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Layoffs shift TFA teachers to charters

By Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 8, 2011 06:34 PM

The mass teacher layoffs this summer have driven more Teach for America corps members in Philadelphia to charters and virtually decimated their presence in District-run schools.

Most of the second-year TFA teachers were laid off by the District and only a dozen of the 145 newly-minted ones were hired, according to TFA officials. That makes fewer than 30, or 10 percent, in District schools. Five second-teachers were never laid off and 12 others were called back and accepted positions.

UPDATED: By contrast, nearly 100 of the 310 first- and second-year TFA members will be working in Renaissance turnaround charter schools, which are District schools that have been converted to charters. Seven Renaissance charters opened last year and another five, including Simon Gratz and Olney high schools, began this year.

The 12 Renaissance charter schools hired 38 of the newly minted teachers, along with 27 second-year corps members who had been laid off from regular District schools, said TFA national spokesperson Rebecca Neale. In addition, 33 second-year TFA teachers who had already been working in one of the original seven Renaissance charters are returning, she said.

UPDATED: That adds up to 98 teachers, or 32 percent of the TFA contingent in the region, which covers Philadelphia and Camden, N.J.

Neale said that as of Wednesday all but 11 of the 234 first- and second-year teachers had landed jobs in charter and alternative schools in Philadelphia and Camden, and those 11 “are interviewing where open positions exist across the city.”

Between current corps members and alumni, TFA is playing a larger role in Philadelphia’s charter networks, including Mastery, KIPP, and Young Scholars, even as its presence in the District is waning. For instance, a quarter of the Mastery teachers, and half of those at KIPP and Young Scholars are TFA alumni, Neale said. Many of their principals are also TFA alumni. Mastery and Young Scholars run Renaissance charters; KIPP does not.

“We have definitely relied on TFA,” said Mastery CEO Scott Gordon, who said he hired 300 new teachers altogether this year. “They are a source of motivated, hard-working young people,” said Gordan. Fifty-five TFA corps members are in Mastery schools, Neale said.

Among the more than 1,200 teachers laid off by the District due to cutbacks were 85 of the 90 second-year TFA corps members.

“TFA was scrambling for positions for them, but then last week most of those people were called back,” said one second-year corps member who did not want to be identified. She said that some had taken positions they didn’t really want, but “signed contracts and can’t get their old District jobs back. It’s been an awful situation for a lot of people.”

Neale confirmed that more than the 11 were called back late in the summer, but some had taken jobs elsewhere. Corps members “were disappointed to leave their schools after a year, but their main focus is to teach wherever they’re needed most,” she said.

Philadelphia has contracted with the Teach for America, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, for the past six years to provide teachers and promises to find them positions. The contract leaves room for “flexibility based on their hiring needs,” said Neale. “Such is the current situation, in light of budget challenges and layoffs.”

Mass teacher layoffs have impacted TFA hiring before, including last year in Chicago. The Notebook could not find another case where a large district under contract with TFA hired so few new teachers from the group and laid off most of those going into their second year.

Philadelphia also hosts one of the regional summer training institutes.

TFA corps members take certification courses while teaching, many at the University of Pennsylvania.

“A lot of the people with my encouragement started looking last spring” for new positions, said James H. “Torch” Lytle, a former District administrator who teaches one of the Penn courses. “They went to charters in the Philly area or moved…a lot would have loved to stay in the schools they were in, but it was too shaky.”

TFA and its model of recruiting top college graduates for a temporary, Peace-Corps like stint in impoverished schools has become a point of contention among education reformers. Some, who favor privatization and the weakening of unions, argue that the last hired-first fired rule in most collective bargaining agreements ignores teacher effectiveness and often protects dead wood at the expense of eager young talent.

Others maintain that putting inexperienced if bright college graduates in some of the country’s most challenging assignments makes little sense and contributes to a de-professionalization of teaching.

 

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Comments (118)

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 10:36 pm

Please STOP writing TFA is like the Peace Corps. Peace Corps members live at the poverty level. TFA "corp members" get paid the same as a certified teacher - including all the benefits. They are NOT volunteering.

Submitted by Samuel Reed III on September 8, 2011 10:00 pm

 Not True,

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana. I did not live at the or near poverty level. Most volunteers live modest lifestyles, relative to local standards.

I didnt have to pay rent, ultilties, and received a living allowance, travel allowance, a reajustment allowance.

Basically by local standards, I lived a middle class lifesyle in Botswana. In fact, I had a better quality of life in Botswana than I did when I returned to the United States. 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 10:11 pm

They TAKE JOBS from certified teachers in the district. Let's take care of them first.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 2:51 am

They are certified. They have intern certification. They are equal teachers once hired and should be treated as such. SDP doesn't have to use TFA/PTF but they do. There is no reason that teachers who have chosen this process should be showed such animosity.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 6:19 pm

Will people stop thinking that they are the same! They ARE NOT! Half of the TFA's never took education courses UNTIL they were hired by the district. An intern certificate is not an Instructional I or II? Why do we keep rationalizing this. I have seen TFA's keep jobs over those that had permanent certificates because they had more seniority. If the certificates were the same, then they would not be INTERN CERTS. If the shoe was on the other foot, you would feel the same way.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 11:29 pm

State certification is a somewhat arbitrary process. The state says that Intern, Instructional I, and Instructional II are all valid. The Union--most of its members having Instructional I or II--has made seniority the most important factor in layoffs. They are legally State certified teachers hired by the District and protected by the Union--what more do you want? Why don't you get the union to violate seniority and hire back teachers with intern certs last.

Personally I think teachers who don't have a degree related to what they teach (high school), haven't graduated from top 100 universities, don't have a graduate degree, and constantly complain about their principals and students. I would like to have those teachers hired back last. Sound good?

I've taught for 15 years. I don't think TFA teachers are better than normally certified teachers but it's crazy to claim they are worse. If the District decides to hire them then they gain seniority and are protected like everyone else. Last in, first out.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 9:35 am

They get paid to be "trained" for their job while earning a full teacher salary while those that went the traditional route had to do it for free??????? Where is that fair????
So, if you hold a permanent certificate, you do get the extra incentive, or full-time pay to get the appropriate cert? Are you kidding.

Yes, they should have retained those with permanant certs before those with intern certificates! Paid training is what that is!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 10, 2011 12:48 pm

The question that needs to be answered is why are we paying TFA for these potential teachers? Why don't we just put out an advertisement for teachers, and if they want a job, they can apply? The money we would save could pay for teachers or sports. If there are not enough fully certified and trained teachers, then we can hire them as provisionals, or interns or whatever.

Unless, of course, the purpose is to feed TFA business. (And those universities participating.) Who does it really benefit if we have a contract with TFA, our children or those entities? How much is the CEO of TFA making? The other officers of TFA? Who backs TFA? Why?

Why do TFA interns get special treatment? I am sure many are Great teachers. I also assume they get pretty good quickie training. But does that not freeze out other potentially Great teachers who want to commit their lives and careers to children? That is the real issue here.

Otherwise, there would be no problem with hiring young enthusiastic teachers who are zealous to prove they can do the job better than the old folk. That is a good thing.

Perhaps, the old folk would even be their best friends and shed them a little wisdom.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 12:27 pm

TFA contracts provide the Univ of PA with a cash cow - it is a surge in enrollment. Other organizations also get contracts - like Phila Writing Project (see Sam's article about the TFA summer training). This doesn't mean Univ of PA or the Phila Writing Project are evil - they are contracting for their services.

Here's a good article on the institutional TFA - http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/24_03/24_03_TFA.shtml

Here are some of TFA's biggest donors -http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/24_03/24_03_TFA.shtml (Gates, Broad, Walmart Foundations, etc.) TFA did get noncompetitive federal money (http://www.educationnews.org/ednews_today/51279.html) TFA also has a $100 million endowment (http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/article/detail/100-million-dollars-laun...)

TFA has enormous influence over the national education agenda. While TFA recruits I have taught with may or may not espouse the TFA world view, the institution, as I wrote before, is part of the neo-con agenda to privatize education, destroy unions, enrich the few (Wendy Kopp's salary is similar to Ackerman between Teach for American and Teach for All; her husband is the CEO of KIPP charter schools and formerly was Edison School VP - they aren't living in a row house in West Philly) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/19/education/19teach.html

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 10, 2011 2:47 pm

Thanks for the education. Those issues were at the forefront of the Save Our Schools conference and march. I am sure the people who work with TFA at Penn are good people. I know a couple of the TFA educators at Penn and they are outstanding, dedicated people. I also have observed TFA teachers who are Awesome!

The issue is how do we get the best and brightest to come teach in Philadelphia and stay in Philadelphia? We need our teachers to be dedicated servants of our community with full commitment to our children and our school communities.

Teaching and leading school communities is a "Servant Profession." Great leaders "serve" the community they lead. I am sure all of the education professors at Penn know what "Servant leadership" is.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 6:29 pm

Actually, the SDP had something similar years ago. They called it the Intern Program, and it worked like TFA, but with people already employed by the SDP ( without any of the supports that the current TFA people get, and you had 4 years to get certified). I was one of the people that went through that program and became certified while I was already working under an Emergency certificate; I had the same benefits as regular teachers- but I did not get any seniority until I had gotten my Instructional I. The SDP program was only for specific areas where there was a shortage so we knew what we would be teaching before we got into the program, and we stayed on after graduation. I have had several TFA teachers as coworkers- they brought enthusiasm, dedication, fresh ideas, and most were excellent teachers. Sadly, I think I could count on one hand the number that stayed in teaching. Instead of bad-mouthing them, we should be trying to figure out how to get them to stay beyond the two years, and how to attract more recent teacher graduates to the SDP. If there were no shortage of already certified teachers, there would be no need to hire TFA teachers.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 10, 2011 8:39 pm

I agree with you very much about trying to get them to stay and attracting other recent teaching graduates. It doesn't really matter how we get good teachers. I certainly do not think we should be bad mouthing TFA teachers.

I was totally unaware of the TFA issues until I went to the Save Our Schools Conference in Washington and learned about the national issues about the forces that wish to privatize public education. I was also unaware of Eli Broad and his motivations and philosophy even though I went through the Academy of Leadership for Philadelphia's Schools (ALPS) which was funded by the Broad Foundation. TFA and those behind TFA are national issues.

I am not sure if TFA teachers are even aware of those issues. I do know from my 35 years experience as a teacher and administrator, that whenever one group of teachers is treated differently than others, it causes animosity and dissension.

Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. Equality is one of our highest ideals. Isn't it?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2011 6:14 pm

Then perhaps those that do go the "Traditional Route" and earn a degree in Education (plus a content area) should be paid for their student teaching services.
Sorry, it still is not fair, and that is the State of PA that makes TFA equal to traditinonally certified teachers. But those that are fully certified, know that this is not the case.

In fact, those that go the "traditional route" CANNOT GET A JOB until they meet the university requirements to get their Instructional I certificate.
Are we blind here? Where is this fair? The SDP found a loop hole to get bodies in the classroom. No wonder no one wants to pursue this career path the traditional way. So please, let's stop rationalizing this any further. It is NOT fair for those that got their certification the traditional way. Plain and simple.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 12, 2011 2:51 pm

Fully certified teachers know that they are better than TFA teachers? Really. I was TFA teacher and had plenty of fully certified teacher who thought I was as good as other fully certified teachers and better than some. I took all necessary courses--getting a 4.00--and was certified at the end of my first year. I am taking more coursework because the two certification programs I've taken coursework are completely inadequate. They do very little to improve teaching.

Complete idiots can get certified. Luckily, most teachers do not fall into that category but certification is a joke. The coursework is far less rigorous than both high school and college. And yet THIS is what you want to use as the basis for who qualifies as a "real" teacher? Maybe my two schools which happen to be top ranked in the city aren't good schools and I should have chosen a different school. But, I see no basis for assuming that teachers who graduate from programs are particularly better than those who don't. EXPERIENCE and independent research for a future dissertation has made me a better teacher, not my certification coursework.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 12, 2011 5:44 pm

Based on reading some of these comments, I must ask this question, why do you feel that you are entitled to get a full time salary as a career changer than a person who did go to school full time and do their student teaching for "free". This is not a question about who is better, but rather the fact remains that those that did get their qualifications the traditional way are in fact "fully certified". What's the argument here? You hold an INTERN certificate and they are fully certified---yet did not get the full time job and benefits that YOU did as a TFA. I understand the comments from previous posters here. The playing field is not a fair one. So, the incentives go to those that are TFA-----the heck with those that did it the "good ole fashion way". And! they are fully certified!

Submitted by Andrew Saltz (not verified) on September 12, 2011 5:13 pm

The fundamental question is "why should I pursue certification and professional development?"

If you pay your way through school, even though that school can be terrible, and you make the exact same as a recent grad, why did you go through the tuition and time? Why not make money for a few years and go as "career change"?

I think we should have reasons to get better at teaching (classes, dissertations, projects, etc.), but right now the most financial incentive is to START - we have little incentive to stay (and the attrition rate shows this).

(On another issue: I was an intern teacher. It was a TERRIBLE idea - coming in with no training meant I learned on the job. I'm better for it, but I'm ashamed to say my students were not).

Submitted by Anonymous TFA (not verified) on September 12, 2011 7:21 pm

why do you feel that you are entitled to get a full time salary as a career changer than a person who did go to school full time and do their student teaching for "free".

I don't. I was offered a job which I took and then I was protected by the union. That job offer included giving me an intern certification which is a valid state certification for 3 years. The job I joined was unionized and as a union member I am entitled to the full protection of the union which is layoffs by reverse seniority based on date of hire.

So, it's not entitlement. It's what the system gave me. The District offered me the job (through TFA) and the Union protects me. I am entitled to the terms of my hire. Now, if the District had chosen not to hire from TFA and the Union had decided not to protect those with intern certifications I would not have felt entitled to this job. You chose to go to education school while I chose sciences. This is both of our first career. I feel that my education has made me ready to teach students science and was appalled by the remedial requirements of the Praxis II exams I took. Personally, I think both paths to teaching leave a lot to be desired. To be a good teacher you're on your own; neither TFA nor Ed. school will make you one if you don't try to improve.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 14, 2011 11:12 pm

Cut me a break. No one is saying that TFA does not bring about good teachers. Get off of your high horse and consider the fact that you got a full time salary to "practice" the art of teaching---while others had to do a REAL internship (i.e. "student teaching" for free).

TFA is a waste!----No incentives are given to those that are fully certified. And, yes, there was a test to get into the district. A very rigorous one at that! Which one did YOU take? Oh I get it, the TFA "hooked you" up with a job that you had to do "half the work" in order to get!

Submitted by Anonymous TFA (not verified) on September 15, 2011 12:00 am

I have no problem saying the District should abolish the TFA program. I do have a problem when you're saying TFAers should not be according seniority like other teachers when we have our intern certifications. I do feel lucky that the District provided me with an incentive package where I could get intern certification while teaching in a classroom while being paid. But that's a hiring decision the District made. I do not know why I should feel guilty for getting and taking this offer any more than a Lower Merion teacher should feel guilty for starting off $10k higher than us and ending over $25k higher.

If the program is ineffective cut it. If the teachers perform worse than other teachers fire them. But once we are teachers in our union treat us with the respect you treat other teachers. That's pretty much all we're asking.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 24, 2011 6:06 pm

I totally agree with this. Incentivizing teachers who are going to be in a revolving door, does not promote stability or quality.I think the union understands that, which is why you're seeing the TFA people going to the charter schools.Sometimes we lose things in contracts, but given what's happening around the country re: collective bargaining rights and seniority, this union has done it's best to maintain our seniority rights and fairness in the face of a hostile adminstrration who really wanted to see it's demise.

Submitted by Anonymous TFA (not verified) on September 24, 2011 7:01 pm

TFAers leaving for Charters has everything to do with them having lower seniority and wanting to keep jobs and grants and nothing to do with the union.

I think TFA needs to stop marketing itself as a short term program if it wants to stay relevant. And I think they should require at least 5 years in a District if you want your schooling paid for.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 12, 2011 6:33 pm

If you read some of the comments about the rehiring of teachers that were laid off, there were some that were told to take a position outside of their subject area and apply for an Emergency cert (or have no job). IMHO, it's better for someone with a degree in something like English without a teaching cert to be teaching English than a teacher certified to teach English to be teaching something like Chemistry. Part of what makes a good teacher is having the background knowledge in the subject area, and just because we are certified to teach one thing does not mean we can teach everything equally as well. Do we look down on those colleagues that may be in this position, because they are also "Interns"?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 1:57 pm

Fair to whom? Education is about children, and the only fair thing is the thing that gets someone who is ready, willing and ABLE to teach into classrooms. Whether that person is TFA or PTF or traditionally trained is besides the point. Tell me if they are ready, willing and ABLE, and that should be all any of us cares about.

Fairness to teachers comes in once they are hired as ready, willing and ABLE teachers; it is not an entitlement to a job just because one chose education as a major or completed student teaching.

Submitted by Anonymous TFA (not verified) on September 13, 2011 3:07 pm

Able is important. Too many TFAers are just in it for a two year job and don't take training seriously enough. Too many traditionally hired teachers went through mediocre 4 year colleges and passed with bad grades and have no hope of teaching students how to make it in competitive universities in this country. Teachers in aggregate have below average performance in college at below average schools. That's pathetic and we need to do what we can to change that.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 24, 2011 6:41 pm

I'd like to address something that may or may not have been said. When you are talkng about teachers and their certifications and qualifications, the issue is about teachers, and not "the children." This is where it gets all muddied up,and the discussion DRIFTS into who is a "better " teacher, and who is "young and eager," or "older and "jaded, and just plodding along." (vs. their experience).

This is why we have a semiorty system for the most part, so that placement, layoffs, and transfers are done in a fair and organized way. There is a system of site selection wherby principals and a commitee can select from interviewees, so it evens out. Giving a principal any more power than that this is a mistake that would lead to nepotism and favoritism.. This NOT about the children, it's about a system without which we'd have total chaos.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 11:40 pm

I was hired 4 years ago, they told me initially that they were not hiring. I badgered everyone I could to get to the job fair. Guess what, I got hired. I had a friend last year who moved back to Philly who was also told the same thing. I am not so sure there is a shortage, rather that they just aren't organized well enough to deal with all the hiring issues. Maybe TFA makes things easier.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2011 12:25 pm

I have to agree about the lack of organization- that is a legacy that none of the superintendents have been able to change. And likely you were also up against the same lovely, helpful people down at 440 that many of the current employees have also dealt with (note- this is sarcasm), OR, you met someone at the job fair that liked you and hired you even though there was a job freeze ( Philly and SDP politics being something that Ackerman failed to get). Apparently we pay TFA for their headhunting (see comments below), so it likely is in someone's best financial interest to hire from them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2011 5:15 pm

Accepting jobs that no one else wants is not the same as "taking" a job out from under someone.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 12, 2011 6:03 pm

This goes back to my comment. If the SDP had an adequate pool of fully certified teachers to choose from, there would be no need to use TFA. However, some positions can be difficult to fill , and given a choice between continual coverage by subs or teachers within the building, and someone that wants to teach, is willing to learn and be in the classroom but may not be certified (yet), I think the answer is obvious. Most of the vacant teaching positions that get filled by TFA are in the toughest schools where the more experienced teachers tend to transfer out after "putting in the time to get a better school.". While the TFA folk may not have earned their teaching degree, they do have college degrees and are generally placed to use that background knowledge, and according to the TFA website, must be considered as "highly qualified" by the state they work in. I believe this means they need to pass the PRAXIS. I know of traditionally certified teachers that become "highly qualified" in other subject areas simply by taking the PRAXIS- particularly in special ed. I don't begrudge anyone a job that no one else wants.

Submitted by anonYmOUs TEACHer (not verified) on September 9, 2011 10:58 am

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Brazil years ago, and we definitely lived at poverty level. We had to pay all of our expenses out of the "living allowance", with no other "allowances" except a couple thousand dollars when we returned after our service.. Since many of us were in cities, our living expenses were very high.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 8, 2011 10:03 pm

Of course it did. If brand new teachers with no experience had bumped out teachers hired two years ago, there would rightfully have been riots.

Submitted by Helen Gym on September 9, 2011 8:16 am

TFA teachers should certainly not be shown animosity. Most are extremely engaged and passionate about  their work. The problem is that TFA has been presented and deployed as a "theory of change" in public education. That's what's at issue - and for good reason. In a system where more than half our teachersquit within five years and where instability, upheaval, and lack of institutional knowledge are deep seated obstacles to sustainable reform efforts, why is the District relying so heavily on TFA? Is its reliance allowing it to invest in deep professional development and retention of our teachers or are we simply using it as a crutch? I'll be curious to see how the sudden shift in balance impacts real and perceived challenges across both charters and District-managed schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 9:54 am

"Relying so heavily"? Ms. Gym, with all due respect, the District's teaching force numbers are roughly, what, 14k-15k (pre-budget nightmare)? TFA, I think, last year had about 90 or so teachers, and at its peak, I don't think there were more than 150.

That's less than 10% in either in either scenario. Not sure how that's considered "heavily" in a District where the 1 year, 2 year and 5 year retention rates are pretty abysmal across the board.

I certainly think there's room for criticism of the organization, but let's make sure we're talking in grounded reality, too.

Keep up the good work otherwise though; I enjoy reading your insights into Philly's public education landscape.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 11:43 am

But those 10% make up the good majority of the staff in SOME schools. When they opened a lot of the schools in AD-4 they were 100% staffed with TFA. Many Promise Academies are near-majority TFA.

While schools like Masterman and Greenfield and Girls' and SLA may have very few TFA, the highest-needs schools DO rely heavily on TFA to get people in the classrooms.

This year, they didn't have to because they had hundreds of teachers they could call and say "You can take this job or you can have no job." But, yes, the system does rely heavily on TFA. The numbers by proportion to the entire district do not tell the story. There are entire programs that are staffed exclusively using TFA and many hard-to-staff schools wouldn't be able to open without them most years.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 11:02 am

Great point to further parse the numbers, fellow-Anon (it was my comment you replied to). I guess it's a reason then, that there exists a program with individuals willing to take these positions, yes?

The highest-need schools are often marked by the sorts of instability and dearth of resources and other challenging characteristics which may, I imagine, fairly or unfairly contribute to an inability to attract people to these schools.

At the end of the day, I personally feel like any venue that's able to get good teachers in front of the kids that need them the most is a good thing. Shortcomings? Sure. But the passive-aggressive (or sometimes outright aggressive) vitriol levelled at these folks seems bizarre.

Ms. Gym, how long did you teach, and why did you leave? My impression is that you've had a rather "TFA"-like journey yourself; after spending time in the classroom you have sought to find a new venue to pursue impacting the issues you saw as a parent and as an educator that were inhibiting our schools.

I find that the vast majority of TFA teachers during and post their own tenures in the classroom, are doing the same thing, right?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 11:21 am

Yes, indeed. I was a first-year teacher at a school with a majority TFA or PTF staff. We had several principals during the year. We had teachers coming and going throughout the year. I was a "traditional" with a Master's from Drexel who student taught in the district and honestly, I did not see a huge difference between the skills of the traditional teachers and the TFA ones. That is-- the ones who lasted.

I am not sorry I got my degree and came to teaching the way I did. However, I learned more during student teaching than in several years of college, and I learned more in my first three months of teaching than my entire M.S. degree.

There may be a difference between TFA and traditional first years for the first few weeks of school but by the end of the year, I don't see the difference. I certainly don't understand the animosity.

This year, the lack of positions make sense because it is supposed to be a stopgap measure to fill hard-to-staff schools. There is no gap, there are no hard-to-staff schools, this year. So there were no TFA positions. I also am not sure that I agree with the way TFA markets itself as basically a two-year mission. Students who get new teachers several years in a row do not fare as well as those who don't. However, in schools where the students are going to have new teachers regardless of sourcing.

I don't think TFA steal jobs. Many teachers in their 6th or 7th or 10th year started out as TFA. I do agree with Helen's point that the organization positions itself as some kind of reform organization. I don't think that makes any sense. The teachers I knew in TFA didn't really follow the TFA rulebook and were better teachers for it. I do think they provide a lot more support for new teachers than the district.

I remember sitting in my classroom crying on the first day. On my tour, a student had thrown a carton of strawberry milk at the principal and he hadn't even responded. I wondered what I was getting into. I did not have anyone to turn to, really, until I made great friends with my colleagues. TFA come into it a lot more connected-- even if slightly less prepared.

Submitted by Helen Gym on September 9, 2011 1:40 pm

There is a huge difference between having taught in public school and having a "TFA-like journey." The next time Wendy Kopp or leadership at TFA is fighting for solid investments and real dialogue about the obstacles in our public schools, do drop me a line. This discussion as I raised before is not chitchat about individual people who pass through a program. It's a substantive discussion about the investments and dialogue we have around public ed.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on September 9, 2011 1:04 pm

 A couple things.   First you suggest that in the schools where TFAs have predominated traditionally certified teachers are unwilling to take these positions.   I don't think this is accurate.   Using site selection, these schools have chosen TFAs over others.   

While I share Helen's view of TFA as an instrument of school reform, I also have found most TFAs to be highly committed and energetic in their role as beginnning teachers.   We are all in the same boat and the debate about teacher training and certification should not be a source of division among teachers.

Animousity, however, is not only coming from traditionally certified teachers.   There have been posts by a few TFA folks that unfairly characterize or stereotype other teachers.

Over the last turbulent year new teachers, many of them  TFA, were in the streets along with veteran teachers protesting the anti-teacher, anti-student policies of the Ackerman administration.   Let's build on that unity.

 

Submitted by Anonymous TFA (not verified) on September 16, 2011 3:43 am

Like Hope Moffett.

I assume you're referring to me with the animosity of TFA teachers towards 'normal' teachers. I definitely haven o animosity towards them. They were the ones who helped me in my school. Socialized me into the environment. Told me how to best approach with the principal. Let me know methods for teaching kids they'd have previously.

My animosity is towards bad teachers. Teachers who don't appreciate education. Who bask in their mediocrity. Teachers who don't think their mission is teaching proper grammar or modelling for students an attitude of love of learning. Teachers who think it's appropriate to text while with their students. There are stupid teachers in Philly who cannot possibly model for children what it is to be an educated, middle class adult. I think that's a shame because teachers can play a big role in helping students see paths out of poverty. To show value in school.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on September 16, 2011 9:59 am

 I think we need to talk about what a "bad teacher" is.   Other teachers may employ practices you and I might agree are bad, but still have important strengths.   I would hesitate to sum up another teacher on the basis of the practices you cite.   Texting in glass, while not a good idea, is hardly incompatible with effective teaching.  And there is a legitimate debate about the relative importance of formal grammar.   Being on one side of that debate does not tell us much about the overall strengths and weaknesses of the individual teacher,

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A bad teacher to me is a teacher who has little commitment to doing the hard work, which includes self-examination, and listening to criticism from students, colleagues and supervisors.   These teachers should either shape up or be exited from the profession as quickly as due process will alllow.  

There are a handful of truly exceptional teachers who we all are inspired by and try to emulate best we can.   And there are a handful of incorrigibly ineffective people.   The rest of us fall in between these extremes.   Improving teaching and teachers needs to concentrate on raising the bar for this middle group through collaborative examination of best practices and developing systems of collegial support.   

Unfortunately the current "reformers" are fixated on so called bad teachers.   The weeding of the teaching corps currently underway may get rid of some genuinely bad teachers but it will also flush out many with the potential to be effective and create a climate of fear and stress that is hardly conducive to professional growth.   

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on September 16, 2011 9:12 am

 I think we need to talk about what a "bad teacher" is.   Other teachers may employ practices you and I might agree are bad, but still have important strengths.   I would hesitate to sum up another teacher on the basis of the practices you cite.   Texting in glass, while not a good idea, is hardly incompatible with effective teaching.  And there is a legitimate debate about the relative importance of formal grammar.   Being on one side of that debate does not tell us much about the overall strengths and weaknesses of the individual teacher,

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A bad teacher to me is a teacher who has little commitment to doing the hard work, which includes self-examination, and listening to criticism from students, colleagues and supervisors.   These teachers should either shape up or be exited from the profession as quickly as due process will alllow.  

There are a handful of truly exceptional teachers who we all are inspired by and try to emulate best we can.   And there are a handful of incorrigibly ineffective people.   The rest of us fall in between these extremes.   Improving teaching and teachers needs to concentrate on raising the bar for this middle group through collaborative examination of best practices and developing systems of collegial support.   

Unfortunately the current "reformers" are fixated on so called bad teachers.   The weeding of the teaching corps currently underway may get rid of some genuinely bad teachers but it will also flush out many with the potential to be effective and create a climate of fear and stress that is hardly conducive to professional growth.   

Submitted by MBA to M'ed Mom (not verified) on August 26, 2012 7:17 pm

Appearances count for a lot...and modeling the best can encourage the best. A teacher is such an important role model for a student. We have one too many poor role models as teachers and principals and we need to start highlighting the awesome teachers and principals who show us how it should be done.

If you are texting in class in front of your students during their instructional time, you have no right to be upset when they text in front of you...

Just my two cents but professional decorum in the class room models how a teacher and student are to interact.

Submitted by Helen Gym on September 9, 2011 1:32 pm

Actually, as the article says there are about 145 newly minted teachers for TFA, 234 total between the first and second year, as divided btwn Philadelphia (the overwhelming majority) and Camden. There are about 11,000 teachers overall in the system. The difference is that we're looking at teachers who are hired for any given year and where they end up being placed, as several people have already pointed out. In some schools, TFA teachers are a significant percentage of the teaching force.

It should be noted as well that over the past two years, funding for TFA has doubled so it's worthwhile to investigate exactly what it is the District feels it is investing in.

Submitted by Your Neighbor (not verified) on September 9, 2011 7:16 pm

Being a veteran teacher from one of the schools that was, in the past, staffed with many TFA, I witnessed many energetic and committed people from the program. However, the fact that TFA is taking money from the District that otherwise could be spent on classroom resources is what many people have a strong animosity towards. Unfortunately, that anger is directed at the young people who have come through that program.

Exactly how much money is the district paying TFA to staff the charter schools??? Shouldn't that money come out of the charter schools' coffers?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 9:00 pm

The charter school coffers are funded by the public schools' budgets. What's the difference?

Is TFA taking district money? I thought they were, from an HR perspective only, basically a staffing organization. the teachers get hired by SDP, get paid salary by SDP... what money is SDP giving to TFA? If they are that is insane.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 8:28 am

I believe the SDP pays $4000 per TFA recruit. So, TFA is like a "head hunting" service.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 9:30 am

Yes, that is a good way to put it! And, conveniently the TFA earns a full teacher salary while on a "INTERN CERT". While I do not regret getting my certification the traditional way, I cannot help but to think how quickly my student loans would have been paid off had I been a TFA member. As someone pointed out before, doctors do not administer medicine to patients with an intern cert---yet there are loopholes that let TFA teachers work on an intern cert. Please stop equating that both intern and instructional certificates are the same. It is insulting to those that currently hold traditional and permanent certificates.
By the way, I did my student teaching for "free" :)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 11:38 am

I paid for my student teaching, while racking up $60,000 in school loans (unforgivable, of course) earning my Insturctional I.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 11:49 am

Kudos to you, my friend. So did I---and EARNED an Instructional I certificate, not an intern cert.

Submitted by Anonymous TFA (not verified) on September 12, 2011 7:22 pm

I earned my B.S. and M.S. in a science-related field at a top 20 university. I paid some--but not much--because I got merit scholarships. I then passed up the chance to make in the low six figures to become a teacher. I then went and got my M.Ed. the "certification" part of was paid for and the second part was subsidized through scholarships and grants I applied for.

For all of that I may have paid less than you but I am far from convinced that I am not the type of person the District should hire to be a high school science teacher.

Submitted by Anonymous TFA (not verified) on September 12, 2011 7:46 pm

Of course doctors do. It's called residency.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 9, 2011 10:49 am

We have "miles to go before we sleep." There are many issues that must be part of our public conversation and debate. A critical element of consensus building is that everyone's voice must be listened to sincerely and everyone must be given due respect.

We all need to work toward a sea change in the climate of the district so we can all openly and freely voice our opinions on all of the issues without fear of reprisal.

Holding animosity for anyone is counterproductive to that ideal. We all must do our little part of leadership in that area. The welfare of our children, our community, our profession, and each other depends on it.

Thanks again Helen for your well informed insight on the TFA issues, and thank you to everyone else in the Notebook community, too. I admire what you do.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 1:28 pm

At a national level, TFA is part of the neo-conservative, privatization movement in education. TFA is also part of the testing bandwagon. Individual TFA members are often dedicated and passionate - at least for two years - but the institutional TFA has become extremely powerful in setting the national education agenda. It is aligned with the Broad Foundation which supports a corporate model for running schools. This includes "teachers are dispensable" attitudes. A two year "stint" is sufficient versus, as you wrote, Helen, fostering building community which may lead to teacher retention.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 9:06 pm

Good point....They are in it as long as they get their tuition paid for!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 8:45 am

Any teacher who works in a "low income" school can get federal forgiveness of loans. This obviously applies to teachers with TFA. TFA teachers also get the same grant given to City Year workers (about $5500). City Year workers are volunteers - they get a stipend versus a salary/benefits.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 11:53 pm

Not any...some of us older teachers who took out loans years ago and are still paying them do not qualify-there is a time cutoff. Even with a new master's loan, I don't qualify for that because I still owed money on my undergrad. It's very frustrating!

Submitted by Linda (not verified) on September 11, 2011 11:53 am

Even if you are not an older seasoned teacher, loan forgiviness is higher for certain subjects, (spec. ed, and the sciences getting a larger break )than those in music, art, helath, social studies and english. Furthermore, if you work for the SDP and not in the suburbs you really are not financially encourged to get a doctorate deg. Other districts will pay for books, reimbursement on travel as well as tuition whereas the SDP pays for nothing...I know, my bills are due for getting a doctorate........go figure

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2011 5:47 am

TFA teachers don't get their tuition paid for. They used to get an Americops education grant that paid a fraction of their tuition at UPenn. They get a bit of a discount, but they still pay Upenn about $35,000 dollars. For most, if they only do the two-years, it's barely break even over those two years, and TFA teachers, just like everyone else, tend to have student loans from undergrad, too.

Is it somewhat financially easier than the traditional route? Yes. Is the difference drastic? Not really. And the TFA teachers do their summer teaching for free, with a paid teacher in the room - -so in terms of "paying dues" in the District, there is a difference, but it's not like TFA teachers walk in with no education expenses and start on a full salary the first time they are in front of students.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2011 10:46 am

You are still earning a full time salary while being an INTERN! I rest my case. Those that did it the traditional way majored in both Education AND their content area BEFORE getting certified or being able to get a job! I am sick of hearing that TFA and traditionally certified teachers are the same. THEY ARE NOT. While I have seen much talent come from TFA, they still are earning a full salary while those that had to do a full semester of student teaching, had to do so for FREE.
TFA's are rationizing that they are the same because that is the way they got their job. If they were traditionally certified, I am certain that they would view this much differently. No traditionally certified teacher EARNED a salary while doing student teaching. Keep rationalizing this fact---albeit, it is very unfair. Traditional certs SHOULD supercede those that are INTERN certified.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2011 12:48 pm

Except every single year, SDP has to hire emergency certification teachers. These are people who have a B.A. in just about anything, no experience, and from what I have seen are here because nobody else is desperate enough to hire them. (I know many laid-off teachers were forced to take emergency cert positions-- this is obviously not who I am talking about).

Maybe we should direct our ire at the fact that we have to dredge the bottom of the barrel because it is very difficult to recruit teachers to the SDP. Why is it so difficult? There is a surplus of teachers right now, yet we are bringing in anyone with a pulse and a bachelor's degree to fill in the gaps (and I am not talking about TFA and PTF).

Why is it impossible for the SDP to fill all vacancies with properly trained and certified (regardless of how they got there)? The stories students tell me about previous teachers, even when taken with a grain of salt, remind me that although 90% of the teachers in this district are good, great, fantastic... that 10% do a lot of damage.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 12, 2011 12:47 am

Part of the reason for gaps is that some areas do have a shortage, or at least a very tight margin for staffing. Science, math, special ed, and foreign language, depending on the year, can be tough to fill.

Unfortunately, sometimes the people with a pulse and a bachelor's degree have an education bachelor's degree, which, along with passing the PRAXIS means that are fully certified. Other districts won't hire them because it takes about 2 minutes of an interview to realize that aren't the best option for a position with a competitive applicant pool, even if the are legally "qualified." But in Philly, for "traditional" vacancies through central placement, it's just a checklist, so if you are technically "qualified" by law, you get a position. You might have to wait, but the order will be determined by when you were "hired" by SDP, not on the skills you might be able to demonstrate or any qualifications you have above and beyond the basic teacher credentialing standard. You are never really substantively screened by anyone. I remember an "interview," but at least in my experience three years ago, you'd have to say some pretty crazy stuff to "fail." So as long as you have the credentials and pass the FBI clearance, you're in line to get a job.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 12, 2011 8:57 am

Attracting and retaining good teachers is a festering issue we must address. It is a major issue that is critical to our collective ability to have a system of Great schools for children.

It is because of the way teachers and even administrators are treated in our system. Teachers are "professional employees" under the School Code but they are too often treated as factory workers.

I have had many outstanding teachers confide in me to tell me that the reason they were leaving is because of the way they are treated by the administration with little dignity and respect. And that was when I was still an assistant principal. They often asked me to write them letters of recommendation to teach elsewhere, which of course, I did.

I have written about the need to change the "administrative culture" of the district and have on several ocasions addressed the SRC (and Dr. Ackerman) about this crucial issue. (What do you think was the result?)

The "culture of reprisal and intimidation" is festering and has become an institutional illness which destroys the capacity of many school communities to serve our children well. I have become aware this year that many credible and astute educators believe that is a strategy promoted by Eli Broad to destroy school systems so his privateers can take over schools and school systems.

Many of my most able and dedicated colleagues have left our system in frustration with the present state of affairs. The circus that has been the last year scares good people away and creates a void where the bottom 10% can survive.

What I have witnessed in the last several years is just so destructive and So Sad! We need leaders who understand the nature of "Community Building" and have the collegial leadership ability to lead us down that path.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 12, 2011 10:41 am

I agree. I remember the staff at my last school often feeling like we were being treated like students. the principal would make morning announcements that included directives to staff that were new and contentious. No option for feedback, we find out in front of our advisories that we are to x, y, and z.

Administration invites teachers to do nod and smile and then do whatever they have been doing with little regard for what the administration wants. This is why it can be difficult to get everyone on board with new initiatives.

Submitted by anonymous teacher (fears reprisals) (not verified) on September 12, 2011 6:06 pm

I thought this was just as my school...What a way to start the day!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 8:12 am

I am both a traditionally certified teacher AND a TFA corps member. I joined TFA because it actually turned out to be easier to get a job in Philadelphia this way than it was to have my file sit at 440 for 3 years before anyone called me, what with layoffs and all of that. In my experience of four years of undergrad training and my job now, there really is no discernible difference between traditionally certified teachers and those who are not. What matters is the dedication and enthusiasm for the job and the kids, and both TFA and trad-cert teachers can have that.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 11:16 am

The inequity is that you received a job because of TFA. Many people who student teach for (for FREE) 1/2 to full year in the SDP do not get jobs while TFA's are guaranteed a job.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 10:46 pm

Wasn't Ackerman on the Broad Foundation's board? Why weren't there more TFA?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 7:47 am

As of April 26, 2011 Ackerman was listed as a board member on the Broad Foundation site. Read this post that mentions her board status at the Broad Foundation.

Her name has recently been removed from this list of board directors. Has she become so toxic that even Broad wants to distance himself from her?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 8:52 am

http://cityschoolstories.com/2011/04/26/notes-from-the-field-34/

Submitted by tom-104 on September 11, 2011 2:20 am

Ackerman was following the program of the Broad Foundations for the past three years so they didn't see her as toxic at all. What they don't like is the light of publicity to shine on their right-wing agenda of privatizing public schools because they know an informed public would be outraged.

I believe her name was removed from their Board when she went too far and crossed Nutter and the SRC and her tenure was obviously in trouble as a result. The Broad Foundation hoped they could keep the fiction alive that the past three years of chaos she was creating was just a product of a troubled school district and not the result of her following the Broad Foundation agenda.

Read these two articles to see how deeply she was involved with the Broad Foundation.

http://tinyurl.com/3u29g3c

http://tinyurl.com/3s683nc

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 7:02 pm

It's a crutch, a ploy, a gimmick, a weapon used to undermine the system of public ed. To deprofessionalize is a great description. Add TFA to the list.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 1:01 pm

As long as educators keep the conversation focused on what is fair to teachers and not on what is fair to children, teachers themselves do far more damage to the profession and their reputation than TFA ever could. As educators, we need to elevate our own profession with our own high standards so that college students find prestige in education when choosing a major. If the school district could attract enough teachers in all areas, there would be no need for TFA or teaching fellows.

Once hired as a teacher, by whatever route, teachers need to work together and all should be treated with dignity, respect and fairness.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 4:48 pm

Pompous fool. Master of the OBVIOUS.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 7:25 pm

its also a shame that the substitute teachers who would willingly stay in a position can no longer do so because they are not certified or have made long term the maximum rewquired now for non certified subs

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2011 9:50 pm

... there are actual teachers who are laid off who want those positions. I do not understand your point. Are there substitute teachers who do not want to be substitute teachers? Why don't they get a real certification?

A lot of districts won't even hire subs who don't have a teaching cert, as required by law. The subs I have seen are terrifying and do not belong in classrooms, or they are retired teachers. This might not be true for all subs who want long-term positions, but if you are one then you should focus on getting certified.

Submitted by Linda (not verified) on September 11, 2011 11:37 am

After I subbed uncertified for one mont, I and decided I liked teaching. Went to take the coursework at Univ of the Arts and the dean convinced me to take the two courses to assure me of not only a cert., but a masters deg. Worked as a non cert sub to get the deg. in addition to working part time in a dept store on weekends and a grad asst at the college. I paid my way for my deg. and when I was appointed, I started at masters plus 30...by they way, subbing for three years I copped a second masters. It can be done, if there is a will.

Submitted by J Taylor (not verified) on September 10, 2011 8:22 am

Your comment got me to thinking an uncomfortable truth: while I am skeptical of some of the praise TFA's garner in the media, I have to say that I'd rather have a young teacher with a solid educational background in any field working in my building than some of the appointed teachers and subs I've worked with. I know: it's an ugly thing to say, but there it is. We teachers do have to address some of our own issues as professionals, one of which is the uneven quality of teacher preparation in our colleges. The painful inadequacy of many in administration does not excuse kneejerk support of anyone walking around with a teaching certificate.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 2:15 pm

The more honest we are, the more respect we will garner ourselves. I see you already know that!

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on September 10, 2011 8:45 am

You can't put subs in the same category with TFA and traditional classroom teachers. Unless they're retired teachers - in which case all parties are extremely lucky - the sub situation in Philly is a study in the bizarre.

Submitted by Anon and anon (not verified) on September 10, 2011 9:53 am

I would like to thank those who posted to this story. I'm a Teaching Fellow and usually the discussions of TFA / Teaching Fellows (which are quite different programs) on this website are full of animosity and vitriol towards those of us who came to teaching from anything other than a traditional teaching background. This discussion, however, has raised many serious and important points. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and restraint.

To those who are skeptical of non-traditional route teachers, I understand some of your concerns. However, the next time the Lindback awards come out, note how many of those exceptional teachers were non-traditional hires. TFAs who stuck with teaching past their 2 years and Teaching Fellows are always well represented.

I applaud anyone, from any background, any training, and any experience that can do the job that needs to be done for our students every day.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on September 10, 2011 11:43 am

 Thanks Anon and Anon.   That's the spirit we need.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 11:31 pm

Usually teachers who win awards nominate themselves. I don't put much stock in them....plenty of worthy teachers out there never acknowledged. It's all politics.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 10, 2011 1:26 pm

TFA is def not the same as being a certified teacher. Certified teachers who went to school for 4 plus year for education should ALWAYS be hired first and foremost.

Submitted by Linda (not verified) on September 11, 2011 11:14 am

The thing is, a person may do the 4 years, get the degree, pass the national tests, but flunk the Philly exam. Then what? The person must retake the test when it is offered. How long between testing sessions will they wait? According to the college and nationals the person is certified, but the SDP says "not."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2011 12:09 pm

What are you talking about? You are certified by the state of Pennsylvania to teach after taking the PRAXIS tests and being recommended by your college. I never had to take any kind of exam for the district at all. You do an interview, and they do give you a score, but this has nothing to do with whether you are certified. If you fail the interview.... I can't imagine how bizarre someone would have to be to fail that interview.

There's no national test. The SDP does not have an exam, and has no say in whether or not you have a state certification.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2011 6:08 pm

Good clarification! The State of PA gives you your certificate. Not the SDP.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2011 6:51 pm

In the mid90s the Philadelphia School District did have an exam you had to pass. If you made more than 5 grammar/spelling errors you were out. Same thing if they didn't like your response to one of the five essay questions they asked. If you passed the exam you were allowed to do a demo lesson. Pass that you got the the job. There was no PRAXAS at the time.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2011 7:59 pm

Nor was there a PRAXIS either. : p

Submitted by Linda (not verified) on September 11, 2011 7:59 pm

I took the Natl' PRAXIS core knowledge, gen knowledge, the PA state art exam and the one for NJ. All that and then the SDP's little fun exam. I still remember waiting for the proctors to get the slide projector to going with some slides upside down and backwards. If you got through then you got to do the demo and show the portfolio. This was back in the old days in 1991.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on September 12, 2011 1:07 pm

I was hired September of 1987 and I had a written exam, followed by an interview by three SDP people. Two were principals and one worked in the main office. The written exam was scored before I could interview, although both were given the same day.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 6:11 pm

I can remember further back....In the late 70's, 80's, you did in fact take an oral exam and a written exam for a teaching position at the SDP. You had to pass both and obtain a high enough score to get on the list to obtain a teaching position at the SDP. I can also remember that in undergraduate school in the 70's, 80's you took the National Teacher's Exam (NTE's). I can also recall that as an undergraduate, you came out of school with an Instructional I, you had six years to convert your certificate into an Instructional II. You either went back to graduate school to obtain a Master's degree or you did a combination of 18 professional development courses that were offered by the SDP and 18 graduate courses to convert your Instructional I into an Instructional II. You would then send your graduate transcripts and your professional development course work to the PA Dept. of Education with a $15.00 money order and they would send you your Instructional II certificate in the mail. Now, I understand that none of this is true for new teachers.

I will readily admit that I don't know much about the Teaching Fellows Program. But I do have concerns that perhaps the Teaching Fellows take a job away from a certified teacher. But reading the posts is giving me a little more information about Teaching Fellows vs. Certified Teachers in the classroom. Thanks.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 7:46 pm

I did eveything that you mentioned and that was 1993. I also had to teach a lesson that was also graded and combined with the oral and written exam scores.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 9:25 pm

You are correct. And I also remember that it was taped. I also remember teaching the lesson, but, prior to teaching the lesson, I told them that the question contained a typo/error in it and it should have never left the SDP offices without being proofed. One of the two principals told me it was a matter of opinion and I asked the principal if they had a learning disability, because there was no way in h that the lesson could be taught with that typo/error in the question. The principal excused himself and another one came in read the question and said, "You are correct, you can't teach the lesson with that error in it." And I was also told that several people had taken the oral using the same question and no one identified the error other than myself. I, then asked them if they would like to hire me as a proof reader instead of a teacher? We laughed and moved on. And I won't tell you when I took my orals and written exams but it was a long time before 1993.

Submitted by tom-104 on September 12, 2011 9:33 pm

Diane Ravitch has some comments about TFA, charter schools, and much more in her article in the just published New York Review of Books.

"School ‘Reform’: A Failing Grade" is at:

http://tinyurl.com/3h7fbg6

Submitted by Anonymous TFA (not verified) on September 12, 2011 9:28 pm

He disparages the eminent scholar Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University, because she criticized Teach for America. Darling-Hammond believes that future teachers should have a deep grounding in the professional skills needed to teach children who require special attention, such as those who are new immigrants, those who have disabilities, and others who have marked difficulties in learning; she also believes that future teachers should be committed to teaching as a career, not short-term charity work.

She's 100% right about TFA needing committed teachers. A teacher who leaves in 3 years has been no help. I strongly support TFA's mission to bring in teachers with better academic records but they don't help if they only teach for 3 years.

I would agree with teaching children who require special attention if I thought my education school had provided any support for that. They didn't and all I learned was from reading on my own and crash courses from my colleagues. Unfortunately some colleagues seem to think yelling at students who need special attention will solve their problems.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 12, 2011 11:37 pm

TFA teachers only are committed to two years - not 3. That said,
your point re: how you learned is important - I've learned "on the job" over years. I don't think I really grasped what I was doing until 8 - 10 years of full time classroom teaching experience. That said, I'm going on 20 years and I am still learning. That is one thing I enjoy about teaching - I don't stop learning. Each new group of students brings ideas, experiences and often challenges. (It is a lot like parenting - there is no easy solution.)

This is another reason why it is a tragedy that so many "leaders" - principals and APs - who have a mere 5 years (and some less) are no longer teaching. We need administrators who cycle back to the classroom so they have a grasp of what they are asking teachers to do. They are out of touch. Some don't get the classroom management issue because, as principal, a student won't step to them they way a few will step to a teacher. Some don't get the lesson planning / assessment because either they never taught the grade level (e.g. high school) or they had too little time to master the craft of teaching. Sure, it is easy to want the power of an administrative position but all administrators should have to put in the time to excel at teaching before they can wield the power. (Phila. is notorious for principals who have a mere 5 years of full time classroom experience - some have even less.)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 12, 2011 11:53 pm

Absolutely. Too many students (by way of their parents) have learned that a teacher can say anything and often a principal will throw it out the window. You can threaten in-school suspension (for things that deserve an expulsion) and have a parent come in and cry and yell and mention the word lawyer and suddenly there will be absolutely no punishment for anything that child does the rest of the year.

Once that happens, students know they do not have to listen to you. They will just call in Mommy, who will get the principal in line, and there will be no more trouble.

And then, as the students say, they will "make it all hell for you."

Submitted by PPC Atlanta (not verified) on September 13, 2011 3:22 pm

TFA is such a shotty organization.
students will definitely cause you to hate teaching.
it needs to be improved, beyond belief.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 5:23 pm

Good riddance!!

TFA members are annoying Type-A personalities. They think they're going to save the world. They are arrogant and most of the time, cannot manage a class and normally break down crying after two months.

They are a drain to the schools.

Get rid of them all.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 7:38 pm

Wow. How is this comment useful? How many new teachers of any kind aren't overwhelmed? Maybe you've been around too long to remember, but the first few years are HARD. WORK.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 7:25 pm

It's not meant to be useful. I'm just stating an opinion. I'm sorry my comment doesn't fit into your narrow view of useful dialogue. Who are you to decide what's useful? I thought this was a place for varying viewpoints. Sounds like you were probably one of the weakling TFAers yourself.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 8:39 pm

Nope. Just someone who has seen the positive effects teachers from all preparations can have. I don't agree with the organization itself, but I can't really understand what would be bad about having a bunch of Type A personalities in the classroom. Not my style but many of the TFAers I've seen in my schools have been pretty dedicated and hardworking....like many of their trad. cert. peers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 8:10 pm

I have to agree with the above comment. I've seen "TFAers" come and go and they are more problematic than positive. They do seem like a bunch of cry babies I have to admit.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 13, 2011 8:31 pm

If you do the job right, every year is hard work.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 14, 2011 8:55 pm

The bottom line is we don't need TFA as there are tons teachers graduating who can't find work. TFA began only because there WAS a teacher shortage.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 14, 2011 11:53 pm

This is very true.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 14, 2011 9:41 pm

Just an FYI..

I graduated with a regular content degree in undergrad. I decided to go to a local university to pursue my teaching certification.

I completed all my education courses, passed all three Praxis exams for my K-6 cert, student taught for an entire semester at no pay, just to find out that because I didn't complete some silly Environmental science requirement in my undergraduate degree, I couldn't receive my Instructional 1.

So for a year I taught on an Intern certificate. I didn't go through TFA or PTF. I went to a regular 2 year graduate program for education.

I baffles me how ignorant many are to the intern certificate program. Just because someone has one doesn't mean they aren't highly qualified.

Well good news is I passed that silly course at a local community college. (I had to pay out of pocket.) And now I have my Instructional 1.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 14, 2011 9:02 pm

sorry iPad typo..

just a FYI

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