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May 5, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

A boost for education

Lawmakers should support efforts to tap Teach For America


Mona Shield Payne

Eighth-grade teacher Matt Angelo quickly passes out textbooks to his students in preparation for lessons on the Holocaust in English Literature class during Teach For America Week at Dell H. Robison Middle School in Las Vegas Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

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State lawmakers are fighting over a proposal by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to spend $2 million over the next two years on the nonprofit education group Teach For America to help it hire 100 teachers in Clark County.

What’s surprising about this fight isn’t only that it’s about a tiny amount of the entire budget but where the opposition is coming from — Democrats in the Assembly. That’s ironic because Democrats are normally the champions of public schools and education programs. Furthering the irony is the fact that Republicans in the Legislature, often critical of public education, have joined with Democrats in the Senate in support of the measure. Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said she will carry the legislation.

As the Sun’s Andrew Doughman reported, the Assembly Democrats complain about Teach For America’s retention rate. The organization says two-thirds of its alumni stay in education in Nevada after their two-year commitment to the Clark County School District ends.

That’s a problem?

So what if a teacher leaves after two years? Students and their parents want qualified teachers, even if only for a few years. And given the district’s struggles, an organization like this should be embraced.

TFA has helped the district fill vacancies with qualified, well-trained teachers since they started working together in 2004. Those teachers go to hard-to-fill positions, including in at-risk and low-income schools.

It is an impressive organization. It recruits and selects a diverse crop of graduates from top schools across the country, puts them through an intensive training program and then supports them in their jobs.

As a result, students see good, committed teachers in classrooms that otherwise would be filled by long-term substitutes. And the research indicates that the organization’s teachers are doing the job well.

A survey commissioned by the national organization found that 9 out of 10 principals said teachers from the program were at least as as effective as veteran teachers.

Principals want TFA teachers. The local TFA office says the demand for its teachers outpaces the supply. It had more than 80 requests it couldn’t fill this past year in Clark County.

The group notes that not only have studies shown that their teachers produce results, but the alumni stay engaged in education issues after they leave the program. For example, two TFA alumni, Allison Serafin and Alexis Gonzales-Black, were elected to the state Board of Education last year. Other former TFA teachers in Clark County have started programs and nonprofit groups to help the schools and boost student achievement. That only furthers the quality of education in the region.

So what’s not to like about this organization?

Perhaps some lawmakers tie it in with other education reform groups that have a political bent, but TFA isn’t a political group.

Perhaps some Democrats worry that the organization is anti-union, a view that is often seen in reform efforts. But TFA teachers are full-time employees of the School District and can join the teachers union immediately.

For the life of us, we can’t understand why Democrats are opposing this measure. There’s no reason to oppose this. None. TFA has done an outstanding job bringing talented teachers to the district. Its work should be celebrated.

Assembly Democrats should drop their opposition and support the proposal. This really should be a no-brainer.

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  1. This whole article is little more than a TFA written tantrum full of smoke and mirrors to distract people from the ugly truth.

    The truth is that brand spanking new TFA members don't actually out perform certified teachers and TFA doesn't invest in the years of training necessary to pass certification tests. The national organization's own research proves this fact.

    After 3 years only 50% of TFA members are still in the education field, not in a class teaching but just in an education related field, while 83% of certified teachers are still teaching in a classroom. Does that sound like something we should be investing $2 million in?

    All the recently elected TFA members flooded their campaign coffers with Elaine Wynn's fundraising dollars (hundreds of thousands of out of state dollars compared to a couple thousand raised by local candidates from local sources). This is not something TFA should be bragging about.

    If TFA wants taxpayer money they should focus more on getting members certified to teach and less time writing misleading rhetoric.

    ["can join the teachers union immediately," but TFA discourages them from joining one. TFA members are usually pretty open about admitting this fact even if this author isn't.)

  2. Tanker1975 go back and repeat your elementary school math classes. The cost would be $250,000, not $2,500,000.

    Funny, I didn't see the CCSD recruitment cost comparison from Tanker1975 so it must be no cost to CCSD to recruit a new teacher.

  3. Having been involved with the Education portion of the Democratic Party Plank-
    Teach for America is not in it. Im not seeing any connection to the party and Teach for America?
    Just because lobbyists for TFA attend a Democratic fundraiser and pass out checks - doesn't mean they are Democrats.
    Well funded minions of Elaine Wynn and Governor Sandoval and outsiders - but not Dems.
    Saying they are Democrat does not mean this "non-profit" upholds Democratic ideals.

    Public schools require a certain level of educational attainment from teachers - for good reason.

    To think that allowing anyone with a degree to enter our district and teach - is ridiculous. And it fails.

    Quite frankly, as a teacher with several degrees, undergraduate practicum, student teaching, and graduate level practicum -
    it's insulting to tell me that my education is not necessary and a TFA can do my job. I have taught under master teachers - for free for over a year to learn my craft -
    something TFA skips altogether.

    It is also offensive to me to imply that my 25 years of experience in schools - can be replaced easily with someone with 6 weeks of coursework?

    I'm all for people becoming teachers - do it for real. Be ready -,when we entrust kids to you!

    Don't use tax payer money to "play school" with real kids - at-risk kids - on your way to somewhere else.

  4. Me thinks that the writer of this editorial has an interest, or has a person close to them, in the Teach for America program. This is not the writings of a disinterested party.

    Since joining the district in 2004, I have met up and worked along side of Teach for America teachers. Although these individuals are wonderful human beings and highly intelligent, their first love career wise was NOT teaching. It is and has been the field of coursework that they have studied for years, and graduated with the doors less than open with such jobs, so they are "recruited" by Teach for America as a default.

    Teaching is a rocky road, and positions are always available throughout the world, as is nursing. Five or six weeks of post graduate training does not replace years professional teachers have trained for a profession that requires a global knowledge of everything imaginable, unlike TFA teachers who have a limited field of knowledge in a specific area.

    In a time that we are shifting to Common Core State Standards that require "cross-cutting" and a thematic, project-based approach to education, it is counter logical to use teachers (as TFA) that have a limited perspectives, breath and depth of knowledge, and shallow experiences across the curriculum. There is limited to no cross-cutting with them. They can teach a limited field very well. But our students and CCSS require more for proficiency.

    Teach for America is an integral part of an agenda supported by the likes of Students First Michelle Rhea, TFA alumni, Allison Serafin and Alexis Gonzales-Black who support ALEC, along with Parent Trigger. Let's not forget to include Governor Sandoval and billionairest Elaine Wynn in the conversation. Please don't tell me that this is not a group that has no political associations. Spare me.

    TFA teachers are very high maintenance at a school site. They require a great deal of support and assistance, which drains professional teaching staff around them. You never see veteran teachers jumping at the chance to hold the hand of a TFA teacher throughout the school year. That is a job unto itself. A TFA teacher who gets a fully credentialed teacher's counsel, has the rare opportunity to teach the BEST of what that veteran teacher has to offer of their collective years of training and experience.

    What this all amounts to is MONEY and the further destruction of the Middle Class. When the elite have the power to marginalize a traditionally educated workforce who looks to be FAIRLY compensated for their education and experience, you have the furthering of the divide of the "haves" and the "have nots" also known as class stratification. Would Elaine Wynn work under the conditions that our highly qualified veteran teachers endure? Doubtful.

    Blessings and Peace,

  5. Parents: do you know WHO is teaching your child(ren)? Is your child(ren)'s teacher(s) highly qualified, having graduated college, and completed a teacher credentialing program that included at least a half year of unpaid, in the classroom with at least 20 students of a mix of ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, and had supervised teacher training?

    Teach for America teachers typically, are NOT education majors, and they receive 5 weeks of training. If you wish to dig deeper for yourself on the teacher side of experiences of Teach for America, you will find this quite informative as a link:
    Teach for America's former teacher speaks out on:

    No big surprise that even another state's governor was also positioning himself as Nevada's Governor Sandoval's position about $2 million dollars---Texas. In the thick of this battle for educational dollars are those who are most apt to benefit (in return) from all the publishing of tests, books, analysis, software programs, inservice training consultants, and so on, as are the Bill Gates Foundation, Walton Foundation, Broad Foundation,...especially beings, that Gates brought Teach For America to Seattle, Washington. Gates' money started the Common Core Standards (now being adapted throughout the U.S.A.). And guess what? The multibillion dollars Common Core Standards home base, Smarter Balance is based in Washington. Just follow the money trail, it only keeps growing. Back story on the Washington state problem: http:/

    In the 2011 Winter Dissent article, "Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools," found online at:

    Joanne Barkin writes, "All children should have access to a good public school. And public schools should be run by officials who answer to the voters. Gates, Broad, and Walton answer to no one. Tax payers still fund more than 99 percent of the cost of K--12 education. Private foundations should not be setting public policy for them."
    See the Barkin interview on YOUTUBE:

    Only this week, did a veteran school teacher, out of frustration with how teaching in our schools has evolved for the worse, posted a public YouTube on her resignation on May 23, 2013 at:

    Honestly, it seems that the only ones winning in the educational battle are those with the money and power---it ain't the students, their families, nor the teachers, and certainly not the taxpayers.
    Blessings and Peace,