Teach For America is attempting to gain a foothold in Washington State and primarily by gaining positions in Seattle. However, TfA is unnecessary in Seattle.
First, there is no shortage of teachers in Seattle. Seattle Public Schools had over 800 applications for the few open positions in the schools. Teachers have been given pink slips and many, many teachers are waiting for their first jobs as things stand right now.
Also, TfA teachers have less experience than teachers who graduated with teaching degrees. While teachers who have earned their full certification degrees have been trained for a year or more, TfA teachers have completed a 5 week course.
I can’t think of a major professional field that actively recruits lower-skilled, less-trained, and minimally experienced employees over higher-skilled, better-trained, and more experienced employees.
The Seattle School Board and the Seattle Superintendent have revealed their disdain for the profession with their allowance of TfA in the district.
In addition, TfA teachers only continue teaching after 2-3 years at a rate of about 33%. This means fewer of these teachers remain in the profession than those who complete full certifications. And we all know that consistency and experienced teachers are better for schools and children–especially in neighborhoods of poverty–than high turnover which TfA creates. Besides, teachers of poverty need people from their own cultures and backgrounds to serve as models, and TfA teachers are very often students from upper and upper-middle class homes.
Hiring a TfA teacher requires that an experienced teacher mentor the new recruit. This, of course, creates more work for an existing teacher and costs a district money and time. Granted, the state may save some money on hiring an inexperienced employee who is lower on the salary scale, but it will incur organizational, training, experience, and student achievement costs.
Bringing TfA recruits into our schools is insulting and one more way to discredit the hard work being done by our current professionals. Plus, it’s one more way to allow privatization into our public system (since the backers of TfA are often those backing privatization).
Please talk some sense into the Seattle School Board and the Seattle Superintendent!
P.S. Lynne Varner, the author of the first linked article, has advocated time and again for experienced teachers in the classroom over inexperienced ones as well as getting minorities into teaching, and in this article she reverses field. She is not an advocate of public education, and she loves any attempt to unionbust.