Get off the Teach for America bandwagon

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Please, enough with the Post-Gazette’s expounding the virtues of bringing Teach for America into the region’s schools. The latest editorial (“Wilkinsburg’s Woes: A Troubled District Could Use Teach for America,” Dec. 28) points to the many ineptitudes of the Wilkinsburg School District including filling vacancies in high school classrooms. So clearly the solution is — ta-da! — Teach for America.

No, it is not. The solution is for the school board in Wilkinsburg to take on its elected responsibilities. It is time for this group to provide meaningful oversight of the challenged Wilkinsburg School District’s administration — oversight that questions this administration’s policies and spending, and demands accountability. If the school board is unable or unwilling to do so, then the state Department of Education has a responsibility to step in.

Lest we forget, Teach for America is not a free or quick fix for troubled school districts. The turnover is high among TFA teachers, which means for school districts attempting to stabilize their workforce, TFA isn’t the solution. According to TFA’s own data, more than two-thirds of its participants leave the classroom after two years.

As a Pittsburgh Public School teacher who has been involved in different aspects of the teacher evaluation process implemented in PPS, I think it is important to note that TFA “certified teachers” are exempt from state teacher evaluations by federal law, which makes the quality of their teaching unassailable. Finally, TFA is not a free service. It charges districts for each individual placed and the district still pays the individual a full teacher’s salary. This is not a financially responsible solution for a school district that is financially challenged in the best of times.

There are mechanisms in place to correct the intolerable situation in Wilkinsburg for students and educators. The Post-Gazette’s call for TFA-“trained” individuals — wisely rejected by the Pittsburgh school board — is not a service to the students or taxpayers of Wilkinsburg who deserve a lot better.

Highland Park

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