By Katie Campos
As a Buffalonian, my biggest source of pride in our city is being known as the “City of Good Neighbors.” We’re a community that rallies around each other to ensure each and every one of us thrives.
Once considered a model of school integration, and an economic engine of the country, we now struggle with poverty that disproportionately impacts our communities of color. Racial minorities comprise more than 70 percent of our school district’s student population, and as a community, we are rightly focusing on building an education system that will offer an excellent education to every student.
Getting this right is critical for every child and family, and is central to our city’s future. I am honored that Teach For America is being included in broader efforts to expand opportunities for students in low-income communities.
The Buffalo School Board’s recent vote to enter into a partnership with our organization paves the way for us to provide one additional source of diverse, qualified candidates for up to 30 open teaching positions. Our teachers will interview for open positions in hard-to-staff subject areas.
They will pass all New York State teacher content specialty exams and be eligible to teach under a Transitional B License. TFA teachers will be interviewed alongside other applicants, with no preferential treatment, and the district will determine who is the right fit for each school’s teaching team. TFA teachers hired by the Buffalo Public Schools will be members of the Buffalo Teachers Federation.
We share the board’s belief that teachers who share the backgrounds of their students can have additional impact as role models and mentors. Among TFA’s 2013 teaching corps, 39 percent identify as people of color, 39 percent are Pell Grant recipients (an indicator of low-income background) and 27 percent are the first in their family to attend college. This past year, nearly 40 TFA teachers identified Buffalo as their hometown and many indicated that they would like to teach in Buffalo.
We develop our teachers to set ambitious visions for students’ academic success; partner with students and their families in working hard toward that vision; and continuously reflect and improve on leadership and effectiveness. TFA is among the nation’s most studied teacher preparation programs. A rigorous body of research, including experimental, gold-standard national studies by Mathematica Policy Associates, shows that our teachers have a positive impact on student achievement.
We are proud to have earned the trust and partnership of Superintendent Pamela C. Brown and the Buffalo School Board, and we will work hard to do the same with students, families, fellow teachers and community leaders across the city.
Katie Campos is the managing director of Teach For America Buffalo.