Education

Durham cuts ties with Teach for America

Posted September 19, 2014

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— Durham Public Schools is severing ties with Teach for America, a national program that places recent college graduates in urban and rural schools that have difficulty filling teaching positions.

The district has worked with TFA for the past decade and currently has 12 teachers from the program in local schools: Six at Southern School of Energy and Sustainability, four at Neal Magnet Middle School and two at Eastway Elementary School.

The Board of Education last month decided not to renew TFA's contract, saying the district no longer needs the group's help and that local schools need teachers willing to commit more than the two years TFA requires.

"We want to build a strong teacher workforce that’s made up of career educators," school board Chairwoman Heidi Carter said Friday. "Our job is to look long term and make decisions that will benefit the most students over time."

Carter said the inconsistency and turnover after TFA teachers leave can create problems, especially in high-risk schools where many of the teachers are placed.

"No organization in the business world builds its workforce from temp employees, and basically, that’s what this would be doing." she said.

Some TFA teachers said that comparison is unfair.

"I can think of so many amazing TFA teachers who’ve come in here who stayed here who are in their fourth year teaching here and who have really made just the most wonderful impact on kids," said Jacqui Batts, an eighth-grade English teacher at Neal Middle who finished her two-year commitment last year and stayed on at the school.

"I think it’s a great program when it works correctly and it’s a right fit for the area," said Sarah McHenry, an eighth-grade science teacher at Neal Middle who is in her second TFA year. "I’ve enjoyed my time so far, and together we really are making a difference."

Neal Middle Principal Jill Hall said there were 16 TFA teachers at the school when she arrived four years ago, and many left after her first year.

"I believe for Neal being a hard-to-staff school – we do have a high teacher turnover rate in general – I look at all recruiting measures, and I try to recruit from a lot of different avenues," Hall said. "My focus right now is maintaining the teachers I have, and that’s been my focus since I got here – teacher retention."

TFA spokeswoman Beck O'Neill said studies have shown the program's teachers are among the most effective young educators in North Carolina.

"Given the impact corps members and alumni have had in high-need classrooms, we’re disappointed by the board’s decision. Though just one of 18 communities with which we partner across the state, it’s one we value deeply," O'Neill said in a statement.

TFA teachers already in Durham schools can stay put, but there will be no more new instructors hired from the program. Carter said the district has 99 percent of its teaching slots filled already and is confident that the district won't have any problem making up for the loss of TFA's assistance.

"Durham is a desirable location to live and to teach," she said.

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  • Greg Boop Sep 22, 2014
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    Supporting TFA is also a sign of the contempt that McCrory and the Republican legislature holds for professional teachers. They believe that putting short-term teachers who hold no certifications in our public school classrooms is the right direction for our state.

    This aligns with their agenda to make all public school teacher yearly contractors in our state with no tenure ("career status") rights who can dismissed each year for any reason. Basically the McCrory administration and Republican legislature wants teachers to be low-paid yearly contractors with no additional pay for master's degrees or certifications.

    In a state that is depending on education to build a high-tech workforce; this is obviously the wrong direction to be moving in.

  • Greg Boop Sep 22, 2014
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    North Carolina Teaching Fellows is a program that recruited the brightest high school students and provided a college scholarship for them to become teachers in North Carolina. To get the $6500 per year scholarship, each student had to agree to serve as a teacher in a public school in North Carolina for 4 years. Over 90% of NC Teaching Fellows generally stay in teaching for their entire careers.

    Teach for America takes students whose major in college is not even education, runs them through a seven week course and then places them in public schools. Nearly none of these TFA individuals have teaching certification. As noted in the article, most do not even make it through their required 2 year period. Nearly no TFA individuals make a career out of teaching, it is just a stepping stone to something else when they could not get a job in their career field after college.

  • juliomercado Sep 22, 2014

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    You speak great truths my friend. I personally have seen a couple dozen NC Teaching Fellows stay in the profession and can attest that program works. Too bad it doesn't fit the 'reform' mindset of the GOP in Raleigh. The mechanics have an old expression that I think applies here quite well: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

  • USMC Vet Sep 19, 2014

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    -

    Not a McC fan, but so?

  • USMC Vet Sep 19, 2014

    Understood. Seems like a good move.

  • Greg Boop Sep 19, 2014
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    McCrory and the Republican legislature cut NC Teaching Fellows and promoted "Teach for America' instead. Need we say more?

  • BlahBlahBlahBlahBlah Sep 19, 2014

    Good for you Durham!!!