- TFA has never closed the achievement gap at any school or district where their teachers are placed. While it is a noble goal (and the goal of EVERY school), they haven't done it.
- Second, there is NO teacher shortage in Seattle. In fact, one of the UW College of Education professors stated at a meeting in June that if she were on the Seattle SB she would have voted no to TFA because "there is no teacher shortage in Seattle."
- Third, this proposal gives a special tuition break to TFAs recruits. (In fact, this point gets hazier by the minute. I will have an update on it but the fact that it is unclear exactly what TFA recruits will get means a lack of transparency on the part of UW.)
- Fourth, no one who would like to become a teacher via UW's program can access it unless they are in TFA. That makes it a fairly exclusionary program for the overwhelming majority of Washington State residents. We need to be creating more Washington teachers for Washington state.
- Dean Stritikus told his Master's students in May that if he had to choose between one of them and a TFA recruit for his own children, he'd choose a Master's student. There's a ringing endorsement.
- Also, according to a Seattle Schools document, the TFA recruits would only marginally increase the diversity in the teacher pool and only in two groups. (In fact I found an error when I was reviewing the chart and it's even lower for Latinos.) This so-called broadening of the pool is not happening in any huge way.
- Lastly, what are we giving to the students at these high-poverty, high-minority schools? Are we giving them the best teachers we have trained? People who, because of this training, are committed to teaching as a career? Or do we give them 5-week trained college grads who provide a revolving door of teachers at schools where students need continuity?
Then we came to UW-Seattle's presentation. It was a lot of edu-speak that boils down to a lot of on-line classes and guidance from a program director and not a lot of face time with professors. In contrast with the other presentations, Board members peppered the two presenting UW professors with many questions. Several of the Board were people of color and they questioned them closely about TFA recruits being culturally prepared to go into high-minority classrooms.
Additionally, just as SEA President Olga Addae had at the Board meeting, one member expressed concern over the mentor teachers. Olga's point was that the TFA recruits will take a lot more hand-holding than a first-year teacher coming out of UW's Master's program. She had expressed concern that the need to give TFA recruits more attention might mean less time for other first-year teachers. The PESB member's point was that it was difficult to get mentor teachers as they are volunteers (who do get paid extra) and how would this be addressed? The professors had no real answer as this is SPS's job (and naturally SPS pays for it).
Then there was public comment. Three of us expressed our concerns against TFA. (I also pointed out that it was somewhat dismaying to hear one of the professors just sigh and say "We'll just have to see how well this works" as if the students were lab rats.) Harium Martin-Morris came forward in support of TFA and said he was an SPS SB member but was speaking as an individual. There was also a couple of TFA alums, someone from LEV and a manager from Federal Way (the other district where TFA will be).
Then they took a motion to pass the proposal. What was interesting was the woman who put forth the motion said she felt strongly about passage but then lamely said that UW had fulfilled all the requirements and should get approval.
Basically, UW had dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's so they did their job as far as the PESB is concerned. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. There was no talk about the plan itself.
Then several other members, in the discussion, again expressed concerns over how the TFA recruits could be trained in cultural competency in such a short time. One member said she felt it "in my gut" that this is wrong but she was going to vote yes because UW had done what was asked for in the proposal application.
I have no idea why this member even said anything. Was it to cover herself later on if the program wasn't working in high-minority schools? Why, as a member of an oversight board, would you say that you felt deeply that a program was not fleshed out (and could possibly hurt kids) and not vote no? When would a person vote their conscience? I was completely perplexed.
Naturally, they all voted yes but I swear during the questioning period for UW's proposal, given the concern expressed in the questions and the number of questions, I thought a few people would vote no.
So that got done for TFA but as Yogi Berra said, it ain't over until it's over. There are yet more public disclosure documents that have been received (and they make for fascinating reading) and more in the works. I'm sure TFA will be in SPS this fall but the whole thing is not going to look good. This might be one more thing the incumbents in the School Board race might have to explain or defend.