Uncertified teachers: Federal Way schools explore Teach for America program
By KYRA LOW
Federal Way Mirror Reporter
March 4, 2010 · Updated 7:01 PM
The Federal Way School District is contemplating getting on board with Teach For America.
The program would bring uncertified teachers into the classrooms, but what they lack in certification, they make up for in diversity and educational backgrounds.
The school board heard the proposal during a work study on March 2.
Teach For America
The program started in 1990, and is now in schools across the country, although currently not in Washington state.
Teach for America participants are not certified teachers. They come from all degree programs, but they sign up to teach for at least two years in low-income schools. Last year, there were 7,300 members in more than 1,600 schools.
Teach For America has a very large recruitment base. Last year, the program received more than 35,000 applications for about 4,000 jobs.
"We can't possibly compete with that kind of filtering process," Superintendent Tom Murphy said.
According to Teach For America, those applicants included 11 percent of all seniors at Ivy League universities, including nearly 20 percent of minority seniors at those universities. Many of the applicants — last year 17 percent — come from the science, technology, engineering or math programs.
About 30 percent of members are minorities, a much higher ratio than the district has been able to recruit, and something district officials have stated they want to emulate.
Although members do not have teaching degrees, they are college graduates in a variety of fields, and the program enrolls them in a five-week course.
If the school district agrees to the contract, Federal Way would be one of the first in the area to use the Teach For America program. Teach for America has decided to put together a Puget Sound region program and has presented the idea to several area school districts, including Seattle, Kent, Tacoma and Highline, district officials said.
Teach for America said its members are very effective teachers. The program cited a 2008-09 study by the Urban Institute that found that Teach For America corps members are, on average, more effective than non-Teach For America teachers, especially in math and science. In a national survey in 2009, 95 percent of principals who work with corps members reported they are at least as effective as other beginning teachers.
Teach For America also said that about two-thirds of members stay in the education field.
Bringing the program to Federal Way
There would be an additional cost to bring the program to the district, although not much.
The district would sign a contract to employ 8 to 10 corps members each year for the next three years. Each year would bring an additional 8 to 10 members, so by the second year, the number of corps members could be up to 20 in the Federal Way district. In addition to paying the standard beginning teacher salary, the district would pay Teach For America $3,000 for the expenses in training members. Those members hired by the district would be essentially like any other teacher in the district. They would become a member of the union and would undergo the district's first year teacher training programs. They would also undergo any additional training that Teach for America provides.
However, even if the district approves the measure, it still faces obstacles. Other districts would have to also approve the measure — enough so that, for the region, Teach for America would have placements for 50 members. Also in Washington state, teachers are required to have a teaching certificate, which is usually a college program itself. District officials said that for the program to work in Washington state, the members would have to get some type of provisional certificate.
Despite this, the board and the superintendent sounded very hopeful about the move.
"Their depth of knowledge might put that person ahead," Murphy said. "(I've said in the past) let us hire people and then we'll train them."Contact Federal Way Mirror Reporter Kyra Low at email@example.com or (253) 925-5565.