Bringing In Lightly Trained, Inexperienced Recruits Instead Of Real Teachers Is A Cruel Joke
By MARY GALLUCCI
March 04, 2012
As a parent in Windham, I am tired of being treated like a specimen in a theme park where various experts and missionaries arrive sporadically to gawk at the schoolchildren and make pronouncements about them.
Gov.Dannel P. Malloyproclaimed this the year of education and has already sent Steven Adamowski to the "low-performing" district of Windham as special master. Adamowski, former superintendent of Hartford schools, has implemented reform plans that are supposed to make Windham High School more academically rigorous and produce career- and college-ready graduates. More tangibly, he plans to bring 20 or so Teach For America recruits from out of the district, rather than hire teachers graduating from education programs and certified by the state.
Filling vacancies in this way is wrong. It exacerbates the revolving-door nature of teaching and devalues the work of current educators. It will have repercussions for years, in terms of a gulf between teachers who managed to get tenure before Teach for America came on board and the minuscule number of teachers who are hired after them.
Teacher recruitment and retention are historical problems in high-poverty school districts, but using Teach for America "interns," who are recent college graduates and professionals, will only institutionalize this problem. The basic characteristics of Teach for America recruits — they are undercertified and lack classroom experience — mirror one of our most severe problems. Researchers frequently bewail the fact that experienced teachers do not remain poor districts, yet now Adamowski and the Windham Board of Education wish to enshrine the "farm" system.
Teach for America has a powerful marketing and lobbying machine, and it defines itself as a program to train future leaders. Teaching in high-poverty areas is a means to an end for a Teach for America recruit.
We all know that at bottom there is a funding structure for education that is unfair, if not criminal. Why don't high-performing districts hire Teach for America recruits, and let the experienced teachers from those districts come to Windham to fill vacancies — at their current pay?
I am stunned that parents are accorded no part in taking this unprecedented step of hiring non-education graduates to teach here, without knowing who Teach for America recruits are, what their training is and why those "teachers" will be used rather than graduates of education programs with state certification. That is, graduates of the Connecticut State University System schools and the University of Connecticut, the schools where Steven Adamowski hopes Windham public school graduates will attend college.
School improvement plans for low-performing districts now require that each school have a school governance council, for which the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education provides training. I am on the Windham Middle School Governance Council, and yet I never heard anything about a special meeting with the Teach for America public relations people on Jan. 18 at which they made their pitch.
We are always hearing about how parents in impoverished school districts are not involved, but that is because school administrators do not involve us. Why were real estate developers invited to the presentation, and not parents or members of the school governance councils?
It is a cruel irony that Steven Adamowski speaks of college- and career-ready graduates of Windham public schools, and then turns around and shows how that goal will be rendered meaningless. Adamowski has said, in his meetings about rigorous academic standards, that we need to make sure Windham students will get into college.
Now we know, however, that they won't be getting jobs, because Ivy League and elite school graduates who were undecided or majoring in film studies will be taking those jobs on a rotating basis for years to come and devaluing the jobs of current teachers while eliminating positions for education majors.
Parents need to know the difference between college graduates who obtained education degrees and were certified by the state, and interns who are taking part in a two-year teaching stint, after a five-week summer workshop and on the job teacher training — with Windham school students as guinea pigs.
Mary Gallucci lives in the Willimantic section of Windham and is an adjunct professor in English at the University of Connecticut.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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