Battle for California: TFA Civil War, ELLs, and Teacher Quality

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There is an update on the TFA civil war from California…I received the following letter via email from a source within the TFA alum circle. TFA alumni are organizing for teacher quality in the Golden State. TFA wants to be able continue to assign a revolving door of poorly trained (only 5 weeks in the summer) and uncertified  teachers to instruct ELL students. The TFA alumni are standing up against the national organization, Michelle Rhee, DFER, and others and saying no.  Bravo!! (See CI’s full TFA thread here). Draft of letter to TFA alums about California Commission on Teacher Credentialing decision below:

Dear TFA Alumni,

Right now you stand in a unique and powerful place to speak out for California’s English learners. For years, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) has been automatically giving intern teachers (including TFA corps members) an EL authorization with their intern credential, even though interns have not completed the requisite training to meet ELs’ special needs and in spite of uncontroverted research indicating that EL students do better with teachers who have completed such specialized training.

At its meeting next Thursday March 7th, the CTC is reconsidering this policy, and its staff has made sound recommendations that 1) the CTC stop awarding the EL authorization without requiring interns to complete the EL coursework and fieldwork; 2) multiple pathways be created for interns to receive their EL authorization as soon as possible; and 3) that districts may publicly seek an EL waiver so the interns they need to hire during teacher shortages may legally teach ELs while they are completing their training. The full agenda item can be found at http://www.ctc.ca.gov/commission/agendas/2013-03/2013-03-3A.pdf

Teach For America, Students First (Michelle Rhee’s organization), DFER, numerous charter schools, LAUSD Superintendent Deasy, and others sent the Commission a letter yesterday opposing the proposed policy change.  We are organizing a letter of support on the other side.  In addition, two prominent EL researchers, Kenji Hakuta at Stanford and Patricia Gandara at UCLA, submitted testimony in support in January. 

Unfortunately, Teach for America is voicing strong opposition to the CTC’s reconsideration of this important issue. Even though the CTC staff’s recommendations do not threaten interns’ presence (or hierarchical preference) in California’s classrooms, and TFA has suggested that its summer institute program satisfies the state’s requirements for EL coursework and fieldwork, TFA is saying that enforcing the rights of ELs hampers districts’ and charters’ flexibility to hire intern teachers.  They also argue “there is no strong research base to support the general assertion currently on the table that students taught by “fully-prepared” novice teachers outperform students who are taught by interns…”

This is a simple issue that has been made complex: ELs require and are legally entitled to teachers specially trained to meet their needs, and parents deserve to know when ELs do not have fully prepared teachers. Interns without the EL authorization should be incentivized to obtain their EL authorization as soon as possible so they can address their EL students’ linguistic and academic challenges.

As TFA alums who have taught ELs as intern teachers, your voice in this debate is crucial. Please read and consider signing onto a letter to the CTC from TFA alums available here. The signatories page here. If you’d like to sign on, please do so soon, by NOON Tuesday, March 5th.

p.s. To continue the discussion on the issues raised in this post, please Tweet and Facebook Like it for others below. ciao!
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Categories: English Language Learners, Teach For America, Teacher Quality

Author:Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin.

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  1. V for Victory: Teach For America, ELLs, and California | Cloaking Inequity - April 22, 2013

    [...] an emerging TFA Civil War where former corps members are increasingly critiquing TFA. In the post Battle for California: TFA Civil War, ELLs, and Teacher Quality, TFA alums made a call to their own. Here are excerpts from a letter written from TFA alums to TFA [...]

  2. The Republicans didn’t get what they wanted from Shutdown, but TFA did | Cloaking Inequity - October 17, 2013

    […] limit the Teacher Quality for ELL students and how TFA alumni had spoke out against it in the post Battle for California: TFA Civil War, ELLs, and Teacher Quality. TFA lost in California on that issue (See V for Victory: Teach For America, ELLs, […]

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