We struggle in West Virginia to fill every school classroom with an educator certified in the discipline they are teaching.  According to the West Virginia Education Association, we currently have 316 teaching positions being filled by long-term substitutes.

A significant increase in starting teacher pay—it’s currently around $34,000—would help, but it’s always going to be hard to attract more qualified educators to some of the rural and poorer parts of the state.  Also, it’s going to be an ongoing challenge to find the money necessary to raise starting salaries to a level that will attract more talented young people into the profession.

That’s why West Virginia should take advantage of the Teach for America (TFA) program.

Teach for America is a nonprofit organization that recruits motivated and talented individuals to work in low-income schools for two years.  Some of the recruits have teaching experience, but most don’t. All are immersed in an intensive five-week training program before entering the classroom.

TFA has plenty of critics, including some alums of the program, who say dropping into a school for just two years can have a destabilizing impact on the community.  Opponents also say the trainees cannot master all the pedagogical skills of a teacher certified through traditional training and it’s insulting to the profession to suggest they can.

However, new research suggests TFA can effectively fill the void in high-poverty schools.

Mathematica Policy Research has just released a study examining the effectiveness of TFA elementary school teachers relative to other teachers in the same school.  The research shows that on average, TFA corp members “were as effective as other teachers in the same high-poverty elementary schools in teaching both reading and math.”

Mathematica reports its findings are consistent with earlier studies on the effectiveness of Teach for America educators.

The West Virginia Legislature is trying again this year to approve TFA here.  It’s included in HB 2005 which deals with methods of alternative certification for teachers.  The bill has passed the House and is on the agenda for the Senate Education Committee this morning.

It’s understandable that some West Virginia teachers take offense to TFA.  Here’s what one former teacher wrote on the Facebook page Don’t Teach For America, that opposes TFA in West Virginia. “This is a slap in the face to teachers who have worked hard for their degrees and certifications.  The main problem with the lack of teachers in WV is money.  The pay is pathetic.”

West Virginia teachers should make more money.  If we expect professionalism from educators, then they should be paid as professionals.  However, let’s keep in mind the goal is to get the most qualified person in the classroom. If Teach for America can help fill the void, even if it’s only for short periods of time, then West Virginia should utilize the program.


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  • Jesse's girl

    One wonders just how this country was educated before the current time? The notion that only those who have run an education department gauntlet at some institution of higher learning are qualified to teach is preposterous. Until fairly recent times, facts, history, math, reading and writing were taught and taught well. Now we have incessant whining from the teachers’ unions, students who cannot read, have no real or accurate knowledge of the history and the founding of this country, think capitalism is bad and Marxism is good, do not know multiplication tables, cannot write a cogent thought, think they can save the world by recycling a soda can, think polar bears are drowning and other assorted rubbish. Rather than education, public schools have become government centers for political indoctrination.

    Recently a friend, retired from the Maryland public school system, who earned her masters degree opined that an EdD was “a bad degree.” Requirements are less than stiff. When I was returning to school for my PhD, a WVU faculty member said, “Why don’t you get an EdD–all you need is the title.” At UNC, Chapel Hill, I took additional rigorous coursework, did my own field work, ran my own analyses of data, did much of my own soils work, all of my library work and wrote a 300 page dissertation. During that time, a friend was on the committee of an EdD student who lacked the prerequisite coursework, had no clear picture of their “research” and hired everything out for others to do. His excuse? “Well, my degree is in administration and I am administering my work.” In spite of that, he got the degree–or is that “title?”

    I firmly support the “Teach for America.” The proposed “Science” Standards, which set junk science and consensus as the “standards” should be rejected. “Consensus” has no place in science. For thousands of years it has been known how to educated students. Only since the left got in charge of the education system via teachers’ unions and watered down “degrees” has it become a dismal failure. These folks who think themselves “certified,” are more accurately “certifiable.”

    • Progressive

      Still carrying that Not-Being-Hired baggage? Let it go.

    • Big Bob-E

      And yet...I bet you dismiss climate change as a liberal conspiracy!!

  • TLC

    wvu999 needs to stop texting and driving. It's against the law and it's making her say really stupid things.

    • wvu999


  • Notorious Troll

    ITT: We ignore that nobody WANTS to live or work in the poorest, most rural counties of WV as we continue to parrot the things our AFT reps tell us to.

  • Wowbagger


    If education degrees and certifications are so special why do we subject college students to teachers who do not hold these degrees the year after they graduate from high school?

    When I went to college and graduate school many in science ed couldn't handle the hard science and math courses, didn't need them to teach high school, and settled for degrees in education, although in all fairness some genuinely wanted to teach at the high school level.

    Years ago I taught science at the college level and could still have the job if I had chosen to continue with no education degree. This class was attended by freshmen seeking degrees in education and others. The department chairman really wanted me to continue, but at that time it didn't pay enough to justify additional income taxes, travel expense, and eating out on the way to class. Teaching one class cost me money and I couldn't schedule a second to make the effort worthwhile.

    • Shadow

      One of the problems with Colleges and Universities is that the Professors have no requirement to know the rudiments of educational methods other than what they picked up along the way. When I was paying the tuition for my children and they reported they couldn't understand the teacher's English as it was his second language, it was infuriating. A five-week course on educational methods may be too short, but if well documented, will provide continuing guidance. It certainly is an approach to solving the problem. Evidence from all over the country shows that more money doesn't solve the problem, witness the DC schools.

    • Shadow

      One of the problems with Colleges and Universities is that the Professors have no requirement to know the rudiments of educational methods other than what they picked up along the way. When I was paying the tuition for my children and they reported they couldn't understand the teacher's English as it was his second language, it was infuriating. A five-week course on educational methods may be too short, but if well documented, will provide continuing guidance. It certainly is an approach to solving the problem. Evidence from all over the country shows that more money doesn't solve the problem, witness the DC schools.

      • Wowbagger

        Fortunately I have never had to deal with the language issue, but I have known a lot of educated people who teach at various levels including several in high school (not public) who have become pretty good teachers, while not being indoctrinated by those in education programs. I have also known a few with formal education degrees who never learned how to teach.

        • Shadow

          The good teachers that I had wanted me to learn and it was so evident. I still respect them and know they are responsible for what success I have had. Teaching is not a job, it is an vocation.

  • GregG

    So the answer to our educational issues is to place someone who has taken a "five-week training program" in the classroom? I'm speechless.

  • Davewv

    Is teacher pay that bad given?
    1. Salary is for 10 months work not 12.
    2. Cost of living much lower in WV than surrounding states.

    • wvu999

      You tell me Dave
      Can I just pay my bills, raise my kids and live for just 10 of the 12 months?
      Is milk, eggs, gas and other items cheaper in WV?

      Can I tell the WVDE I'm not using those other two month to renew my certificate by taking college courses and make up snow days so I can get a second job?

      • Aaron

        Sort of do spells the notion that teachers are in school at 7 o'clock in the morning doesn't it.

        • Aaron

          that should be dispels. Auto-correct and my accent are not conducive with each other.

        • katididz


      • wvu999

        I just reread my post and wow lol I need to go back to school
        I might get an award for the most grammatical errors in a few sentences... Texting and driving is very dangerous lol

        • Sick of it all

          Amen Davewv.

          I have teachers in my family - all they do is complain. Complain about the workload, the money, etc., etc. One of my sister in laws started teaching about 5 years ago, is single, and makes like 37k a year, waits tables for extra cash in the summer, and still complains she has no money.

          Another family member spends her summers sweating it out at the pool all summer with her kids. How tough! Boo Hoo!! Of and the workload - what do they do in the "planning periods?" I had some great teachers growing up, but honestly most of the people I knew in college that became teachers did so because they couldn't do anything else and wanted their summers off!! I graduated from WVU in 1999 - my starting salary was 21K!! In a science field!!! At that time I would have loved to start at 34K a year....with summers off...and what out of work at 3pm?? Sick of hearing it! Do your job!

          • katididz

            I bet your SIL would love to hear you begrudging her salary. Heads up to all sisters!

        • Shadow

          Texting while driving is not LOL! It is deadly.

          • wvu999


  • Davewv

    Is teacher pay re

  • wvu999

    Forgot to mention
    The highest test scores in the state year in and year out is Putnam County.
    Fun facts about Putnam County
    1. Teachers in Putnam County make the most in the state.
    2. Putnam County refuses to even let substitutes not be fully certified teachers. They are the only County in the state that does this.
    3. Putnam County probably has the most involved parents in the state with lower poverty.
    4. Putnam County is in the top 3 in the state in Union membership


    • Aaron

      The reason Putnam County skills test so well is because Putnam County schools teach to the test. My oldest left Kanawha County after his third grade year and began his 4th grade school year in Putnam County.

      It took all of one semester to figure out that he was doing the same work in Putnam County at the beginning of his fourth grade year that he had already completed in Kanawha County during his third-grade year.

      Putnam County spends more time preparing and teaching to the test than on other aspects of the curriculum which is why they do so well when test time comes.

    • Shadow

      Your number 3 is the correct answer to the problem.

    • Wirerowe

      i would also think that the income levles and education levles and therefore test scores would all be higher for Putnam county schools on the south of the Kanawha River than those on the north of the river.

    • Wirerowe

      There is generally a high correlation between test scores and the economic levsels and education attainment of the parents. Putnam County ranks high for both of those categories. I have never seen any studies that show any correlation between test scores and the fun facts that you provide other than most likely levle of parent involvement which would likely be highly coo related with parent income levles and education attainment levels.

  • wvu999

    Teach for America is NOT what West Virginia needs. We have two programs now that need to be utilized. First, is the teacher in residence program passed by the WV legislature a couple years ago. Teachers who are in the student teaching part of their degree can be the teacher of record and earn a salary in fields that we cannot find certified teachers. They do not receive 100% of the salary. The part they don't earn is used for mentorship in the school. Not every WV college is using the program, but should.
    Second is fully funding transition to teaching. This is a three year program that is intensive enough to ensure teacher and student success. One good part of transition to teaching is after your first year you're considered qualified and therefore cannot be bumped easily out of your position.
    Why would you want a fly by night warm body from out of state that is never going to stay here teaching our most valuable resource Hoppy? Look at the salaries for every executive in TFA and tell me they are in it to help places like WV.
    Speaking of salaries, if WV teachers weren't paid 49th in the country then you might find some people who want to be teachers here. It took me 4 years for my salary to finally equal my student loan, and I didn't go to an expensive school. I went to WVU.
    Steve Roberts was on Decesion Makers a couple weeks ago and proves exactly why he and the chamber need to stay out of education. He said his lawyer friend wants to teach social studies but it's too time consuming, expensive and too much work to get a social studies degree to go back. Well Steve, if you knew ANYTHING about education then you would know that there isn't a shortage of social studies teachers anywhere in this state. Your example is a way to keep good certified real teachers out of the profession while the chamber takes care of their friends.
    Let's let people who know a thing or two about education fix education while those who don't eat $100,000 breakfast buffets.
    Let's start a Doctors for America and see how many of you attend those hospitals.

    • Diane

      Don't we have "doctors of America" with Physicians Assistants and Nurse Practitioners? I rarely see a real doctor anymore.

      • Kate

        Those PA's are usually nurses first, and then they train for two more years! Not five weeks. What a comparison!

      • Kate

        Oh, so NOW it's ok to compare teachers to doctors!

    • Overpaid Teachers

      Here are some cheese and crackers to go with all your whine.
      Teachers unions are the disgrace of our nation.

      • katididz

        Cheese and whine....so overused. Try something a bit more creative!

        • Citizen/teacher/parent

          Go spend a year in a classroom and we ll see what you think about teacher unions when your finished! Don't talk about what you don't understand.

  • medmanw

    Don't you think this sounds a lot like something done for third world countries? And, maybe that is were we are in trying to find answers to the problems in some areas of WV. Anyone who thinks we can solve the education problem by focusing on the teachers simply does not understand the underlying problems that begin in the family environment of these children.

  • Rick

    Insanity is defined as doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting different results. This apples quite nicely to both sides of this debate.

  • Tom wv

    Is there really a teacher shortage? If you have 316 teachers out and 316 sub teachers.....Then hire the subs to full time. A question to ask is how many substitute teachers are available in the state?

    • katididz

      Most substitutes only want to work in the buildings that are well managed and controlled. Who wants to listen to disrespectful students interrupting their instruction for $100 a day? Who wants to break up fights in the halls, or risk being punched for $100 a day? Not me.

      • Ole Sasquatch

        YES, you sir have hit the nail on the head.
        You have described the problem simply and honestly - anything else could only add up to 1% of the problem. Imagine throwing more money out without identifying the whole problem which you just told all. THANKS.

    • Aaron

      I could be wrong but I believe the guidelines to become a substitute teacher and that is to teach full-time in a specific subject are different.

    • mentor

      tom this state is a wash in sub teachers mon conty makes me want to puke its a paper trail if followed people would go to jail

    • The bookman

      Substitutes are in short supply, and are not generally in search of a full time position. Many are retired teachers who help bridge the gaps, and some simply prefer the substitute arrangement to the paperwork and bureaucracy of a full time position.

      • Shadow

        Is someone making a problem out of a non-problem? Sounds like it.

        • The bookman

          If my children were scheduled to start their Chemistry coursework in High School, and the school system did not successfully recruit a teacher certified in that content area, that would be a problem in need of a solution.

          Teach for America would only be one way to address the problem, but in the absence of any other available solution, a chemist with some C&I training would be preferable to an English Teacher with some Chemistry training. That is my opinion, of course, and not meant to be a knock on English Teachers.

  • a concerned educator


    I recently read in the Education Week journal that only 27.8% of teachers from TFA are still on the job in five years, compared to over 50% of teachers who went through traditional teacher education programs. Do we really want that much turn over in our schools?

    • Aaron

      How is a nearly 50% turnover rate of teachers who have went through a traditional education system not disturbing to you?

      • katididz

        How about addressing the reasons for 50% teacher turnover rate? No one wants to do that because it takes some parental responsibility, and not just the teaching professionals.

        • Aaron

          You have the ability to expel kids from your classroom. That is your right as a teacher. If a student is disruptive or habitually absent, kick them out and let administrators deal with them.

          I went to school for 12 years without my parents constantly in attendance at the school yet the biggest reason I've heard from teachers for our educational failures is parents.

          Wonder why that is.

          • katididz

            You know it!

      • a concerned educator


        I did not say that 50% is not disturbing, but it is better than 27.8%. In addition, I would like to know "why" the teachers are leaving education. In any field with that high of a rate of "vacating" the position, there must be something wrong.

        • Aaron

          27.8% can be partially explained by the fact that TFA contracts are for 2 years. The fact that 3 in 4 leaves AFTER that term as been fulfilled twice can be interpreted many ways. Are they completely out of teaching? Have the moved to another school? Did they retire? Did they return to school? Have they returned to another career? Did they honor their initial 2 year commitment and leave? Did they do two terms before leaving? What we can summarize is that at least they did not run up 4 or 5 years of school to become a teacher, work for less than 5 years and then decide that career is not for them.

  • CaptainQ

    Hoppy, this legislative session has NOT been a good one for the two teacher's unions. First, our lawmakers tackled the subject of Charter Schools and then, the possible elimination of one of the most 'sacred cows' of the WVEA and WVFT, Common Core.

    And NOW, Teachers For America. Three things the teacher's unions do NOT like and a fourth they're not seeing, a pay raise. If all this isn't enough to reenergize WV teachers back to 100% blind loyalty for the Democratic Party, nothing will.

    The big question that remains unanswered for now is this: will all of these drastic changes actually improve education for our young people in this state? Will Charter Schools help students learn better? Will the elimination or reconfiguration of Common Core produce smarter, better prepared school children? Will Teachers for America actually be a good way to attempt to fill the many teachers positions in this state now being filled by long term substitutes? And how much longer with the WVEA and WVFT tolerate not receiving a substantial pay raise for their members before taking more, drastic action?

    I don't know, I think the GOP could be playing with fire trying to make these many changes so swiftly. I wouldn't be surprised if Governor Tomblin goes 'wild' with his veto stamp on these in the near future.

  • AnxiousEER97

    Here's an idea:

    Increase teacher pay - substantially.
    Abolish the seniority systems.
    Removal teachers from the grievance system.
    The money saved from having to defend meritless grievances might actually offset the increase in pay.