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Teach for America Testimony

There is a school board meeting this evening when it will be decided by the directors if they will accept the Broad trained superintendent’s proposal to hire Teach for America, Inc recruits.

Below is the testimony that I would like to give. Unfortunately, each person has only three minutes to speak so this will get cut down a bit.

Dora

Jim Horn, editor of Schools Matter, describes Teach for America, Inc. as, the “anti preparation program”.

Within the five weeks of preparation of a TFA, Inc. recruit, to paraphrase Mr. Horn, where does the study occur of child development, educational psychology, sociology, philosophy and history, learning science, cognitive science, curriculum theory and practice along with the development of research skills, classroom management, and the study of human dynamics that is part of the education of a teacher, at least a teacher who I want and expect teaching in my daughter’s school?

And what about the IEP and special ed students who are mainstreamed into the general student population? Does TFA, Inc. in their five week program provide adequate training to handle those students as well the remaining students in a class of 30 students?

In regards to “community engagement” that is required to take place with parents, teachers, students and other concerned citizens, that apparently happened two weeks ago when a TFA, Inc. rep, Ms. Ortega, along with Dr. Enfield and two representatives from SEA were available to answer questions asked by the school board in the last board meeting. That is not enough. Most members of the Seattle school community do not know what Teach for America, Inc. is. What we need is honest and open discussion with the entire community about this topic. SPS has failed again.

That “community engagement” attempt that DeBell referred to was a complete sham and no one was fooled by that weak attempt to avoid the democratic process that is supposed to happen within the Seattle community.

Several parents invited Ms. Ortega to join a forum with parents and students where questions could be asked about TFA, Inc.

About a week after the invitation, Ms. Ortega did respond by saying that she would be available sometime in December. That, by the way, is after the school board vote on TFA, Inc., and it would be too late.

So much for “community engagement”.

And what does TFA consider “community engagement”? Going to Rainier Beach High School as part of a program where the staff presented to Michael Tolley, the director for the Central District, their ideas on how to enrich the curriculum at their high school.

At the end of the program, Ms. Ortega spoke. What everyone got was a sales pitch on how wonderful the recruits are and how many people apply and how many people are selected and how 2/3’s of these corps members continue on in the field of education.

What she stated was misleading and did not include the fact that the recruits were contracted for a two year period or the fact that they receive only five weeks of training. And 2/3’s of the recruits staying in the field of education might include administrative work or policy making on some level, but does not describe the number of recruits who stay on to continue teaching after three years. That would only be about 20% of the recruits.

A teacher stated that three TFA recruits had been at Rainier Beach High School about 14 years ago. One of the recruits was great but the two needed a lot of hand holding which had to be done by the staff, putting more of a strain on other teachers and the students.

Ms. Ortega said that 14 years ago there was one “supervisor” for about 70 recruits. Now that number was down to around 45 recruits per supervisor. Somehow I don’t think that created a level of comfort for anyone in the audience.

Someone from the audience suggested that TFA, Inc. recruits could be teaching assistants because they are needed in the schools. Ms. Ortega said that wouldn’t work for TFA, Inc. I imagine it wouldn’t, not at $8,000 per recruit over a two year period. They’d have to come down a lot more in their price for our school district to buy that one…I think.

Even state Representatives Sharon Nelson and Eileen Cody sent a letter to the superintendent stating that TFA, Inc. would not be the appropriate fit for our students but suggested that they would make great teaching assistants.

The warm and fuzzy anecdotal stories that we heard in the last board meeting from former TFA, Inc recruits were sometimes sweet and sometimes interesting but there were no facts presented. These individuals might feel good about what they were doing during their first two years of on- the-job training as TFA, Inc. recruits in our schools but according to the Helig study, if they were typical of other recruits, they were no more “effective” than any other teacher who was also a first or second year teacher.

It is arrogance on the part of Wendy Kopp and her recruits to think that someone from Princeton, where Ms. Kopp attended the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and who does not have a degree in education or a subject closely related to education, would be able to go into these low poverty communities and think that they would be the answer in any form to what ails our schools.

When it comes down to it, TFA, Inc. recruits might be young and energetic but so are other teachers who are fresh out of college with their degrees in education in hand and who are better prepared to teach than any TFA, Inc. recruit.

Would I want a TFA, Inc. recruit teaching my daughter? No. Do I think that it would be OK for them to teach anyone else’s child who might need more involvement and support? Absolutely not.

2 comments on “Teach for America Testimony

  1. Pingback: Ten Reasons Why the Seattle Public Schools’ Superintendent, Dr. Marie Goodloe-Johnson, Should Be Fired With Cause | Seattle Education 2010

  2. Pingback: TFA’s Wendy Kopp is Coming to Town | Seattle Education 2010

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