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12 Of 16 TFA Recruits Leave City Schools

by Melissa Bailey | Dec 4, 2012 4:12 pm

(37) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Melissa Bailey Photo Kait moved out. Kate moved in. Same apartment, same job, same mission: To reach kids at one of New Haven’s toughest schools. Will the new Kate stay?

Kate Renkosiak (pictured) started work this fall as a new science teacher at Wexler/Grant, a K-8 “turnaround” school in Dixwell. She landed the job through Teach For America (TFA), a leading national not-for-profit that lures talented young people into urban classrooms on a mission to narrow the racial achievement gap.

Kate Renkosiak replaced Kait Shorrock, who was also a TFA recruit. Shorrock was one of 16 TFA corps members to join the New Haven public school system in the fall of 2010. Of those 16, 12 left the public school district after fulfilling their two-year commitment, according to TFA’s statewide director, Nate Snow. Four stuck around at district schools. Six kept teaching at low-income schools outside of New Haven. In the fall of 2010, TFA also placed 15 recruits in Achievement First charter schools; eight of them remain in those schools, he said.

Snow argued that despite TFA’s lower retention rate—which tends to fall far below New Haven’s teacher retention rate of 68 percent after two years—TFA is making strong contributions to city schools and the education field. New Haven school officials agreed: The school board last week approved a contract giving the district the OK to hire up to 26 TFA recruits next school year. The school district pays TFA $2,500 per teacher per year for two years to pay for training and coaching. Click here to read a past story about the district’s partnership with the organization.

In all, there are 46 TFA corps members currently in their first or second year of teaching in New Haven, including the public school district and charter schools, according to Snow.

Renkosiak was one of 11 recruits who joined New Haven’s public school district in the fall.

Shorrock set the bar high for her replacement: In two years, the novice rose to be one of the best teachers in the school, a model for others in behavioral management, according to her principal. Shorrock, of California, bid her kids a tearful goodbye last summer and headed to Spain on a Fulbright scholarship.

Renkosiak, a 22-year-old Chicago native, joined TFA after graduating from Dartmouth College. When she moved to town, she ended up moving into Shorrock’s old apartment in Milford. Kate took over Kait’s classes.

And she got a few words of advice, scrawled onto a poster from the year before.

“Never yell.” Don’t let kids say “shut up.” “Make us work hard,” Shorrock’s kids wrote in a poster to their new science teacher at the end of the year. They even offered a concrete tip to continue Shorrock’s method of throwing around a ball to cold-call kids.

Renkosiak took the advice and plunged into her first year of teaching. She said the year has gone smoothly. There have been no flash floods of the sort that brought Shorrock to the verge of tears in her first week on the job two years prior.

“Students have been relatively well-behaved and respectful,” Renkosiak said. The 8th graders, whom Shorrock taught the year before, have “a sense of what it means to be proud of your work—and where science can take you,” she said. Renkosiak has developed a point system to give kids positive rewards for staying on task.

And she inherited two balls, one of them with Shorrock’s name on it, to toss around for cold-calling.

Renkosiak said she conferred with Shorrock over the summer and has emailed with her in Spain. The outgoing Kait was “a great resource to have ahead of time,” she said.

New Haven Public Schools started working with TFA in 2006. The district hired 15 TFA recruits in 2011 and 11 in 2012. Assistant Superintendent Imma Canelli said the district would have liked to hire more but couldn’t find the space. “We feel bad because we really like them. We think they’re doing a great job.” But the TFA recruits didn’t match up with the district’s shortage areas, particularly bilingual education.

Canelli said on balance the teachers are worth hiring even if they stay only two years: “They’re really good. You get two good years out of them. For us, two years is better than no years.”

Over half of TFA teachers leave their initial schools after two years, and over 80 percent leave after three, according to a recent review of research on the subject. Critics argue that’s important not just because the schools have to adjust to turnover, but because teachers tend to improve significantly after their first two years on the job.

Teachers union president Dave Cicarella, whose daughter enrolled in TFA, said TFA teachers in New Haven have made a positive impact.

“Those kids come with great backgrounds and some experiences that our kids don’t have,” he said. “They’ve got educational background, good content knowledge, they’re hard workers.”

“We still have the concern about the retention, but it’s out of our control,” he said.

Of the roughly 450 TFA alumni in the state, over 250 work in education and about 150 are still teaching, according to Snow.

“We need and want more to stay in the classroom long-term, become school role models and continue to have a critical impact on our kids,” TFA’s Snow wrote in an email. However, he argued TFA alumni are making an impact in other ways, too.

About 85 TFA alumni in the New Haven area are “working across a variety of sectors to tackle issues addressing poverty, inequity, and education,” Snow said. One is the principal of Amistad High School. Another works at Squash Haven. Two run an after-school program at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School. Another runs All Our Kin.

“We fundamentally believe that educational equity requires a lot of hard work and leadership,” Snow argued. “It must come from individual classrooms and schools, from the larger education system, from those working in other fields addressing poverty and from civic-minded leaders across different sectors. Our aim is to draw on the talents of our country’s emerging leaders to engage in the classroom, the broader education system and in social and economic issues affecting our most vulnerable kids.”

Assistant Superintendent Canelli noted that the district has more luck retaining TFA recruits who are from Connecticut.

Contributed Photo As her colleagues left town, Lou Tanyu (pictured), who grew up in Stamford, stuck it out in the New Haven public school district. Tanyu served out her two obligatory years in TFA and stayed on for a third. She teaches English language arts at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School.

When she first started teaching, she discovered that some of her students in the 7th and 8th grade were reading at a 2nd-grade level.

“I’d always been told of all these disparities” but she had not previously encountered them firsthand. She faced some “unexpected situations,” like when a student who threw a chair across the room. She said she went through “a huge learning curve” in figuring out the best way to teach her students.

Now she feels she has hit her stride. “After feeling the success I’ve had with my students,” she said, “I’m really happy with where I am.” She’s applying to become a “future leader,” the first step in a new career ladder that could lead to a principal job.

“I definitely see this as a lifelong career,” she said.

Meanwhile, at Domus Academy, a small middle school for troubled kids, two new TFA recruits have replaced outgoing teachers from Shorrock’s TFA class. The school was born in 2010, when the school district tapped a Stamford-based social services agency to take over a failing school. Domus argued that TFA teachers, who tend to be highly educated, bright and hard-working, are worth the investment even if they leave after two years.

Melissa Bailey Photo Domus Academy hired five rookie TFA teachers its first year. All have left the school. Reached Tuesday, Tyrone Mayorga (pictured) said he’s working at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, en route to becoming a dentist. Three of his TFA cohort from Domus stayed in teaching, according to former director of curriculum Richard Cheng.

Cheng, a TFA alum, spoke by phone from Philadelphia, where he’s in business school. A star teacher at Domus, Cheng fulfilled his two-year TFA commitment at one of Domus’ Stamford schools, then helped Domus open its New Haven school. Just two years out of college, he coached new TFA recruits and took on many responsibilities of a vice-principal. Click on the play arrow to watch him command a “silent class” when he substitute-taught one day in 2010. 

Cheng worked for Domus for four total years before heading to graduate school this fall. He’s enrolled in a joint program between Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania; he plans to leave with an MBA and a masters in public policy after three years. He’s not sure of his plans after school. He said he aims to return to education in a role that has more impact.

“I would love to lead a school district one day,” he said, or work for a charter school organization.

TFA alums may not stay in the classroom, he argued, but most “still have an interest in education. Regardless of what we end up doing, we’ll always be an advocate for education and education reform.”

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posted by: JohnTulin on December 4, 2012  4:36pm

Shocker.  And this is news, because….??  Any teacher could have predicted/told you this, as I have on here many times…

“I would love to lead a school district one day,” he said, or work for a charter school organization…..he said, as he quit….unreal. 

And you wonder why real teachers role their eyes at the mention of TFA.

posted by: anonymous on December 4, 2012  4:59pm

One of the district’s goals should be to correct the glaringly unequal work opportunities for residents within New Haven. 

Is TFA displacing New Haven residents who might otherwise have the skills necessary to be hired as teachers?

I believe that close to 80% of teaching staff at NHPS identify themselves as White, and 70-80% live outside of the City of New Haven. 

The numbers are the opposite of that if you look at the composition of students and families enrolled in NHPS.

Has NHPS ever considered residency incentives, like what Yale University provides to its staff? 

We need to promote economic opportunity for young persons of color who live in New Haven, not keep doing things the same way, year after year.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on December 4, 2012  6:59pm

A few years ago in the midst of conversations and comments on this site about public school education, I pointed out that TFA was a group of students who use this program as a mere stepping stone to other things and resume fillers for their applications to elite professional schools. 

I received a telephone call from a person who was irate about my comments pointing out that his wife, I believe, was a TFA member and that my assessment was incorrect about what the members did and do with these opportunities. 

I wonder if that person would continue to dispute my assessment today.

Rev. Samuel T. Ross-Lee

posted by: TryingToRemainAnonymous on December 4, 2012  7:01pm

TFA is in direct opposition to what Pryor talked about last week: training teachers.

So sad that an 8 week summer training session is what is held in the highest regard as what is best. It is a failure.

Actually, TFA has succeeded in doing EXACTLY what it set forth to do: Create more employees for TFA. TFA expects its recruits to work for two years in urban schools and then leave teaching, but stay with TFA.

Students NEED consistency. Why get to know someone for two years if he/she is just going to leave?

Shame.

Oh, and that $2500 x 46 ($115,000) could have been used to replace old/broken technology in schools. It could have been used to staff two libraries.

posted by: Threefifths on December 4, 2012  8:21pm

Snake-Oil and Three card monte.

Why Teach For America Is Not Welcome in My Classroom

By Mark Naison

Every spring, without fail, a Teach for America recruiter approaches me and asks if they can come to my classes and recruit students for TFA, and every year, without fail, I give them the same answer.

“Sorry.”

Until Teach for America becomes committed to training lifetime educators and raises the length of service to five years rather than two, I will not allow TFA to recruit in my classes.  The idea of sending talented students into schools in impoverished areas, and then after two years encouraging them to pursue careers in finance, law, and business in the hope that they will then advocate for educational equity really rubs me the wrong way.

http://www.laprogressive.com/teach-america/#sthash.y3kCTPnl.dpbs

posted by: Wildwest on December 4, 2012  9:32pm

Maybe if this city wasn’t so backwards and was slightly more normal(less blatant criminal activity) these teachers would stay. The longer one lives here the more normal it can seems but I can tell you after 5 years here it still has not come close to feeling like home. I used to think I was a liberal until I moved here.

posted by: HhE on December 4, 2012  11:19pm

I have never seen a TFA teacher in action, but the model seams problematic to me.  Two years of teaching experience is still a rookie.  It takes about five years experience to really get it.  (Albeit, my Mother had only two years of classroom teaching before she went into staff development and administration.  She did however attend Columbia TC and earned an EdD between the teaching and teaching teachers.)

anonymous, the only goal the NHPS ought to have is provide the best education for its students.  The best candidate available ought to be hired for a given position.  What makes one person more qualified over another is certainly debatable:  ethnicity, experience, education, and many more.

I do think it would be a good idea to recruit promising NHPS students into the teaching profession.  A program could include opportunities to tutor other students, trips to normal schools, and practicums during college vacations. 

Minority candidates often go to the front of the line when apply for positions.  Some districts, like Greenwich, actively recruit.  Others take a “we would hire the if they applied approach.”

posted by: FrontStreet on December 4, 2012  11:37pm

Similar dynamic in primary care/community health centers.  The US government has incentives for medical providers to work in community health centers (green card for MDs from abroad after 3 years at a community health center and $ 25 000 - $ 35 0000 of loan repayment per year for US citizens).  Yet most still leave after their 3 years (for foreign born MDs) or when loans are repaid (US citizens).  Why?  Working in underserved areas is tough work.  Easy to come in for two years and be a rock star, but much harder to put in the work, year after year, on the front lines.

Kudos to all the TFAs, but let’s not forget who the real heros are:  the teachers who dedicate their lives to the schools and students they serve.

posted by: Tom Burns on December 5, 2012  1:16am

No one has more of an IMPACT on students than their teachers, so stick around if an impact is what you would like to make in our children’s lives—-by leaving you really mean the impact you plan to make is in your life—the real work is done on the ground—thanks for the service and I wish you well—Tom

posted by: Jacques Strap on December 5, 2012  8:54am

@anonymous—Why should it matter whether a New Haven is white and lives outside New Haven?  If a teacher is dedicated to his/her students, then color and residence doesn’t matter.  To suggest that students of color would respond better to teachers of color is to provide students with an excuse for not achieving.  Outside of school, society is made of all colors and races; and everybody has somebody to answer to, be they colored or caucasian.  To suggest that TFA dsiplaces New Haveners seeking teaching jobs is giving those who don’t want to put in the work to become a teacher a crutch.  Stop looking for a handout.

posted by: westville man on December 5, 2012  9:54am

Most of us knew this was coming. The history spoke for itself.

@MikeM;  if that’s your impression of the City then you’re invited to leave…asap.
I’ve been here for 15 yrs and i came from the “backward” suburbs.
@Jacques Strap-  color does indeed matter in all aspects of America.  And any further “whitening” of the teaching ranks is not a good trend for children of color. I say that as a father of an African-American child.
Been there, seen it.

posted by: ISR on December 5, 2012  9:56am

The solution is to raise the status of teaching to that of high-end Wall Street bean counter. Many abandoners of TFA, I am sure would prefer teaching to pushing paper across a desk if there were more in it than virtue being its own reward.  That’s the secret sauce of the top scoring nations such as Finland, Singapore, and Korea. Teaching, in those countries,  is a venerated profession attracting the best and the brightest. People follow their self-interest, so it’s no surprise when TFA associates leave.

It’s not just a matter of pay. Rather than just paying lip service to to the nobility of teaching, Finland, Singapore, and Korea provide continuous mentoring and training for new recruits.

From an ironical historical perspective, before the rise of feminist attitudes in the workplace, the best and the brightest women were often relegated to the classroom since they had few other options.

TFA does not contribute to this status raising of the profession. It just gives a few thousand elites the personal recognition that they really don’t want to be a teacher for the rest of their lives. They see the opportunity cost.

Before we raise the status of teaching, and stop demonizing them as union thugs—and I’m not holding my breath—the best single thing we could do is to divert resources into fully funding Head Start. That’s would all the available research points to, but early childhood educators have even lower status that K-12 teachers. So I’m not holding my breath about that either.

(@FrontStreet. At least in medicine, those short-term doctors are fully trained members of the profession. Their day-to-day effectiveness is not affected if they’re not around a year later. Personally, I’d have the government pay for all medical education with the expectation of at least 5-years placement where they would be most needed.)

posted by: RevKev on December 5, 2012  10:16am

From a 2008 article in the National Education Association website:

Nationally, the average turnover for all teachers is 17 percent, and in urban school districts specifically, the number jumps to 20 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future proffers starker numbers, estimating that one-third of all new teachers leave after three years, and 46 percent are gone within five years.

Their departure through what researchers call the “revolving door” that’s spinning ever faster—the commission estimates teacher attrition has grown by 50 percent over the past 15 years—costs roughly $7 billion a year, as districts and states recruit, hire, and try to retain new teachers. “There is this idea that we can solve the teaching shortage with recruitment,” says commission President Tom Carroll. “What we have is a retention crisis.” Likening it to continually dumping sand into a bucket with holes in the bottom, Carroll says, “as fast as [the districts] are moving teachers into schools, they’re leaving.”

My point? The issue of teacher retention is NOT uniquely a TFA issue. The issue is how we do education in this country. Particularly I’m talking about leaving it all to the schools. Education is a COMMUNITY issue. The schools are a part of the community but not the only part and most certainly not the only ones responsible.

Maybe if we stopped looking for whipping boys (and girls) and started looking for real solutions we might actually find them.

posted by: anonymous on December 5, 2012  11:14am

Jacques Strap - your argument about talent is generally correct, but you completely ignore the real issue here. The facts are relevant in the sense of what they illuminate about opportunities for local residents.

Let’s say you lived in Hamden and went to Hamden City Hall and Hamden Schools, and everyone working there was clearly not from Hamden (based on their address, height, dialect spoken, race, income, or any other analysis). Would you still strongly support your town raising taxes to give all of them a huge salary increase? Would you feel that you yourself had the opportunity to work there some day?  Would you wonder whether those persons were hired not simply on the basis of their abilities, but perhaps for some other reason, like whoever doing the hiring preferring people with those characteristics?

posted by: Jacques Strap on December 5, 2012  12:08pm

@anonymous—I want the best teachers in our schools. Period.  I don’t care what color they are or what town they reside.  If a teacher is highly effective, I want my tax dollars paying his/her salary.

As for teachers being hired for something other than their ability, well, that happens in every profession.  Friends, acquaintances, etc., are hired sometimes over more qualified candidates.  It’s not right.

Your assertion that people in New Haven should get first crack at New Haven teaching jobs simply because they live in the city, and are of the same color of the majority of New Haven’s students, does not ensure that the most qualified candidates are hired as teachers.

posted by: Wildwest on December 5, 2012  12:48pm

I’m sorry you see it that way Westville man, until many basic problems are addressed in New Haven people will continue to leave. There is no doubt in my mind that this could be an inviting city to live in with its close proximity to tidal waters and amazing parks on all sides of the city. When people dont feel safe to walk alone, have their cars broken into and stolen, dirtbikes and quads all over the city every sunny day etc. etc. etc.(the list could be much bigger) people will look for greener pastures in other cities/“backward” suburbs. I’ve lived in at least 6 other cities from the east to the west and I have never seen such a dysfunctional city. I think its safe to say we could keep 8 out of 16 of these teachers if they felt like they could afford(high taxes) to live here safely(high crime). Not everyone can afford to live in East Rock and Westville.

posted by: JohnTulin on December 5, 2012  12:52pm

TFA is nothing but a resume builder or something noble to do for most of these young martyrs….er, adults, eventually moving on to bigger and better things.

Simple solution, make the classroom requirement 5 or 8 years.  Then you will only get those truly interested in teaching (and not dentistry, public policy, wall street, etc). 

Mike M - you were never liberal then, just young.

posted by: anonymous on December 5, 2012  12:55pm

“Friends, acquaintances, etc., are hired sometimes over more qualified candidates.”

Yes, Jacques, so your “oops factor” must explain why the police forces in the South were almost entirely European-Americans in the 1960s, even where the population was mostly African-American. Or was it just that they were more qualified, and that good officers couldn’t be found from other communities? 

Same goes for the 1,300+ teachers in New Haven.  Your stance leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy - the “most qualified” teachers who you seek will never come from Newhallville if we don’t hire them in the first place.

posted by: westville man on December 5, 2012  2:07pm

Jacques Strap-  i wish it was a metric system of measuring a “qualified” teacher as you seem to infer. Many, many qualities and talents go into that equation.
MikeM- I’m sorry your experience has been that way but for your info- New Haven population has been growing for 10 years now.  And it’s not just Westville & East Rock.  Fair Haven, Beaver Hills, Morris Cove and a few others smaller areas are doing well. I’m very aware of the problems the city faces in some of the poorer neighborhoods as well as some of the ones mentioned. But on the balance, there’s also advantages here that you cannot find in the suburbs.

posted by: RealTeacherBPT on December 5, 2012  3:05pm

Oh shocker, another anti-TFA article wrapped in under-handed compliments. You have a super-negative title, but then give TFA teachers well-deserved compliments but everyone is still too worked up from the title to see them. First of all, rumor dispelling time. I am a REAL teacher I have my bachelor’s degree in Education from a STATE school, am certified, and have experience volunteering and subbing in classroom’s. Get ready for the big one: I’m multi-ethnic. I still decided to join TFA. In fact, nation-wide TFA has a 60% retetion rate of teachers, which is higher than the district retention rate of teacher’s in some of our nation’s poorest cities. The number one reason that I decided to join TFA was because I did not feel that my college education prepared me fully to enter the classroom. Say what you will TFA is there for its teachers and that silly “8 week preparation program” was one of the hardest 8 weeks of my life.  Teacher-preparation is a nation-wide flaw and that is why we see teachers (TFA and non) alike fleeing classrooms. Unless you teach you have no idea what it is like on a daily basis in a classroom. I plan on making this a lifelong career but I’ll be honest in the future I am going to leave my classroom to work in the field of teacher preparation because the success of our classrooms rides on the shoulders of teachers. I will most likely work in teacher preparation with TFA because I don’t have the time and priviledge to get a PhD and work at the university level, whose methods and advice are antiquated anyway. The way they “teach you to be a teacher” in a university is almost the adverse of expecatations in the real-world. I just think it is a silly to blast someone for leaving a job. At first I felt the same way many of you do. However, teaching in a classroom is some of the best experience one can get before entering the field of medicine, law, social work, and non-profit jobs. On a daily basis we are encouraged to push our students to follow their dreams so why shouldn’t we? Instead of having a bunch of people in these fields who are super-priviledged and super-clueless about how real people live we have people who are grounded and humbled by their classroom experiences.

posted by: Curious on December 5, 2012  3:21pm

...and my comment about how nice it is that four of sixteen teachers actually STAYED as opposed to focusing on the twelve who left, when TFA posts are temporary, wasn’t posted for what reason?

posted by: RichTherrn on December 5, 2012  3:32pm

Many of the TFAs referred to are or were science, most were middle school science. This is a very difficult position to fill, and we have significant turnover every year. We hire people certified in all sorts of ways, with a variety of backgrounds, and from a variety of towns. We look for teachers that will collaborate, plan, have high energy and work ethic, and most of all connect with students and actively teach them science skills and content. We try to interview everyone that is certified and qualified and work with administrators to find the best match… in some cases those are TFAs, and in some cases it is someone else.  Wexler students have been fortunate to have good science instruction the last three years.
By the way, there are some loan forgiveness programs and mortgage assistance programs (chfa.org) available to any educator in a shortage area (such as science or administration) and also in a priority district (such as New Haven).
Richard Therrien
NHPS Science Supervisor

posted by: anonymous on December 5, 2012  4:27pm

Rich: those CHFA programs are appreciated by some teachers and other public employees, but if there ever was a drop in the bucket, you’ve found it.  Holding that up as a solution to this issue is like saying that we can increase our graduation rate by giving every high school graduate a $20 gift card to Walmart.  We need residency incentives, but we need ones that actually work, not just shave a fraction of a point off the mortgage interest.

posted by: Curious on December 5, 2012  5:11pm

A lot of people are overlooking that TFA is attractive to new grads because it helps with their student loans.

http://www.teachforamerica.org/why-teach-for-america/compensation-and-benefits/assistance-pre-existing-loans

They have the same kind of thing for nurses.  Teach in a crappy, underserved area,  and we’ll help pay your loans.  It’s the same reason a new urologist can earn $200,000 in their first year out of residency in New York City, or $400,000 in some podunk town in Oregon…because no one else who is better qualified wants to work there.

Oh and feel free to tell me to leave New Haven if it’s so bad, or tell me it’s not bad at all.  Reality check - you don’t see new grads doing their TFA time in Fairfield or Darien.

posted by: FrontStreet on December 5, 2012  5:47pm

As a 15 year resident, home-owner, and health care provider in New Haven, I, like MikeM, am all too frequently stunned by the depth and intensity of political and municipal dysfunction and patronage.  And I have grown to love New Haven, warts and all.  But sometimes, jeez, New Haven leaders, could you just give it a rest and do the right thing?!

posted by: RichTherrn on December 5, 2012  6:14pm

@anonymous: I completely agree!!... but I know not everyone knows about these, so I share when I can.

Not sure why there is some much consternation about a program that is providing good teachers for New Haven students. I think we actively explore all alternatives and recruitment/retention pathways. The fact is that there are areas of educator shortage, and TFA (and other programs like it, such as Math for America) is helping us fill that need.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on December 5, 2012  6:41pm

@RevKev You are correct.  Education in this country IS done wrong.  We do leave the community out of the process, criticism and critique in significant ways, and that needs to change.

But you are NOT correct that the TFA is not unique. TFA’s situation IS unique and unique to it. While there are retention issues across the board, that is true of most so-call helping professions, of which teaching is one. BUT, the TFA situation is GEARED toward a quick turn over and drop out rate.

There are persons who come to the profession and decide to leave AFTER they get there and discover, for whatever reason, that they don’t like it or can’t handle it.  But the TFA people decide to sign up for only two years BEFORE they step foot in the classroom and most do those two years and never look back. 

It’s the TFA model that is unique to them, and high retention rates runs counter to the TFA model.

Rev. Samuel T. Ross-Lee

posted by: Brutus2011 on December 5, 2012  8:25pm

What TFA does well is to protect its teachers. A non-TFA new teacher has almost no standing and consequently no protection from the vagaries of budgeting, vicissitudes of life, and administrative shenanigans (usually brought on by the financial incentive).

NHPS admins and managers know that TFA’s are protected and they look for easier prey when they need to cover rear-ends of the favored status.

I have worked side by side with TFA’s and I have nothing but good things to say about them. I also took a grad class with a TFA’s from Duke and she was a joy to know.

But make no mistake about this—the problem in our city’s schools is that there is a pronounced lack of a proper learning environment that erodes learning time significantly. This begins with school-wide culture and infects individual classrooms.

There is no preparation for new teachers to combat this. Some make it, some can’t. Teacher preparation is not the efficient answer.

What all who read this needs to realize is that this is a problem of those who are very well paid to solve problems such as this—our mayor, our BOE, our superintendent of schools, our assistant superintendents, our district supervisors, our consultants, our principals, our ass’t principals and our subject coaches.

But obviously they either can’t or won’t—we need to replace those administrators with those who can.

posted by: Concerned711 on December 6, 2012  1:40am

Brutus2011, I just want to clarify something before people are misinformed based on your comment. TFA teachers are hired as certified teachers through their district. There are no special protections and it’s misleading to suggest otherwise. I appreciate that you’ve brought to light though an issue that is more grounded, which is the need to look at school cultures and the learning environment as the place where our focus should be drawn to make a positive impact on our kids.

posted by: Concerned711 on December 6, 2012  1:49am

Rev Samuel- I would hope that we can avoid vast generalizations, especially if you are not a part of the organization for which you are making a judgement. Your statement: “But the TFA people decide to sign up for only two years BEFORE they step foot in the classroom and most do those two years and never look back. It’s the TFA model that is unique to them, and high retention rates runs counter to the TFA model” is grossly exaggerated. TFA “people” are passionate young adults who join the program because they see disparities in education and want to make an impact. TFA is a selective program and those who are chosen make the decision to join for non-selfish reasons. The 2-year commitment allows those teachers to decide if it’s the right fit considering we don’t have a background in education and the decision to stay is largely dependent on what those years are like in the actual schools and districts. Retention rates would be higher if TFA “people” felt satisfied in how the schools were run for our kids. You have to understand that coming from successful undergraduate programs, most TFA teachers are used to efficiency. If the realities are vastly different from those hopes, you cannot blame a TFA teacher (or any teacher) to seek other opportunities. It is irresponsible to suggest that anyone makes such a concrete decision before the actual experience, and we should instead look at the reasons for why retention of teachers in urban districts is low as a whole.

posted by: True that on December 6, 2012  3:21am

TFA is problematic.  All reliable research clearly demonstrates that a teacher does not become truly effective until after year three.  If the vast majority of these wonderful teachers leave after two years, then they are not effective teachers.  How are we determining their effectiveness if they are only teaching two years?  Are we using their student’s test scores?  Regular assessments, disciplinary data, implementation of curriculum, parental engagement, instructional methodology, student engagement?

Again, research demonstrates that lower achievers are much more likely to get an inexperience teacher and that inexperience negatively impacts student achievement.  So if inexperience is correlated to low student achievement, why would New Haven support a program that, by it’s very nature, insures that students will have inexperienced teachers?

The Union President’s comments make no sense.  Non-TFA teachers also have an educational background, don’t they?  Or has there been some program whereby New Haven has been hiring uneducated teachers? 

TFA is a joke, and any district that takes TFA TEACHERS is taking the easy way out.  Focus on supporting new teachers, depoliticizing the hiring processes in New Haven, hiring a new superintendent, paying teachers an attractive salary, hiring school leaders who are capable and not political lacklackeysve an elected school board, and spend the money the district has wisely (not on consultants), and things will improve.

posted by: mechanic on December 6, 2012  9:34am

In my experience (5+ years living and teaching in New Haven), quality of administration is the number one issue (and possibly numbers 2 & 3 as well) that impacts teacher retention.  Too often we are being managed, evaluated, and directed by administrators who have been advanced by the Peter Pan principle.

posted by: Curious on December 6, 2012  9:37am

TFA provides teachers to UNDERSERVED areas.

Wake up, critics.  “Underserved” means ALMOST NO ONE WANTS TO TEACH HERE.

By not having TFA teachers, those spots would go unfilled.  That means NO teacher at all.

Stop crying about how you’re not getting getting the best teacher and one who would stay forever, because the alternative is to not have a teacher in that classroom at all.

Stop criticizing TFA which is plugging a hole in the sinking ship of the New Haven school system, and start criticizing the New Haven Board of Education for being so terrible that it can’t hire and retain better teachers who would stay on for longer than two years.

posted by: Brutus2011 on December 6, 2012  10:19am

to “Concerned711:”

You misunderstand my use of the word “protected” in this context.

I did not say or mean that TFA protects its teachers because of some deficiency in either licensing or preparation—although I understand that TFA teachers are given time to get complete full certification requirements if they could minimally pass the Praxis II exam. This allowed them to teach under a DSAP (Durational Shortage Area Permit) certificate and is not a license to teach. DSAP is basically an invitation to teach by the district and is revocable at any time for any reason by simply withdrawing the invitation.)

I meant protection against administrative malfeasance or against a administrator who seeks to apply the “feces flows downhill principle” to TFA teachers.

It is important that those who read your comment about my comment understand this important reality in our school system.

Every TFA teacher I have known and spoken with about why they not only chose to leave NHPS but couldn’t wait to leave was because of the way the school(s) were being run.

All NHPS and NHFT officials who either have been quoted in this article or have commented thus know and are aware of this “dirty little secret” about the realities of teaching in our district.

The obvious question is why do those with the responsibility to oversee our schools continue to allow this fundamental problem to persist year after year?

And sadly, why do we teachers allow them to get away with it?

posted by: Threefifths on December 6, 2012  4:04pm

Take a look at this.He is tell the real deal on TFA.

Ed Dispatch: A Former TFA Teacher


http://youtu.be/2-LW31oQ-bc

posted by: Drosophila on the Wall on December 7, 2012  2:05pm

Teachers may really hit their stride only after teaching for two years, and, all else being equal, consistency is probably better for students than the lack thereof.  These arguments, however, don’t really address the question of whether hiring TFA teachers is better for New Haven than not hiring TFA teachers.  For instance, if two years of teaching by a TFA recruit are better for students than two years of teaching by a non-TFA recruit, it would be in the school system’s interest to hire TFA teachers regardless of whether or not they are operating at their personal maximal “effectiveness.”  This article gives me the impression that the people running New Haven schools, the NHPS as an organization, and the teachers’ unions all think that hiring TFA teachers is a better decision than not hiring them, low retention rate notwithstanding.  Arguing that the retention rate is too low doesn’t really address the relevant question, which is whether or not a low retention rate is WORSE for students than not hiring TFA teachers in the first place.  I have yet to see someone convincingly make this case.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on December 7, 2012  2:37pm

This publication CLEARLY has an interest in muting my voice on this site, which of course means to me that what I write is an effective argument against the point of view that they wish to promote.  There tactic here would be funny were it not so incredibly sad and contradictory to any journalistic values.

Since “Curious” in this particular discussion is representing this publication’s view, that poster is allowed to do so several times, while my responses to him/her are not published. 

“Curious’” factless polemic to me was responded to by me, but the NHI choose not to print it.  I do believe that the Independent’s policy on this site was put in place as a cover for its desire to censor comments that it did not like, while pretending to offer a free and open discussion for its readers. 

The facts presented in my original statement can be verified by a simple goggle search while the wild assertions granted by “Curious’”  comments can’t be verified ANYWHERE.

But for the record, those who are reding this site for the sake of engaging an honest discussion among readers should be forewarned that the New Haven Independent is only publishing partial discussions and thereby distorting the conversation, and, by extension, the news.

If THIS post gets seen by the reading public, I’d be surprised, though.

Rev. Samuel T. Ross-Lee

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