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Photo by daniel zimmel.

Photo by daniel zimmel.


School Board Considers Ending Teach For America Contract

Ann Dornfeld

The Seattle School Board is considering ending the district's contract with Teach for America after one year. Some board members question whether the organization's training gets new college graduates ready to teach. KUOW's Ann Dornfeld reports.


Teach for America, or TFA, is a sort of domestic Peace Corps for low–income schools. It lets new college grads teach with five weeks of training instead of the usual teaching certificate. TFA claims its teachers are more effective at narrowing the achievement gap than other new teachers. But the data is mixed.

Seattle's contract with TFA began this school year. Schools in the district hired six TFA recruits. But the school board's two new members seem to be tipping the scales against hiring any more TFA teachers.

Sharon Peaslee said she wouldn't want her kids to be taught by TFA teachers.

Sharon Peaslee: "We have many really good teacher training programs in our city that are providing us with a pool of very qualified teachers. We do not need teachers who have only had five weeks of training."

TFA charges the district $4,000 per teacher. A private donor paid that fee this year, and Peaslee asked the district to figure out who would pay next year.

Board member Marty McClaren said hiring from TFA is disrespectful to experienced, credentialed teachers. Board member Betty Patu said the district should instead be hiring the many qualified teachers looking for work.

Board member Harium Martin–Morris said if TFA teachers are getting jobs that certificated teachers want, it's for good reason.

Harium Martin–Morris: "While yes, there are teachers looking for jobs, they were in that pool. These were the people that rose to the top."

Only board member Michael DeBell joined Martin–Morris in supporting the TFA contract.

Teach for America Seattle–Tacoma executive director Lindsay Hill spoke during public testimony. She told the board that while TFA recruits may not have the usual teaching credentials, they are highly qualified because of their educational backgrounds and other experience.

The board is scheduled to vote on whether to cancel the TFA contract in two weeks.

I'm Ann Dornfeld, KUOW News.

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