Education Funding

Layoffs Shift Majority of Philadelphia’s TFA Teachers to Charters

By Dale Mezzacappa & Philadelphia Public School Notebook — September 15, 2011 3 min read

Mass teacher layoffs in the Philadelphia schools this summer have driven more Teach for America corps members to charters and virtually decimated their presence in district-run schools.

Most of second-year TFA teachers were laid off by the district, and only a dozen of the 145 newly-minted ones were hired, according to TFA officials. That makes fewer than 30 in district schools.

By contrast, nearly 100 of the 310 first- and second-year TFA members will be working in Renaissance turnaround charter schools, which are district schools that have been converted to charters. Seven Renaissance charters opened last year and five more, including Simon Gratz and Olney high schools, began this year.

The 12 Renaissance charter schools hired 38 of the newly minted teachers, along with 27 second-year corps members who had been laid off from regular district schools, said TFA national spokesperson Rebecca Neale. In addition, 33 second-year TFA teachers who had already been working in Renaissance charters are returning, she said.

That adds up to 98 teachers, or 32 percent of the TFA contingent in the region, which covers Philadelphia and Camden, N.J.

Neale said that as of last week, all but 11 of the 234 first- and second-year teachers had landed jobs in charter and alternative schools in Philadelphia and Camden, and those 11 “are interviewing where open positions exist across the city.”

Between current corps members and alumni, TFA is playing a larger role in Philadelphia’s charter networks, including Mastery, KIPP, and Young Scholars, even as its presence in the district is waning. For instance, a quarter of the Mastery teachers, and half of those at KIPP and Young Scholars are TFA alumni, Neale said. Many of their principals are also TFA alumni. Mastery and Young Scholars run Renaissance charters; KIPP does not.

“We have definitely relied on TFA,” said Mastery CEO Scott Gordon, who said he hired 300 new teachers altogether this year. “They are a source of motivated, hard-working young people.”

Among the more than 1,200 teachers laid off by the district due to cutbacks were 85 of the 90 second-year TFA corps members.

“TFA was scrambling for positions for them, but then last week most of those people were called back,” said one second-year corps member who did not want to be identified. She said that some had taken positions they didn’t really want, but “signed contracts and can’t get their old district jobs back. It’s been an awful situation for a lot of people.”

Neale confirmed that more than the 11 were called back late in the summer, but some had taken jobs elsewhere. Corps members “were disappointed to leave their schools after a year, but their main focus is to teach wherever they’re needed most,” she said.

Philadelphia has contracted with the Teach for America, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, for the past six years to provide teachers and promises to find them positions. The contract leaves room for “flexibility based on their hiring needs,” said Neale. “Such is the current situation, in light of budget challenges and layoffs.”

Mass teacher layoffs have impacted TFA hiring before, including last year in Chicago. The Notebook could not find another case where a large district under contract with TFA hired so few new teachers from the group and laid off most of those going into their second year.

Philadelphia also hosts one of the regional summer training institutes.

TFA corps members take certification courses while teaching, many at the University of Pennsylvania.

“A lot of the people, with my encouragement, started looking last spring” for new positions, said James H. “Torch” Lytle, a former district administrator who teaches one of the Penn courses. “They went to charters in the Philly area or moved … a lot would have loved to stay in the schools they were in, but it was too shaky.”

TFA and its model of recruiting top college graduates for a temporary, Peace Corps-like stint in impoverished schools has become a point of contention among education reformers. Some, who favor privatization and the weakening of unions, argue that the last hired-first fired rule in most collective bargaining agreements ignores teacher effectiveness and often protects dead wood at the expense of eager young talent.

Others maintain that putting inexperienced if bright college graduates in some of the country’s most challenging assignments makes little sense and contributes to a de-professionalization of teaching.

Related Tags:

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Customer Support Specialist, Tier 1
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Customer Support Specialist, Tier 1
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Customer Support Specialist, Tier 1
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

Education Funding Concern About Unspent COVID-19 School Aid Continues as Congress Moves Toward More Relief
A congressional analysis has spurred discontent about how fast money will be spent, but some warn against over-simplifying the situation.
5 min read
Thermometers, gloves, and cleaning swabs sit on a table at the entrance to the Frederickson KinderCare daycare center, in Tacoma, Wash on May 27, 2020.
Thermometers, gloves, and cleaning swabs sit on a table at the entrance to the Frederickson KinderCare daycare center, in Tacoma, Wash on May 27, 2020. As a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, workers and children have their temperatures checked every day before they enter the building.
Ted S. Warren/AP
Education Funding Opinion What's It Take for Philanthropy to Help Rural Schools?
Place-based philanthropy has enormous potential to revitalize rural communities. The trick is, it’s tough to get this sort of approach right.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Education Funding Summer School, Extended Learning a Priority in $129 Billion COVID-19 Relief Bill
The reconciliation bill from House Democrats is an early attempt at what's shaping up to be a new federal aid package for education.
5 min read
A staff member holds the door open for kids on the first day of school at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.
A staff member holds the door open for kids on the first day of school at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.
Mikala Compton/Herald-Zeitung via AP
Education Funding Details of Biden's Education Relief Pitch Prioritize Smaller Classes, Avoiding Layoffs
The administration's breakdown of COVID-19 needs also includes $50 billion for social distancing and $29 billion for learning recovery.
5 min read
Image of the White House seal
Bet Noire/Getty