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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 10, 2006

New teacher program a big win for Hawai'i

A plan to bring up to 100 highly motivated young teachers to Hawai'i over the next two years to serve in disadvantaged areas is both a win for the state and a win for the young people involved.

The program is in connection with Teach for America, a private national program that recruits motivated young people, mostly recent college graduates, for up to two years of service as teachers in underprivileged areas.

Teach for America is a private organization, supported primarily by private foundations and corporations.

Assuming that a few final logistical hurdles can be worked out, the first 50 teachers would be in selected classrooms this fall and another 50 next year. Further expansion is possible.

Under this program, those who sign up are put through an intensive "boot camp" on education by Teach for America before leaving for their assignments. Once they begin teaching, they receive additional support and backup from the organization and customarily begin the academic work needed to become fully certified.

While the commitment is just for two years, Teach for America has found that as many as 60 percent of its members stay in education for the long haul. That's an encouraging sign.

While the initial numbers are not huge, this will be a substantial boost for the Department of Education, which faces a chronic teacher shortage that is met primarily with substitutes and emergency hires.

Those who join the program will be regular salaried DOE teachers, although Teach for America may help supplement some of the costs involved.

And while there are a few issues to be worked out, including union participation and making room for the new teachers in an already-taxed School of Education, these matters should not stand as serious obstacles.

This is a much-needed gift to our public school system. It should be accepted with open arms.