One is at the Board meeting on Wednesday night. There is a state entity called the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) that grants educational entities the right to create conditional certificate programs. They require School Board approval has to happen prior to "applying for a conditional certficiate for a teacher candidate. Therefore, Board action is required to hire any TFA candidate if any are selected for hire by a school-based hiring team."
The second action that needs to happen is on Thursday, at the PESB meeting where the UW's College of Education will present their proposal for their teaching certificate program for TFA recruits (and only TFA recruits; no one else can apply to this program).
If you would like to let the PESB know what you think of the plan, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org before Thursday.
When I first read the item (which is an intro item), I was not happy. The Board, once again, makes this claim:
Fiscal impact to this action will be negligible. There is no cost to the district, other than minimal
staff time, to apply to OSPI/PESB for a conditional certificate (the conditional certificate fees are
paid by the candidates themselves). The district match part of the Teach for America agreement
must be funded by private donors; no district funds will be expended.
Okay, the fiscal impact on this action itself may be negligible but what will follow will certainly cost us money. (Note to Peter Maier, if you go out on the campaign trail and say that TFA is not costing the district any money, I will not let it go unchallenged.)
Again, we STILL don't know where the majority of money is coming from to fund any TFA recruits. I'm supposing Big Daddy Gates will front us the money but I think it look less than responsible when the Board is this vague.
One useful item of note is that the item states: "Any corps members who are identified for hire prior to August 17th will be specifically named in an update to this Board Action Report. Corps members identified for hire after August 17th will be addressed in a subsequent Board action."
The item goes on to say:
School Board policy F 01.00 calls for hiring for diversity and quality. The Teach for America
contract was initially entered into because of a belief that a broad candidate pool will result in
high quality teachers in each of our classrooms.
However, we know right now what the TFA recruits bring to the table. According to a document I have, SPS has a larger number of African-American teachers than in the national TFA pool as well as the current pool for Puget Sound. What they would bring is a much higher number of Latino teachers, a lower rate of mixed race teachers than SPS, and a slighter higher rate of Asians. Kind of a mixed bag.
They leave a blank for the number of conditional certificates that they want the Superintendent to approve.
And what is the curious rationale (besides the alleged better candidate pool)?
Bringing forward a request for conditional certificates is specifically contemplated in the Teach for America agreement, Section I (C), which states “Seattle Public Schools agrees to request conditional
certificates for all Teach for America corps members on the grounds that circumstances warrant
the issuance of such certificates, as permitted by WAC 181-79A-231.”
"Circumstances warrant the issuance of such certificates" and yet, there is not mention of what these "circumstances" are? Curious.
To note, if the PESB votes no, then "this item will be postponed if there is no teacher certificate program of record by August 17, 2011." Now I find the folks at the PESB to be thoughtful people. They rejected UW's first application (and rightly so, it was an underwritten mess compared to the others). They could still reject this application and UW couldn't apply again until late September.
Now UW is trying to argue that the program is to be administered through the UW Educational Outreach Center (as if it were just a little evening course). They are trying to stave off my tuition argument by saying TFA students will be paying a "program fee." I spoke to a Vice-Provost about this and told him that the agreement being signed between UW and TFA states that they will be paying tuition. He said he hadn't seen the agreement.
The e-mails reference tuition. So I'm calling it tuition and I'm saying that since the majority of the TFA recruits come from out-of-state, the state of Washington is giving them a great tuition gift that no other student in our state would get.
The district says the alternatives would be to not hire someone a school-based team recommended. (No, that's never happened before.) And, that it would require a new hiring process "which could results in classrooms not having teachers on the first day." Complete nonsense. They are going to know WAY before school starts if they can hire TFA or not.
I am going to again state the obvious:
- TFA has not, in any school or district in any place they are located, closed the achievement gap. Ever. They have some success against other conditionally certificated teachers like themselves. In even fewer cases, there has been marginal success in math against regular teachers. This is on a year-by-year, class-by-class basis. It's not the foundation for anything better to continue.
- As my data shows, the teacher pool diversity will increase in some places and be lower in others. It seems like a wash overall.
- Beyond any diversity, TFA teachers do not really bring anything new to the table that any other first-year, full-trained and certificated teacher would.
- Having TFA in our schools will cost money the district does not have in overhead (processing them will be different than other teacher candidates) as well as in additional mentoring costs.
After I calmed down, I had to relax and then smile. In the end, it's going to be a whole lotta nothing. We'll get some of these people in and they will be "relentless" for a couple of years, move on, more will come, a few good, a few bad, a lot in-between at schools where the children there need stability.
We will end up having created churn for what I believe will be negligible progress. What a waste of time, money and energy.