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Avoid TFA's trap

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Letter to the Editor
Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Last fall, I was accepted to Teach for America (TFA) in Philadelphia. This autumn, I urge Pittsburgh Public Schools to reject falling in TFA's trap.

TFA is a temporary teacher program. Recent college grads receive five weeks of training and commit to two years in the classroom.

After Philadelphia closed more than 20 schools and laid off one in five veteran educators, it placed a cheaper bunch of more than 100 inexperienced TFA members in lead teaching positions. Art, music, libraries, counselors and even nurses were deemed superfluous, leading to the recent tragic death of a sixth-grade student.

The Philadelphia community is outraged at these assaults and is fighting back. Last spring, students organized the largest walkouts since 1967. Thousands took to the streets to demand support for their teachers and their future.

When I echoed concerns I heard in the community about the role of TFA in harming the district's schools, the organization told me to silence myself. When I refused, and continued to stand in solidarity with the Philadelphia community demanding support for their public schools, TFA kicked me out.

While TFA claims to provide teachers for hard-to-fill subjects, recruits will not be prepared for them. Last fall, the program encouraged me to join a conference call titled “Being a great math or science teacher no matter your major.”

If the Pittsburgh school board signs a contract with Teach for America, it pursues an illusion, not a solution. We must not let TFA do further harm in Pennsylvania. Our students deserve better.

Jay Saper


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