But what are the unforeseen consequences of this program. Sue Peters of Parents Across America and Seattle Education 2010, wrote about Washington State's experience with TFA. The article provides some good warnings for unintended consequences.
On May 11, the University of Washington's College of Education announced it would sponsor Teach for America at its teaching college, providing the missing component to the deal that TFA, Inc. struck with the Seattle School District last fall.
Last November, Seattle's school board approved a (troubling and one-sided) contract to allow TFA, a short-term alternative teacher credentialing program, into Seattle's hiring pool for the first time. TFA, Inc. also demands a financial and university sponsor in order to brings its program to a new location, and charges school districts an extra $4,000 or more per year for each trainee, in "recruitment, placement and training" fees. (Apparently the millions of dollars from private investors $50 million recently granted to TFA, Inc. by the federal government isn't enough to cover expenses.) Those in the parent ed advocacy community guessed that ed reform sugardaddy Bill Gates would pony up at some point. And he did -- his Washington STEM organization will pay the $4,000 annual fee for the science and math TFAers, which would otherwise be billed to our cash-strapped district. But who would be the university sponsor? We waited for an announcement.
There were rumors that the University of Washington was going to take this on. After all, the new Dean of Education, Tom Stritikus, is a former TFAer himself, and he coincidentally wrote an op-ed about the values of "alternative" teacher preparation programs in the Seattle Times, just a few weeks before then School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson out of the blue proposed bringing TFA to our already teacher-filled, recession-struck district.
The University of Washington already has a well-regarded M.A. teacher ed program (ranked ninth in nation by U.S. News & World Report in 2011). It takes two years and requires a year of student teaching in an actual classroom.
Then the announcement finally came two weeks ago. From the U.W. press release:
Teach For America negotiated directly with Seattle and Federal Way school districts to allow their corps members to interview alongside other candidates for open teaching positions in those districts. Corps members who are hired complete an intensive summer training institute before becoming U-ACT students and begining (sic) full-time teaching. Those hired will enroll as graduate students in the College of Education. They will earn teacher certification through U-ACT and, in subsequent years, a master's degree through one of the college's existing programs -- in Curriculum & Instruction, Special Education, Leadership & Policy Studies or Educational Psychology.In this new arrangement, the students in the TFA special program will be housed alongside the full program students, but would only be required to take a five-week course, after which they would be deemed immediately eligible to apply for a full-time, full-salaried teaching position, while still learning on the job. The full-term U.W. students, meanwhile, won't be certified and able to enter the workforce until they have completed the first year of their program.
Not surprisingly, this announcement was not well received by Dean Stritkus' current M.A. teaching students. Outrage, dismay and confusion soon followed. One student referred to the UW-TFA deal as a "slap in the face." You can't blame them for feeling betrayed by Stritikus and the university.
Here they have been spending two years following the rigorous standards the dean ostensibly believes in, diligently studying the art and science of teaching, paying their own way for a $23,000 ($50,000 nonresident) masters degree at what they thought was a reputable teaching institution. They are spending hours of in-class time in actual public school classrooms getting invaluable experience, all in the hopes of applying for one of the rare teaching positions in the fall. Now they are being told that a stream of fresh grads will be brought in alongside them at U.W., given a special, condensed education, will do little to no student teaching, but will compete against them for the same jobs.
It must feel like running a 10-mile race, only to have the judges allow a group of new runners join in the last 100 yards and race you to the finish -- on skateboards.
St. Louis started getting TFAers in 2002 when 33 were hired. Since then, Teach for America St. Louis has grown to 190 teachers in 60 school in four school districts — St. Louis, Normandy, Riverview Gardens and Hazelwood — plus charter schools. This is listed as one of their success stories. Would those districts who lost their accreditation between 2002 and now think they are living a success story?
Governor Nixon likes this program and thinks they "are making a difference." Has he asked any of the Education Bachelors and Masters graduates from Mizzou and Missouri State whether they think TFAers competing along side them without the years of special coursework they paid to obtain is making a difference for them? Do the residents of Riverview Gardens, Normandy and Hazelwood know that they are getting teachers with only five weeks of teaching training? And if that is in fact good enough for teaching, how do Mizzou and Missouri State justify the continued offering of a six year $80,000+ masters program in teaching?