TEACH FOR AMERICA CORPS MEMBER HANDBOOK

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2 TEACH FOR AMERICA CORPS MEMBER HANDBOOK How to Use This Handbook The beliefs behind the policies Part I Teach For America General Policies I. What You Can Expect From Teach For America Our Relationship With Our Corps Members Professionalism Equal opportunity and treatment/accommodations Working with corps member support networks (parents, spouses/partners) Our Relationship With Our Community Partners Engaging with our school district partners o Day-to-day communications o School and/or district disciplinary proceedings o Concerns about student welfare Engaging with our certification partners Engaging with the media II. What We Expect From You as a Corps Member Corps Member Conduct Expectations Commitment to culturally competent leadership Commitment to maintaining appropriate relationships with students Commitment to standardized testing integrity Commitment to engaging with the media with respect and humility Commitment to professional development Managing Your Corps Commitment Resignation Medical Release Early Release Regional Transfers III. What Happens If Expectations Are Not Met What Happens If You Don t Meet Teach For America s Expectations Corps member improvement plans (CMIPs) Suspension from the corps Dismissal from the corps What Happens If You Believe Teach For America Hasn t Met Your Expectations as Set Forth in This Handbook? 2

3 How to Use This Handbook This Handbook is a guide to the conduct expected of you as a Teach For America corps member. We understand and acknowledge that the corps experience is unique in its challenges and expectations. This Handbook is a guide about what to expect as you embark upon the first part of your commitment to the movement to provide all children with the education they deserve. It is a summary of all of the policies and legal requirements that affect our work together. It will help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a corps member. Specifically, this Handbook will explain what we expect of you as a member of this organization and what, in turn, you can expect from Teach For America. The Handbook is divided into two sections. Part I includes policies that apply to all current Teach For America corps members in their first or second year of service, starting at the completion of institute, regardless of the region in which they are carrying out their corps commitment. Part II includes policies that are specific to your region. The two parts of the Handbook function as a whole, and you are expected to understand and comply with both sets of policies and requirements. The Handbook is not meant to function alone but rather to work in conjunction with other regional training and guidance. Understanding the specific policies set forth in this Handbook begins with recognizing that these policies are a reflection of several core beliefs: Our Core Values (see Appendix A). Our Statement on Diversity (see Appendix B). We take seriously the moral responsibility that comes with the fact that every day our corps members reach more than 750,000 children. Accordingly, we view ourselves as a student-focused organization, meaning that in any given situation we will strive to align our actions with what is best for students first and foremost. We are a leadership development organization and not the employer of corps members. As such, we strive to provide corps members with opportunities to grow and evolve their leadership first and foremost as teachers and as lifelong advocates for children growing up in low-income communities. We hold ourselves collectively responsible for meeting the highest ethical and professional standards at all times. I. WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT FROM TEACH FOR AMERICA Our Relationship With Our Corps Members Professionalism We are all colleagues in the incredibly difficult and rewarding work of providing children with the educational opportunities they deserve. Accordingly, we will always treat you with respect and strive to truly understand the unique perspective you bring to our work. Equal Opportunity and Treatment/Accommodations We want every corps member to be successful, and we deeply believe that is possible only if everyone is able to bring their whole, best selves to our collective work. Teach For America is committed to a policy of equal treatment and opportunity in our interactions with our corps members, without regard to race, color, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age, marital status, military status, pregnancy, or parenthood. Teach For America considers discrimination or harassment of any type unacceptable and does not condone such behavior. 3

4 If you believe that you have been subjected to discrimination and/or harassment by a Teach For America staff member or a fellow corps member or alumnus, we encourage you to speak up. If it is appropriate and possible for you to do so, we encourage you to try to resolve the matter directly with the person who allegedly conducted the offensive act. In instances where this type of informal intervention is not appropriate or sufficient in resolving the matter, please let us know about the situation so that we can take appropriate steps, including conducting some manner of investigation into the circumstances and then taking appropriate action regarding the results of our investigation. Please note that while we do want to be informed of alleged harassment or discrimination that takes place at your school or with your certification provider or another community partner, our ability to affect the situation may be limited by confidentiality rules and/or our indirect involvement and/or influence with the other party. Therefore, you should familiarize yourself with those institutions antidiscrimination policies and practices. Teach For America believes that it is possible for a qualified individual to have a disability and be a part of our work. Teach For America is committed to providing equal access and opportunities to individuals with legally recognizable disabilities and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the application process and in the delivery of our programming, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar state laws. Disclosing a disability or requesting a need for accommodations is a separate and distinct process from admissions and will have absolutely no bearing on a candidate s application status. If you have any questions regarding our Disability Accommodations Policy, please contact our disabilities accommodations officer at Working with Corps Member Support Networks (Parents, Spouses/Partners) We recognize the importance of the ongoing support you receive during your corps commitment from your family members, be they parents, spouses/life partners, siblings, or children. In fact, we often hear from corps members that they would not be able to give their all as classroom change agents were it not for this critical support. That is why we strive to make available opportunities to help the important people in your life understand the scope and depth of the commitment you have made, how others in their shoes have found ways to support their family member and their students, information about the fight for educational equity and how they could get involved, etc. And, of course, this is why we collect information on whom to reach out to if an emergency should arise. Aside from emergencies, however, we believe that treating you like a professional requires us to not communicate directly with your support network about your experience. Absent unusual circumstances when you cannot speak for yourself, such as a disabling illness, we will not discuss you or your experience as a corps member with your parents, your spouse or significant other, other members of your family, or your support network. Our Relationship With Our Community Partners Engaging With Our School Partners Aside from you, our students, and their families, our most critical partners are the schools in which our corps members teach. We quite literally could not do this work without them, and we seek close, collaborative relationships with our school partners. As part of those relationships, we communicate a great deal with our school partners, and we think it is important to be transparent about what information we share and why. Day-to-day communications We are committed to providing you with professional development opportunities that are designed to foster your development as a teacher as you continue on your journey to being the teacher whom your students need. Our professional development comes through multiple formats, including ongoing training and coaching, access to external resources, etc. One of the critical levers we use to support you is to engage regularly with individuals at your school including your principal, teacher mentor/coach, department chair, fellow veteran teachers, and other corps members or 4

5 alumni teachers to understand their perspective on your performance. These individuals have valuable insight into what is happening in your classroom. Additionally, they also often have insight into what is happening in the school overall that is different from the perspective of our staff. Similarly, these individuals are often interested in the perspective of the members of our staff who are in your classroom and school building. What types of information do we share and/or ask about? o o o o Thoughts on your classroom performance, classroom management, etc. How you interact with your colleagues, faculty, students, students families, etc., and are generally perceived by these stakeholders Information on the types of support that we are offering and the extent to which you are benefiting from such support Information on the types of support that your school or certification partner is offering you and the extent to which you are benefiting from such support We share this information through largely informal means, such as conversation and s, and we do so because we have learned that collaborating in this way means that we are better positioned to support you because we have a grounded understanding of your strengths and opportunities to grow. Hopefully, none of the information that we learn is a surprise to you, as you should be hearing and learning the same things from these partners. So, what information don t we share with our school partners? First and foremost, we don t share any personal information that you have shared with us such information is considered to be confidential, and we would disclose it only in the extremely rare instance that we believed that not sharing such information would put you or others in danger. In this context, personal information includes any details about your personal life, such as relationship status, family, etc. We don t engage in your school s formal internal processes as your employer. We try to always operate with a deep respect for your rights and responsibilities as an employee, and therefore we do not seek to interfere with the employeremployee relationship you have with your school. Occasionally, schools will ask us to formally participate in certain development processes say, to jointly develop a plan to assist your development as a teacher and in those cases we will participate only after letting you know about the request and the role we might play. School and/or district disciplinary proceedings In rare instances, corps members can find themselves subject to employment proceedings, such as investigations or disciplinary proceedings instituted by their school or district. We always recommend that you obtain representation from your teachers union, if applicable, or an attorney with expertise in administrative matters. Given the number of jurisdictions we work in, each with its own laws and practices governing teacher discipline, we simply do not have the expertise necessary to advise you on your rights and obligations when such proceedings are underway. We will always continue to support you in your classroom as a teacher while such proceedings are taking place, and we reserve the right to play a more active role if we think doing so is appropriate or helpful, such as submitting a letter attesting to your character or impact as a teacher. However, in most instances, it would not be appropriate or particularly helpful for Teach For America to engage in such proceedings in a formal way. Concerns about student welfare As a student-centered organization, we will always react when information comes to our attention that the well-being of students may be in jeopardy. Our potential responses range from conducting an informal investigation to determine if what we have learned is credible, up to and including contacting your school leadership, the parents/guardians of any students that are implicated, and/or the local authorities. Whenever circumstances permit, we will give you an opportunity to share your story and any pertinent information that you have before we go to school leaders or the authorities with our concerns. 5

6 Engaging with our certification partners In many communities, we have partnered with a local college, university, or teacher preparation program to deliver the programming you need to meet state alternative certification requirements. These are vitally important partnerships that make it possible for you to be the classroom teacher of record. Our primary role is to facilitate your enrollment in accordance with the terms of the arrangement that we have agreed to with that particular certification partner. Facilitating your enrollment may require collecting and sharing transcripts, working with the certification partner to determine in advance the schedule of classes, agreeing on tuition rates and related fees for participants in our program, etc. Once you have successfully enrolled with a certification partner, our role shifts to being a source of information about your certification program. Any questions or issues that you might have regarding the program itself should be taken up with the certification partner first. By enrolling in their program, you are agreeing to abide by the certification partner s policies and procedures when it comes to tuition payment, drop/add dates for courses, grading, and graduation. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with the policies and procedures of your certification provider. In the event that you do not complete your program with a particular university or certification program, it will be your responsibility to work things out with the certification partner. Engaging with the media Teach For America works proactively to gain media attention on national and local levels to support our recruitment, fundraising, and general outreach efforts. In the process, we strive to generate publicity that emphasizes the importance of teaching that sets our students on a different trajectory in life and focuses positive attention on students and schools. To accomplish this, we frequently use photographs, film, videotape, and/or biographical information of corps members in publicity efforts, promotional materials, directories, and other similar projects, and you may appear in these materials without your prior knowledge, although Teach For America makes reasonable efforts to secure your permission to publish your image, likeness, or other information, whenever feasible. II. WHAT WE EXPECT FROM YOU AS A CORPS MEMBER Corps Member Conduct Expectations Becoming a corps member means joining the ranks of the teaching profession as an at-will employee of your school, and we expect that you will act in a professional manner in all of your interactions with students, families, fellow faculty, and Teach For America staff. The fact that our collective work makes us participants in the broader education reform movement, a movement for social justice, means that we have additional expectations for your conduct and the good judgment that you exercise as a corps member. Therefore, we expect that you will act in accordance with the commonly held understanding of professionalism, including but not limited to appropriate attire, punctuality, deadlines, and appropriate communication. Commitment to Culturally Competent Leadership The aspiration of transformational change for all students requires that all our families and communities and those affected by the opportunity gap actively participate and share their perspectives in our work. Our core value of diversity states: We act on our belief that the movement to ensure educational equity will succeed only if it is diverse in every respect. In particular, we value the perspective and credibility that individuals who share the racial and economic backgrounds of the students with whom we work can bring to our organization, classrooms, and the long-term effort for change. This core value calls on us to align our actions to our aspiration to be the model of fairness and equality we 6

7 envision for our country. Given that 90% of the students that corps members teach are African American and Latino, and significant percentages are American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Asian American, it is imperative that corps members consistently examine and understand what our diversity statement means for them as teachers and members of the broader movement. We understand that this topic requires honest reflection and an opportunity for changed mindsets to be reflected in changed behaviors over time. That being said, we do not condone racist behavior. Serious breaches of our diversity core value can result in dismissal, as can a repeated pattern of lesser breaches that do not meaningfully improve over time. We expect that as a corps member you will familiarize yourself with our diversity core value, act accordingly, and continue your personal reflection about what this means for you as a teacher and member of this movement. Commitment to Maintaining Appropriate Relationships with Students The integrity of the teacher-student relationship is the foundation of our work in the classroom. This relationship vests considerable trust in you, the teacher, who, in turn, bears authority and accountability as a mentor, educator, and evaluator. The unequal institutional power inherent in this relationship heightens the vulnerability of our students and the potential for coercion. Whenever a corps member now or in the future might reasonably become responsible for teaching, advising, or directly supervising a student, an intimate relationship between them is inappropriate and must be avoided. In addition to creating the potential for coercion, any such relationship jeopardizes the integrity of the educational process by creating a conflict of interest and may impair the learning environment for other students. Finally, such situations may expose your placement school/school district, you, and Teach For America to liability for violation of laws protecting minors from sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Even in those instances in which a student has reached the age of majority typically 18 years old we believe that an intimate relationship that develops from the teacher-student relationship is destructive and completely antithetical to our values. Therefore, you as a corps member must avoid intimate relationships with any and all students students whom you have direct responsibility for in the classroom, students with whom you have a supervisory relationship (e.g., through an extracurricular activity), or simply students whom you have met through your position as a teacher. This obligation extends to all students whom you come into contact with not just the students assigned to your classroom but also all of the students in your community/district. This expectation is not limited to relationships involving actual intimate contact. We expect that corps members will avoid even the appearance of an inappropriate relationship with a student, including engaging in flirtatious behaviors such as using pet names, communicating excessively about personal matters (via personal texts or social media sites), using sexually explicit language in online or in-person conversation, etc. What will be considered inappropriate will always, to a certain extent, depend upon the individual circumstances, so we expect that you are exercising good judgment at all times in your interactions with students, whether those interactions happen in the classroom, after school, on weekends, or during official school breaks. Commitment to Standardized Testing Integrity While certainly not the only measure of a student s progress or a teacher s effectiveness standardized tests do provide important data for parents, teachers, administrators, and education policymakers. At the micro level, manipulating the results from such tests can rob a student and/or a teacher of a vital tool for assessing and designing strategies to ensure that the student fulfills his/her academic potential. At a macro level, we have seen how cheating scandals in some communities have cast doubts on the legitimate progress made in other communities and actually reinforces the belief in some sectors that it simply isn t possible for children from low-income backgrounds to achieve academically on an absolute scale, thereby undermining the moral imperative of the movement for educational equity as a whole. We do not condone testing misconduct in any form and take allegations of testing misconduct very seriously. 7

8 We expect that as a corps member you will familiarize yourself with all of your school s/district s policies regarding your role as a teacher in test preparation, test administration, and test material security and will act accordingly. Commitment to Engaging With the Media With Respect and Humility As a corps member and a member of your community, you play a critical role in the conversation about expanding educational opportunity. Because media coverage has the power to shape others understanding of our kids, families, schools, broader communities, and Teach For America, the stakes are high when working with reporters. We have staff available to support you to help ensure you re following your school s media policy, weighing the pros and cons of each opportunity, and putting your best foot forward should you choose to participate. While working with the media is a big responsibility, it is also an incredible opportunity to build awareness about the potential of our kids and the work you and your school communities are engaging in. Your responsibility to engage with media thoughtfully and with the best interests of our students and communities in mind extends to social media. Whether you share your thoughts and experiences on Twitter, Facebook, or a personal blog, we expect that you will do so in a manner that is deeply respectful of our students, their families, our communities, your colleagues at your school, etc. Being respectful doesn t limit you from expressing your opinions and telling your truth, but it does require that you do so in a manner that embodies our core value of Respect and Humility, which reads: We value the strengths, experiences, and perspectives of others, and we recognize our own limitations. We are committed to partnering effectively with families, schools, and communities to ensure that our work advances the broader good for all children. Not living up to this core value by posting comments or materials that disrespect our families, schools, or communities in any way, even if meant in jest, is unacceptable and is a basis for dismissal from the corps. Commitment to Professional Development We expect that you are consistently improving your skills to be the best teacher possible for your students. To assist in that process, Teach For America is committed to providing you with a myriad of professional development opportunities. While we very much believe that you should direct your own professional development as a teacher, we also believe that our commitment to our students requires that you make certain investments in building your skills. Accordingly, it is our expectation that you will attend all mandatory professional development activities (reasonable opportunities to make up missed professional development will also be available). You cannot be considered a corps member in good standing without completing all required professional development, and failure to do so can be grounds for loss of your AmeriCorps education award and/or dismissal from the corps. Managing Your Corps Commitment Transferring from original region It is our expectation that you will complete your two-year commitment in your originally assigned region and placement school. In rare instances, if you have a compelling personal circumstance arise, such as a serious illness or injury to yourself or a family member, but believe that you can continue your commitment to Teach For America elsewhere, you may request a transfer to a different region. Transfers are never guaranteed because granting a transfer automatically means that a classroom of our students no longer has a teacher. Equally important, it is quite possible that you might not be eligible to teach (to be certified/licensed) in the receiving region since teacher certification requirements vary quite considerably from state to state. Accordingly, the ultimate decision regarding a transfer request rests with the regions involved. Your current region must approve your request to transfer. The region you ultimately desire to transfer to must also approve your request. Please familiarize yourself in advance with the transfer requirements of your desired transfer region(s), which are available on TFANet. The process for requesting a transfer is as follows: You must submit a request for a transfer in writing soft or hard copy to your regional Executive Director or his/her designee. The request should explain in detail the reason for the request and include any supporting documentation. 8

9 You may request a transfer to up to five regions in a single transfer request. Your current region has up to 15 days to review your request and make a decision. You will be notified of the results of the decision in writing. If your current region supports the transfer request, your transfer request will then be forwarded to the transferee region(s) you indicated for their review. The proposed transferee region(s) have up to 30 days to review your request and make a decision. You will be notified of the results in writing. Please note that your transfer is not granted unless both your original region AND transferee region agree to the transfer. If your transfer request is denied, you may appeal that decision as explained below. Withdrawals By accepting the offer to join the corps, you have agreed that, for the next two years, meeting the needs of your students will be your highest priority. We know you haven t undertaken this commitment lightly. However, we also know that circumstances can arise in which it is not in the best interests of our students for a corps member to complete his/her original commitment and it is favorable for the corps member to withdraw from our program. We recognize three such circumstances: medical withdrawals, releases, and resignations. Medical In some instances, a corps member is simply not healthy enough to meet the rigors of being a classroom teacher. In such cases, corps members may seek to withdraw for medical reasons. A medical withdrawal is appropriate under the following circumstances: You have been diagnosed with a medical condition (including mental illness) that is meaningfully interfering with your ability to be an effective teacher; and You have received medical advice from a qualified health care provider that the best course of treatment for your medical condition requires that you not be in the classroom for a period of time longer than four weeks and/or that the appropriate treatment is not available in the community in which you reside because of your placement. If the above conditions apply to you, you may be eligible for a medical withdrawal. We recognize that disclosing personal information of this sort is not easy. Therefore, we treat such requests as completely confidential. To make a request for a medical withdrawal, you may submit a written request to your region: Your request should provide sufficient information for us to determine the nature of your medical condition. Your request should be accompanied by a letter from a qualified health care provider explaining his/her recommendation for you to withdraw from our program. In order to fully and fairly evaluate your request, we will share that you have made such a request with your region in order to ascertain how your condition has affected your performance in the classroom. However, we will not disclose the specifics of your request or provide details of your medical condition. Teach For America has up to 30 days to review your request and make a decision. You will be notified in writing of the decision. If your request for a medical withdrawal is granted, your region will notify your school and/or certification provider that you have been granted a medical withdrawal but will not provide any further details. Individuals who receive a medical withdrawal will receive special consideration in future programmatic years for a transfer request that is related to their ongoing health needs. 9

10 If your request for a medical withdrawal is granted, you will be eligible for reinstatement at the beginning of the next school year for up to two years after the date your medical withdrawal is granted. As our focus is on ensuring that you are able to be the best possible teacher for your students, your region may make your reinstatement subject to additional conditions. Failure to satisfactorily complete these additional conditions will prevent you from being reinstated even if you have been medically cleared to re-join the corps. If your request for a medical withdrawal is denied, you may appeal as explained below. Release On occasion, it is not in the best interests of students and/or our broader movement for a particular corps member to remain in the corps. Reaching this conclusion is never easy, but our collective experience has taught us to realize the value of having a mechanism to address these rare instances. We also have learned that given the incredibly challenging nature of the work we expect of corps members being effective classroom teachers it is vitally important to give corps members every opportunity to learn and improve their practice before concluding that a release is appropriate. In order to be eligible for a release, one of the following circumstances must be true: You have a compelling personal circumstance, such as an unexpected change in family responsibility, that makes it difficult for you to effectively continue to prioritize your responsibilities as a corps member. Examples include a significant illness of a family member that significantly increases your caregiving responsibilities, a spouse/partner military deployment that results in a shift in child care responsibilities, a spouse s/partner s loss of employment that requires you to seek different employment to support family financial needs, etc., OR You are not able to return to the classroom within two years of receiving a medical withdrawal, OR There has been a disruption to the placement process that is not related to your performance as a teacher, and as a result it is not possible for the region to secure a placement for you as a full-time classroom teacher for the remainder of the academic year, OR There is a consensus between you and your regional leadership that your return to the classroom for the second year of your corps commitment would not be the best choice for students or our collective work. Except for those cases involving a compelling personal circumstance or a disruption to placement, being released from the corps means that a corps member will not become an alumnus of Teach For America and will not be eligible for the privileges and benefits associated with the corps. Instead, the corps member s status will be noted as released, and we will provide a standard explanation of what a release means in response to any inquiries we receive from third parties, such as prospective employers, members of the media, etc. For placement-related releases, you may be offered an opportunity to return to the corps under conditions and terms that will be spelled out at the time of your release. Releases will be granted only by mutual agreement between you and regional leadership. In rare instances, a region and a corps member may jointly determine that a release is appropriate under circumstances not outlined above. The decision by regional leadership not to agree to a release is one that can be appealed as set forth below. Resignation A resignation refers to your decision to stop participating as a corps member. If you resign from the corps for any reason, you will automatically not be considered an alum of our program and will not have access to resources or other privileges and benefits that are reserved for alumni of Teach For America. In order to be effective, your resignation must meet the following requirements: The resignation must be in writing hard or soft copy and be delivered to the Executive Director of your region. 10

11 Ideally, you should notify us of your decision to resign before notifying other parties, such as your school. However, if you formally resign from your school or withdraw from your certification program, we will treat that action as a resignation from Teach For America. You can rescind your resignation also in writing, hard or soft copy within 24 hours without consequence, provided that you have not notified other partners, such as your school or certification partner. If you resign during institute and you are attending a centralized summer institute, you must notify both your region and the institute leadership of your decision. You will be required to complete the official institute checkout procedures prior to departure and depart the university site within 24 hours of notifying institute leadership of your decision. If you attend a centralized summer institute and resign post-institute, your regional staff must be informed with either a written letter or an so that it is formally recorded. You must also notify your regional placement school that you are actively resigning as a teacher and a corps member of Teach For America. As noted in previous sections, a resignation will also result in the loss of alumni status. III. WHAT HAPPENS IF EXPECTATIONS ARE NOT MET As can always happen in any relationship, there may be instances when either you or Teach For America believes that one of the expectations set forth in this Handbook has not been met. This section is intended to clarify the process for addressing such instances. What Happens if You Don t Meet Teach For America s Expectations Corps member improvement plans (CMIPs) We take very seriously our charge to foster your development as a classroom leader. Over the years we have found that providing corps members with clear, unambiguous information about how they are doing relative to what we expect and desire for our corps members is the first necessary step in making meaningful progress. Therefore, when it makes sense to do so for children and the communities we serve, we will provide you with a structured opportunity to meet our expectations by placing you on a corps member improvement plan, or CMIP. You may be placed on a CMIP during a centralized or regional institute or at any point during the corps commitment. The purpose of a CMIP is to provide you with a clear understanding of the ways in which you are currently not meeting our expectations, what improvements we expect and how improvement will be determined, the timeframe in which we are looking to see improvement, and the resources available to you to assist in making the expected progress. Although the circumstances that give rise to the need for a CMIP vary and are often as unique as you and your students and school, we frequently deploy CMIPs in the following situations: Poor Performance in the Classroom As a student-focused organization, we believe it is our responsibility to provide the students we serve with teachers who are making a positive difference in students academic achievement even as corps members are continuing to learn and grow as professionals. At a minimum, making a positive difference requires that students be physically and emotionally safe in your classroom. If we have reason to believe that students are unsafe and that there are strategies or actions that you as the classroom teacher can take to rectify or significantly improve the situation but have not done so, we may take disciplinary action. Additionally, there are certain core aspects of teaching that we expect all corps members to master as professionals. These core activities include creating daily/weekly/monthly lesson plans, creating assessments, tracking student progress, etc. Without these fundamentals, you simply cannot be the teacher you want to be or the teacher your students need and deserve. 11

12 We fully recognize that your skill in performing these core activities will vary and grow over the passage of time, but we also believe that there are minimum standards for each activity that simply must be met if we are to live up to our collective responsibilities to our students. While we may consider the input of your school administration, universitybased certification program, and/or others in evaluating your performance, we ultimately reserve the right to make the determination of whether you are meeting our minimum expectations for a classroom teacher and thereby are meeting our standard for being an active corps member of Teach For America. Accordingly, it is possible that we may reach a different conclusion about your performance than is reached by your school or your university because we are applying our standards, which may be different than theirs. As long as you are a corps member, you must meet Teach For America s standards for classroom teacher performance. That said, if our conclusions about your performance align with those of your school or certification provider, we may elect to partner with it in jointly developing an improvement plan for you and/or designing strategies to assist you in meeting expectations articulated in an improvement plan, as we all have a vested interest in your success. We may elect to place you on a CMIP in parallel with your school or certification provider pursuing their own teacher evaluation and improvement processes. If our conclusions about your performance do not align with your school s, we will share our conclusions and then work with you and the school to develop appropriate next steps. Lack of Professionalism Being successful as a corps member and teacher begins with certain fundamentals, such as effective lesson planning, but it doesn t end there. You will need to invest a number of stakeholders in your success and by extension the success of your students and doing so will require, at a minimum, that you act in a professional manner at all times. Accordingly, if in our interactions with you we come to believe that you are not consistently operating professionally, we will take action. The facts and circumstances of each situation may vary, but at a minimum, acting unprofessionally may mean exhibiting (but is not limited to) the following behaviors: Operating without integrity (e.g., lying, shading the truth ) Speaking, writing, or otherwise acting disrespectfully toward students, colleagues, fellow corps members, Teach For America staff, etc. Being unresponsive to attempts to contact or otherwise communicate with you Failing to live up to known obligations (e.g., not turning in materials on time, missing appointments without explanation, etc.) Finally, a note about when CMIPs may not be used. First, in situations involving criminal conduct or a single egregious breach of our core values and/or conduct expectations for corps members, we are under no obligation to place you on a CMIP and may elect to move immediately to another form of discipline, such as suspension or even dismissal. Second, in our collective experience, CMIPs are most effective in situations in which a corps member s failure to meet our expectations is rooted in a lack of skills and/or knowledge. We have seen less success in using a CMIP to bring about meaningful change in circumstances in which the root issue appears to be the mindsets, attitudes, or values that a corps member holds. This does not mean that we will not use a CMIP in such circumstances, but we acknowledge that there may be those rare cases when the cumulative evidence at hand leads us to conclude that a CMIP will not be effective in changing what a corps member believes and that it is those beliefs that are behind the conduct that we object to. In those rare cases, we may elect to not use a CMIP and to take other action. 12

13 Suspension from the corps Being a member of the Teach For America community is a privilege. Accordingly, we reserve the right to suspend your status as a corps member in good standing. Suspension can be an appropriate response in several circumstances including but not limited to the following: As a response to serious concerns about your conduct. Specifically, when serious concerns about your conduct have arisen internally or from our school partners, certification providers, or other members of the community and we need time to assess these concerns. However, the nature of those concerns is sufficiently serious that we do not think it is appropriate for the status quo to remain in place while the situation is being sorted out. For instance, allegations of serious misconduct have been made at your school, and a formal investigation and/or disciplinary proceedings are underway. We may elect to suspend your status as a corps member while the investigation and/or disciplinary proceedings are in progress. As a sanction for failing to meet our expectations for our corps members (e.g., there has been a breach of our conduct expectations by several corps members and you were one of those involved). After investigating the facts and determining your role, the region determines that your actions merit a sanction but that a CMIP or more significant response such as dismissal is not warranted. Being suspended means that you are not a corps member in good standing and are, therefore, ineligible to participate in the corps in the same manner as corps members who are in good standing. During your suspension, your enrollment in AmeriCorps will also be suspended and you will not be able to accrue hours toward your service commitment that makes you eligible to receive an education award. Additionally, during your suspension you will not be permitted to participate in corps activities or to take advantage of opportunities that are available to other corps members as determined by your region. Exceptions may be made to specific restrictions, particularly if certain restrictions might have an adverse impact on your students (e.g., not having access to classroom resources). Suspension is for a defined period of time. Therefore, you will be notified formally of when your suspension will commence and when it will end. We retain the right to lift a suspension early or to extend a suspension period (with notice to you in advance) as circumstances warrant. In rare circumstances, it is possible that being a corps member not in good standing could impact your employment at your school, depending on your school s specific employment and hiring policy. If and when your suspension is lifted, your suspension in the AmeriCorps program will also be lifted and you will once again be eligible to accrue service hours toward your service commitment. However, Teach For America is not responsible if, as a result of your suspension, you do not earn enough hours to be eligible to receive an education award. Dismissal from the corps Being a member of the Teach For America community is a privilege. Occasionally, we are forced to conclude that an individual corps member s conduct is such that we no longer believe that this person belongs in our community or can accurately represent us to other communities. Therefore, we reserve the right to dismiss you at any point during the twoyear commitment if your behavior casts doubt on your ability to have a positive impact on children in the classroom, on the communities in which we work, or on Teach For America itself. This can include but is not limited to the following circumstances: Any serious breach of our core values or clear evidence that you have acted without integrity; If you do not meet stated expectations during a centralized or regional summer institute; If you fail to meet the specific conduct expectations set forth in this Handbook; If you fail to meet stated expectations after being placed on a CMIP; If you lose your teaching position at your teaching school; If you engage in criminal conduct; 13

14 If you are found to use illegal drugs or to abuse alcohol; or If you fail to adhere to any of the policies, procedures, or expectations we have for corps members, whether those policies, procedures, or expectations come from the national organization or your region. Teach For America reserves the right to make such a determination in its sole discretion. There are a few important things you should understand about what it does and does not mean to be dismissed from Teach For America: Dismissal has nothing to do with your employment with your school. Being dismissed from Teach For America is to be removed from continued participation in our program. While we will inform your school of your change in status with us, your continued employment with your school is solely up to your school. If you are enrolled in a separate, non-teach For America certification program, dismissal from Teach For America may result in your dismissal from your certification program, but that decision is ultimately left to the certification program in which you are enrolled. If you are enrolled in a Teach For America certification program, dismissal from Teach For America will result in your dismissal from the certification program. If you are dismissed, you are automatically ineligible to receive an AmeriCorps education award for the year of service in question because you are no longer a corps member in good standing and/or will not have completed your service hours. If you are dismissed, you are not entitled to any financial assistance to exit the program or any reimbursements for expenses incurred while in the program or in anticipation of continuing in the program, and you will remain personally liable for any outstanding debts, such as loans undertaken to finance the certification coursework and any unpaid balance of your transitional loans. If you are dismissed, you may also need to repay a portion of your transitional grants, depending on the timing of your dismissal, and will be responsible for repaying any loans received from Teach For America in accordance with the loan terms. If you are dismissed, you are automatically ineligible to apply to re-join the corps. If you are dismissed, you will not be considered an alumnus of Teach For America and will not be granted access to resources or other privileges and benefits that are reserved for alumni of Teach For America. What Happens If You Believe Teach For America Hasn t Met Your Expectations as Set Forth in This Handbook Teach For America corps members and staff members is a community of colleagues committed to engaging with professionalism and integrity aligned with our core values. We expect all members of this community to uphold those values and exhibit respect for each other and the communities in which we work. We recognize that there are instances in which corps members may disagree with various decisions, so we have established the following processes for addressing such concerns. Informal Resolution Disputes with leadership of centralized institutes: If you have a concern that involves your participation in a centralized institute (as opposed to a summer institute or training managed by regional leadership), you should raise that concern with the Senior Managing Director of the institute that you are attending. Please review the policies of your institute for further information. Please note that given the compressed timeline of the summer training institutes, concerns should be raised and will be addressed in an expedited manner. Disputes with regional leadership: If you have a complaint or disagreement, we strongly encourage you to take that up with the most appropriate responsible regional staff member. Please review the policies of your region for specific details on the process you should follow to raise a concern as an initial matter or to appeal a decision by regional leadership. Because the passage of time frequently impacts the ability to successfully resolve an issue, 14

15 you should raise your concerns within 30 days of whatever decision or sequence of events gave rise to your concern. As a general rule, regions strive to resolve corps member concerns within 30 days after they are initiated. Formal Resolution Grievances involving centralized institutes: If you are dismissed from the corps during a centralized institute, you may file a grievance with a Vice President of Institutes within 10 calendar days of your dismissal. Your grievance should clearly state why you are challenging the dismissal decision and should include any written documents or other relevant materials and the names and phone numbers of other parties related to the dismissal. Once your written grievance is received, the Vice President of Institutes or his/her designee will acknowledge having received it and will contact you to discuss next steps in the process, which may include a personal interview or other opportunities for the Vice President of Institutes to understand the facts surrounding a grievance. The Vice President of Institutes or his/her designee will render a decision and notify you of that decision within 30 days from the date the grievance was received. Grievances involving regional leadership: It is our hope and expectations that the vast majority of concerns will be addressed within the dispute resolution framework established by your region. In the rare instance when that is not the case, we have established a formal process for you to file a grievance with the Legal Affairs team. Please note that this process is available only to individuals who are enrolled in the AmeriCorps program. Click here for additional information on the Teach For America formal grievance process. 15

16 Appendix A: Teach For America s Core Values TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE: We seek to expand educational opportunity in ways that are life-changing for children and transforming for our country. Given our deep belief in children and communities, the magnitude of educational inequity and its consequences, and our optimism about the solvability of the problem, we act with high standards, urgency, and a long-term view. LEADERSHIP: We strive to develop and become the leaders necessary to realize educational excellence and equity. We establish bold visions and invest others in working towards them. We work in purposeful, strategic, and resourceful ways, define broadly what is within our control to solve, and learn and improve constantly. We operate with a sense of possibility, persevere in the face of challenges, ensure alignment between our actions and beliefs, and assume personal responsibility for results. TEAM: We value and care about each other, operate with a generosity of spirit, and have fun in the process of working together. To maximize our collective impact, we inspire, challenge, and support each other to be our best and sustain our effort. DIVERSITY: We act on our belief that the movement to ensure educational equity will succeed only if it is diverse in every respect. In particular, we value the perspective and credibility that individuals who share the racial and economic backgrounds of the students with whom we work can bring to our organization, classrooms, and the long-term effort for change. RESPECT & HUMILITY: We value the strengths, experiences, and perspectives of others, and we recognize our own limitations. We are committed to partnering effectively with families, schools, and communities to ensure that our work advances the broader good for all children. 16

17 Appendix B: Teach For America s Diversity Statement Teach For America seeks to enlist our nation's most promising future leaders in the movement to eliminate educational inequity, and we know these leaders will be diverse in ethnicity, race, and economic background. Their places on the political spectrum and their religious beliefs will be similarly varied, and we seek individuals of all genders and sexual orientations and regardless of physical disabilities. Maximizing the diversity of our organization is important so that we can benefit from the talent and energy of all those who can contribute to our effort, and also to increase the opportunity for engagement in the circles of influence in our tremendously diverse society. Moreover, we seek to be diverse because we aspire to serve as a model of the fairness and equality of opportunity we envision for our nation. At the same time that we value each individual who commits to our cause, we also place a particular focus on attracting and fostering the leadership of individuals who share the racial and/or economic backgrounds of the students underserved by public schools. In terms of race, we place the most significant focus nationally on ensuring the representation of African American and Latino individuals, given that more than 90 percent of the students we reach share these backgrounds. At the same time, we also seek to recruit American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, and Asian American corps members and staff members given that we reach many students of these backgrounds in certain Teach For America regions. We emphasize racial, ethnic, and economic diversity to enhance our impact. IMPACT ON STUDENTS We have seen that our most effective corps members - those who have effected the greatest academic progress - represent all races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. When such teachers are themselves from historically underrepresented racial backgrounds or low-income families, however, they have the potential to have a profound additional impact because they can be particularly persuasive with students regarding the potential for success in education and in life. LONG-TERM IMPACT Alumni who share the racial and/or economic backgrounds of our students can also be particularly influential in the longterm push for societal change, because of their rich perspective and credibility, and because their leadership in and of itself demonstrates the value of that change. COLLECTIVE STRENGTH While it is the responsibility of each person within Teach For America to make decisions with sensitivity to the needs and desires of our students and communities, we have seen that individuals who are themselves from under-represented racial backgrounds or low-income family backgrounds can often ground the discussions and advance the thinking of our diverse corps, alumni groups, and organization in important ways. 17

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