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Motion to Cancel Teach for America, Inc. Contract in Seattle

On February 16th, there was a motion to cancel the Teach for America, Inc. contract by one of the school board members in the Board Curriculum and Instruction Committee meeting. Five board members were in attendance. A majority of them supported a motion to terminate the district’s contract with Teach for America, Inc. The motion will appear as an introduction item at the March 7th school board meeting and as an action item at the March 21st board meeting. The deadline for terminating the contract for next year is April 1st.

The agreement that was reached last year was that the additional cost of hiring these TFA, Inc. temps, which was $4,000 per recruit last year, would be covered by a private donor which later turned out to be the Seattle Foundation which is a front for big business money in Seattle. This year the Seattle Foundation has stated that they will not be financing this costs.

If the contract is terminated, the six Teach for America, Inc. teaching temps who were hired this year will continue as teachers for at least another year. After that, they will continue as teachers only if they have acquired their certification. These TFA, Inc. recruits can resign at any time if they so choose.

During this Curriculum and Instruction Committee meeting, Director Martin-Morris said that he wasn’t interested in data from other cities in terms of the effectiveness or lack thereof of TFA, Inc. recruits. He stated that he thought all of the studies about Teach for America were “inconclusive”. Martin-Morris said that we did not yet have any data on the effectiveness of Teach for America, Inc. corps members in Seattle and that he wanted the board to make “data-driven decisions”. Director Martin-Morris said that it made no sense to decide to terminate the contract in the absence of any data. He advocated continuing the contract.

Well Harium, if it’s “data” that you need consider this, I was at Rainer Beach High School (RBHS) last year during a meeting when Ms. Ortega, a representative of TFA, Inc., brought her dog and pony show to RBHS. After she had completed her presentation on how wonderful these shiny new recruits were, I got up on the stage and started to talk about the reality of TFA, Inc. One teacher stood up after I was done and said that he had been teaching at RBHS when TFA, Inc. had recruits there a few years before that. He said that there were three recruits and he described how much time the other teachers had to spend helping the recruits get up to speed on the daily tasks of being “teachers”.

He said that two eventually left before their contract was up but one did stay and turned out to do a decent job.

If Harium had asked any questions last year when he voted on having TFA, Inc in Seattle when he described it as having just another “tool in the toolkit” (an ed reform phrase that is getting very old and tired) he would have known about the “experiment” that had occurred previously. Would that be enough “data” for him, that two out of the three recruits didn’t work out and they took time away from other teachers and possibly their students?

And speaking of “experiments”, in that same meeting, Director DeBell also spoke in favor of continuing the contract. He said that Teach for America was an experiment and that we shouldn’t terminate it without seeing the results. An “experiment”!? On our children?! No thanks DeBell. And exactly what “results” would you be referring to? At that he was not specific.

Please contact our school board members,, and let them know that we don’t need to have our children experimented on. That we have a large pool of well qualified teachers who are willing to commit to our communities and schools and have had the training in classrooms to prepare them for a successful life-long career in education. TFA, Inc. was created to be a stop-gap measure in school districts where there were not enough qualified teachers. We don’t have a shortage of great teachers in Seattle.

As I stated previously, the motion to cancel the TFA, Inc. contract will be presented this Wednesday and there will be speakers on both sides of the issue. On one side will be parents, teachers and concerned citizens and on the other side will be former TFAer’s singing the praises of TFA, Inc. and of course the LEV/SFC contingent who will be organizing this effort. That’s how it was last year and I imagine it won’t be much different this year except for the fact that more folks are aware of the real issues.

Even if you cannot speak at this meeting, please attend and support the speakers. LEV/SFC will have kids there waving signs and maybe even wearing t-shirts as they have in the past. Regular folks need to be there also and show the board that we don’t need TFA, Inc. in our schools.

"NO TFA" sign in front of the Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle.

I would recommend reading  A LETTER TO THE SEATTLE WA. SCHOOL BOARD written by a TFA, Inc. mentor living in New York and the website Reconsidering TFA which was developed by a fellow PAA Seattle member.

Another excellent read is Hyper-accountability, Burn out and Blame: A TFA Corps Member Speaks Out.

Here is an excerpt:

The rhetoric of educational policy is an ever swaying pendulum from the conservative right to the progressive left. However, in reality, in the decades leading up to and the ten years following the passing of No Child Left Behind, it has been neoliberal policies and practices that have dramatically shaped the American education landscape. Perhaps this claim is best characterized by the onslaught of hyper accountability that traces its most recent roots to NCLB. The neoliberal practice of hyper accountability, specifically that of teacher accountability, has led to an increase of labeling (e.g., failing schools), cheating (Atlanta Public Schools), and burnout.

As a traditionally trained educator who graduated from college at the beginning of what is now being called the “Great Recession,” I, like many other graduates, found landing a teaching job very difficult. In fact, over the course of two years, I was only afforded two interviews; both of which denied me jobs because the only teaching experience I had was my student teaching. So, in an effort to satiate my desire to teach I decided that I would apply to the alternative certification program known as Teach For America (or TFA).

I entered the program with an open mind, but grew concerned as I learned TFA’s framework. At TFA’s summer Institute, corps members are told that TFA has studied the characteristics and practices of good teachers for the last twenty years and that they now have the recipe for reproducing quality teachers. However, TFA is unknowingly working within a false sense of reality and thereby creates a recipe that fosters disillusionment and burnout. Corps members come to TFA with no pedagogical or methods training, no specific content training and are told that if they simply follow the TFA system and work really hard that success will be had. The naivety of believing that standardized formulaic teaching will always result in success in every classroom across the country is indicative of individuals who have no experience with pedagogy and it sets the stage for disillusionment.

Please contact your school board representatives and if you can, attend the school board meeting this Wednesday evening. The meeting starts at 6:00 PM and is on the ground floor of the Stanford Center which is located at 2445  3rd Avenue South, Seattle, 98134.


5 comments on “Motion to Cancel Teach for America, Inc. Contract in Seattle

  1. Charlie Mas
    March 6, 2012

    When will the monopoly of governments and unions with their stranglehold on public education ever allow the reforms that are necessary to empower and enable all students to attend Harvard University? When will they end their irrational resistance to the changes we need? When will they demand that all students come to school with their socks on inside-out?

    We aren’t getting good results with the children wearing their socks right-side out, so we have nothing to lose by turning them inside-out.

    I know that there are some who say that wearing socks right-side out isn’t the source of poor student outcomes and therefore turning socks inside-out won’t address the problem, but they are just blindly supporting the status quo. I’m not saying that wearing socks inside-out will solve everything; I’m just saying that it is one more tool in the toolbox.

    There have been no conclusive studies about the effects of wearing inside-out socks. In some cases there doesn’t appear to be any positive effect, but there are some startling successes. A full 17% of the results are more than a full standard deviation above the mean. I want all children to have a chance to be in that high performing 17%. They will get that chance if they wear their socks inside out.

    One student who wore her socks inside out advanced more than one and a half years of math education in a single year. Her story is not uncommon. There are many other students who saw even greater advances with the socks inside-out method. The internet is full of inspiring stories like these. We cannot ignore them in good conscience. We cannot deny these children this opportunity.


    When I read the arguments in support of Education Reform ideas, most of them could be replaced with the inside-out sock idea. They are without substance. And, for those who aren’t conversant with statistics, in any random sample about 17% of the results will be one standard deviation above the mean.

  2. Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.
    March 6, 2012

    Harium as has been his pattern talks about “data driven”, refuses to look at data, and votes to support pre-determined actions. The SPS rarely analyzes data first and then decides on a course of action.

    The SPS plan is usually to determine what will be done and then go fishing for any data that might support the action.

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