This fall lawmakers will begin debate on the Ohio Core Curriculum, an initiative requiring high school students to take more math and science courses to graduate. If the legislation passes, district leaders will not have enough highly qualified teachers to cover the additional course load.
They can hardly fill their needs now. In 2004, there were 64 teaching vacancies in math and 60 in science. Teach for America (TFA)—a national teacher recruitment program that enlists young, idealistic college graduates much like the Peace Corps did two generations ago—could help fill the void. Their pool of applicants is up 20 percent, and these are hardly students from marginal schools. One-third of Notre Dame’s math, science, and engineering graduates applied to TFA, as did eight percent of Cal Tech’s class of 2006. By 2010, TFA wants to become the biggest employer of top college graduates in the nation.
Perfect timing? Nope. Unfortunately, strict state licensure requirements keep TFA out of our state.
Worse, we’re losing talented Ohioans. Since 2002, 196 graduates from some of our best universities have participated in TFA. These Buckeyes, literally some of the state’s best and brightest, are packing their bags to teach not in Columbus, Dayton, or Cleveland, but in high poverty schools in Philadelphia, the South Bronx, and Chicago.
How can districts recruit TFA teachers to Ohio? TFA vice president Diane Robinson declared, “If districts want us but laws are preventing us from coming, they need to take it on, or the (state legislators need) to take it on.” So why is Ohio still sitting on the sidelines?