Teach For America may lose model in California!

This week the California Assembly Education Committee heard AB 221. Here is the original text of the bill.

AB 221


Article 14 (commencing with Section 32440) is added to Chapter 3 of Part 19 of Division 1 of Title 1 of the Education Code, to read:

Article  14. Teach for America

(a) Commencing with the 2020–21 school year, no Teach for America teacher shall be assigned, pursuant to the Teach for America program, to teach at any California public school, including a charter school, that has at least 40 percent of its pupils being from low-income families, as specified pursuant to Title I of the federal Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. Sec. 6301 et seq.).

(b) This section shall not be construed to apply to a Teach for America teacher’s placement at a school described in subdivision (a) before the start of the 2020–21 school year.

SEC. 2.

If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.

I was asked by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), author of AB 221, to discuss my research at the hearing.  Here is my testimony as written.

I’m Julian Vasquez Heilig, a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University Sacramento. I also serve as the California NAACP Education Chair and on the Board of Network For Public Education Action.

As a scholar, I have studied Teach For America (TFA) since 2005. Our first peer-reviewed study of TFA, co-authored with Linda Darling-Hammond, State Board of Education Chair, and others was entitled “Does teacher preparation matter? evidence about teacher certification, Teach For America, and teacher effectiveness” This study is probably the most prominent peer reviewed study about TFA in the research literature— it’s been cited more than 1,200 times. We examined the achievement of students taught by TFA teachers compared to other teachers in a large, urban district. We found that TFA teachers did not perform better than certified and trained teachers. In my work as a faculty fellow for the National Education Policy Center I have probably read every single peer reviewed and non-per reviewed study during the last 15 years about TFA. While most studies show no positive effect of TFA on student achievement, some studies that do find an impact typically don’t find any benefits from TFA until their 4 and 5th years. However, we need a big asterisk… we should consider the validity of these findings because the impact is typically only in math and the vast majority of TFA are gone by year 4 and 5 anyways— usually more than 80%. To sum up the research, choosing bad over worse is the enemy of good teaching for students in California’s Title I schools.

I also think it is important to say that TFA is not “the new civil rights movement” as they have claimed. My mother always told me, show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you are. I think its notably the California NAACP and LULAC, our nation’s largest African American and Latino civil rights organizations are supporting this bill. Furthermore, California’s urban teachers represented by CFT are also supporting this bill.

In conclusion, the California NAACP and the Network for Public Education support parents and other stakeholders who desire a highly-qualified teacher for every student in their neighborhood public schools.

Here is my 2-minute testimony as delivered.

Some intense moments in ensued when Assemblymember Kiley, a Republican and former TFA (before he went to law school), began aggresively questioning Assemblymember Garcia and criticizing Patrick O’Donnell, Chair of the Assembly Education Committtee. Watch the events unfold towards the end of the hearing.

Then Kiley decided to ask me some questions. Here is how that went.
If you listened to the hearing, you probably heard Assemblymember Garcia accept amendments to the bill. The changes are located on p. 11 of the AB 221 bill analysis, it was agreed in the Assembly Education Committee that the bill would be ammended to focus on longer 5-year commitments and abolish fees paid by districts to private third-party organizations for intern teachers.
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So what was the result of the vote? Only Assemblymember Kiley voted against the amended bill in committee. 

Screen Shot 2019-03-30 at 12.35.14 AMThis is only the first of many steps for this bill before it becomes law. Next up is appropriations. However, no legislature has ever succeeded in a similar first vote (to my knowledge) and taken the first steps towards requiring TFA to change their core approach— charging thousands of dollars in fees for teachers who are stopping over in the classroom for a short term stay. If AB 211 ultimately passess, California would be the first state to demand that Teach For America and all other intern program commit to placing teachers for the long term.

See all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts about Teach For America here.

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Twitter: @ProfessorJVH

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