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Thursday, April 20, 2017

The district calls Teach for America "questionable" ya think!?! (rough draft)

Okay before the Teach for America apologist crowd lambastes me, let me say I am sure there are great and dedicated Teach for America teachers and people who have had all the training and education in the world who have probably chosen the wrong field.

It's not the people who show up to work with our kids that I have a problem with, it's the very expensive program, that exasperates teacher turnover, belittles experience, and gives our neediest students novice teachers when they need veterans, that I do.  

From the Times Union.

In the strategic abandonment report, the reading and the math coaches were listed as questionable. At total of 14 of the 37 programs were questionable, including Teach for America, a national nonprofit which recruits, trains and places teachers in high-poverty schools, including 50 in Duval schools this year.
Over the past three years, Duval has spent $600,000 with Teach for America, not counting teachers’ salaries. The report says the teachers’ students do as well as other Duval students in reading and slightly better in math.
 Six hundred thousand dollars beyond salaries, let that sink in. Now prepared to get outraged. What we have really spent, when we include the QEA initiative is 6.5 million dollars over the last three years.


I did a piece a while back and the district spends more on TFA teachers than it does on ten year veterans. Also remember the vast majority of these TFA teachers leave after two years assuring a revolving door in our most vulnerable schools.

What would have happened had we used that money to recruit veteran teachers? You know people who weren't killing time until grad school and to whom being a teacher was the career they had chosen?

What if we had spent that money on mental health counselors, or social workers, something many of our most vulnerable children need more than a novice teacher without an education background?

How about spending that money to make classes smaller, or provide summer school and after school opportunities? Any of these would have been a better use of the money.  

Questionable? My %$#, it's a bad deal for our schools and kids no matter how you slice it.


  1. A relative of an acquaintance worked for TFA two years in Charlotte. After her stint in the classroom she was hired by Teach for America and earned 50% more than she did as a teacher. I've read that TFA is top heavy with well paid titled employees - sounds like an educational version of a Ponzi scheme. Noticed too in the Times Union article that two of the district initiatives mentioned are run by none other than Betty Burney and Brenda Priestly Jackson! This seems to be the school board equivalent of congressmen working as lobbyists after they are out of office.

    1. I believe We also have some ex-teach for America people on the cabinet. 140 a year. TNTP is a Teach for America cousin.

  2. Just so this is clear the only program they found to not work at all is the one Brenda Jackson is taking 70,000 a year for? Is this the same Brenda Jackson who works for JPEF and the same one who was accused of using her position to get her children in magnet schools and living outside of district boundaries and using district money to rent hotels and a house? Just want to make sure I understand.

    What a joke the tool used is. What research did you do to see If coaches work? How could you conduct that kind of research overnight? It took 2 district's who really did it a year . Real research was done in other districts before they went carteblanche with coaches and the fact is that if the program supports the on-going training of coaches then they are very effective. But Duval ignores real research and they don't care about teacher professional development, so just let us sit in a room hear someone drone on for hours and expect thatvwe learn. The opposite of adult learning theory.

    1. Um, I was a coach and I can tell that in Duval it doesn't work. If you want a reason, I've got many, but here's a teaser: many principals use coaches as a sub.

    2. I agree which is why coaches can be effective if they do their job of coaching. It has worked in many districts so I hear you saying this is a Duval issue. What would you suggest so teacher can get the support they so desperately need? A full-time classroom teacher can not do the work. They have enough to do already.

    3. I believe that coaches are valuable, especially for new teachers. The school that I am currently at actually has excellent coaches (when they are actually able to coach).
      I think that at the elementary level, a solution may be to have one coach, maybe a more general standards coach (like we used to). This coach could do training and be a resource for both reading and math. Perhaps they could focus on reading and math on a rotating basis or based on school-wide or grade level needs. I think that a lot of the training, from coaches, that we currently have is just to fill the required time, is based on a random admin selected topics and is not geared to what teachers in a particular grade-level or subject may need (I think that I would benefit more from having the time to actually plan). Only schools with really low proficiency in reading and math may need both coaches. I would like to see the current coaches who are no longer needed to be put in open interventionist positions. Interventionists, can be a great resource to students, and may be able to have a schedule with some days where they could see less students and work with the coach to be an additional resource for teachers or professional development.

      Besides, I'm not so sure about just putting coaches back into the classroom full-time. I understand that this is supposed to solve the vacancies problem, but I believe that if someone has left the classroom to pursue another sort of position, it is for a reason. Everyone isn't going to be happy spending 30 years in the classroom, especially with what teaching is turning into.

  3. I believe that School Districts across the country that use TFA have to pay a ‘finders fee’ to TFA for each corps member for each of the two years (usually between $3,000-$5,000). This money is non-refundable even if the corps member is determined unfit once in the classroom - or if they quit before they’ve completed their two-year commitment. There are many problems in the TFA program and the School Board needs to take a closer look into TFA.