The Buffalo Public Schools will hire 30 Teach for America recruits for the next school year, and another 30 the following year, if the School Board approves the plan next week.
The plan will help recruit minority teachers to the district, Superintendent Pamela C. Brown said. It also will help fill positions in areas that the district has trouble filling, including special education, bilingual instruction, English as a second language and secondary math, she said.
Teach for America is a national nonprofit organization that recruits recent college graduates and people already working in other fields to teach in public schools with high concentrations of poverty. They must commit to teach for at least two years.
“It’s a program that has a great national reputation,” the superintendent said. “It’s nationally recognized for the quality of the candidates they’re able to attract. They particularly look for candidates who have a strong sense of mission as it relates to improving achievement in urban districts.”
Teach for America recruits undergo intensive training during the summer before they are placed in a school. They are not, however, certified teachers. They will receive a transitional teaching license from the state Education Department that is good for up to two years, according to Darren Brown, executive director for human resources.
Teach for America hires will have to go through the district’s standard screening and interview process, officials said.
The district will pay each of them the same salary as any other first-year teacher, Darren Brown said. In addition, the district will pay Teach for America $5,000 a year per teacher, for two years, to cover professional development that the organization will provide to the teachers. In its first year, the program will cost the district $150,000 in professional development costs.
Those professional development sessions will be open to all the teachers in the schools where the Teach for America hires work, Darren Brown said.
The plan comes at the suggestion of Robert G. Wilmers, chairman and CEO of M&T Bank, according to SuperintendentBrown. Wilmers has agreed to cover certain administrative costs for the program, which will include the salary of a Teach for America coordinator who will be based in Buffalo, she said.
When district administrators presented the plan to the School Board on Wednesday, several board members wanted to know whether Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore supported it.
“I have personally had a conversation with Phil Rumore, and he is receptive to this,” the superintendent said.
The Teach for America hires would be union members, she said.
“If it will help the school district, I’m willing to give it a shot,” Rumore said in a phone interview.
Critics of Teach for America point out that the group’s recruits are only required to commit to teaching in a district for two years. The critics question how effective the program is if its teachers do not make a long-term commitment to the field. In New York State, teachers generally do not receive tenure until after their third year.
Information provided to the district by Teach for America says that two-thirds of its alumni remain in the education field in some position. The same information indicates that of the nearly 28,000 Teach for America alumni, 7,800 are teachers.
“Teach for America teachers remain in the field at about the same rate as other teachers,” the superintendent said.
A recent study reported in the trade journal Education Week found that 61 percent of Teach for America teachers continued teaching in public schools beyond their required two-year stint. By their fifth year, 15 percent were still teaching in the school they had originally been assigned to.