This is the testimony that I will be giving tonight at the Seattle Public School Board meeting.
Regarding the rif (Reduction in Force, better known as a lay-off), our interim superintendent needs to rif central district staff who are housed in this building before impacting our classrooms and class sizes by laying off teachers.
Schools are about teaching first and foremost. Schools are not about having 5 people on a communications team, one of them recently hired and highly paid, to follow the PR communications plan that the Broad Foundation set forth to SPS in 2007 with the arrival of our former Broad superintendent.
Regarding Teach for America, I would like to bring to your attention a brief that was released last year by the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), an organization that provides studies and papers for philanthropists and usually favors everything on the menu of privatizing our public schools from charter schools to questioning whether board certification should be necessary for teachers to teach in a public school.
An analysis of the report by CRPE was sent to you on April 4th by Sue Peters, the co-editor of Seattle Education 2011 and a founding member of Parents Across America. It can also be found on the Seattle Education 2011 website. What’s interesting about this brief is it was regarding the impact of layoff’s on minority schools and inadvertently argued the same point that many of us have been making, that churn in a school and a community can be devastating to students and school staff. In a paper titled “Chronic Teacher Turnover in Urban Elementary Schools” that Kacey Guin wrote who is now a Senior Policy Analyst within the Office of Education, a department within the City of Seattle and who at the time was with CRPE, states that teachers should be encouraged to remain in schools that typically have a high rate of turnover. According to CRPE’s own report, more experienced teachers are far more desirable than teachers with little to no experience.
According to Guin, “Established relationships are lost” between student and teacher and schools are “destabilized” even further when teaching staff changes.
Then you have the fact that these TFA recruits are not trained or educated in how to approach and teach special needs students. There is also the point that was made by a teacher at Rainier Beach High School last year, that these recruits go through a substantial learning curve while going through site based professional development and require the assistance of other teachers in helping them through the process. Something that this teacher had experienced seven years ago in that same school when TFA recruits were placed in Rainer Beach High School. Between that and the fact that now because of the lack of knowledge and experience required to manage a diverse group of students, there will be coaches in each school where there is a TFA recruit who will be knowledgeable in the area of special education requirements. We, the parents, SPS staff and teachers basically would be babysitting these trainees which is a waste of resources particularly when we have three colleges of education in Seattle with highly educated, trained and experienced candidates who are ready to make a commitment to our students and communities over the long haul.
We do not need Teach for America recruits in our Seattle schools. The two year turnaround would create churn that even CRPE states is a cause of disintegration of our urban schools. What we need is to support the teachers we have with adequate books and materials, support services in place that can address the whole child and a small enough class size so that all students have an opportunity to ask questions, be part of a discussion and learn what they need to be successful in life.