Philadelphia Charters Hiring TFA’ers Cut From Public Schools

Charter schools in Philadelphia are taking advantage of the teacher layoffs in the school district by hiring a large number of first and second year Teach for America staff. At The Notebook, a website that covers Philadelphia Public Schools, Dale Mezzacappa writes that the number of TFA teachers in the district dropped significantly this year after the district was forced to fire 1200 teachers, including 310 TFA members. Renaissance charter schools, which are former public schools that have been converted to charters as part of the Renaissance Schools Initiative, have stepped up to hire nearly 100 of the TFA teachers to take over charter classrooms this year.

Between current corps members and alumni, TFA is playing a larger role in Philadelphia's charter networks, including Mastery, KIPP, and Young Scholars, even as its presence in the District is waning. For instance, a quarter of the Mastery teachers, and half of those at KIPP and Young Scholars are TFA alumni, Neale said. Many of their principals are also TFA alumni. Mastery and Young Scholars run Renaissance charters; KIPP does not.

Although job placement is part of the Philadelphia Public Schools' contract with Teach for America, there's some flexibility that takes into account the district's employment situation. The budget worries in the district meant that the city couldn't find positions for all the TFA graduates it contracted for:

"TFA was scrambling for positions for them, but then last week most of those people were called back," said one second-year corps member who did not want to be identified. She said that some had taken positions they didn't really want, but "signed contracts and can't get their old District jobs back. It's been an awful situation for a lot of people."

The Chicago Tribune reports that the United Neighborhood Organization, a charter school program in Chicago, took advantage of a similar problem last year by signing a contract directly with TFA this year to supply graduates to its schools across the city. Twenty-five TFA teachers were hired to teach in UNO schools this school year.

"(Teach For America) brings quality individuals, people that will excel as educators within our school," said Juan Rangel, chief executive officer of UNO, which operates nine charter schools in the city and is the second-largest charter holder in Illinois.

Teach for America, a program that recruits college graduates and places them in teaching positions at schools in urban and low-income neighborhoods for two years in exchange for a master's degree in education, is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. The number of applicants to the program rose 34% in 2011 – 47,000 applications for only 4,500 program slots.

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