Renton School District still considering Teach for America

The Renton School District is still in communication with the non-profit organization, Teach for America, to staff hard-to-fill positions in the district.

Randy Matheson, the district's spokesman, called the Renton Reporter midweek to clarify his earlier statements that the district was no longer discussing using graduates of the program to fill open district positions.

The ongoing discussions with Teach for America include the Renton Education Association and the University of Washington, which hosts the Teach for America program locally.

Currently, the Renton School District has about 75 positions it needs to fill for the next school year.

Originally, Matheson said the district took the question of using Teach for America off the table.

The district has yet to present the school board with a formal plan or contract for how its work with Teach for America might play out, Matheson said.

The district may not have to pay the $4,000 fee that comes with using each Teach for America teacher, he said.

The program works by allowing Teach for America participants, who have degrees but not teaching certificates, to work in a school district, while they are pursuing their certification at a university.

In this case, Teach for America participants are enrolled in the University of Washington's Accelerated Certification for Teachers program.It is a state-approved, alternative-route certification program.

"State law says that if a teacher is not certified in a position, then the only thing a school district can do is put a teacher in with a degree for 19 days only," said Matheson.

Because the Teach for America participants are working on their certification, they are allowed to stay for the whole year.

The district's decision to use Teach for America participants has nothing to do with Teach for America being a great program, Matheson said.

It has to do with the district always having some hard-to-fill positions such as in Special Education, English Language Learners, math, science and other specific content areas.

According to Matheson, the district has at least one or two of these positions a year.

The Renton Education Association is working with the district also to see if there are current teachers to fill those positions, opening up those not-hard-to-fill positions, Matheson said.

Superintendent Mary Alice Heuschel issued a statement in a district press release on Wednesday.

"I am committed to remaining diligent and working with all teacher preparation and all alternative routes and certification programs to demand they are graduating and certifying high-quality candidates to teach in our schools," Heuschel said. "I serve on two university education advisory boards to contribute to the on-going efforts to improve education preparation programs."

Although this is the first time the district has worked with Teach for America, currently there are several principals and more than two dozen teachers, mostly in career and technical education fields, who have alternative teaching certifications similar to Teach for America.

A release states that the district's plan now is to continue to work with the teachers union leadership, teachers and the community to get to an understanding about the UW Accelerated Certification for Teachers and its relationship with Teach for America.

The district will do this before presenting an agreement with UW Accelerated Certification for Teachers program and Teach for America to the school board.

According to the district, should it move ahead with the process, Teach for America staff would have to apply and interview like other applicants to be selected for a job.



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