Seattle teachers union leaders are spreading misinformation against bright young Teach for America talent

November 11, 2010

Next week, on November 17th, the Seattle School Board will vote on whether or not to let Seattle's school principals hire bright young Teach for America (TFA) teachers to teach Seattle's children.

The teachers union is conducting a whispering campaign against this very bright and talented group of young teachers.  The union is telling parents that TFA teachers are untrained and less qualified than teachers trained in traditional schools of education.

This is flatly untrue.  The Teach for America training model has proven itself in spades.

Teach for America selects college graduates from the most selective colleges in the nation based on their proven leadership skills, grade point averages, and subject matter knowledge. It is much more difficult to be accepted into a Teach for America training program than into a traditional teachers college. Last year, 46,000 college graduates applied to Teach for America, but only 4,500 were granted spots. 

A national survey of principals indicates that 94% of school principals say that TFA teachers are just as effective, if not more so, as traditionally trained teachers. 

Controlled academic statistical studies comparing the impact on student learning of TFA and traditionally trained teachers bear this out.  See this study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education here, and by the Urban Institute, here. The Harvard study shows that the academic skills a teacher brings to the classroom confer ten times the educational advantage to students compared to that conferred by a teaching credential.

Another benefit of TFA teachers is that they are much more diverse than traditionally trained teachers.  One-third of Teach for America candidates are people of color, while 2007 figures for Seattle's teachers reveal that only 7.5% of Seattle's school-of-education-trained teachers are people of color. 

In the 2010 legislative session, the Washington State legislature passed SB 6696 Section 502, which allowed  alternative training programs like TFA to enter Washington. Regulators at the state have specifically approved the Teach for America program.   

Engaging in a whispering campaign against bright young talent for Seattle's schools is unprofessional, unethical, and violates the trust that the community places in teachers.  Yes, union leaders fear change coming to schools, but if they care about children, as they claim to do, they should tell the truth about TFA teachers and help these bright young teachers teach children in Seattle.


The State of Our Education

Dear Polite Readers,

The rabid comments attached to Ms. Finne's blog reflect on the one hand the venomous politicization of education in the US and on the other the derelict state of our schools and moribund state of our society.

Videlicet: That the response to an opinion piece should be childish ranting is unconscionable. Disagree, yes, but do so civilly. Our inability to participate in civil discourse about education belies the irrational (i.e., politicized) ferment that has displaced reason and common sense in this country and more particularly in the consideration of reforms (educational or otherwise).

Shame on those who rely on the volume of their voices rather than the reason of their minds. Such deafening howls have no place in a civilized society. If our schools provided a better education, then perhaps individuals would be capable of respectful intellectual exchanges instead of these vulgar fits of passion. The ability to maintain differences unemotionally while illustrating our positions with clarity and concision is certainly an ideal we ought to espouse.


Democritus Junior

Pot calling kettle...


If TFA is so honest, why didn't their rep mention that training was limited to five weeks when she visited RBHS?

Why, when they measure their student's progress to two decimal places, do they make the vague assertion about their own retention as "two thirds stay in the education field?"

Why, when peer-reviewed studies fail to show their brightest-and best-ness, do they malign the peer-review process (the gold standard in all academic sciences?)

All the reasons why the Baord should vote NO on TFA

You need to vote "NO" to bringing TFA into this city...

1: there is no need

2: there is no need and we dont have the money

3: there is no need, we dont have the money and you havent put the contract out to bid

4: there is no need, we dont have the money, you havent put the contract out to bid and you havent asked us what we think

5: there is no need, we dont have the money, you havent put the contract out to bid, you havent asked us what we think and its against the law - WAC 181-79A-231

6: there is no need, we dont have the money, you havent asked us what we think, its against the law and you will face several lawsuits if you go ahead, which you will loose, as happened in California ...

Many Seattle parents, teachers and community members - whom you represent - want you to stop this underhanded move to continue on the privatisation of public education path.

See here for some of their comments:

Vote NO to TFA on Wednesday....

Who's in charge of Seattle Schools?

Lets get real about what the problem is... and its not teachers

Education blame game - Teachers made scapegoats for our society's failings:

Sandy Poole Keiter: Before you call my hardworking husband a "failing teacher" because too many of his students and their families are struggling, think again. It just might be our society that's failing....

and throwing in a bunch of fresh-faced recruits in front of already vulnerable school communities is not going to fix this...

Maybe its time someone asked right wing think tankers to give up some of their salaries and perks to share with the less fortunate in our world... but that's not what capitalism and the free market does, is it?

Be honest about who pays your salary Liv

Let's just be open and honest about who pays your salary Liv, that way when you spout nonsense like this everyone can simply shrug it off:

Not the Right Direction

Hey, correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't Seattle Public Schools and nearly all education policy folks promoted the idea of putting our most expert and experienced teachers in our most challenging schools? And haven't the District and nearly all of the education policy folks said that we need to reduce the teacher turnover in these schools?

If that's the case, then how can the District or education policy types support a plan to bring novice teachers into these schools when everyone knows that novice teachers are the least effective? If that's the case, then how can the District or education policy types support a plan to bring teachers into these schools who are very unlikely to remain as teachers at the schools after two years?

Using Teach for America corps members in these schools is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what the District and education policy analysts have recommended. So why would the District and education policy wonks suddenly reverse themselves? It makes no sense.

Completely false

Almost everything written in this article is false.

First, there is no whispering campaign. People aren't whispering; they are shouting. All of the opposition to bringing Teach for America to Seattle is out in the open. It is out in the open in the press, out in the open online, and out in the open in testimony to the School Board.

This contrasts starkly with the behind-the-scenes effort to bring Teach for America to Seattle. Check the "community engagement" done on this effort. It consisted entirely of Teach for America meeting with like-minded Education Reform groups. There was no effort to actually engage the community.

Second, the opposition to a Teach for America contract in Seattle isn't coming from the teachers' union; it is coming from the informed members of the community as well. It would be one thing if there were only special interests opposing this, but that is not the case. On the contrary, it is only special interests who are supporting it.

Third, the most reliable and meaningful studies on the effectiveness of Teach for America corps members show that they are essentially as effective as novice teachers from traditional teacher training programs. No more effective and no less effective. What isn't mentioned is that novice teachers are the least effective group of teachers.

Fourth, no one has spoken against Teach for America. TfA is a wonderful organization and they are critically needed in some parts of the country where schools cannot hire certificated teachers. That's not the case in Seattle. There is no teacher shortage here. There is no shortage of teachers who want to work in challenging schools. There were 800 certified teacher applicants for teaching jobs at West Seattle Elementary this year. We don't need a candidate pool any deeper or broader than that.

There are, however, parts of the country that don't have certified teachers available. Teach for America should focus their efforts in those areas where students would otherwise have a non-certificated teacher or a series of long-term substitutes. Not in Seattle. That's not a good use of Teach for America's precious resources.

Finally, give the state law a good read. Conditional certificates are only supposed to be bestowed when there is no certificated teacher available or the candidate has specific personal talent or experience that cannot be found in a certificated candidate for the job. That's simply not the case in Seattle. To request a conditional certificate for a Teach for America corps member in Seattle would be an abuse of the law.

Teach for America is a fine organization full of terrific young people with the best of intentions. They just aren't needed in Seattle and the backdoor effort to ram them into our schools has been deceitful and underhanded.

"whispering campaign?" Ha!

"whispering campaign?" Ha! You know what's unethical? Pitting teachers against the community they've been serving so well, for so long.

As an involved parent of a Seattle school student, I can attest that there is no whispering going on (except from the Superintendent who thinks she should be allowed to push through any reform idea she can slide past the community). In fact, it's a vociferous and boisterous campaign to keep TfA OUT of Seattle.

We are not lacking for great teachers; we have great teachers who need a job, in fact. I do NOT want my child taught by a recently-graduated "leader." I want all children taught by *professional teachers* with professional training.

Liv, The teachers are


The teachers are sticking up for the children of Seattle's schools and also for the integrity of their profession. Whether you agree or not with their position, questioning their motives and calling them unprofessional and unethical is, well, unprofessional and unethical.

Regarding your claim that the "Teach for America training model has proven itself in spades", I urge you to do your research. One of the studies you cite is not even peer reviewed. If you look at the peer reviewed evidence, as the Great Lakes study did, you'll find that "A district whose primary goal is to improve achievement should explore and fund other educational reform that may have more promise such as universal preschool, mentoring programs pairing novice and expert teachers, elimination of tracking, and reduction in early grade class size."

Engaging in a whispering

Engaging in a whispering campaign against bright young talent for Seattle's schools is unprofessional, unethical, and violates the trust that the community places in teachers.

This is a ridiculous assertion. There's no "whispering campaign" against TFA, because there doesn't need to be.

It's patently obvious that putting inexperienced teachers that are highly likely not to stay in the classroom beyond two years is not the right thing to do for kids in high poverty schools.

Paying for the $4000 a year per teacher for the privilege when the district says it doesn't have enough money to keep Family Support Workers or high school counselors is unbelievably stupid.

TFA may be a good match for districts with a shortage of highly qualified, experienced teachers. Seattle's not that district.

The TFA proposal is more about TFA's needs than it is about the Seattle School's needs.

It's shameful.

This is a the nazi technique

This is a the nazi technique being used by the Washington Policy Centre...

"whispering campaign"?... Rubbish...

Those of us (citizens and teachers and parents) who dont want TFA in our schools, are shouting loudly from all the rooftops...

These TFA recruits might be bright young people but they are NOT TEACHERS.... not after 5 weeks bootcamp training...

And TFA doesnt care about our kids - its focus (and that of the Gates-funded Washington Policy Centre) is on changing the education system - privatising it...

and there are many, many of us in Seattle who wont stand for it... you ought to read some of the commentary on the Save Seattle Schools blog...

The school district will be facing more lawsuits if it goes forward on this...


For verification purposes, the last two post were mine.

I am a parent with a child in the Seattle Public School system and I represent hundreds of other parents who are saying "NO!" to TFA.

Dora Taylor


If you want two peer reviewed studies that give the facts, see:

Each TFA recruit will cost the district $4,000 per year for "training".

That is too much for too little.


As parents, we do not want under trained and ill prepared recruits teaching our kids.