There currently are 15 TFA corps members in their first year in San Francisco schools and they will continue to be supported in their second year. TFA recruits are required to agree to teach for two years, although many of them don’t make it through and many others stop teaching after the two-year requirement. The Chronicle quoted Matt Haney, the school board president, as saying:
“Our goal as a district should be to get experienced, highly prepared, fully credentialed teachers with a track record of success into our high-needs, high-poverty schools. For now, I believe that we should press pause on our contract with TFA, as we consider how best to address our own challenges of getting the best, most-prepared teachers where they are most needed.”
TFA, a highly popular organization with school reformers, has won millions in federal funds from the Obama administration and much more from private philanthropy. It is known for giving recruits about five weeks of training in the summer and then sending them into some of America’s neediest schools to run their own classrooms.
But as popular as TFA has become with reformers, it has been the target of a growing chorus of critics who say that TFA recruits are not trained nearly long enough to do the work they are asked to do. The criticism, sometimes coming from former TFA members, has risen as the organization has been having trouble meeting recruitment targets.
My Post colleague Emma Brown reported recently that applications have fallen by 16 percent this year, down 35 percent from 2013, when there were 57,000 applicants.
TFA supporters say that the decline is in part because the job market is improving for college graduates, who constitute the majority of TFA recruits, but it is worth noting that high-performing students the organization seeks are usually not the young people who have a difficult time finding a job.
In any case, San Francisco is not the only place that is reconsidering its relationship with TFA. In 2014, for example, the school board in Durham, N.C., voted to end it — even though it had openings for teachers — because, as school board member Mike Lee was quoted as saying: “I have a problem with the two years and gone, using it like community service.” A year earlier, Pittsburgh public schools had decided not to bring in any new TFA members, and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) 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.
TFA released a statement about the news from San Francisco, which you can read here. It says in part:
We will continue to provide support and training for the cohort of TFA corps members currently in the midst of the first year of their commitments as they enter their second year of teaching, and we will continue to help Teach For America alumni moving to the city or region who are interested in teaching to connect to opportunities in the district. Schools may still hire our qualified candidates, and we’re open to considering alternative financial arrangements with interested schools given the dire shortages; however, we’re already working to meet significant demand from our charter partners within San Francisco and district partners throughout the Bay Area who acted quickly to provide this resource to their schools.
(Updating: Adding statement from TFA)