[NOTE: I've edited part of the speech that was not delivered which said that Board Members had quoted questionable figures. They did not do this at the board meeting, and in fact Board Member Arroyo was very aggressive in questioning the presenters from TFA about studies they cited, and in citing alternative studies. The Urban Institute study did appear in the staff report submitted for the meeting]
Last night’s board meeting on bringing TFA to our district was just informational, but based on the questions and comments from Board Members, I don’t think we will be discussing this particular item in the immediate future. I will be reprising my tweets from the meeting, with color commentary, in the next 24 hours, but until then, here is the text from my speech:
In discussions with the district about solutions at Oak Ridge, there has been talk from administrators about getting more energy and enthusiasm. Strangely enough, that phrase comes up in discussions about the advantages of TFA interns. I’m going to point out a salient truth about what has happened at Oak Ridge. There was not a lack of energy, youth, or enthusiasm. Many of you who visited the campus over the years know that. TFA will be useless because we’ve had youth and energy over the years. What’s needed is more experience and consistency.
At this point, I ran out of time (they cut comments from 2 to 1 minute), and simply tagged on the point that the folks from TFA during their presentation referred to a Harvard study saying 65% remained in teaching, but that was at year three, and it drops to 32% by year five. Below is the rest of the speech.
A factor in what has happened over the years at Oak Ridge, is staff transiency. TFA will exacerbate, not solve this problem. Other speakers will address some methods that would be effective to deal with this, but I want to make CLEAR that all the reputable studies on TFA indicate that they turnover at a faster rate than other teachers (85%). I am hearing figures about turnover quoted from the Superintendent and Board Members that are not from reputable studies. They are from a study that no reputable education journal would accept because of it’s flawed validity. To put this in plain English, the findings are as valid and reliable as the response I would get by asking my husband, “Honey, do these jeans make me look fat?” I am not pleading for my position, but instead that we all learn the lesson from Oak Ridge. I can live with not returning to Oak Ridge, but it would really kill me if the lesson of Oak Ridge is ignored, which is the need for sober minded realism, not just youthful energy. The students, community, and teachers deserve better than that.
Martin Luther King Jr. said,
“On some positions, Cowardice asks the question,
‘Is it safe?’
Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’
And Vanity comes along and asks the question,
‘Is it popular?’
But Conscience asks the question ‘Is it right?’
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular,
But he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”