TFA? Already Here

So I'm still doing my own research on Teach for America. I happened to mention it to someone and it turns out there's a TFA teacher at West Seattle Elementary. I think she got in because of West Seattle's low performance numbers (I believe there is a backdoor way for TFA teachers to get in if a school is low-performing).

I have a call into HR to find out how many of these teachers are here or if the one at West Seattle Elementary is the only one.


zb said…
I believe there was a TFA teacher at Cleveland last year (but my info is rumor-esque, and needs to be fact-checked).
mirmac1 said…
Great. THAT will improve WS elementary.
John Adams said…
I'm glad you are getting a TFA topic going.

I posted on an unrelated topic yesterday about the 9th Circuit decision that just came down that might create some real problems for districts looking to use TFA teachers.

The opinion is here:

The gist of the opinion is that TFA teachers are not "highly qualified" as defined by No Child Left Behind. Because of that, schools cannot use Title I money to pay for them.
WenD said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Ahlness said…
I'm hearing TFA is on the agenda for the next board meeting...
WenD said…
@John Adams: Yes, this:

"Today the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California broke the law when it classified interns as "highly qualified" teachers and assigned them to schools in minority and low-income areas. The court ruled in favor of poor families who said the state was dumping unqualified teachers on their schools.

"A Bush administration policy adopted by California maintained that interns on track to receiving teacher's certification could count as highly qualified. But the court found that those policies violate the No Child Left Behind Law.

"Sixty-two percent of the interns teach in the poorest half of California schools and more than half of California's interns are teaching in schools that are at least 90 percent students of color.

"The courts decision reversed its own previous ruling which found the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue."

Taking away the reformist agendas and alliances, I think the heart of TFA is a great idea, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Thanks to NCLB, obtaining state teaching certs is a huge undertaking, and states vary widely in what they require. So, for every TFA intern hired provisionally, how many qualified teachers are stuck working as subs?

The additional irony here is the reformist rationale that they're going to solve the achievement gap.
Anonymous said…
I started my teaching career in TFA back in 1994. We had an intensive 4 week training Institute in Houston and then I was assigned to a school in rural Louisiana. I had no idea what I was doing. The schools were so desperate for warm bodies that they took us.

I spent 3 years in my school, renewing my emergency certificate by taking 10 credits of education coursework over the summers. By the end of that last year, I suppose I was somewhat competent, but not even close to what those students deserved.

After going and getting a real education, a Masters in Teaching, and my certification, I decided to go work at the TFA Summer Institute in New York. It was the worst 5 weeks of my life. My fellow advisors had only completed one year of teaching and we had primary responsibility for observing and mentoring the TFA recruits.

The new corps members (TFA speak) learned on the job, by taking over summer school classrooms that had been staffed with certified teachers from that school. It was disastrous. The students learned very little to nothing. The teachers were appalled that their students' education was sacrificed to "train" the TFA corps members. Despite the fact that NYC uses the workshop model across the district, TFA insisted that the corps members use the TFA curriculum and objectives, which were hastily and poorly written and relied on direct instruction. There was no alignment between what the students needed to learn to be ready for the next year and what TFA insisted be taught.

I know there are some amazing teachers that find their way into the profession through TFA, but the vast majority leave after 2 years which is not long enough to become proficient much less skilled enough to vastly transform a school.

I am the only one of my cohort who is still in the classroom. The rest are education policy makers, lawyers, and consultants.

I imagine much of this criticism has been voiced already so I apologize for any repetition. Whenever anyone asks whether they should apply to TFA, I ask them if they really want to be a teacher. If they say yes, I advise them to go through a certification program. If they say no, that it just a step on the way elsewhere, I tell them to skip the step and spare the kids. Perhaps it's just me, but I don't think teaching should pad anyone's resume. I think it is a calling and a commitment.

It would be absurd and heartbreaking to invite TFA into a district where so many fabulous teachers got RIFed and are still hoping to return to the classroom.

Dismayed Teacher
wseadawg said…
Thank you Dismayed Teacher. You sound honest, reasonable, and grounded in reality. Just what I want in my school.

Your points make me feel even worse about TFA than before.

The biggest sinkhole in the Reformers argument is how all these great things private foundations and bankrupt governments are currently propping up will ever be sustainable over the long haul, when we can't even get basic funding through involuntary taxing and levies because the public at large just doesn't want to pay the actual costs of a good education, and what they will pay, gets whittled down to a few cents by the time it reaches the classroom.

Do we all really think we can roll out Geoffrey Canada's dream of spending 30k per kid "to scale" as Arnie D likes to say.

Where are the realists? We need realists!
WenD said…
@Dismayed: Thank you for posting this. I don't think a TFA alum has posted here before. I value your opinion, and I'm glad you're still teaching.
Thank you, Dismayed, for a first-hand perspective.
bikemom said…
So, TFA is on the Board agenda for this coming Wednesday the 3rd as an introduction and then vote on the 17th. I am really concerned about this. I am not at all convinced that we need or want TFA to be widespread here in Seattle. We have tons of well trained new teachers graduating from schools around this area in addition to teachers from other states trying to move to Seattle--why do we want almost completely untrained people? Because they went to an ivy league school? Because they're all the rage and tied in with Gates' agenda that supports getting around the status quo?

It feels like something that's just going to happen. Can we stop it?

I already wrote to my board members...what else?


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