This fall, as many as 100 Teach for America members could be working in Ohio schools. Teach for America places recent college graduates, many from elite colleges, into high-poverty classrooms across America.
Mike Wang leads Teach for America’s efforts to expand in Ohio. He says the group’s focus now is on identifying school districts and charter schools in the Cleveland and Cincinnati areas that could hire Teacher for America’s people. More than $2 million in grants from several Cleveland foundations (the Cleveland, George Gund, Nord Family and Stocker foundations, plus the Lennon Trust) will help their work get underway.
The grants will fund organizational costs, but not teacher salaries: Teach for America teachers are hired and paid by the schools for which they work.
Wang said Teach for America is still scouting school districts and charter schools for interest in hiring Teach for America’s people. It’s aiming to place about 30-50 teachers in both northeast and southwest Ohio.
Lorain isn’t sure it’s interested, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:
The Lorain school district isn’t sure what it will do with Teach for America, Assistant Superintendent Stephen Strugiol said, since it is operating with an interim superintendent and may not have any open positions to fill.
And the Cincinnati school board was “non-committal,” the Cincinnati Enquirer says:
Board members haven’t decided if TFA is right for Cincinnati. The district of 33,000 students doesn’t know how many teacher openings it will have next year. More than 300 teachers are eligible to retire next year but it’s unclear how many will do so or if the district will be able to replace them.
This is how Teach for America works with school districts:
- The organization sets up an agreement with a school district or charter school on the number and types of teachers it will bring to the district.
- Teach for America recruits bright, often young candidates from colleges as well as from the workplace and puts them through a five-week training session and other professional development. Teachers must pass content-knowledge tests.
- Teach for America participants apply for jobs within the school or district and principals select which ones they want to hire. Usually the number of Teach for America teachers specified in the agreement with the school district gets hired, Wang said: “Demand for our corp members around the country exceeds supply.”
- Teach for America participants start work, and get ongoing training from the organization. They commit to spending two years in the classroom.
One of the big differences between Teach for America teachers and “regular” beginner teachers is most “regular” teachers are education majors and are hold teaching licenses. Few Teach for America participants are or do.
For now, the only Ohio schools that are planning to hire Teach for America teachers are the Breakthrough network of charter schools in Cleveland, Wang said. By early Match, the group should have a better sense of the other schools and school districts it will work with.
The organization has its fans in Ohio, including Gov. John Kasich. In April, Kasich signed a bill that changed teacher licensure requirements in order to allow Teach for America participants to teach in Ohio, calling it a “landmark day” for education:
“The cavalry is coming. They’re going to ride on white horses with white hats in to our schools,” said Kasich.
But with all the teacher layoffs in Ohio and the thousands of students graduating from state-funded teacher preparation programs each year, why bother bringing in the Teach for America people?
Teach for America’s Wang would not say it’s because Teach for America teachers are “better” than other first-year teachers. Here’s as far as he’d go:
Research has shown that our teachers are highly effective in their first year and even more effective compared with other first-year teachers. That seems to be what our principals report and what this new study in Tennessee in particular is showing.
Coming soon: What does the research say about how effective Teach for America participants are in the classroom? And what are the Teach for America teachers who taught in other states doing in Ohio now besides going to law school?
Update: Actually, just 2 percent of Teach for America alumni in Ohio are studying or practicing law. More than 40 percent are working in education. I stand chastised.