Even as teacher layoffs loom in districts across the nation, Teach For America appears as attractive an option as ever to school districts. Baltimore, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and New York are just a few examples of school districts keeping Teach For America recruits in their schools despite budget cuts. Charlotte-Mecklenburg is bringing on 100 new TFA teachers, while at the same time laying off more than 400 teachers. In Baltimore, schools chief Andres Alonso plans to double the number of corps members, despite having to find extra money to pay for their training. Alonso calls the organization an "instrument of reform"--citing the high numbers of former TFA teachers who began in the 1990s who are now serving as principals, other administrators and reform leaders in the district.
In New York City, Chancellor Joel Klein will continue hiring TFA corps members along with NYC Teaching Fellows for hard-to staff positions, all while the city is otherwise in a hiring freeze and forcing principals to take on teachers from the city's infamous excess pool. The forced placement rolls back the city's groundbreaking attempt at "mutual consent" hiring. New York isn't guaranteeing the rookie teachers jobs if they can't find placements (the district has in the past), but Klein isn't making any attempt to hide his preference for these smart recruits. A letter from the Chancellor to deans at the local colleges of education might best be construed as a slap in the face to traditionally prepared teachers. The letter states, "As these candidates have all been identified after a rigorous and highly selective screening process, we will encourage schools with vacancies to give them priority consideration."
Perhaps some deeper questions are needed about why superintendents are so reluctant to give up on their TFA commitment, when they certainly have a budgetary excuse to drop it. What are these corps members bringing to the table that other new teachers aren't? Though some of TFA's great PR might have you believe otherwise, their teachers are not immune to the difficulties any new teacher faces, racking up the same low student achievement results as any first year teacher. And most of them will be gone in two years.
The answer is not complex, but apparently falls on dead ears. Teach For America's teachers are the end result of an extraordinarily selective process, which education schools would do well to even faintly emulate.