San Francisco Teach for America

BREAKING: San Francisco Drops TFA for Next Year

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Here’s an article from a local newspaper about the school board’s decision.

The article provides fairly balanced coverage of the issue. (Thanks, Jill Tucker. The NY Times should learn from you on this one.)

Still, the article made a mistake in allowing the TFA spokesperson, Beatrice Viramontes, to lie with statistics. Below is a snippet of the article. You’ll see she equates teachers leaving the district, which is no great surprise, given mobility and different pay scales around the Bay Area, with TFAers leaving the profession altogether. This would make for an interesting comparison study.

(By the way, a 90% return rate for second-year TFAers seems like a weird thing to brag about. That means 1 out of 10 actually break their two-year contracts—contracts that get them special funding and certification privileges. No penalty?)

Another interesting thing to study is the *indirect* effects those TFAers are having on the regular teaching corps. I would suggest: devaluation of the profession, downward pressure on wages, and diminished support of actual public (not charter) schools. I’m sure all that factored into the school board’s decision. Bottom line: TFA is a pox on the district.

Read the snippet below and see if you have the same reaction: “Well, duh!”


District leaders have complained that Teach for America workers contribute to heavy turnover in high-needs schools. Just 17 percent of the program’s teachers are still with the district after five years, officials said.

“I actually commend the district and the superintendent for making that decision to back away from TFA at least for the time being,” said Lita Blanc, president of the United Educators of San Francisco teachers union. “TFA actually does institutionalize turnover as a way of life.”

Yet the school board did not acknowledge that Teach for America teachers are more likely to stick around during those first five years than other instructors, said Beatrice Viramontes, the organization’s senior managing director in San Francisco.

Overall, 90 percent of the group’s teachers come back after their first year of teaching, compared with 56 percent of those who are new to the teaching profession in general. In addition, most of the program’s teachers stay for a third year after their two-year commitment ends, said both the organization and the district.

“It was disappointing that was not acknowledged,” Viramontes said. “The thing they focused on was the inexperience and the type of training.”

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