Archive for November 21st, 2010

Diversity and Teach for America

by Jonathan Halabi
(documents from Seattle battle with TfA are at the bottom, below the fold)

Last Monday I tried to amend an Exec Board resolution about increasing diversity in the workplace. I was concerned about how the resolution handled Teach for America.  I’ll explain:

For the last 10 years, as alternate certification through the New York City Teaching Fellows and Teach for America has gone up, the number of new Black and Hispanic educators has gone down. Decades of progress has been undone. New Action helped get the Economic and Social Justice Committee working on this. A report was generated; a resolution crafted. The final statement read:

Be It Further Resolved that the UFT through its own efforts and in conjunction with the Department of Education persuade the Teach for America program to expand its pool of potential teachers to include more teachers of diverse backgrounds and advocate that both Teach for America and the NYC Teaching Fellows actively recruit more African-American and Latino teachers.

Now, the rest of the resolution says that we will “demand” of the DoE or use “all of [our] resources to compel…” But here we were going to make nice with them, and persuade TfA? Just an objection to tone, right?

More seriously, the resolution misunderstands what Teach for America is.  TfA is an ideologically-driven, anti-union club. It draws, mostly, from elite colleges and universities. Its recruits in the majority teach only for two years, not because they can’t hack it, but by design. They move on to education policy, education administration, charter schools, foundations, etc, etc, by design.  With a two-year career, they also model burnout-pace test-prep, sometimes boosting scores, always adding instability, often cheating real learning.

AND THEY DISPLACE LOCAL RECRUITS, far more likely to make long-term commitments to our students and their schools, and far more likely to be Black or Hispanic. Teach for America whitens the teaching force by design. We have numbers in New York City that support this point. In 1990 new teacher recruitment was under 30% Black and Hispanic. From 1994 – 2001 it was up over 40%. But under Klein it fell immediately back down to 1 in 4. This coincides with TfA coming to NYC, persuasively.

Teach for America was part of a discussion about teacher shortage. Districts, including NYC, pay a bounty of thousands of dollars for each TfA (temporary) teacher. But TfA has been muscling into districts with no shortage of teacher. Sacramento just turned them down, good on them. But the latest is Seattle, where a very public debate occurred before the district agreed to pay Michelle Rhee’s corps $4 thousand per teacher to reduce minority hiring.

My amendment (to remove the above-quoted resolved) was defeated. There may have been some confusion with the Teaching Fellows, my fault. We may have some leaders who mistakenly want to engage TfA. But the problem remains in front of us: We should not be discussing with Teach for America how to recruit better, we should be planning how to keep them out of New York. Our commitment to our schools, to our students, and to diversity demands that of us.

A few Seattle documents, the union reaction, a teacher’s reaction, a parent’s reaction, and a link to a long discussion, are below the fold: Continue reading ‘Diversity and Teach for America’

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November 2010