Also the SCPTSA sent out another eNews bulletin about TFA entitled "Debate, Round II: Teach for America". Can I just say there is no real debate going on except here. Here's a brand new program that directly affects classroom teaching and there's no debate at all?
So this bulletin once again has what proponent say and opponents say. What bothers me is that the PTSA does not flesh out a lot of details and much gets lost. For example, saying that TFA recruits get 5 weeks training, become teachers and then go on to get full certification. Well, that going on is while they are teachers. I find that a lot for a first-year teacher to be taking on.
What really bothers me is they put a case for TFA (provided by TFA) and a case against (provided by the SEA). No one else has anything worthwhile to report? Here's the case that TFA gives:
One third of Teach For America's current math/science candidates have indicated Seattle as their top choice region for where they would like to teach. The national average is 82 percent first-year retention in high poverty schools; TFA averages 92 percent. Two-thirds of TFA's network of 20,000 remain committed to education full-time, despite the fact that only 1 in 10 intended on pursuing teaching as a career. 33 percent of TFA's 2010 corps is of color; 28 percent come from low-income communities; 20 percent are first-generation college graduates. In 2007, 92.5 percent of Washington teaching corps was white. (Teach for America's UW recruitment numbers to date: 65 candidates have applied to Teach For America and 14 were accepted; 10 of these candidates highly preferred Seattle as one of their top five places to teach; and of the 10 candidates who wanted to teach in Seattle, 4 are of color.)
What I see is that Seattle is a popular place. The two-thirds committed to education do NOT all remain teachers. Isn't that the problem they are trying to solve? More high-quality teachers from great schools? Or is it to lay a base for a network of leaders with one mind-set? And just because 33% of TFA's 2010 corps is of color doesn't mean 33% of the teachers we get will be.
And it goes on and on in this eNews bulletin. It's practically a brochure for TFA. There's twice as much pro-TFA than con-TFA. Why would that be?
Here's what the SEA side has to say (note that SCPTSA inserts a rebuttal from TFA):
- TFA recruits are not needed. (No shortage of certificated applicants)
- Graduates of programs in our colleges of education have more experience and more skills than can be acquired in 5-week teacher boot camp.
- TFA recruits do not stay in classroom. (TFA and SEA quote different retention figures)
- TFA does not improve student achievement when compared to beginning teachers who have studied in colleges of education. (TFA and SEA both say data support their position; either, yes more effective - TFA; or, no, not really - SEA)
- TFA siphons outside funding. (SPS has lined up private funders to pay the $4,000 per TFA placement, to offset program costs.) SEA asks SPS to instead find private funders to help facilitate the new contract, provide promised mentors for new teachers, and facilitate the rollout of Professional Learning Communities, which will help all teachers develop goals around student success. (SPS did secure a federal grant to help implement new contract.)
- TFA agreements abuse the state guidelines around emergency or conditional certification
Agreement with Teach For America will broaden the district's candidate pool. Also noted: The district employs more than a dozen TFA alumni who are successful in their current positions.
The current TFA teachers are REAL teachers now. There are successful teachers in our district who aren't former TFAers. What is the point?
The kicker? SCPTSA stance:
The full council does not have one. Most local units have not had time to assess the information or touch base with members. The SCPTSA board will discuss at our monthly meeting today (Nov. 15). What feedback we have heard has been evenly split.
Okay, "not have had time to assess the information or touch base with members"? Do they point out who's fault that is? Nope. Do they say how unfair this is to their membership to not have the time? Nope. And feedback? That's purely anecdotal. (Now Kay Smith-Blum did say at her meeting that she had contacted the principals in her district and asked their opinions about TFA. She said it was evenly divided with it being very for or very against. I wish I could have seen her whole survey. At least she has tried.)
Why isn't the SCPTSA showing some disappointment? Frustration? or even anger at the district? This is the reaction of our main parents' group, a pro and a con and an "oh, no time to ask members what they think?"
It's so disappointing. Who supports parents? We need a parents union.