Tuesday, March 19, 2013

CMS Teach for America fee: $510,000

We won't see Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' spending plan for another three weeks, but some interesting bits are coming out as the school board start planning. Among them:  CMS is paying $510,000 to Teach For America this year to support the 216 teachers the group has placed in local schools.

That may sound like a lot,  especially for those who aren't fans of the program that recruits college graduates and sends them into high-need schools for two-year stints.  But it's a far cry from the $10,000-per-teacher figure cited by Mecklenburg County Commissioner Vilma Leake at a meeting with the school board last week.  Leake,  a retired teacher and former school board member,  said she doesn't think paying the Teach For America fees is a wise use of money as CMS prepares to ask the county for more money.  "That's going to be a major issue and problem for us,"  Leake said.

Fees go to the organization to pay for recruiting, training, administration and ongoing support for TFA cadets. Those teachers are paid like any others, based on experience and credentials.

School board member Joyce Waddell asked for an update on the TFA fees at Monday's budget session.  Chief Financial Officer Sheila Shirley said the fees aren't calculated on a per-teacher basis.  But several of us whipped out our calculators to do the math:  It's more like $2,361 per teacher than $10,000.

Board member Rhonda Lennon asked how CMS can correct false statements that are made in public meetings,  whether they come from officials or members of the public.  Superintendent Heath Morrison said he plans to email all commissioners with the accurate TFA fees.  CMS is also keeping budget info posted on its web site.

Stay tuned here for more budget nuggets,  including the latest on the cost of changing school hours,  or bell schedules.


TheEmperorHasNoClothes said...

Here are the options:
Recruit teaching candidates from local universities who are planning to make teaching a lifelong career (cost: $0).
Or pay about $2,300 for teaching candidates (with "emergency" teaching credentials gained in a 5-week "bootcamp") who are not obligated to stay in teaching more than 2-3 years (and often leave at the end of their 2-3 year commitment, if not earlier).

Instead of funding a band-aid measure like Teach for America, why can't CMS spend the $510,000 it gives to TFA on recruiting and training teachers who have actually studied to be teachers and are planning to be teachers for a long time (instead of just how long it takes to add some shine to their application to law school or some other path to a non-education career)?

Anonymous said...

Ann - how about some figures about those TFA candidates - how many do actually stay in teaching for 5 or more years. In my experience it is not many. There are some great TFA folks but there are some terrible ones, too. I find many are just waiting for their boyfriends to finish law/med school.

Anonymous said...

A worry about the teaching ability and credentials of Teach for America teachers? They are put into "high needs" schools, which means they are teaching more about remedial sitting, basic social skills, the alphabet, colors and shapes than they are instructing on syntax, grammar, math and history.

But it is scary for the teacher unionists.

Anonymous said...

These are not REAL teachers. These are people who want to "pad" their resumes. 90% of the candidates could care less about teaching. It is a game to them. I worked with several over the years and the majority of them were not qualified or had no intentions of going into teaching. Ann is always chasing something that costs nothing or is worthless. Get rid of the Teach for America. It is one reason REAL teachers can't find jobs.

Ettolrahc said...

So these teachers go through a process that starts out with thousands for one job and the ones who make it are from some of the finest learning institutions in the country.

They are what made this country great, a real competition in which they won based on their ability.

They do teaching for a couple of years to see if teaching is for them, and if not they may move on to great careers and highly placed careers in corporations.

This experience, even if they do not stay in teaching, allows the school system to have some very highly place friends in corporations who can do many good things in partnership with them.

Sorry if I missed the down side.

But please go right ahead and let me know what I missed.

Pamela Grundy said...

The down side is that schools need staff stability, in order to build relationships with students and families, as well as a school culture. Having a portion of the staff in an endless, built-in cycle makes that difficult. Also, most teachers of whatever background and training have less-than-optimal first years, and don't get really good until their fourth or fifth year. So a TFA gives a school a not-so-great first year, a better second year, and then the cycle starts again. In contrast, those TFAers who stay four or five years become great teachers and really contribute to their schools. I'd be much happier with the program if it required a four-year commitment. Then it would really be about building schools and students rather than resumes.

Pamela Grundy said...

Also, although many writers seem to think that teaching in the early grades is easy, it is in fact the most difficult and important job in the school because teaching basics well requires greater flexibility and a wider range of skills than the more specialized teaching done at higher levels. It's my understanding that TFA has in fact begun to direct their teachers away from elementary school and towards middle and high school for precisely that reason.

Ettolrahc said...

Teacher turn over is at 14.36 percent in CMS.

That means in say four years the average Teachers who are in it full time will change around 50 plus percent.


Did you have something else we might use?

Ettolrahc said...

And like in Charter Schools with those Teachers, the fact they teach not in the set ways, but bring more flexibility to the students, increases learning, these TFA Teachers will bring ways that can be incorporated into the failing system of CMS.

Did you have citations on that inference that these Teachers from say Ivy League Schools would not be able to use the current learning curriculum effectively in all levels they teach?

Pamela Grundy said...

Teacher turnover is a real problem for many reasons, including testing madness. But I don't see why that should be used as an excuse for building the problem into one stream of teacher supply.

I have seen quite a few TFA teachers and I have yet to see one so good that I would have taken him or her for two years over a more committed teacher ready to stay four or five or better nine or ten years.

As a graduate of one of the fancy schools that produces a lot of TFAs, I can also say from experience that while kids coming out of those schools are plenty smart, none of them is going to be an outstanding teacher without at least two or three years experience. They aren't that special.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that stability has never been a priority for CMS. Principals come and go with great regularity. In the past, some school board members would declare that a school should not be associated with one neighborhood area but should "belong" to the entire community, and assignments were changed often with little input from those involved. I agree with Pam that schools need stability and that they need to build a relationship with students and families while building a school "culture". Over time some of the most successful schools in CMS have done just that. They have been fortunate enough to avoid the assignment and leadership churn that have plagued so many of our schools and thus have thrived even with lower per pupil spending.

I think that if we could get rid of the "immediate results or we're on to something else" attitude many other schools could create a culture of success as well. I suppose that theory does not support TFA teachers. However, having seen some of them in action, especially at the high school level, I also can see some positives--energy and enthusiasm, perhaps an ability to relate to young people that an older, jaded teacher may not have. It's all a complicated thing, isn't it!

Anonymous said...

Look at Charter school teachers who ran from CMS most of them are TFA teachers. TFA lets face is a short term program for the teachers who are young to retire their school debt. CMS is willing to bring in inexperienced teachers all the time why do they need TFA? Clearly Mrs. Leake is actually onto something (shocker) and possibly has a point ( did I really say that)? TFA has no value other that a political one with the Charlotte Chamber and Wells Fargo. It looks good , feels good and sounds good , but at what cost? Its caught up to you CMS now you have to deal with that devil.

Ettolrahc said...

So CMS should only hire Teachers with at least three to four years experience?

Got it.

And while tests are a real bear, I bet many of us who work in the private sector do things everyday that would equate to the rigors of all that testing, so we understand how challenging it can be everyday.

Sorry if you felt I was upset over the turnover rate, but I volunteer in the CMS system and know the system is to blame.

Some Teachers are the walking dead and need to be escorted from the building when the day is over, and some good ones we lose to the Charter Schools because they care about relationships and flexibility, even if the Teacher did not go to the fancy school you said you did.

So it really does come down to CMS and the operation of being a drop out factory for so many.

Last year in NC around 380 thousand low income kids did not pass the tests. Yet we still hold to the old system as working.

Something is wrong and until we get a real reporter talking about it and not using only certain sources every time, then nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

Ettolrahc is the only commenter making any sense here.

Anonymous said...


"They are what made this country great, a real competition in which they won based on their ability." It's not a competition if they get to play by different rules. School systems are required to use teachers from lateral entry programs (namely TFA) in order to receive RttT funding. Clearly the rules (policies) are in their favor when they can secure a teaching position without a teaching certificate.

"This experience, even if they do not stay in teaching, allows the school system to have some very highly place friends in corporations who can do many good things in partnership with them." This is a huge problem. "Private-public partnerships" is code for corporations taking tax payer money and doing whatever it wants with it so they can make money. The for-profit charter school movement uses public money and produces the same or worse results than similar public schools without the same accountability. Do you really think Gates, Broad, and the Waltons really care about inner-city students? Or do they see dollar signs? TFA started out with a noble mission, but has since sold its soul to corporate ed. reform.

"I bet many of us who work in the private sector do things everyday that would equate to the rigors of all that testing, so we understand how challenging it can be everyday." I certainly agree with you, however, you have more control over the variables that affect the results. Remember, traditional public schools have to accept every student that shows up. Other schools (charters and private) do not. Around the country, test results are being used to determine teacher salaries and school closures. These tests do a poor job of measuring student achievement and value-added models are unstable and inconsistent. Better evaluation models are needed, but test scores shouldn't be a part of it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a parent of a CMS graduate and soon to be graduate with her Masters in Elementary Education. CMS has great teacher candidates out there, they just have to go out and recruit. My daughter has wanted to be a teacher since she could talk and has not veered off of her chosen course. She participated in the Teacher Cadet program for 2 years in high school and has spent the last year teaching in a 5th grade classroom as part of her Master’s program. She’ll graduate in May prepared to teach K-5 as a second year teacher.

Anonymous said...

TFA's fill a gap left behind by true educators who have had enough with the bleeding hearts who do nothing but blame the teachers for parents who do not raise their kids to value education.......... That said, I have worked with many dynamic TFA's...... and when they leave..... because the vast majority do....... they kill any momentum in the school

Pamela Grundy said...


You might want to brush up on your own reading skills, as you have managed to miss virtually every point I was making.

Overall, despite much propaganda to the contrary, charter schools do not perform better than comparable public schools. A handful do better; a much larger percentage do worse. Online and for-profit charters perform especially badly. Check the CREDO study.

Anonymous said...


You bring up a great point. I taught a specific subject area at the university level and as a lateral entry high school teacher which I didn't feel required a lot of training in general education. I could have used a classroom management course prior to my high school teaching stint but having expertise in the particular subject area I taught was the most important thing.

I'm currently enrolled in a post-bac. program for regular classroom elementary school licensure. I complete student teaching next school year. I can assure you there is NO way I could walk into a 4th grade classroom and effectively teach my way through the school year without the education courses and training the state of NC is requiring me to complete. I don't know how anyone could do this. You are correct. The assumption is often that high school is harder to teach than Kindergarten. It's not. Not only this, but the early grades set the foundation for everything else yet to come.

The head of the TFA program at Harvard has acknowledged the program may be perpetuating the very things it is trying to solve. As a parent, I'd probably be fine with a TFA recruit from Brown teaching my children AP Calculus. I would not be OK with a TFA teacher standing in front of my child's 2nd grade class.


Jeff Wise said...

Why do we continue to pass off teaching as something completely different than some other job?

Every job has pros and cons. Every job has stressors and easy parts. I have no doubt there are some people who have become teachers and figured out how to coast by on the bare minimum.

The fact is teaching is inherently among the more stressful jobs out there, yet for whatever reason many of the commenters around here seem to think it's an easy-peasy gig.

TFA is an interesting concept that has merit, but my opinion is TFA is overused and relied up too heavily in many school districts and perpetuates the belief that anybody can be a so-called good teacher if they just tried hard enough or went to a name university. That's garbage.

And I see very little evidence of an enduring relationship between TFA alums and the schools they taught at.

But I have seen evidence of TFA alums deciding after 2 or 3 years of teaching that they suddenly have all the right answers of how to fix education and that's what has directly led us to this current wave of education reform that is doing nothing positive on the overall for our students.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, a degree from Yale might make me feel a little special. That made me laugh.

On the subject of charter schools - like TFA I think the jury is still out. Some have proven themselves while others don't perform any better than traditional public schools.

You're the historian, for better and for worse, American education always seems to be reinventing itself.


Anonymous said...


"But I have seen evidence of TFA alums deciding after 2 or 3 years of teaching that they suddenly have all the right answers of how to fix education and that's what has directly led us to this current wave of education reform that is doing nothing positive on the overall for our students."



Pamela Grundy said...


It does seem to make a lot of folks feel special, but I've been around enough to see its limitations.

Thanks, though.

Ettolrahc said...

No way Pam, I spent my four years in elementray school and it did nothing for me.

Anonymous said...

For once I totally agree with you on the k-2 elementary age groups. Having worked alongside the foundation builders of the future as a parent and teacher, it's amazing how much time these people give up of their lives and financial future, especially the new hires over the last five years. Lateral entries, as well, are made to jump through hoops that, in many cases, are totally irrelevant. Finally, I can't imagine TFA or CMS ever releasing the amount of folks that take a hike just during first semester. When you have an easy out, it's not exactly a seven week boot camp prior to shipping to Viet Nam.

Anonymous said...

My vote for TFA is yes - it is well worth the effort for the students and for the TFA teachers.

Anonymous said...

Will project lift continue funding for this program on westside? They are not renewing some big partners.

Anonymous said...

Project LIFT is unsustainable; a waste of time, money and resources.

Anonymous said...

Ann, you need to ask about Teach Charlotte and how much has been spent on them and the ROI. It isn't good!!!

Ann Doss Helms said...

Some of you are raising good questions about the cost and benefits of TFA, Teach Charlotte and (in an email) VIF. I'd love to clone myself and do an independent audit of those and other programs during budget season. Failing that, I'm wondering how much Heath Morrison will use his significantly larger staff to report out on such things. It's impossible to get to everything at once, but that seems like great info for him and the public to have.

Anonymous said...

MOrrison , His significantly larger staff and the BofE


thegayblade said...

No one has mentioned one of the real reasons schools use TFA teachers; they are cheap labor. They are also disposable labor.

You know what you get when you buy cheap products? The same thing you get when you hire cheap labor.

In this case, it is our students who suffer.

They deserve better.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall Judge Manning said young inexperienced teachers (like TFA's) were not what he wanted in urban schools teaching these at risk kids. But of course from what he said, Judge Manning never set foot in a CMS urban classroom. But I stand to be corrected.

MS Teacher said...


You should take a look at this recent report out of UNC. Compares teacher effectiveness from lots of sources including TFA and VIF.


Anonymous said...

Anon 7:11

I recall the opposite. I think Judge Manning is a big fan of programs like TFA.

MS Teacher said...

Another report comparing programs.


Ettolrahc said...

Wow Ann:

The report above is great. Is shows that in five years only about 10 percent of the TFA Teachers stay.

Now where is that report I had that showed we had a 16 percent turn over rate in Mecklenburg, and then make that five times that and ... sorry my head hurts when I think too much.

But at least this report did tell you from the start that is was to show that UNC had some great Teaching Grads.

And all those others who use terms like cheap labor or what ever they use, must not have been in an office lately with so many temps and the like doing so much work that others who were full time use to do.

Sadly we are just going to have to accept competition once again in this country, and some folks are not going to the golden ribbon at the end of the race. But at least that will make them try harder if they really want it.

Anonymous said...

From the UNC Report:

Teach For America:
"Most effective source of early-career teachers (0-5 yrs) in North Carolina Public Schools. More effective in 94 comparisons, less effective in 0, and no different in 35"

"Performance is slightly above average: More effective in 19 comparisons, less effective in 17, and no different in 83"

Anonymous said...

I am not a TFA teacher, but I did my undergrad at a highly ranked school that churns out a lot of TFAers.

I teach elementary, and frankly, I would put my own child in a class with a TFAer over a traditional teacher (if I knew nothing else about the two teachers in question) EVERY TIME. Half the elementary teachers in the district can't do a 4th grade level math problem (as I saw in orientation when I first started). So yeah, TFA teachers may not have experience teaching, but at least they have some sense of mastery over the material they teach.

Its hard for me to say this, as I consider myself a competent traditional teacher...that is the reality of our public schools. You just can't win as an intelligent teacher. If you go TFA, you lose respect because people assume you're not going to stick it out. If you go the traditional route, people assume you're an idiot. I knew the pay was low in teaching, but what a travesty that the respect from society is low too (and really, I can't blame society when I see how deficient so many teachers are).

So from a teacher: increase our pay, use that higher pay to recruit better people, and for cyring out loud, fire ineffective teachers. I care about the children and I care about my profession. We won't have higher respect OR better results for kids until we get better people in, and bad people out.

Sorry for the long, rambling post (using my short lunch break!!)

Shamash said...

Anon 11:12am.

I think you've just said what many of us outside the educracy were suspecting.

I really don't wonder why we have the performance problems we have in our schools when I know that the teachers do not come from the top half of entering freshmen.

I think that is the first step to changing the respect they get.

I've had teachers like those you've mentioned who did not know their material.

Especially math and science.

Their obvious deficiencies start showing up as early as the fifth grade in many cases.

Pretty sad.

Anonymous said...

I am just glad Vilma is on the CMS BOE. Every time she opens her mouth she confirms how rediculous this BOE is.

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken more than 60 percent of alumni corps members from Charlotte continue to work in education following their two year commitment. I understand this number is likely above the national average; however, I felt that should be pointed out.