Thursday, September 13, 2012

Renton School Board Unanimously Approves TFA

After hearing nearly an hour of public testimony, the Renton School Board voted on an agreement to bring Teach for America to the Renton School District (oddly, after one TFA corps member had already been hired).

The board room was packed with educators wearing red. Every commenter (teachers, community members, and business leaders) spoke about TFA. And every commenter spoke against it.

Amy Hepburn asked the board a simple question: "Who are the students and parents in your district who will have a teacher with five weeks of training in front of them?"

Julianna Dauble (a Renton teacher) called TFA a tragic distraction from the real issues facing the district.

Becca Ritchie laid out the interests and goals of the corporate reform movement, and explained why TFA, as a part of that movement, was incompatible with the values of RSD.

And I, as best I can remember, said:

"I'm going to harp on two things: equity and the way this decision was made.

Mountains of evidence, generally agreed upon by both sides of the educational debate in this country, suggests that teachers play an enormous role in the educational outcomes of children. Despite this, TFA, the corporate reform movement, and now RSD tell us that putting the least-trained, most-likely-to-leave teachers in front of poor and minority students who persistently fall on the wrong side of the achievement gap is a solution?

I would say this raises questions of equity. But for me, it only helps to answer them.

But just as insidious as the notion you're proposing by considering TFA, which is essentially that teaching is not really a profession and you don't really need to train for it, is the way this decision was made.

This morning, I heard on NPR that the Renton School District was considering TFA because they needed something to fill vacancies that couldn't be filled by certified teachers. I DO NOT believe that RSD was unable to find a Washington State certified middle school teacher in Language Arts and Social Studies. And I don't believe anyone else in this board room believes that either.

When you make public statements that come off as flat out untrue, and you conduct part of the decision-making process in secret, you destroy trust.

There are districts in this country where board meetings don't happen like this. Rather, board members sit behind armed guard while the audience screams at each other and over each other because trust has been obliterated.

This decision is one step toward that very wrong future.

Whatever the reasons for this decision, I can't imagine it will be in the best interests of our students or our community.

Thanks."

The Renton School Board voted 5-0 in favor of an agreement with TFA.

2 comments:

  1. Hope you have an elected school board so you can vote them all out.

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  2. TFA has certainly become a lightning rod. The lack of training and certification interests me in particular. I have many friends who teach in private schools in the Seattle area and many of them do not have education degrees. It seems the more affluent families who send their kids to private schools aren't as concerned about this as the rest of us. It's also generally understood that ed programs are some of the least rigorous on college campuses. Of course, there are stand-outs, but it's not the norm. I think what's most important is the person, not the program.

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