SF school leaders give Teach for America a time-out
The taxpayer-supported Teach for America program, which supplies enthusiastic if inexperienced teachers to thousands of schools in lower-income areas across the country, has fallen out of favor in San Francisco.
The city’s school board made clear this week that staffing some of the city’s neediest classrooms with recent college graduates who are on a two-year teaching stint and with just five weeks of training is no longer acceptable.
The board had been set to vote Tuesday night on a new contract to obtain 15 teachers for the upcoming school year — after reaching similar agreements each of the last eight years with the national nonprofit, which receives federal grants, private donations and fees from districts.
But before the vote, Superintendent Richard Carranza pulled the contract from consideration, acknowledging he didn’t have support despite a statewide teacher shortage and a local need to fill at least 500 teaching jobs by August.
The 15 teachers would have been placed in science, math, special education and bilingual education classrooms — the hardest positions to fill, Carranza said.
“I respect the board’s authority to make these decisions,” Carranza said in an interview Wednesday. “I just think it’s a missed opportunity for us to fill 15 classrooms (with) very scarce candidates out there.”
Pipeline of educators
Though the district won’t hire any new Teach for America teachers, the 15 heading into their second year will continue to receive support, officials said.
Teach for America, often referred to as TFA, has long been considered a valuable pipeline of new teachers, especially in low-income communities. The young teachers don’t have full credentials, but are billed as cream-of-the-crop college graduates with a desire to spend at least two years teaching in some of the country’s poorest communities.
But over the past several years, the organization has been condemned by critics, including teachers unions, as a crutch that fills the country’s neediest classrooms with inexperienced and cheap labor.
“Our goal as a district should be to get experienced, highly prepared, fully credentialed teachers with a track record of success into our high-needs, high-poverty schools,” said school board President Matt Haney. “For now, I believe that we should press pause on our contract with TFA, as we consider how best to address our own challenges of getting the best, most-prepared teachers where they are most needed.”
Financial ties questioned
Others, including school board member Jill Wynns, have opposed Teach for America’s financial connections to supporters of charter schools and market-based education reform.