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Comment of the Week Goes To…

kristen on “Struggling Rainier Valley Middle School to Get Two Teach for America Teachers”:

TFA was founded to place teachers in areas where there is a shortage of educators – ie not enough teachers to fill classrooms. I fully support this aspect of TFA.

No such shortage exists in Seattle. In fact, as I understand it, approximately 30 teachers were laid off from Seattle Public Schools at the end of the last academic year. I don’t have the numbers, but doubt all have been re-hired. These teachers are actually those less senior ones the so-called “ed reformers” say they are backing over the older, allegedly inadequate, but more senior teachers. (I’m being a bit facetious here.)

TFA teachers start in the classroom following a summer crash course in education. This differs from teacher credentialing requirements which involve significant coursework and classroom experience for certification, plus continuing ed.

The vast majority of TFA teachers leave the classroom within several years. (One TFA teacher featured in the Seattle Times w/in the last year as outstanding has left education.) Is this good for kids?

Rather than blaming teachers for the fact that a high number of kids live in poverty, we need to support more social programs (such as help for low-income parents, food assistance, universal publicly funded preschool and pre-K programs, more family support workers in schools) to ensure kids actually come to school, and when they come they are ready to learn. Teachers and administrators at struggling schools report low attendance rates for their students, due to difficult home lives (kids are often bumped from one family member or friend to another, making consistent school attendance difficult).

I know the idea of having new, energetic (TFA) teachers is appealing, but I urge everyone to really think through these issues.

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