Board of Teaching denies Teach for America group waiver, again.

Janice Bitters

The Minnesota Board of Teaching denied Teach for America's request for a group waiver — an agreement that would make it easier for corp members to enter Minnesota classrooms in the fall — for the second time Friday. 

The waiver would have allowed TFA to secure temporary licenses for all corp members entering Minnesota classrooms all at once. Now, each school who chooses to hire a TFA member will need to work with the Board of Teaching individually before they can begin teaching.

TFA made it's first request for the waiver in May, which was denied due to questions Minnesota Board of Teaching members had, including ones about attrition rates of teachers in the program and their placement in high-need schools, according to Karen Balmer, executive director for the Minnesota Board of Teaching.

TFA corps members apply for hard-to-staff positions, serving schools with predominantly low-income students and students of color, TFA said in a press release Friday.

Balmer said in an interview earlier this month she hoped to see more data addressing the board's questions from TFA in its revised request, which was heard and denied again Friday.

In the past year, TFA has recieved sharp criticism from several groups, including Education Minnesota, a teacher's union and advocacy group.

Tom Dooher, president of Education Minnesota said the five week training program TFA offers for new members is not enough for those entering classrooms.

"We believe that teaching is a very complex profession that takes both arts and science," he said in an interview earlier this month. "We just want to make sure that anyone who becomes and educator in the state of Minnesota meets the high standards we have set for those who are going to teach."

But Crystal Brakke, executive director for TFA in the Twin Cities, said TFA prepares their members adequately.

After the standard five-week training TFA offers, corp members are also enrolled in a teacher licensing program at Hamline University, and are paired with TFA mentors who have taught in classrooms, she said in an interview earlier this month.

The Hamline University program allows corp members to take classes and earn their permanent Minnesota teaching license over two years while simultaneously teaching Minnesota K-12 students.

Brakke said though she is confident schools will still hire TFA corp members without the waiver, she's concerned about the additional work each school would have to do.

“Moving forward, we will work with our school partners as they try to pursue individual licenses for our teachers," TFA said in a press release Friday. "Unfortunately, today’s decision limits the diversity and breadth of the talent pool principals can easily access as they make strategic decisions about what is needed to expand educational opportunities for their students and school communities.”

This is the first year the Board of Teaching has denied TFA's group waiver request since the organization began operating in Minnesota in 2009.

Earlier this month, 43 new TFA members settled into Comstock Hall for a week of training, several of whom are recent graduates of the University of Minnesota. The group later flew to Idaho for the remainder of their five-week TFA training before returning to Minnesota to teach.

Read more on this topic in a recently-published Daily article here.