Typically the type of writing we expect to find on the wall of a public restroom stall would be something like “for a good time call…”, but there’s something more to be found on college campuses these days. At Michigan State University, students are running into another form of solicitation in their campus restrooms.
Yep, that’s Teach For America (TFA) hustling young adults while they pee — Geez, talk about lowbrow recruiting tactics. Surely it’s every graduate’s dream to say “I discovered my life’s calling in the third stall on the left in North Kedzie Hall”.
What makes this so interesting in Michigan is that 27 percent of the teachers hired by the state’s controversial Education Achievement Authority (EAA) are from TFA. The EAA is a special school district, established by fiat, which took-over 15 academically failing schools from Detroit Public Schools. The new district lacks democratically elected leaders and is instead run by a “Chancellor” — John Covington, who readily admits that fully 51 percent of his teaching staff has less than three years experience in the classroom. Covington came to the EAA from Kansas City Public Schools where, under his watch as superintendent, the district lost its accreditation. As chancellor, he currently enjoys compensation to the tune of over $353,538.
How does the EAA pay for that salary? In part, by hiring college graduates on the cheap. They receive a whopping five weeks of TFA training before being thrown into a classroom full of academically struggling students. Last year, Detroit-area Senator Bert Johnson (D-2) reported numerous problems with the schools — mostly due to inexperienced teachers, including one school where a dozen TFA recruits walked-off the job out of frustration.
TFA recruits are not required to have a degree in education. In fact, the only education-related training they typically receive is the TFA summertime crash course immediately prior to their fulfilling a two-year teaching contract. Fewer than a third of them go on to pursue a career in education. With the soaring cost of higher education, and lack of jobs, TFA becomes an attractive short-term alternative to grads much in the same way as the military.
The National Education Policy Center published a brief last week titled Teach for America: A Return to the Evidence, which calls for school districts to be guided by the following recommendations when considering employing TFA recruits:
Support TFA staffing only when the alternative hiring pool consists of uncertified and emergency teachers or substitutes.
Consider the additional costs of TFA teachers and press for contractual five-year commitments to improve student test-score achievement and reduce costly teacher turnover.
Require TFA teachers to receive additional teacher training that is based on well-supported best practices in in-service teacher professional development.
Independently obtain contracts and data to compare finder fees, placement, and attrition rates of TFA teachers, and various costs by community.
It is unlikely that Chancellor Covington has any intention of following those guidelines. In its short history under his leadership, the EAA has demonstrated poor fiscal control and a lack of transparency. In addition to its vacuuming-up per pupil state revenues, the district has been relying on private funds to stay afloat, and last year it clandestinely borrowed $12 million from fiscally distressed Detroit Public Schools.
Hiring teachers in the restroom? Yep, sounds about right.
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Photo credit to Bonnie Hardin. Taken in Wells Hall, Michigan State University.