Monday, August 22, 2011

To Teach, or Not to Teach?

"Our kids deserve more, deserve better and I’ve lived here long enough to know that I want and can be part of the change necessary to help them achieve everything they’re capable of.”

- Teach for America Corps Member, Puget Sound ‘11

In living rooms and coffee shops across the Seattle Metro Area 35 highly qualified teaching candidates are constantly checking their email, updating their resumes and practicing their talking points for the most controversial job interviews they may ever face.  They have beat out 15,000 other applicants from Washington State for acceptance to the selective Teach For America program and now they’re applying alongside hundreds of other teachers for positions in Seattle and Federal Way.

Last year, the Seattle and Federal Way committed to accepting TFA teachers into the hiring process for the 2011 school year. With incredible support from groups like the Seattle Foundation (see video below) the community rallied to bring the new Corps members to the Puget Sound.

Over more than 20 years, school districts have partnered with Teach For America, because they offer an additional pipeline of diverse, effective teachers and leaders for their communities. Of the 35 Seattle Corps members, 40% are people of color, 30% received Federal Pell Grants to attend college and 55% are from or attended school in Washington State.

In an independent survey by Policy Studies Associates of principals who employed Teach For
America corps members, 94% report that the corps members made a positive impact on their
schools.  The most recent study from Tennessee, which looked at 42 different teacher preparation programs, found that, Teach For America corps members outperformed the average new teacher across all subject areas and grade levels. Teach For America was the top new teacher preparation program in the state.

Yet, this Seattle Corps faces some of the strongest opposition and misinformation campaigns the organization has ever seen.  Blogs such as Save Seattle Schools, Walking to School, and Seattle Education are preparing to tar and feather every school board member, superintendent, administrator, principal, teacher, UW graduate or student who ever breathed a word of support for TFA.

In the next few weeks I hope to bring you the stories of people who participated in the discussion about bringing Teach For America to the Puget Sound and give a human voice to the other side of the issue.  

Meanwhile, please take a few seconds to this online poll.


  1. Could you provide the citation for the research study from Tennessee? I'm interested in reading it and in seeing which traditional teacher education programs they analyzed, as well as how they analyzed teacher preparedness. Thanks!

  2. How did the TFA corps members perform relative to experienced certificated teachers?

    If the out-performance of TFA corps members provides ample support for choosing them over other novice teachers, doesn't the out-performance of experienced teachers also provide ample support for favoring them over TFA corps members?

  3. What misinformation have you read on Save Seattle Schools?

  4. Don't forget!


  5. Yes, I'd be interested to know where at the Save Seattle Schools blog anyone said they were prepared:
    "to tar and feather every school board member, superintendent, administrator, principal, teacher, UW graduate or student who ever breathed a word of support for TFA."

    Seems like you might be afraid of an honest discussion about TFA.

  6. I would totally love some citations to your numbers and claims. I am a sixth year educator and am currently obtaining my Masters in Education Administration and have never heard of those numbers you state.

  7. Some points overlooked in this article is that 15,000 other applicants from Washington State are numbers garnered in one of the worst job markets in recent memory, that TFA offers loan reductions as part of their compensation package, that the minimum commitment is for 2 years, and even with all that, TFAr's drop out as the realities of teaching set in. It ain't all sunshine and roses as the article would hope to lead you to believe

  8. 15,000. Another made up statistic.

  9. Can you explain why students who want to teach/help kids so badly don’t become teachers. Many states (including WA) offer fast-track certification for teachers in needed subjects such as math and science. Why not do that if their impatient and commit to mastering one of the most, if not the most, difficult professions out there? Could it be because real teachers get zero respect (and worse today) and are paid squat compared to what TFAers will get after their two years are up and they become associates at Goldman Sachs like Hunter Nielson on the TFA promotional video. TFA is proud of the fact that their recruits leave teaching to get MBA’s. Sorry, but wtf is that about?
    In one simple move, TFA could be made actually helpful and non-controversial: make the recruits teacher assistants along the student-teacher model. Why insist that non-professional, uncommitted, barely trained young people run a class of 28 or 32 mostly disadvantaged kids on their own? A teacher at the head of such a class would surely welcome the help and TFAers could get the experience of poverty they so value after they leave and kids could actually get the individualized attention and education they deserve. How about that?