Let's start with pro arguments:
- on speaker was yet another ex-TFAer, Timothy Schlosser who is now a TFA teaching coach. (I asked one SPS teacher about being a coach after maybe 3-5 years in the classroom and he laughed. That does seem a short period of time to become a coach. But maybe not a TFA coach.)
But he was also the former TFAer that I quoted in my testimony and here's what he said in 2008 to an LA Times columnist about his first year of teaching:
"My students deserved more than I was able to deliver. That's a year lost they can't recoup. I still feel bad that I wasn't better."
Take that in.
And my testimony continued, "All first-year teachers have their moments of doubt but to hire people who were trained in less than 6 weeks and have them learn all their teaching skills on the job is not the best way to hire the best teachers for the students of SPS." I also like to think that most first-year teachers, no matter their doubts, don't believe their class lost an entire year of learning because of their inability to teach well.
As an aside, naturally, Mr. Schlosser took offense at me quoting him. He came to me as I was talking to Cecilia McCormick and Dorothy Neville in the lobby as I was leaving. He asked me if I thought I took his words out of context. I said no because he had said them. He then asked me what the next line in the column was. I was a bit taken aback as couldn't understand why he thought I would have memorized the whole column. He said the next line was:
"I wish I could clone him," Flores told me." (Flores is the principal of the school Schlosser taught at in 2008.)
Actually the next line is:
"His admission makes it clear to me that he's the kind of teacher I'd like my daughters to have." and it's from the columnist who wrote the article.
Also from the article, the explanation of why he joined TFA:
He graduated two years ago, at 21, from Seattle University, a Jesuit college. He hadn't planned on a teaching career, but a degree in creative writing doesn't make for a lot of options. So he signed up for a two-year stint with Teach for America, which recruits top college graduates to teach on struggling campuses.
That doesn't exactly indicate a burning desire to teach.
Mr. Schlosser again complained that I quoted him out of context. No, I didn't. I was quoting what he thought about himself as a teacher, not what the principal or the columnist thought. I quoted his exact words. He then said that his family and friends could see my testimony on TV and what would they think of him.
I honestly wanted to look around for the Candid Camera crew (yes, I'm old). Was he really serious?
Folks, I'm thinking the circulation of the LA Times in 2008 is far, far greater than the number of viewers of a local cable station's running of a School Board meeting.
There is so much I could say but it holds true to the current TFA tactic this year of "they're being mean to us." This is versus last year's "we're the best and the brightest, who wouldn't want us?" feeling.
- there was a teacher from Aki Kurose who claimed "real-time" student achievement at Aki by TFA teachers but offered not one shred of evidence.
-Lisa MacFarlane of DFER reminded the Board of her BEX service and then spoke of the Board honoring the commitments made. For some reason she pointed out that two on the Board ran on not supporting TFA (and guess what? they won over two who did support TFA - what should that tell her?). She claimed more diversity (3 out of the 6 are minorities - fine but that's not a number that really changes our district average in a significant way as TFA claimed they would).
- Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center weighed in and she had a handout and it's funny reading. She first claims that the idea of ending the relationship with TFA means they are being "banned" from the district. (FYI, "banned" is the new ed reform code also being used for charters.)
I want to point out - there is a big difference between banning something and not allowing it. To ban something you have to outright say "we won't allow that here" versus not allowing it which is "we don't want/need it".
Back to Ms. Finne and her hyperbole:
She said turning away TFA recruits "artificially shrinks the talent pool" for SPS. SPS probably had 75+ applications for nearly every spot (except Special Ed and TFA couldn't be hired for those) and that's a small pool?
She then said that "banning TFA means many UW graduates will be banned from teaching in SPS." She seems to forget the fully-trained and educated UW graduates from the College of Education.
She used data that was not all peer-reviewed (and, in fact, used New Orleans as an example and they are a terrible example of good public education in this country). She says:
"There is substantial evidence that Teach for America teachers are successful at closing the achievement gap."
No, there isn't. And, tell me one district or even one SCHOOL where this has happened. I'll wait. Hey, what about New Orleans where TFA heavily populates schools? What school in New Orleans has closed the gap?
One TFA teacher, Daniel Caldron, who teaches Spanish at RBHS, impressed us all by starting out by speaking Spanish. I have no idea what that was supposed to show. His testimony left me feeling like I was at an Up with People concert (again, I'm old).
Dorothy Neville pointed out that at their retreat they talked about their commitment to good governance. She said what are the opportunities and risks to any commitment that SPS undertakes. Basically the question is how does hiring TFA align with SPS's core mission of finding and keeping good teachers and building a cohesive teaching corps?
Cecilia McCormick pointed out many of the data-supported issues around TFA.
I spoke briefly about BEX IV but for TFA I pointed out that SPS hiring teams hired hundreds of new teachers and only 4 schools hired just 6 TFA teachers. (And one of them IS already a fully-trained and certified Special Ed teacher who just decided to join TFA for some reason.)
I pointed out that Director Carr had said in an e-mail early last year that "too much political capital was being spent on TFA."
I also said that yes, TFA is costing more in staff costs which HR head, Paul Apostle, said, after consulting his staff, really wasn't true.
Board Discussion of TFA Contract:
Smith-Blum asked HR's Paul Apostle if there was extra work for TFA applications. He said he asked his staff and the answer was no.
Peaslee asked who was paying the TFA fees next year. Mr. Apostle looked bewildered and said he would have to go back and get that info. DeBell jumped in and said in the discussion last fall with the Seattle Foundation, that they expressed long-term interested in funding TFA. Really? Because that's not how it was put to me when I called them several months back. It was clear it was for one year only. As well someone from the Bezos Foundation (Amazon's CEO's foundation) complained about SPS not having "skin in the game" by not paying the fees themselves.
Peaslee also asked about evaluating TFA teachers. It was interesting because Mr. Apostle said they check after the first 90 days and then during the second semester and there was no unsatisfactory reports about any of the TFA teachers.
Then Holly Ferguson of Governance stepped in and said there was no required review but that Director Maier had put forth an amendment for a review of the program at the end of 3 years and not a specific evaluation of the teachers. I do recall this amendment but I would think that ANY review of the program would include evaluations of the teachers.
Smith-Blum asked about alternative certification programs for finding new teachers. That would be a good idea but our largest public university, UW. the place where it would likely be the cheapest to take that route, chose for its one and only alt cert program to be solely for TFA recruits and no one else. Talk about restricting the teaching pool; that's about as narrow as you can get.
Martin-Morris stated that he was worried about the precedent that "this kind of behavior represents." I'm not sure what "behavior" he was speaking of but the contract CLEARLY states that either side can review the contract at ANY point and walk away if they want to (by a certain date). There is no "precedent" to it but that the Board is choosing to exercise their rights within the contract. Also, he spoke of "segregating out six employees". I am not aware that anyone within SPS is so I am confused about why this is an issue for him.
Patu spoke of her commitment to the SPS teaching corps and believes we do have a large enough pool of fully-qualified teachers already.
Martin-Morris responded that SPS is not a "work program" and we are here to help children learn. I thought that was quite telling because frankly TFA does function as a work program for its members.
Patu shot back that it was only her opinion. Bit of a testy moment there.
Peaslee pointed out that the contract did allow yearly reviews.
McClaren expressed her deep concern about first-year teachers in high-need classroms and a rapid turnover of teachers in SPS.
DeBell curiously spoke of "peer districts" that use TFA. To my knowledge, the only other district in the state that uses TFA is Federal Way. Anyone else know anything different? He spoke of the monopoly of colleges of education. He's right but again, why would UW open its only alt cert teaching program to such a small pool? We have many, many people who would like to consider teaching as a second career but want to go to a cheaper (read; public) program. I think he should be asking UW this question.
Smith-Blum and Carr said nothing which was interesting because either one could be a swing vote depending on what they learn in the next several days.
Luckily, the new batch of public disclosure e-mails (along with the existing ones that I read to make my point about HR costs) are going to prove Mr. Apostle either isn't aware of the issues or is trying to make light of them. Either way, much extra time and effort are being expended on TFA within SPS.
The new batch of public disclosure e-mails also show that none of the schools that hired TFA had any parents on their teams (and at least one may have violated the SEA CBA). They also show that several TFA teachers used the head of TFA as a reference when they probably knew her less than two months and had not worked for her in any capacity. Two of them also used each other as references.