Teach For America came to Durham 10 years ago to help address the glaring opportunity gaps in our public schools.
As a Durham Public Schools graduate, proud parent of four DPS students, and member of a DPS PTA, I’ve had the good fortune to see these teachers in action, to meet the parents and families whose lives they’ve impacted, and talk with principals who depend on them year after year after year. With all the challenges we face ensuring all kids get a fair shot, Teach For America has been a bright spot – a promising piece of a much bigger solution.
Based on all these great outcomes, when the district’s contract with Teach For America came up for consideration this year, the administration recommended it.
They made this recommendation in response to principal feedback, along with local research on the effectiveness of these teachers. Last year, 97 percent of Eastern North Carolina principals employing corps members said those teachers were making a positive impact at their schools. In 2014, the University of North Carolina named Teach For America the most effective teacher prep program in the state, based on the performance of students.
The Durham school board’s decision to cancel the contract stands in stark contrast to these recommendations. As such, it represents a breakdown in the process.
This year, we have 12 corps members and 25 TFA alumni teaching here in Durham, impacting hundreds of our highest-need kids. Every day, these teachers help to address the most glaring, most pressing inequity in our city.
At its recent meeting, the school board opted to save $30,000 seemingly without considering the program’s tremendous return on investment. Before we even factor in the long-term impact corps members have had in our district as they become veteran teachers, principals, administrators and educational advocates, we must recognize that DPS was short 50 educators when school started this year. Eliminating the program will exacerbate the problem. Most concerning, it will do so at the expense of our low-income students of color.
Teach For America corps members and alumni are a part of our community and are doing outstanding work for students each and every day. Principals recognize this. Parents recognize this. The DPS administration recognized it as well.
Every corps member we don’t have in the district next year costs us immensely – in teaching positions we won’t be able to fill, outstanding classroom results we don’t get, and educational-leaders-in-the-making who won’t get the chance to fall in love with our kids and decide to make this the place where they bring their talents for the long-term.
What an awfully expensive decision.
Farad Ali is a former member of the Durham City Council.