The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Why one school system is dropping Teach For America

Teach for American founder Wendy Kopp (The Washington Post)

The school board in Durham, N.C., has voted 6-1 to end its relationship with Teach For America after the 2015-16 school year, when all of the 12 TFA teachers hired in the past few years will have completed the two years of service they promise to make when joining the organization.

What makes it interesting is what school board members said during a discussion about the issue. The Herald Sun reported that several board members said they did not want to continue a relationship with the organization because TFA corps members are highly inexperienced. (How could they not be? TFA recruits mostly newly graduated college students, gives them five weeks of summer training and places them in high-needs classrooms.) There were also concerns expressed that corps members are required only to promise to stay for two years and though some stay longer, some leave before the two years are up, causing a great deal of turnover in many schools with at-risk students who greatly need stability.

School board member Mike Lee was quoted as saying: “I have a problem with the two years and gone, using it like community service.”

Diane Ravitch, on her blog, noted that Pittsburgh school board had voted late last year not to renew its TFA contract.  In December, I wrote about the decision to drop the $750,000 TFA contract:

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Danielle Montoya, regional communications director for Teach For America, said the new vote was the first time any school board had reversed itself on bringing in TFA corps members into a district. Earlier this year, however, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a line item inserted into the state’s higher education legislation that would have given $1.5 million to Teach For America over two years.

The newspaper quoted board member Regina Holley as saying she did not understand how TFA corps members could know how to handle tough classroom situations with so little training: “I find that a bit outrageous.”