This evening the Board Curriculum and Instruction Committee met as a committee of the whole. Five board members were in attendance. A majority of them want a motion to terminate the district's contract with Teach for America. The motion will appear as an introduction item at the March 7 board meeting and as an action item at the March 21 board meeting. The deadline for terminating the contract for next year is April 1.
If the contract is terminated the six Teach for America corps members who were hired this year will continue as teachers for at least another year. After that, they will continue as teachers only if they have acquired their certification. Of course the teachers can resign at any time if they so choose.
Director Peaslee spoke in favor of termination saying all of the usual things said in opposition of using Teach for America corps members as teachers in Seattle: she cited studies that show that Teach for America corps members are no more effective than other novice teachers, and that novice teachers are the least effective. She also noted that we have plenty of experienced, fully certificated teachers to choose from and that novice teachers are a burden on their colleagues.
Director Patu also spoke in favor of terminating the contract saying that she never supported the idea and that the decision to hire Teach for America corps members offended our teacher corps.
Director Martin-Morris said that he wasn't much interested in data from other cities. He regarded all of the studies about Teach for America as inconclusive. He said that we did not yet have any data on the effectiveness of Teach for America corps members here in Seattle and that he wanted the board to make data-driven decisions. He said that it made no sense to decide to terminate the contract in the absence of any data. He advocated continuing the contract.
Director DeBell also spoke in favor of continuing the contract. He, like, Director Martin-Morris, pointed out that all six of the Teach for America corps members hired in Seattle schools were hired through the regular competitive process. He noted that whatever the perceived short-comings of their training, they were the choice of the hiring committees that selected them. He said that Teach for America was an experiment and that we shouldn't terminate it without seeing the results.
Director McLaren, the committee chair, spoke in favor of terminating the contract and echoed some of the reasons provided by her colleagues - the teacher corps were insulted by the contract, novice teachers are a need a lot of support from their colleagues, and we have plenty of teacher candidates without the Teach for America corps members in the candidate pool.
I noticed that neither Director Martin-Morris nor Director DeBell mentioned the expanded candidate pool as a rationale for continuing the contract. Nor did either of them suggest that the Teach for America corps members were among the "best and the brightest". Director Martin-Morris did refer to them as "talented and gifted" but not in a way that suggested that other teachers were not so. Neither Director Martin-Morris nor Director DeBell mentioned the impact of Teach for America on the diversity of our teacher corps.
Finally, as a personal observation, if the absence of local data makes Director Martin-Morris think that we have no basis for taking the action of terminating the contract, then isn't it equally true that the absence of local data gave no basis for taking the action to start the contract? I understand that this was an experiment, and we do not yet have data from it, but that doesn't preclude us from asking the more basic question: "Should we be conducting this experiment in the first place?"