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Final words on Teach for America, Inc., well…not really

The Seattle School Board voted last night 4 to 3 to continue the contract with Teach for America. Unfortunately, I believe that this sends a message to our well qualified and talented teachers that anyone can take their place and that’s OK. At least that’s what four citizens in Seattle have decided.

Three of the four votes were by previous members of the “gang of four” who could be relied upon to vote in unison with our Broad trained superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, so it was not a surprise that they would continue to vote in that same vein.  The fourth board member, Kay Smith-Blum, continually spoke of her “Principal poll” where she apparently asked a certain number of principals if they would hire a TFA, Inc. temp. Our first question to Ms. Smith-Blum was why not ask the parents? It would be our children most directly affected. And as most people involved with a public school system know, principals come under the scrutiny of the superintendent and this particular interim superintendent, Dr. Susan Enfield, was key in bringing TFA, Inc. to Seattle so what are they going to say? See Who Is Backing Teach for America, Inc. in Seattle? for the background on Dr. Enfield’s involvement with TFA, Inc.

It has become apparent that most parents are not aware of who is or might be teaching their children within the Seattle Public School system. Most parents assume that the teachers in our schools have been well-trained, educated in the profession and have a made a commitment to their schools and to their community. The school district, including the superintendent and four members of the school board, seem to think that what we don’t know won’t hurt us but that is not the case, not when it comes to who is teaching our children.

As you might imagine, these will not be the final words on the subject of TFA, Inc. on this blog. Far from it.  The reason that this site began was that I believed that it was imperative to have an informed public within the Seattle community when it came to issues of education within our public schools system and that will continue.

Now it is a matter of moving outside of the blog and reaching all parents and providing them with the power to make decisions for themselves that affect their children.


13 comments on “Final words on Teach for America, Inc., well…not really

  1. Eastside Parent
    March 23, 2012

    So, if TFA is a tool in the tool box, then it’s probably a sledgehammer which we know is a rarely used tool and only for purposes of destruction.

    While working out-of-state as a full-time classroom teacher with the additional privilege of being a district mentor teacher, I was assigned several TFA candidates to mentor in their first year. What an exhausting task that was. The candidates were all great kids, but they had so few skills for managing a classroom, and constructing interesting and engaging lessons.

    I must say Kay Smith-Blum’s comment regarding HR’s inefficient system matches my own experience. When I moved to WA, I applied to Seattle because I had been a successful urban teacher and that’s where I thought my skills could best be utilized. I was told I would have to sub first even though I had been a mentor teacher. In the meantime, I was quickly hired by an Eastside school district where my skills were honored and appreciated.

  2. seattleducation2011
    March 22, 2012

    Here is Kay’s response:

    Thank you Sue. While much of what you say below I agree with, I also continue to listen to our principals with regard to this issue. As many of them feel they would like TfA as an option in their hiring pool, I want to support them. TfA candidates MUST compete with all other candidates in Phase 3 hiring, and we do not displace ANY of our teachers currently in the system with their candidacy. I continue to believe in our principals’ ability to make the best choice for their community.

    From my frame, the real problem is our hiring process, which is antiquated and inefficient. Consequently, we lose many terrific young masters of Ed candidates to surrounding districts because their systems are more nimble than ours. As our HR department develops processes that strengthen our ability to “grab on” to our own student teachers, I believe that process, in the long run, represents our best option for bringing both teachers of color and innovative instructors into our system. This transformation should take about 2 years, about the length of the existing contract with TfA. Until then, TfA is another tool in our tool box which many highly respected principals say they want.

  3. seattleducation2011
    March 22, 2012


    I’m thinking five weeks of training before being a dentist. What do you think? How about you get into a dentist chair for some schmo with five weeks of training in drilling and filling.


  4. Leonard
    March 22, 2012

    “Principal poll” where she apparently asked a certain number of principals if they would hire a TFA, Inc. temp. Our first question to Ms. Smith-Blum was why not ask the parents?”

    Did you receive a response?

    I agree: TfA are a bunch of SCABS…that enjoy union benefits.

    • seattleducation2011
      March 22, 2012

      Good point, they do enjoy union benefits, at least here in Seattle, because we don’t have charter schools.

      The letter was sent by Sue, my co-editor, and she has not received a response yet.

      The other reason that Smith-Blum gave last night which has gotten to be a very old ed reform adage is, “it’s just another tool in the toolbox”. What we need are our counselors and librarians back, more books and other materials for learning and exploring, more support for the teachers that we do have, safer buildings…I could go on but those are the “tools” that our students need not temps who have less experience than most substitute teachers and who won’t be sticking around for more than two or three years.

      Our students deserve more than that.


  5. seattleducation2011
    March 22, 2012

    I came across this Facebook post that I wanted to share:

    “TFA has proven that lengthy training is unnecessary – indeed, it’s an impediment – for bright, passionate students to become the most highly qualified of teachers.

    I am excitedly waiting for the successor programs to Teach For America, such as Heal For America (doctors), Build For America (engineers) and Litigate For America (lawyers). We are wasting millions, probably billions of dollars teaching these people in expensive, multi-year programs, when a five week course will do, and will result in graduates much more highly qualified than anyone else in their professions.”

    — Ebenezer

    • CitizensArrest
      March 22, 2012

      Where exactly did you find the FB post?

      • Anonymous
        March 22, 2012

        I’m thinking this person is being sarcastic… least I hope so!

      • seattleducation2011
        March 22, 2012

        It showed up on various Facebook “friend” pages including my own.

  6. Bob Valiant
    March 22, 2012

    One way to fight TfA, charter schools, and the other wacky deform ideas is to join more than 5000 concerned parents and teachers and sign the Letter to Obama at

  7. seattleducation2011
    March 22, 2012


    You’re right, they are. They teach in charter schools that do not hire unionized teachers. It goes hand in hand with all of the corporate driven union busting that’s going on around the country right now.

    Unfortunately, most of the recruits don’t understand how they are being used.


  8. Michael Fiorillo
    March 22, 2012

    The last word on Teach for America?

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