Seattle school board approves 'Teach For America,' despite public grilling


by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

Posted on November 17, 2010 at 8:39 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 17 at 10:40 PM

SEATTLE – The Seattle Public Schools Board voted 6-1 Wednesday to bring in new educators from a program called Teach For America, despite a public outcry from the district's own teachers.

Teach For America (TFA) traditionally sends its teachers into poor neighborhoods, areas that lack qualified teaching staff. Seattle Public Schools wants to open up its hiring pool to include dozens of TFA staffers.

That's getting a lot of flak from teachers, their union and their allies, who lined up Wednesday to give the school board a piece of their mind at the board's meeting.

"The TFA teachers will have only weeks of training, so I fail to see how that is going to prepare them to be exceptional teachers that we need them to be," said high school senior Sydney Jarol.

"There are a lot of teachers in our state that are out of jobs and we need to be employing the teachers who live within our city and our state and not be looking to bring people from outside of the city and state," said Estella Ortega, executive director of El Centro de la Raza.

"Writers are taught to use evidence and logical arguments to make points persuasively, but the board regularly dismisses logical arguments and is persuaded by fairy tales," said Teach For America opponent Dan Dempsey.

Supporters of TFA says it will diversify the applicant pool, bring in candidates specifically trained to help poor youth, and that TFA has a good track record of improving student performance.

Rebecca Neale, Regional Communications Director for TFA, sent KING 5 News this statement:

"Securing this partnership would be a significant step forward toward our hopeful expansion to the Seattle area (we would still need to secure a partnership with another school district, close our $1M funding gap, and secure a university partner.)

We're interested in expanding to the Seattle area for three key reasons:

1) There is a massive achievement gap that adversely affects Seattle students from low-income backgrounds

2) Our teachers are eager to work alongside efforts already underway in Seattle to ensure all students receive an excellent education and close the achievement gap

3) We have received support from local school districts and community members for Teach For America to offer an additional source of highly effective teachers and leaders for Seattle's highest-need school. "