This spring the Minnesota Legislature approved an appropriation of $1.5 million to help Twin Cities principals staff hard-to-fill teaching jobs in poverty-stricken neighborhoods with more Teach For America educators.
The legislature’s bipartisan vote was a testament to the commitment that TFA teachers bring to the marginalized communities in which they work. However, the education establishment flexed its political muscles and successfully worked to crush the appropriation–just because TFA isn't part of the status quo.
It doesn’t end there.
In June, the Gov. Dayton-appointed Board of Teaching rescinded the waiver it has typically granted to provide new TFA teachers with their licenses. Board of Teaching members have allowed politics to leave more than 1,500 Twin Cities kids in limbo about whether or not they’ll learn from these 43 highly effective teachers. Local principals have hired TFA teachers for four years, counting on them to fill positions in some of our highest-needs schools. Now, just weeks before the start of the school year, the Board of Teaching reversed its course.
Why is the education establishment picking on TFA?
Tell Board of Teaching Chair John Bellingham and Gov. Dayton that they can make this right by approving licenses for these teachers.
Most importantly, they can make this right by standing up for what they believe in–supporting our highest-potential students and a critical program that serves them.
The severity of Minnesota’s achievement gaps should give us cause to collaboratively re-think how we can offer a world-class education to all kids. We need to put kids’ best interests at the forefront of every decision our state makes on education.
In 2011 the legislature passed¬–and Gov. Dayton, you signed¬–a bipartisan bill allowing alternative teaching licensure.
Alternative certification should grant schools flexibility to hire even more high-caliber professionals. It should widen the pipeline of teacher talent, identifying talented individuals dedicated to beating the odds in classrooms filled with students our system too often leaves behind.
Instead, interests of the education establishment stand in the way of change. And the Board of Teaching’s recent vote is at odds with the spirit of the law.
Years of academic research show that TFA educators make a positive difference in the lives and learning of their students. Principals are excited about hiring these teachers because they’re committed to teaching in the schools that need them most.
We fail too many kids. We shouldn’t allow dogma to dictate that there’s only one “right” way to prepare a teacher.
We shouldn’t place obstacles between talented individuals and the classroom. We should welcome passionate, bright scholars who wish to serve in our toughest schools.
Forty-three new TFA teachers are slated to start in local classrooms in a matter of weeks. Minnesota schools want to hire these talented, dedicated individuals. Your leadership is needed for that to happen.
You can make this right by streamlining the process to license these new teachers and making funding for teacher preparation programs available to innovative approaches.
The immensity of the challenges facing many of our students means there’s no time to waste.