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Duval should stop wasting money on Teach for America and create their own teacher recruitment program.

By Bradford Hall

Teach for America Founder and Chairman Wendy Kopp recently penned a letter to the editor of the Washington Post touting her organization’s effectiveness and slamming critics of her organization.

In her letter, she writes, “But some of the criticism is based on misrepresentation and toxic rhetoric.”

If I were thinking about Duval County Public Schools and its “partnership” with Kopp’s organization, I am inclined to agree with Kopp.

TFA has misrepresented the teaching profession by using its own toxic rhetoric that anyone can become a teacher and that it only requires two years to significantly improve student achievement.

According to the Center for Public Education, students are more likely to achieve better results with a teacher who has at least five years of teaching experience.

Just months ago, Dr. Douglas D. Ready, an associate professor of Education and Public Policy in Teachers College at Columbia University, compiled a report of his findings about TFA Jacksonville that clearly shows it misses the mark for its overwhelming teacher turnover rates and evidence that students taught by TFA corps members learn no better than those taught by non-TFA teachers. Here are some of the highlights of the study:

 Of the original 55 TFA Jacksonville corps members, none of them remain teaching in
Duval County Public Schools today.

 Only 11 of the 61 TFA teachers hired in 2010 were still teaching in the district last school
year.

 TFA membership was the strongest single predictor of early-career attrition from DCPS.

 Even compared to early-career teachers in the same school with similar backgrounds and
teaching responsibilities, TFA teachers were still more likely to leave DCPS.

 Results varied slightly across models that controlled for additional teacher and school
characteristics, but all results suggest that TFA teachers are at least as effective as their
non-TFA colleagues. No adjusted models indicated that TFA students learned less than
other students.

Ready’s report clearly shows that criticizing TFA is not misguided but continuing to fund a revolving door of teachers in and out of already hard-to-staff schools is blatantly misguided and an expensive mistake.

Our district, for the next three years, will give TFA nearly $2 million (and that is only 20 percent of the total costs) for teacher performance no better than teachers who take the traditional route to the classroom. Pursuing this further, TFA corps members do not even equate to five percent of the district’s teaching force.

An even better opportunity is the district owning its own human capital efforts.

NYC Teacher Fellows is a program designed to recruit teachers for hard-to-staff schools. Fellows will go through The Spring Classroom Apprenticeship where they will co-teach in a high needs area for ten weeks. Those fellows will then go on to teach summer school classes while being coached by master teachers. In addition to school-based support throughout the regular school year, professors and staff from local universities are also on hand to observe the teacher fellows and provide direct support. The fellows can also choose from several universities where they want to earn a master’s degree in education.

According to the NYC Teacher Fellows, 47 percent of fellows are recent college graduates while 53 percent are career changers. An impressive 92 percent complete their first year; 72 percent are still teaching in their third year; and over half remain for five years or more. The program also boasts that 398 of the fellows now serve as principals or administrators.

In short, Duval County should have the capacity to build its own top notch recruitment model too.

Where it concerns our children who are our neighbors, we, as a local community, should come together and find a solution to lower attrition rates in all of our schools. The Jacksonville Teacher Residency Program is definitely on time as we champion the exit of TFA in Duval County.

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