Alternatively Certified Teachers, TFA and Equity in Houston ISD

Remarks on Teach for America Contract given to the Houston ISD School Board on Thursday, February 9, 2017


I am grateful for all teachers for their service. But all teachers are not equal.

Many in this room have graduate degrees in the field of education. Do college degrees in teaching mean nothing? Does experience mean nothing?

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Don’t be swayed by TFA's marketing anecdotes. Follow the data.

Less than a year ago, Mr. Caranza believed TFA was a good source of teachers for hard to fill teaching positions in San Francisco and said he didn’t share concerns about TFA teacher’s lack of training and experience. That progressive board chose not to take up a TFA contract extension.

Now, the item in front of you allows HISD to expand TFA rolls by as much as 150% next year.

TFA is just one of many paths that funnel Alternatively Certified Teachers into HISD classrooms. But Alternatively Certified Teachers aren’t deployed equally around this district. Schools in Districts 2, 4, 8 and 9 as a group have a ratio of Alternatively Certified Teachers to students that is 75% higher than schools in the rest of the district.

Does this sound like equity?

Finally, let’s talk about influence.

TFA generates $300 million dollars a year placing these young teachers in classrooms. This giant organization has also mobilized a substantial sister group that supports candidates for elected office—the majority of whom advocate for pro-charter, pro-testing education reform.

This body includes two TFA alums.

One of those alums received from what we can tell is the largest single donation ever to an HISD school board member—$30,000—certainly the largest to any sitting trustee. I hope this donation doesn’t affect her decision on whether TFA is the right choice for Houston kids.

To the rest of the trustees, you need to ask yourself...

  1. Why HISD is relying more and more on Alternative Certifications to staff its classrooms?
  2. Is this staffing model is equitable to all kids?
  3. And is the item in front of you which allows the district to grow TFA teacher by as much as 150% next year taking the district in the right direction?

I believe that answer is clear. Vote no.