Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Public school board members who voted to support the hiring of qualified and certified teachers for city schools. Those members wisely and responsibly voted to rescind a contract with Teach for America.
Teach for America contends that recent college graduates who complete a five-week training course are equipped to teach in America’s urban schools. TFA teachers agree to work in their assigned schools for two years. A Post-Gazette editorial (Dec. 20) argued that a contract with TFA would “have brought fresh talent to the district’s most challenging buildings.” It wrongly described the board members’ vote not to hire TFA as “preposterous.”
The only thing that is preposterous is the idea that five weeks of training would prepare anyone to address the many needs of today’s students. Successful teachers have deep knowledge of their subject matter and specific skills that help students learn. They have regular practice under the mentorship of experienced teachers, guidance especially in their early years, and opportunities to refine their skills as they mature. It’s educational nonsense and incredibly unfair to students to assume that someone with little more than one month’s training can be adequately prepared to teach effectively.
The PG describes the objections of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers to TFA as based on “protectionism.” In fact, the PFT has long supported rigorous hiring practices and, over the years, has consistently argued for effective and worthwhile professional development programs for new and experienced teachers. The PFT has been and is forward thinking about training and staffing of teachers. The union knows how important effective teaching is to student learning.
PFT members also know that there is no shortcut to successful teaching, and the union is correct in arguing against TFA’s quick-fix approach to staffing of schools. Students need more than the PG-described “fresh talent” that TFA supposedly would provide. They need teachers who know what they’re doing, are committed to the profession and are dedicated to the students, the schools and the communities where they teach.
Recognition should go to the teachers, parents and community members who spoke out in support of properly trained teachers. Certainly, credit must go to the board members who voted correctly on this important issue.
The writer is a former president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.