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: http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/strategicplan/schoolreports/014.pdf
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: http://letitrainclosethegap.blogspot.com/