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California lawmakers seek to block Teach For America from the state

Democrats in the California State Assembly are pushing a bill which would effectively ban Teach For America educators from the state’s classrooms.

TFA is the 30-year-old organization that places high-achieving college graduates into some of the country’s neediest schools for a minimum of two years. But critics, like Golden State legislator Cristina Garcia, contend TFA is a net negative for poor and minority students, despite almost half of TFA teachers identifying as minorities.

“Our most vulnerable students are getting our least trained teachers,” Garcia told Politico. “If they’re good enough for poor, low-income schools, why aren’t they good enough for the Beverly Hillses of the world? Why do low-income schools have to be the guinea pigs?”  (Think really hard, Ms. Garcia. It’ll come to you.)

Teachers’ unions aren’t fans of TFA as they feel its recruits aren’t as adequately prepared as educators who go the traditional route of preparation. The California Federation of Teachers’ Matthew Hardy says that the five weeks of preparation for TFA candidates is hardly sufficient: “There’s no way that’s high quality.”

From the story:

Lawmakers who so far support the California bill insist that it’s not banning the organization from the state. New amendments to CA AB221 (19R) remove any specific mention of the organization, but would prohibit school districts from hiring teachers via third-party organizations for less than a five-year commitment at low-income schools — regulations that are contrary to the cornerstones of TFA.

More than 700 TFA members are currently in California classrooms.

“It would gut us, and our mission,” Lida Jennings, executive director of Teach For America Los Angeles, told POLITICO. …

And the bill comes at a time when California unions are pushing for another alternative approach to education to be put on the chopping block: charter schools. About a third of Teach For America members work in charter schools — a fact that concerns critics who say that corps members often leave the program with ideas about education reform that hurt traditional public schools, or move on to start their own charters.

Those critics surely are aware that this also happens in traditional public schools; however, instead of young elite teachers who serve a shot time, it’s district administrators who come up with “ideas” as they’re working to further their educations and/or justify their jobs.

As for Mr. Hardy’s contention that TFA’s teacher preparation program is inadequate, five weeks of classroom observation under a veteran teacher certainly is sufficient, in my view. A concern would be whether those five weeks is enough to also gain knowledge of lesson and curriculum planning.

Aside from lesson planning, assessment construction, and veteran teacher observations and advice, most of the other stuff taught at university schools of education is a colossal waste of time.

Read the Politico article.

MORE: Harvard group demands school sever ties with Teach For America

MORE: Teach For America: Math is the ‘Domain of Old, White Men’

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.