Bridgeport overlooks trained Connecticut residents to hire 31 new Teach for America recruits (updated)

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Updated with additional background on the contract between Paul Vallas and Teach for America

Last Monday night, Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools revealed that he had hired another 31 Teach for America recruits to staff Bridgeport’s schools this year.   Few, if any of the recruits come from Connecticut and none went to a Connecticut college or university to become a teacher.

The TFA recruits come courtesy of a March 2013 deal between Vallas and Nate Snow, the Executive Director for the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America.  Snow is also the President of Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the corporate funded lobbying and advocacy group that has been Vallas’ strongest supporter, turning out crowds for public hearings and rallies in support of the embattled Bridgeport education reformer.  Snow and Excel Bridgeport also played a vital role in support of Mayor Bill Finch’s failed charter revision effort that would have done away with an elected board of education and replaced it with one appointed by Finch.

Not only are TFA recruits paid at regular teacher salary levels, but in return for supplying the Teach for America recruits, Vallas committed the City of Bridgeport to pay TFA a “fee” of “$3,000 per year for the first two years a teacher is employed.  According to the contract, the annual fee goes up next year to $3,105 a year and then to $3,214 the year after that.

In total, the Vallas/TFA contract calls for the City to hire 125 TFA teachers.  That number would provide Nate Snow’s organization with a finder’s fee in excess of $750,000.

Meanwhile in Windham, Malloy’s Special Master, Steven Adamowski, has packed the Windham schools with more and more of these mostly out-of-state Teach for America students.

As a result of Adamowski’s actions, about one in five Windham teachers had just a few weeks of training rather than having gone through one of Connecticut’s university-based teacher training programs.

The approach that is being taken by school administrators like Vallas and Adamowski is leaving hundreds of new Connecticut trained teachers twisting slowly in the wind.

It was only last May that literally hundreds of Connecticut residents earned their teaching certificates, after four or five years-worth of work, at UConn, Connecticut State University or one of Connecticut’s Independent colleges or universities.

At UConn, for example, students have two different options when it comes to teacher preparation programs including the “highly competitive five-year comprehensive teacher preparation program that integrates coursework and school-based clinic experiences facilitated by university and K-12 faculty in the preparation of pre-service teachers.”

As UConn proudly reports, “Over the past few years, U.S. News & World Report has ranked the IB/M program among the top 25 teacher preparation programs in Elementary Education, Secondary Education, and Special Education. We are nationally accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education as well as the Connecticut State Board of Education. Further, certification through the IB/M program is recognized by forty states through the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education & Certification Interstate Contract.”

But did Paul Vallas or Steven Adamowski hire these students or the others who came out of Central, Southern, Eastern, Western or one of the other colleges in the state?

The answer would be a big NO!

In fact, the teaching positions that went to the out-of-state Teach for America recruits weren’t even posted as vacancies, meaning Connecticut residents never even had a chance to compete for the spots.

Earlier this month, Governor Malloy told the media that the economy was improving and that he was the only Connecticut governor to have created jobs over the past two decades.

Of course his claim wasn’t true…but even worse, he tried to skip over the fact that according to Connecticut’s Department of Labor, “Connecticut’s unemployment rate was estimated at 8.1% for July 2013.” That means the percentage of unemployed actually increased over the summer.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with giving a few Teach for America recruits the opportunity to get experience by teaching in our public schools but administrators like Vallas and Adamowski have been consistently blocking opportunities for our own Connecticut children… Children who went to college in Connecticut and developed the expertise and knowledge they needed to teach in our public schools.

Imagine, we have Connecticut students, and their families, who were forced to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to go to college.  They took the right courses, they got the right grades, they completed their teacher preparation programs and they earned their teaching certification.  But when they graduated they discovered that they couldn’t even apply for a significant number of jobs in Connecticut’s public schools because someone had cut a deal to give dozens of those jobs away to out-of-state kids who didn’t even need to take education courses.

Put aside all the issues associated with whether TFA recruits have sufficient training before being sent into the classroom.

The fact is that Connecticut’s economy remains derailed and instead of using every opportunity to create good jobs for Connecticut residents, Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski are setting up systems that prevent our children from even applying for these good paying jobs.

And as if all of this wasn’t insulting enough to the hard working families of Connecticut, TFA recruits generally qualify for the various federal loan forbearance programs meaning that while getting full teacher salaries their student loans are being paid for by the United States Government.

So when all is said and done, instead of creating jobs for Connecticut residents, the TFA program blocks Connecticut residents from getting jobs, gives jobs to people who have not gone through Connecticut teacher preparation programs, diverts hundreds of thousands of dollars in Connecticut taxpayer funds to Teach for America in the form of finder’s fees  and leaves our students with more debt…all while out-of-state students get their student loans paid for by the government for taking away jobs that should be going Connecticut residents who have worked so hard to become teachers.

It is a sad excuse for leadership in these troubled economic times.

  • jschmidt2

    Are Teach for America recruits cheaper than hiring a teacher from among the CT graduates?

    • brutus2011

      No, the starting salary is the same for TFA first year teachers and other first year teachers. In addition a district usually pays a fee to TFA of three thousand dollars.

      • Linda174

        Yes, exactly and then a majority leave within 2-3 years if not earlier and then it starts all over again. I wonder why the temporary scab is only used in city schools.

        • jschmidt2

          Well it seems far better to give TFA, SNow,Vallas and by extension to Malloy 750k of Bridgeport money, which is probably mostly state money, and money no one has, to get none CT teachers for a school district already in trouble. What would you expect from Malloy and Co. But I thought Vallas wasn’t qualified to be Super?. So wouldn’t the deal he made be voided?

          • Mary Gallucci

            With MUNIS software and ballots and Tyler Tech voting machines, perhaps Nate Snow will make sure that every TFA in Bridgeport is registered to vote in the next election–last time Snow ran for office in Bridgeport, he lost. But with an influx of scab labor delivered by a lucrative organization like TFA, he’s a shoo-in.

        • R.L.

          They leave within 2 or 3 years so in the long run they are cheaper. However, the overall experience level of the staff stays very low. The edushysters seem to think that’s ok for poor districts.

  • buyoldandprosper

    THE DAY had an article today with the headline:
    New London trying to figure out exodus of teachers

    I can’t read it but you probably can. We can all assume the obvious!

  • brutus2011

    One reason for this can be found in most privatizer’s contempt for education school trained teachers.

    The thinking is that the bright students don’t take education courses while the less bright pad their GPA’s with easy education courses.

    There was an economist’s paper recently published that made that very point–that education courses resulted in much higher grades than non-ed courses.

    However, as someone who has non-education degrees and also went the extra mile to go through a teacher ed program, I think that it is elitist and inappropriate to castigate all education majors as less bright than others.

    I know this–your GPA doesn’t matter a hoot when you stand in front of your first class and an object whizzes by your ear to the howls of half of your class. And good luck calling the principal for help.

  • 1987tsd

    This is criminal behavior. None of recruits are qualified to teach. They have no training, no student teaching experience, no educational psychology classes, no state certification guaranteeing that they are at least prepared for teaching school. The Bridgeport BoE has opened itself to enormous liabilities when one of the “uncertified” TFA recruits molests and child, abducts a child, abuses a child or otherwise damages a child.

    Vallas must go.
    Holy Moly must go.
    Finch must go.

    Bridgeport…where the circus never left town.

  • cindy

    Wow! This makes me nauseous. At the same time the state is making certified teachers meet more and more requirements in order to be “the most highly qualified” and subsequently raising the salary line in town budgets (further alienating teachers from parents) the requirements are being lowered for TFA. This is an attack from all fronts to get teachers out, TFA in, compartmentalize teaching into modules to be delivered, etc. Sickening. Malloy is vindictive for some reason. Stamford is next. Norwalk as well.

  • Mary Gallucci

    Windham Middle School, about to be colonized by Commissioner Pryor who won’t stop persecuting and starving the district of ECS and other state funds, has more than 1 in 5 TFA teachers–it may even be 1 in 3 or 1 in 2. As soon as any contract is signed with TFA, it is a signal that no teacher will be supported in a district.
    Jonathan, you may have to re-do your Windham District numbers–the STEM magnet school has no TFA, as far as I know. I don’t think that would go over very well with the whole strategy of “life-boat education reform”–an off-shoot of the right-wing’s favorite Life Boat Ethics–so, when resources are scarce, whom do we push into the shark-infested waters first? In Windham, it is Natchaug School students (whose school, thanks to delays in fixing the roof, is deteriorating faster than ever–we can thank Steven Adamowski for the first, crucial delay and for NOT reporting the situation to the State Department of Education, because it did not fit with the Self-Celebration that he delivered to them about his first year in Windham. The next group about to be thrown to the piranhas are the Middle School students, everyone of whom probably has an inexperienced, inept, condescending TFA as a “teacher.”
    I am wondering, though, if the Natchaug deterioration is not part of another trick Adamowski has up his sleeve. Adamowski is partners in crime with Pryor, badly wanting a charter school established in Windham and staffed by TFA.

    • Linda174

      Starve a school, create chaos and destruction, label it a failure, fire all staff, declare a turnaround, turn it over to Jumoke and/or AF, recruit more TFA scabs, and call it “reform”. Keep one school open so the lowest caste can be spewed out and sent back…no one wants the behaviorally disordered, the learning disabled, the autistic, etc, the children of difficult parents. You need one traditional public school to absorb the bad test takers who make you look bad. This is what the elitists think: “At lease we’re saving some of THEM.”

      • Mary Gallucci

        Sad but true.

      • R.L.

        It is the Friedman economic model aka disaster capitalism, aka the corporate welfare model, aka the Shock Doctrine.

  • jschmidt2

    Good job on this Jon.

  • Castles Burning

    Excellent reporting. I would like more details on this particular contract with Nate Snow as it seems that it was not brought before the BOE. Does a superintendent traditionally have the “right” to make such contracts without consultation? Is there are number of years in which the 125 must be hired? Is there a consequence if 125 are not hired?.

    Do we know how members of the BOE responded to this news? Mayor Finch?

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  • Drew

    Loan forebearance does not mean the government pays for your student loans. It means you can defer payments, but interest still accrues.

    TFA corpsmembers do get student loan forgiveness as part of the Americorps program. They receive $5k each year to pay for the expenses of obtaining a teaching certificate or to pay past student loans. Even non-TFA Americorps members get this benefit.

    Are you complaining about other Americorps programs in the state and how the government is “paying for their student loans”? On top of that, $10k isn’t really all that much when you consider the total cost of college and a significant portion goes to pay for the licensure programs the corpsmembers participate in.

    The role of TFA in a school district is something that absolutely should be debated, but there is no need to exaggerate the benefits corpsmembers receive to make the program look bad.

    • Mary Gallucci

      Do students–who all seem to have a heavy loan burden–get the student loan forgiveness of “$5K each year to pay for the expenses of obtaining a teaching certificate or to pay past student loans”–if they are traditional education majors going to teach? No, they don’t. And given that the TFA organization extorts between $3K and $6K to pay for their certification, licensure, and additional training–which may include college credits and fast-track ed degrees–it sounds like they are getting an awful lot, much more than dedicated education majors and much more than other college students. Too much, in fact. Some of their perks sound like double-dips, as well. After all, they are NOT volunteers, but making the entry level salary of a teacher–so the traditional teacher has a low salary, a student loan burden, the cost of additional ed credits; license fees, etc, while TFA comes out on top, gets applauded even when doing a dismal job in the classroom, and then gets on with the rest of their life.

    • jonpelto

      Thanks for the information Drew, I will fix my blog post right away.

  • Mary Gallucci
  • elliew1234

    So here in RI Rhode Island College the historically working class college that has trained RI teachers for alomost 100 years, has partnered with TFA. This put their working class students in unfair competition with untrained uncertified TFA scabs. To add insult to injury most if not all of the working class students in the RIC teacher training program have student loans to pay for.

  • mookalaboona

    After 40 years of teaching, I will probably calling it quits this year. This Malloy and his ilk are an abomination.

  • David

    I resent this article. You neglect to inform your readers that TFA is a highly selective organization that only takes the best and brightest. I have some experience around TFA teachers and I know they come from prestigious universities such as Harvard and Stanford. It is a community service organization where people from very prestigious universities volunteer to be placed in the lowest income and often worst school districts in order to try and better the students by providing a different world view. How can students get access to different world views if they have teachers who grew up in Connecticut, went to college in Connecticut, and want to teach in Connecticut? Personally, I’d rather have my children have a teacher who grew up in North Dakota, went to college in California, and wants to teach in Connecticut. That person could offer a much better experience to my children, than any home-grown teacher could. They have been out in the world and experienced different things, and if they are TFA, I know that they are smart, and qualified. This letter is just an attempt by the author to score political points against his foes, nothing more. It makes me sick.

    • jonpelto

      Then let them compete against the home grown students and may the best teacher be selected…. seems fair and appropriate.

    • Magister

      There is so much wrong in this post that I am not sure to begin. I’ll just say that the notion that TFA corps members are the “best and brightest,” an assertion that you support mainly with the brand names of their academic pedigrees and little else, is extremely condescending. Do you mean to suggest that those who go to ordinary colleges and intend to make a long career out of teaching are somehow inferior? I would much rather have my children taught by someone who has chosen teaching as a profession and who has established roots in the region that he serves. Someone who has had a mere five week teacher boot camp, or some edu-tourist padding his resume for a couple of years as a prelude to his “real” career in some other field need not apply.

    • Linda174

      The original use of “best and brightest” was in reference to the “elites” and their stance on the Vietnam war. It was NOT a compliment. If they are so great, why don’t the wealthy CT districts want them? Why aren’t they in elite private schools: Sidwell friends, Lakeside, Choate? Why do they temp and scab for such a short time? Their superiority makes many of us sick.

      • Ebony in Hartford

        EXACTLY!

  • Sue

    Bridgeport schools are being forced into “Time Collaboration” (extended school day/come in early, stay late, work weekends, teach 60 elementary grade students while your partner comes in earlier or later). If we choose to opt out and transfer, they’ve already picked our replacements.

    They’re squeezing our balls into a state of infertility. Shame on them. Shame, shame, shame.

  • Sue

    http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/alliance_districts/time_collaborative_overview_and_expression_of_interest.pdf
    CT’s post on Time Collaboration. Don’t google the company and click on their website – it’s full of viruses.

  • Jackie

    Small quibble: “Imagine, we have Connecticut students, and their families, who were forced to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to go to college. ” Sorry–nobody FORCED these people to borrow money. There are cheaper schools than UCONN, and alternative approaches to earning degrees (community college then transfer, working part-time, etc)

    • Ebony in Hartford

      Right… EXCEPT UCONN is harshly limiting the number of credits they take from community colleges. The CSUs are NOT much cheaper than UCONN, and clearly are viewed as lesser when students attempt to find jobs after graduation.

      http://www.ctmirror.org/story/2013/10/29/uconn-seeks-limit-credits-students-can-use-community-colleges

      “They have been out in the world and experienced different things…” RIGHT, because they are RICHER and their parents can pay for them to have all these ‘enrichment experiences’ while working class kids must WORK. We can’t all sail around the world and do community service in Guam before going to Stanford. Are you saying working and middle class students can’t become teachers? What a snob!

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