News

Teach for America cuts 100 positions, revamps organization

school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bTeach for America, the national organization that helps to train college grads for placement in needy schools, is reportedly undergoing a structural reorganization in the midst of its second consecutive year failing to meet its recruiting targets.

First reported by education activist Diane Ravitch on her blog Monday, and later confirmed by The Washington Post, the news shows the nationwide nonprofit continues to deal with apparent structural instability.

From the Post:

Teach for America, the nonprofit known for placing idealistic and inexperienced teachers in some of the nation’s neediest schools, is cutting 15 percent of its national staff in what the organization described as an effort to give more independence to its more than 50 regional offices around the country.

The organization will cut 250 jobs and add 100 new ones, making for a net loss of 150 jobs.

Since [Teach for America CEO Elisa] Villanueva Beard’s initial announcement, some positions have been eliminated and other staff members have chosen to leave, according to one TFA staff member who asked for anonymity in order to speak candidly about the organization’s internal workings. Many are planning to depart on April 15.

The downsizing comes after a previous round of reductions in which TFA’s national staff shrank by more than 200 positions. The two shake-ups will leave Teach for America with approximately 930 national staff members in fiscal year 2017, 410 fewer than it employed in fiscal year 2015, according to the organization.

Despite years of support from the Obama administration and, at home, Republicans in the N.C. General Assembly, the national nonprofit has been a frequent target for critics who point to high turnover in the organization and short teaching stints for many TFA recruits as evidence for concern.

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News

McCrory’s education advisor leaving to help groom TFA alums into leaders

Governor Pat McCrory’s education advisor, Eric Guckian, is leaving his job at the end of July to serve in a leadership role for a national organization dedicated to transforming Teach for America alums into leaders.

In a Tuesday afternoon press release, McCrory’s office touted education-related accomplishments it said Guckian’s guidance was key to making happen.

“During his tenure with Governor McCrory, Guckian was instrumental in helping pass one of the largest teacher raises in the state’s history which provided an average salary increase of seven percent and raised the base pay for beginning teachers,” read the statement, along with a list of other education initiatives in which Guckian played a role.

Guckian will join the Leadership for Educational Equity as a Vice President for Alliances. The organization is dedicated to transforming Teach for America corps members and alumni into leaders.

Guckian is a former TFA corps member himself, having served in New York City and as a teacher and as executive director of Teach for America, North Carolina.

Guckian’s last day as McCrory’s education advisor is July 31. A new education advisor is expected to be announced “in the near future.”

Commentary

New study shows that vast majority of Teach for America teachers plan to leave the classroom

People_16_Teacher_BlackboardA new study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research indicates that the much-debated Teach for America program (TFA) is not creating more effective or successful teachers. The study shows that test scores for students taught by TFA teachers in their first or second year of teaching  are on par with those taught by traditionally certified teachers. These data contradict previous studies which had indicated that students taught by TFA teachers scored higher in math than their peers taught by traditionally certified teachers.

The Mathematica study was conducted in order to evaluate the program (which recruits college graduates and trains them to work in low income schools) in the years since it received federal funding to expand in 2010. The purpose of the TFA program is to expand the pool of highly intelligent and motivated teachers, thereby increasing the opportunities for low income students. The trouble, however, is that TFA teachers are given only five weeks of training and then often thrown into classrooms with little or no administrative support.

The new study shows that TFA teachers don’t have a problem with teaching but are very unsatisfied by their influence over school policies and the lack of support from school administrators. Also, in perhaps the most damning finding, researchers found that most TFA teachers have no intention of sticking around past their two year commitment to TFA. The study shows that 87.5 percent of TFA teachers in their first two years say that they do not plan to spend their career in the classroom. Twenty-five percent said they planned to quit at the end of the current year. While TFA has never released figures, its leaders have always insisted that the majority of teachers finished the two year program and many stay on past the program. This study definitely tells a different story.

Read the study in its entirety here http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/~/media/publications/pdfs/education/tfa_investing_innovation.pdf

News

Teach for America now has a recruitment problem

Fewer college grads are flocking to Teach for America.

The New York Times reported last week that the embattled teacher training program, to which the North Carolina General Assembly has chosen to funnel millions of taxpayer dollars at great expense of the soon-to-be-defunct yet highly praised N.C. Teaching Fellows program, saw a ten percent drop in applications this year — the second year the program experienced a decline in interest.

TFA officials blame the rebounding economy for decreased interest in the program, which provides relatively minimal training to recent college grads and then unleashes them to go teach in typically high poverty schools.

Teaching has become a less popular prospect as a whole, with the entire country seeing a 12.5 percent drop in applications for teacher preparation programs from 2010-2013. North Carolina’s schools have seen a 27 percent drop in applications over the past four years.

But the Times article also highlights the diminished luster of the program, telling the story of one college grad who was initially enthusiastic about jumping into teaching by way of Teach for America:

When Haleigh Duncan, a junior at Macalester College in St. Paul, first came across Teach for America recruiters on campus during her freshman year in 2012, she was captivated by the group’s mission to address educational inequality.

Ms. Duncan, an English major, went back to her dormitory room and pinned the group’s pamphlet on a bulletin board. She was also attracted by the fact that it would be a fast route into teaching. “I felt like I didn’t want to waste time and wanted to jump into the field,” she said.

But as she learned more about the organization, Ms. Duncan lost faith in its short training and grew skeptical of its ties to certain donors, including the Walton Family Foundation, a philanthropic group governed by the family that founded Walmart. She decided she needed to go to a teachers’ college after graduation. “I had a little too much confidence in my ability to override my lack of experience through sheer good will,” she said.

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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.

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