Why doesn’t First Coast high deserve professional teachers? (rough draft)

Monday teachers head back to work for a week of training and organizing, hopefully heavy on the organizing. Among them will be two hundred or so Teach for America hobbyists. In case you don’t know Teach for America takes non education majors puts them through a five week boot camp and then places them in our neediest schools where they are supposed to serve two years though the last thing I saw said only four out of five in Jacksonville do so.

They aren’t cheap either. TFA recruits who serve the entire two years are eligible for up to 11.000 in loan forgiveness, there is a finders fee that the district won’t reveal though I am told by other sources it is five thousand dollars and then there is the cost of constant professional development. Rookie teachers typically get more and this program ensures we always will have a greater than normal influx of rookie teachers. 

I think the program is a disaster though the superintendent disagrees with me probably because he was only a teacher himself for two years and doesn’t value experience. 

That’s the set up here is the rub.

Superintendent Vitti told community activist Erica Madson when talking about all the turmoil and turnover at First Coast high school, over 90 staff members have left in the two years under principal Alvin Brennan,  You will get first pick at this school of all TFA candidates.

Um, my follow up question would have been why would any school want first pick let alone any pick of Teach for America teachers, they do the exact opposite of what we know to be best for our children and assure constant turnover.

She had a few different questions. “I asked why are we not first pick for educators certified for dual enrollment? Why are we not first pick for experienced certified teachers?” He did not answer me.

How does Vitti think it is okay to staff this school with Teach for America recruits? I mean don’t the children there deserve certified and qualified teachers.

My bet is he thinks these TFAers won’t know the difference if there are brow beaten, talked down to and forced to work eighty hours a week. I actually feel bad for these masters-of-the universe types looking to build their resumes or for something to do before grad school.

I talked to a First Coast TFAer last year and since she has moved on I feel okay sharing parts of our conversation. She talked about all the mental abuse inflicted upon her by the principal, how we would alternate between being condescending and ignoring her and I asked why she didn’t go to TFA and ask for help. She told me that TFA told her not to complain and just go along, to suck it up, that if she did complain it might jeopardize her loan forgiveness.

I was blown away. Teach for America didn’t care.

Schools have to inform parents if their kids have teachers who are out of field or if they have a needs improvement evaluation but if your son or daughter has a hobbyist with five weeks training its swept under the carpet.

And before I am raked over the coals, yes there are great Teach for America teachers and people that have been teaching professionally or who have trained for years who may have chosen the wrong field. The thing s if you were playing the odds with your child’s future you would never pick a Teach for America teacher.  

Superintendent Vitti however thinks it is just fine, in fact he kind of bragged about it. 

6 Replies to “Why doesn’t First Coast high deserve professional teachers? (rough draft)”

  1. So if a TFA person has a major in say, sociology, and they are assigned to teach say ELA or math, wouldn't they be considered out of field, and then the district would have to notify the parents?

    1. To get in field, all anyone has to do is pass the subject area exam. Like any other new teacher, a TFA has to do that before getting a professional certificate. Oh, wait, a temporary lasts three years so if they leave after two, there's no bother. They need not learn about teaching to pass the Professional Knowledge exam, either. As for the parent notification, I have yet to see a parent revolt after that went out. Usually it gets sent home with the students, so I bet few, if any, parents ever see it. The letter disappears into the black hole known as a student's backpack.

  2. In my last department, we had 7 TFAs over the past 5 years. Of the first 5 teachers, 0 are left. We have 2 that are on year 3 right now, but those 2 people actually have always wanted to become teachers. Some were good for new teachers, but why are we spending so much on them? The money spent on recruitment, loans, and PD alone is revolting. Then, they leave. Why not use the money for a 5 year commitment? 2 years mean nothing but a waste of time for mentor teachers and current students. Plus, it demeans every professional, experienced teacher.

  3. In my experience TFA teachers do a better job than college of ed people so long as they are teaching in their degree field. Learning how to fill out a lesson plan template and organize a grade book are no substitute for knowing the content. However, when TFA's are placed out of field they tend to flounder.

  4. In my experience, TFAs flounder in understanding our urban culture and the students that live it. Their classroom management skills are poor and they struggle. (I have only seen one exception and he was using TFA as an entree into a career in public schools.) TFA personnel are critically dependent upon experienced, professional teachers to help them learn on the job. Most teachers have been generous, but I think the Best & Brightest is going to change that. In business, are you listening Gates and Waltons? nothing angers an employee more than being asked to train someone who makes more money than they do. The same is probably going to happen now. If, after ten to twenty years, I am making less than a TFA pup walking in the door, why would I be motivated to help them?

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