Durham Public Schools dumps Teach for America

As reported in the Durham Herald Sun and The Washington Post, the Durham school board voted last week not to keep its relationship with Teach for America (TFA) beyond the 2015-16 school year, allowing the school system’s current TFA teachers to finish out their contracts.

According to the Durham Herald Sun:

Among concerns voiced by school board members who voted not to pursue any new relationships with TFA is the program’s use of inexperienced teachers in high-needs schools.

“It feels like despite the best intention and the efforts, this has potential to do harm to some of our neediest students,” said school board member Natalie Beyer, who voted against the school district’s contract with TFA three years ago.

Others said they were concerned that TFA teachers only make a two-year commitment.

“I have a problem with the two years and gone, using it like community service as someone said,” said school board member Mike Lee.

One of the supporters of the program at the school board meeting, TFA’s Eastern NC executive director Robyn Fehrman, said that the data show TFA’s teachers have a positive impact in high-needs schools. But one person speaking against TFA said the money the district used to recruit TFA teachers would be better spent on a mentoring program for younger teachers.

Last year, lawmakers decided to do away with funding the NC Teaching Fellows program and put that money toward Teach for America instead.

The NC Teaching Fellows program awards $6,500/year scholarships for tuition at an in state college to North Carolina high school students interested in teaching. In return, students must teach for four years in North Carolina after graduation.

Teach for America is a national program launched more than 20 years ago with the original intention of putting Ivy-educated grads in hard-to-staff schools. It’s expanded beyond that mission now, however TFA teachers are only obligated to sign two year contracts and some say their pedagogical preparation is insufficient. The retention rate for TFA teachers is lower than that of the NC Teaching Fellows program.

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