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Friday, August 10, 2018

District 6 candidates let me educate you about how bad Teach for America is

At the district 6 school board forum a question about teacher retention and alternate certification programs including Teach for America came up and all the candidates heaped high praise on the program. In a bit of irony Dave Chauncey a TFA alum was the most reserved.

Well as they were talking I could feel myself getting hot because without a doubt Teach for America is a dreadful program and let me explain why.

First you have to separate yourself from the program and the teacher. Anybody whether they are a college of ed grad, a business person starting a second career or a TFA teacher deserves respect and support for showing up. It’s the program not the individual teachers that is dreadful.

I wonder what the candidates would say, if I asked them to sell the following to the people they were looking to get their votes.

Okay here is the plan, let’s take recent college grads, most won’t be education majors but that’s okay, because we will put them through a five-week teacher boot camp. Then we will put them in our neediest schools where they are supposed to serve two years though they can serve for more if they want to. It’s true about one in six won’t make it to two years and most won’t stay beyond their commitment but that’s okay these things happen. And all it is going to cost you is 2500 bucks a year so about 5k per teacher for a finder’s fee, then we will give them an extra 11 grand for grad school or to pay off student loans after their two years is up. Now it’s true evidence says our neediest students really need experience teachers, we will spend a bit more on training because new teachers receive more and the program creates kind of a revolving door of new teacher and this will exacerbate teacher turnover but no plan is perfect. What do you think? Should we do it?

Any potential voter who heard this plan would say you have to be out of your $#% $#%& mind. The thing is that is exactly what Teach for America does.   

You have to be able to separate the program from the individual teachers and the district 6 candidates to a one sadly could not do that, but it gets even worse.

TFA was brought to town by a man named Gary Chartrand. Despite the fact he is a grocer, all be it though, a very rich grocer, he routinely inserts himself in local education.  He also brought KIPP to town, has given Dave Chauncey 4,000 dollars a violation of the spirit of campaign donation laws, and has backed a candidate in every school board race since 2012 despite the fact he lives in Ponte Vedra including people like Scott Shine and Jason Fischer. 

He is on record saying it is a good thing that teachers no longer have work protections, used his position on the state board of education to ratchet up testing requirements for both students and teachers while supporting vouchers where teachers and students take no tests and is a notorious detractor of organized labor once funding the faux teacher group PEN and he undoubtedly supports amendment 8 which would end home rule and takes representation away from the people. 

He envisions a district full of KIPP charters staffed by TFA teachers and when the candidates of district 6 lavished praise on TFA, that is who they sided with while siding against professional teachers.

TFA says anybody can be a teachers and experience does not matter and we all know or should know that is far from the truth.  It’s also insulting to people who have made teaching a career.

The candidates went on and on about all the great TFA teachers they have met and I was thinking, haven’t they met great non TFA teachers too? You know the ones that didn’t get 11k after just two years and who stayed in the classroom a lot longer? The ones who did what was required to get certified? Did they ever meet anyone like this? I ask because it sure didn’t sound like they had.  

TFA also allows those who would seek to dismantle public ed to seem like they care. It allows them to say, well were not going to invest in doing things the right way, but hey have you checked out this program that puts teachers in inner city schools?

I would hope the district 6 candidates would ask themselves the following questions.

Shouldn’t’ we strive to put professional teachers in all our classrooms?

Why won’t the legislature fund money for loan forgiveness or grad school for traditional teachers after two years?

Can we afford all the extra costs of this very expensive program?

Does experience matter?

Don’t our neediest children, heck all our children deserve better than an ever revolving door of novice teachers?

I was really disappointed in all of the candidates answer to this question, I think our professional teachers and their students deserved better and I hope they rethink their position, not about the teachers they have met, but about the program they came from.  

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