At a packed public hearing two weeks ago, the Seattle School Board voted to continue the district’s partnership with Teach for America (TFA). TFA, though a decades-old organization, is only in its first year working with Seattle schools.
Fifty community members signed up for a chance to speak to the board, but only 20 had the chance. Nearly all of them expressed their opinions regarding the TFA-district contract. Currently, there are only 6 TFA teachers in the area, but even this has raised serious concerns with the some in the community. Union officials and activists, though admitting that these teachers are passionate about education, claim that they lack the necessary experience of veteran educators they are replacing.
The move to cancel the partnership was led by the two newest school board members, but fell short by one vote. Members who voted to continue the partnership said they wanted more time to evaluate the program before making such a final decision. Michael DeBell, the Board’s president, lamented the time that has been spent across the district on the debate about TFA, remarking, “We sure have devoted a lot of time to six teachers.”
The experience in Seattle is reflective of the larger debate across the country. In a time when states and districts are trying to create valid and reliable measures of teacher effectiveness, both during their teacher training and in the classroom, programs that place teachers-in-training in the classroom are coming under intense scrutiny.
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