Curriculum

Chicago Wants TFA to Commit Longer

By Bess Keller — September 24, 2004 1 min read
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Fewer than half the Teach For America teachers in Chicago stay on the job for three years. District officials say that rate concerns them, especially now that teachers from other alternative-route programs are staying at least that long.

“We’re trying to be a conscientious consumer,” said Toni Hill, the director of the routes-to-teaching unit for the 430,000-student Chicago public schools. “We’re saying this has got to change.”

Data from TFA, the national program that puts new college graduates in inner-city and rural schools after a summer of training, show that of those who started in the Chicago schools in 2001, 43 percent stayed for a third year. The program requires only a two-year commitment.

Ms. Hill also said that Teach For America does not do enough to fill the district’s shortages in areas such as special education and secondary science that other district-sponsored alternative routes into teaching do.

She stressed the “very high quality” of the TFA teachers, but maintained that some program adjustments are needed.

John C. White, the executive director of Teach For America’s Chicago office, argued that the district currently gets excellent value from the program, with virtually no net loss in educators when all TFA alumni are considered. Some who taught in other districts are now teachers in Chicago, and some Chicago corps members have stayed on as administrators, he said. “It’s clear that TFA is serving [the district’s] desire to build human capacity and expand learning opportunities for children,” Mr. White said.

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