say is that TFA teachers are one option. They are not necessarily any better – I completely agree with you – but just because they are new teachers and from TFA does not mean they are worse. Too many people are completely close minded to the possibility that some of these men and women who become teachers through TFA could be better than someone who is a life-long teacher.

    I can see how the statements in my original post were misconstrued, and I’m sorry that they sounded like veiled insults. I just feel like if we want the best for our kids, we can’t only look at age and experience. Because some folks who have been teaching for a long time are not that effective (though many, many are!!) and some folks who are brand new are great (and of course some aren’t!).

  15. That’s silly that you would paraphrase me in that way “Oh gawd, there are no jobs in think tanks, I guess I’ll go teach” because clearly that’s not what I meant. People would have stopped reading if I really explained my reason of joining TFA, and I wanted to be brief in this post.

    I meant for it to illustrate that at that point in my life, despite my experience working with youth all through high school and college, and after learning how to unpack my white privilege in college, I had never considered teaching as a career path until my senior year. That’s all.

  16. Actually, in Washington State a UW study found that over five years the majority of teachers stay as teachers in the same school and 3/4 stay in the same district. According to researchers, of the 20% that leave education, the majority are retirees. Of course, with the ill-treatment and disrespect meted out by the dolts at SPS headquarters, it’s a wonder any stay!

  17. Hi Alex,

    As a teacher, the statistics you shared made me very sad. Whether teachers are Teach For America or not, if they are effective teachers, then this number can be changed instead of people continuously whining about TFA/noncredentialed/whatever. I say that school boards in Washington should give these new Teach For America members a chance; if they don’t do well, then cancel but if they do, let them stay.

    I am tired of seeing teachers who read their newspaper all day and give their students crossword puzzles as a graded assignment while the teacher next door has students conducting lab experiements.

    Thank you for this blog post. I needed it today to remind me of what we are all trying to do to end educational inequity.

  18. Kara,

    The only people who think TFA is effective is TFA. Their “internal metrics” presume if a TFA student has a pulse than they’ve made 1.5 yrs of growth!

    As a parent, I’ve met at least 100 teachers. Not one reads their newspaper all day. If they do, fire them AND their principal! Replace them with the hundred that applied for the job, including the impressive young dedicated students at the UW teacher education program.

    It’s this disingenuous mantra of “ending educational inequity” that is so tiresome. That is NOT the goal of Kopp’s “leadership” program, Gates’ “class size doesn’t matter” ditty, and Stand’s “destroy the union” efforts. It is to remove caring parents and teachers from the equation and put venture philanthropists and test software vendors in their place.

  19. Burb writes: “It is to remove caring parents and teachers from the equation and put venture philanthropists and test software vendors in their place.”

    Wow, quite a leap there. I think tin-foil is on sale at Safeway.

    But seriously. TFA’s mission is not to supplement districts during a teacher shortage. It is to close the achievement gap. Has it done that? Of course not, you’re talking about not even 1% of teachers in the country, so what will it take? It takes these corps members going into education (even if they’re not teaching), going into health, going into *gasp* business, law, non-profits equipped with the fact, and it is a fact, that students can learn regardless of where they grow up.

    Imagine if every bank leader during the housing-lending crisis actually understood the plight of low-income students and their parents because they taught in a low-income community…would the morally depraved lending practices have resulted? Imagine if every doctor understood the acute need for better health-care in our country’s neediest communities because their kids came in sick, tired, and malnourished: would we start to address the problem? TFA does not bill itself as THE solution to educational inequity. It is a part of a broader strategy to get more engaged leaders into this debate. It’s not an experiment, it’s not “learning on other people’s kids,” it’s an opportunity to pipeline a group of leaders into areas of need because the current model: Schools of education into public systems, is not working. If it were working, the realities of educational outcomes for students would look markedly different.

    It’s simple to dismiss TFA as a part of this “privatization” narrative that you education reform deniers are quick to attach yourselves. similar to the Tea Party with it’s “Liberal Media Conspiracy,” but it is a destructive narrative that ignores the real, not manufactured, inequity that students face through no fault of their own.

  20. I would rather have long-termers in teaching roles at SPS.

    Not kids fresh out of college who will leave in 2 years.

    TFA is a fantastic program, but in Seattle’s schools, the teaching staff is not the problem.

  21. TFAlum, you display a surprising lack of awareness of who’s driving the Kopp/KIPP gravy train.

    Despite Daddy Gatesbucks and his (crap) ideas, the TFA Seattle contingent feels compelled to post phony blogs in a last ditch effort to sway public opinion. If people still have questions about TFA and the unseemly influence it has with Seattle’s school board and interim superintendent, I suggest you read the documents posted here:

    You will see that the opinions of parents and teachers are ignored or worse laughed at by the so-called Education Reform crowd.

  22. I am a TFA alum currently teaching in Seattle. I fully support principals in Seattle considering TFA corps members for any remaining teaching positions.

    Seattle is a fantastic city. We are home to innovative companies and organizations, a relatively active community, and the most diverse zip code in the U.S. We have a lot going for us, which is why I’ve been pretty disappointed in the rhetoric and lack of meaningful conversation in the TFA Puget Sound debate. I’m not saying that what people write on these blogs lack meaning, but more that all of the exaggeration and sarcasm prevents us from having a civil discussion regarding not only TFA, but also the state of education in Seattle.

    I think this is an appropriate point to add something to the discussion of Garfield’s statistics. While the presence of the APP program at Garfield significantly skews the gap in math statistics that Alex referenced in the original post, I hope we can all agree that the passing rates for African-American, Latino and low income students are unacceptable. Say what you will about standardized tests (particularly the disaster that is HSPE/EOC here in Washington), but with passing rates that low we need to seriously assess our general education program.

    As mentioned in a previous post, TFA is not the answer, but it is one approach to bringing educated leaders (we are not “kids”) into classrooms that need leaders. I acknowledge that in our current economy, there are probably more college students applying to TFA as a resume-boosting opportunity than pre-2008, but I’ll argue that the vast majority of these applicants do not make it through the rigorous interview process.

    Everyone writing here has at least one thing in common-we want what is best for kids. All kids. We can agree on that for a multitude of reasons. However, sometimes I feel like I’m watching a microcosm of the recent debt debate on the federal stage–we agree on a common goal and can articulate very different ways to reach the goal, but our refusal to listen and ask meaningful questions without flinging insults makes us just like the politicians that are driving us nuts.

    Academic inequity exists in Seattle. Its easy to throw around blame, but to say teachers are not part of the problem is unfair to students. We need to explore all options, because the way our system operates does not work for all students.

    I completely respect people that hold steadfast to their opinions, but as someone that works with students every day, I’m asking Seattle parents, teachers, administrators and community members to please live up to Seattle’s open-minded, intellectual reputation and facilitate a civil and meaningful discussion around TFA and SPS. I know you’re frustrated, but please listen to and ask questions of TFA alumni and current corps members before you decide that TFA absolutely doesn’t belong in Seattle.

  23. Oh. You want the community engagement now instead of before Enfield and the ignorant school board forced TFA down our throats? I’ve read the emails between Enfield and the TFA marketers. It was nothing but cronyism and disdain. Little real data is provided on TFA effectiveness, and what was presented was anecdotal and not linked to any peer-reviewed studies. That was good enough for our district administration. Read them yourself.

  24. thisisn’tgettingusanywhere writes: “all of the exaggeration and sarcasm prevents us from having a civil discussion regarding not only TFA, but also the state of education in Seattle.” To which I say: Amen!

    @Parent: TFA was not forced down anyone’s throats. As Charlie Mas has noted several times on the SSS blog, the board didn’t actually need to vote: based on state laws for alternative and conditional certification, corps members could have applied for open positions anyway. With our site-based hiring process, there is no reason that people opposed to TFA could not sit on hiring committees (and I’m sure they did). You all are wasting all of this time and energy over 3, maybe 4 teachers in the district. Aren’t there bigger issues to address?

    I’ve read through the e-mails posted and there is nothing damning there. I think there are some bruised egos based on the correct assumption that the loudest voices (ie: Melissa, Charlie, Dan Dempsey, et al) who are a consistent presence at board meetings, community meetings, etc. do not represent a majority of parents and/or community members and certainly do not represent the students who are most at risk in our system. If you are District employee and are actively and consistently criticized or made fun of in a public forum by a select group of people (always the same folks), how can one expect to be respected and listened to in response? That, and the e-mails were quite tame…I know third graders with thicker skin.

    Lastly, equating Rupert-Murdoch’s latest venture with TFA is, again, quite a leap. The “altruistic hordes” analogy is cute, but, back to tigua’s point, is an unhelpful generalization.

  25. “Cute”. You show your true supercilious colors. “bruised egos based on the correct assumption…”, You think that only those you named are repulsed by the preening nature of these backdoor discussions?

    And it started with your exhortation: “…I’ve been pretty disappointed in the rhetoric and lack of meaningful conversation in the TFA Puget Sound debate. I’m not saying that what people write on these blogs lack meaning, but more that all of the exaggeration and sarcasm prevents us from having a civil discussion regarding not only TFA, but also the state of education in Seattle.” Words come cheap (check TFA talking points on that one). Back it up with something more than…what was it…”exaggeration and sarcasm”.

  26. Teach For America provides a sustainable stream of hardworking new teachers that, at the very least, makes the teacher-candidate pool more competitive, which is ultimately better for our students.

  27. Excuse me, TFAlum, but aren’t you the same person who wanted a civil discussion? And now you accuse me of pettiness and a “bruised ego”? When did I ever complain about how my email was discussed by the interim superintendent?

    When have I “actively and consistently criticized or made fun of” district employees?

    As for whether or not I represent a majority of parents or community members, when did I ever claim that I did?

    If you want a civil discussion of Teach for America you have a funny way of showing it.

    The fact is that there never was a discussion of Teach for America coming to Seattle. It was decided by the interim superintendent without any community engagement at all. It’s a bit disingenuous to call for one now, don’t you think?

    But if you want that discussion, I will be delighted to have it.

    Let’s start with this question: until this year, the District’s stated goal was to attract more experienced teachers to our Level 1 and Level 2 schools and to reduce the teacher turnover in those schools. These two changes in the teacher corps was seen as the path to closing the academic achievement gap. The agreement with Teach for America would place absolute novice teachers in these schools with a high probability that they would leave the school after two years. How do we explain this 180 degree reversal of the plan?

    How about this one: The stated reason for the Teach for America contract was to broaden the hiring pool. There are already thousands of applicants. This agreement adds only 35 new candidates from a single recruitment/training program. That doesn’t broaden the candidate pool very much at all, does it? Wouldn’t it have been more effective to simply drop the requirement that applicants for teacher positions have their certification?

    What is the benchmark for the size of the hiring pool? When will we know that it is broad enough? When there are already 300 applicants for a teaching job, isn’t that enough? How many do we need?

    I think that Teach for America is a noble effort and I have nothing but praise for it. We just don’t need it here in Seattle because we have plenty of certificated experienced teachers available for all of the open teaching jobs. This is like sending a CARE package to Bel Air. Surely the Teach for America corps members are needed much more desperately elsewhere. Every one of them assigned in Seattle is one who isn’t available to work in an area where there is a teacher shortage. Isn’t that so?

  28. I’m a fan of good teachers. I am a teacher. I live in the Central District. If Teach For America teachers are going to get these kids to learn, I’m a fan. I know they’re not traditionally trained but clearly that’s not working for a lot of our kids anyway (have you seen the test scores lately?). There are a lot of good teachers in this area (I know several) so naturally I don’t want to see them go. I just want to get the best teachers no matter how we acquire them.

    In our city, we aren’t as familiar with the major successes teacher from TFA have with their kids. After living in a couple of east coast cities, I KNOW what these people can do. They may not be traditionally trained but they are specially trained to work with kids who are far behind standard.

    At the school in which I taught, the TFA teachers tended to make the most progress with their kids (this was not always the cast but typically). I say, give them a chance. Trust principals to hire the best candidates from their interviews (which will sometimes mean Teach For America teachers).

  29. bcinthecd wrote: “I know they’re not traditionally trained but clearly that’s not working for a lot of our kids anyway (have you seen the test scores lately?).”

    Does anyone – anyone – think that the academic achievement gap is the result of the traditional style of teacher training?

    Are we to understand that – somehow – all of the teachers who got the good kind of training ended up in all of the high performing schools in affluent neighborhoods and – somehow – all of the teachers who got the bad kind of training ended up all of the low performing schools in the low income neighborhoods?

    Does anyone really believe that “teacher quality” or “quality of instruction” is what makes the difference? Would anyone believe that if the teaching staffs at Eckstein and Aki Kurose were swapped that the Aki Kurose kids would start getting great test scores and the kids at Eckstein would start getting bad test scores? Does anyone believe that for even a second?

    Hey! I have an idea! How about all of the kids at Aki Kurose come to school with their shirts on inside-out. Hey, why not try it since they are wearing them right-side out now and clearly that’s not working for a lot of our kids.

  30. Teach For America is a rigorous, successful training program, and my students and I have experienced tangible results.

    I am a Teach For America alumnus from the Colorado region, now living in Seattle teaching part-time and working in the non-profit sector part-time.

    Both years of my TFA commitment all my students came into my class reading below grade level and the majority were English Language Learners in a 92% Free and Reduced Lunch school.

    Both years my students grew the equivalent of 2 years/grade levels in Reading. If that’s not success I do not know what is.

    TFA pushed me to work relentlessly for those results.

  31. That’s great Ms, but let’s not extrapolate your individual results and presume that they are typical. Anecdotes about success are heartwarming, but the data on results from Teach for America puts them on a par with novice certificated teachers and FAR below experienced teachers. So, if we have the choice – and we do – the experienced teachers are the better bet.

  32. How can people preach about teacher retention and TFA’s tendency to leave after two years, when chances are SPS will force them out of their position into a new one next year? And again a year after that? SPS is a broken, out-dated system with or without TFA.

    @CharlieMas – You said, “So, if we have the choice – and we do – the experienced teachers are the better bet.” YOU do not have a choice. The principals and hiring committees have a choice. So stop speaking on their behalf.

  33. TFAsupporter, your reading comprehension skills are so poor. I wrote that WE have the choice, not that I have the choice.

    WE do have the choice. WE, the people of Seattle as represented by OUR school board, can choose against hiring uncredentialed Teach for America corps members as teachers in OUR schools.

  34. Thank you all for discussing this issue. The dialogue is important to me, and I’d like to share my perspective.
    I am a future Seattle TFA corps member.
    I am also a Maryland native and state certified teacher. I have three years of full-time teaching experience and a diverse professional background. I have taught preschool in Romania and Maryland, community college in Baltimore county, English in Japan, and middle school math in Baltimore city.
    People have asked me why I am joining TFA if I am already certified. For me, TFA is not a route to becoming a teacher, it’s a route to becoming a better teacher. Attitude is a huge part of teaching and I want my formative years to be spent with people dedicated to educational equality. I am completely confident that even as a certified, experienced teacher, TFA will give me the experiences and support I need to make a greater difference in communities with educational inequality.
    I hope to meet you all in person, but until then, I’m open to any comments or questions. Thanks again!