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Push For Teacher Improvement In Nevada Includes Teach For America
Push For Teacher Improvement In Nevada Includes Teach For America

AIR DATE: January 30, 2013

When Gov. Sandoval gave his State of the State address last week, he pledged to invest $135 million in new money into education. One program he singled out to get some of that money is Teach for America, a non-profit organization that recruits recent college graduates to teach in low income communities. While the governor didn't give a specific amount, he did say he wants new investment in the program to train and develop great teachers across Nevada. We'll talk with the head of the Las Vegas branch of Teach for America and a representative from the Nevada State Education Association about the governor's goals and how they will affect teachers in Nevada.


Victor Wakefield, Executive Director, Teach for America Las Vegas Valley

Gary Peck, Executive Director, Nevada State Education Association

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    I also appreciate this healthy dialogue on behalf of our students in the silver state. I simply would like to share my storyI am a proud former Clark County School District teacher that came to the Las Vegas Valley through Teach For America. Like many east Las Vegas students, I was highly transient growing up: I attended 7 different schools in CA and experienced the achievement gap first-handmoving to a middle-class neighborhood meant that I had to re-take Spanish 2, earned the first Ds I had ever seen in my life, and that my class rank of 6th at my previous high school meant nothing at this new school where my peers seemed to know much more than I was ever taught. It was not until I was a junior in college at Boston University that I learned my experience could be termed the achievement gapthe 5 years prior to my sociology coursesI simply thought I was dumber than my new peers. By junior year, I could not change majors to become a teacher to ensure such injustice did not happen to other students who looked like me. I am the first person in my family to graduate from college, there was no counseling in choosing majors nor extra money to stay more years *continued below
    Erica MoscaJan 30, 2013 11:06:37 AM
    (*Continued from above) Yet, I wanted to help, so after graduating Summa Cum Laude, I applied for Teach For America and was placed in the Las Vegas Valley. I would have never come to the state of Nevada if it was not for TFA. Five years later, Im still here: a proud resident of east Las Vegas who owns my home and moved my parents to this community. Though I do not teach, I continue to serve my former fifth graders, and other east Las Vegas students, by starting my own 501(c)3 non-profit organization called Leaders in Training that focuses on college access for these now high school students. Only 15 out of 100 students in the state of Nevada will ever earn a Bachelors degreeour students deserve moreevery student deserves a chance to earn the solid academic background to simply have the choice to pursue higher education after they graduate. I am incredibly grateful to both the Clark County School District for letting me serve their students as a teacher and Teach For America for being the avenue that allowed me to serve our incredible and resilient Nevada students.
    Erica MoscaJan 30, 2013 11:08:00 AM
    Gary Peck is a hero. I love teachers. I love anybody who dedicates time to be a teacher. I don't love my district pink slipping 1400 fully licensed teachers. Then announcing it would hire 150 TFA pseudo-teachers? Old teachers out? Newer pseudo-teachers in? And when looking at the money - TFA teachers cost more 3 or 4 times more? We are in a budget crisis and willing to spend more on TFA and give up the fully licensed professional. I have noticed the TFA teachers are going to charter schools? We give tax money to the charters who have to follow LESS rules than public schools. We give more tax money to the TFA teachers who work at charters? And charters do NOT perform better? This has to be about money outside the schools because a pseudo-teacher is not better and if TFA costs more - I have to question the whole program. What does TFA earn to "manage" this program? There are licensed people looking for work or at least NOT wanting to be laid off. We are in a budget crunch. TFA is #crazytown. We need to put our money in research based programs or ideas -- not in this fad.
    Angie SullivanJan 24, 2013 17:51:02 PM
    I just want to make sure this^ is fact corrected. Teach For America teachers do not cost 3 to 4 times that of a regular teacher. They actually cost an additional $2,500 per year compared to the salary/benefits of other traditionally hired new teachers. -A Teach For America teacher has been one of the "New Teacher of the Years" in the CCSD for the last 8 years consecutively; ever since it joined the Las Vegas Valley. -80% have stayed here for year 3 in Las Vegas just this past year. -TFA Las Vegas recruited 40% persons of color, compared to 22% persons of color recruited by the district. -2 were currently elected to the State Board of Education What this piece fails to address is that TFA teachers ARE CCSD teachers too. As opposed to attacking the placement of quality candidates in education, why aren't pieces like these questioning the potential of additional initiatives that could be growing educational standards?
    Dominique RemyJan 24, 2013 20:55:26 PM
    Dom, Can YOU document those numbers? Something other than a link to the TFA website. PS. Some of us are attacking the fact that TFA's "quality candidates" aren't actually trained to teach. They might be bright people but almost all of them are in essence being handed a can opener and asked to do brain surgery. A 5 week program were they spend the entire time training "leadership skills" is NOT training them to teach.
    Sebring FrehnerJan 28, 2013 13:24:05 PM
    Thank you for your healthy discussion of Teach for America (TFA) teachers and their impact on education. As the principal of Chaparral High School I would like to share my first hand experiences with TFA. Chaparral High School is currently designated as a "Turnaround School" by the State of Nevada. In 2011 Chaparral had the lowest graduation rate in Clark County School District. Fifty percent of the staff and the administrative team were transferred to other schools. Quality candidates looking to come to challenging schools like ours are difficult to find. In the fall of 2012 we formed a partnership with TFA and hired three English teachers, one science teacher and one special education teacher. All of these areas are "High Needs" areas with more positions than quality candidates to fill them. These young ladies and gentlemen are incredible! The excitement they bring to their classrooms is laudable. Students both relate and are highly motivated by them Their use of cutting edge technology and high quality instruction is exactly what I would desire for my own child. Just as amazing is the impact that I have witnessed them having as citizens in our community.
    David WilsonJan 24, 2013 13:40:42 PM
    I'm concerned for Gary Peck - I think he needs to take some stress relief course or something - it's giving me high blood pressure just to listen to him! Please take care of yourself and remember to breath deeply. Whoah.
    StephanieJan 24, 2013 09:59:06 AM
    How can Nevada pretend it is serious about hiring new teachers? I am a retired CCSD math teacher who has offered to return to the classroom to help in this critical shortage area. Since I am collecting my retirement through PERS I have been denied unless I give up my retirement. I used reciprocity and became certified in Arizona where several districts were happy to offer me employment. Crazy Nevada rules prevent me from teaching there but Arizona is happy to have me. Does this make sense?
    steven leibowitzJan 24, 2013 05:54:25 AM
    Darling-Hammonds Houston Study "Does Teacher Preparation Matter? is a peer-reviewed, scholarly evaluation of the effectiveness of the TFA approach, published by Linda Darling-Hammond and three other Stanford University colleagues in 2005. Reading through the study, one can see why TFA doesnt like the results. The study is a longitudinal, six-year look at data from Houston representing more than 132,000 students and 4,400 teachers, on six different math and reading achievement tests. (TFA has sent recruits to Houston since 1991, and this year has more than 450 corps members teaching there.) Although some have suggested that perhaps bright college graduates like those who join TFA may not require professional preparation for teaching, we found no instance where uncertified Teach for America teachers performed as well as standard certified teachers of comparable experience levels teaching in similar settings, the study states. The study also found, however, that teachers who gained certification, including TFA teachers who became certified by their second or third year of teaching, increased in effectiveness.
    Sebring FrehnerJan 24, 2013 05:42:20 AM
    How does TFA address the fact that at the 5 year mark only 14.8% of TFA teachers placed are still teaching in classrooms compared to approximately 50% retention at the 5 year mark for traditionally trained teachers. Experts have shown that "teacher turnover is disruptive and affects the quality of a school and the education it provides." Each TFA teacher also receives full pay like all other teachers BUT CCSD is forced to pay the TFA organization an ADDITIONAL $2,500 per year/per TFA member placed in a classroom. In 2009, Deborah Appleman, a professor of Educational Studies at Carleton College, challenged TFA's "elitist" structure. "The story of TFA becomes a kind of master narrative, a story of heroic and altruistic young people that focuses much more squarely on them than it does on the lives of the children they are committed to serve. There is an elitist overtone to the structure of TFA, a belief that the best and the brightest can make a difference in the lives of children who are less fortunate, even when they are not professionally prepared to do so." Further reading
    Sebring FrehnerJan 24, 2013 05:23:59 AM
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