Monday, November 15, 2010

SCPTSA News

First up, Ramona Hattendorf, the SCPTSA President, is stepping down to take a job as the Washington state PTSA lobbyist. That sounds like a good job for her. Lauren McGuire is the new president.

Also the SCPTSA sent out another eNews bulletin about TFA entitled "Debate, Round II: Teach for America". Can I just say there is no real debate going on except here. Here's a brand new program that directly affects classroom teaching and there's no debate at all?

So this bulletin once again has what proponent say and opponents say. What bothers me is that the PTSA does not flesh out a lot of details and much gets lost. For example, saying that TFA recruits get 5 weeks training, become teachers and then go on to get full certification. Well, that going on is while they are teachers. I find that a lot for a first-year teacher to be taking on.

What really bothers me is they put a case for TFA (provided by TFA) and a case against (provided by the SEA). No one else has anything worthwhile to report? Here's the case that TFA gives:

One third of Teach For America's current math/science candidates have indicated Seattle as their top choice region for where they would like to teach. The national average is 82 percent first-year retention in high poverty schools; TFA averages 92 percent. Two-thirds of TFA's network of 20,000 remain committed to education full-time, despite the fact that only 1 in 10 intended on pursuing teaching as a career. 33 percent of TFA's 2010 corps is of color; 28 percent come from low-income communities; 20 percent are first-generation college graduates. In 2007, 92.5 percent of Washington teaching corps was white. (Teach for America's UW recruitment numbers to date: 65 candidates have applied to Teach For America and 14 were accepted; 10 of these candidates highly preferred Seattle as one of their top five places to teach; and of the 10 candidates who wanted to teach in Seattle, 4 are of color.)

What I see is that Seattle is a popular place. The two-thirds committed to education do NOT all remain teachers. Isn't that the problem they are trying to solve? More high-quality teachers from great schools? Or is it to lay a base for a network of leaders with one mind-set? And just because 33% of TFA's 2010 corps is of color doesn't mean 33% of the teachers we get will be.

And it goes on and on in this eNews bulletin. It's practically a brochure for TFA. There's twice as much pro-TFA than con-TFA. Why would that be?

Here's what the SEA side has to say (note that SCPTSA inserts a rebuttal from TFA):
  • TFA recruits are not needed. (No shortage of certificated applicants)
  • Graduates of programs in our colleges of education have more experience and more skills than can be acquired in 5-week teacher boot camp.
  • TFA recruits do not stay in classroom. (TFA and SEA quote different retention figures)
  • TFA does not improve student achievement when compared to beginning teachers who have studied in colleges of education. (TFA and SEA both say data support their position; either, yes more effective - TFA; or, no, not really - SEA)
  • TFA siphons outside funding. (SPS has lined up private funders to pay the $4,000 per TFA placement, to offset program costs.) SEA asks SPS to instead find private funders to help facilitate the new contract, provide promised mentors for new teachers, and facilitate the rollout of Professional Learning Communities, which will help all teachers develop goals around student success. (SPS did secure a federal grant to help implement new contract.)
  • TFA agreements abuse the state guidelines around emergency or conditional certification

District rationale?

Agreement with Teach For America will broaden the district's candidate pool. Also noted: The district employs more than a dozen TFA alumni who are successful in their current positions.

The current TFA teachers are REAL teachers now. There are successful teachers in our district who aren't former TFAers. What is the point?

The kicker? SCPTSA stance:

The full council does not have one. Most local units have not had time to assess the information or touch base with members. The SCPTSA board will discuss at our monthly meeting today (Nov. 15). What feedback we have heard has been evenly split.

Okay, "not have had time to assess the information or touch base with members"? Do they point out who's fault that is? Nope. Do they say how unfair this is to their membership to not have the time? Nope. And feedback? That's purely anecdotal. (Now Kay Smith-Blum did say at her meeting that she had contacted the principals in her district and asked their opinions about TFA. She said it was evenly divided with it being very for or very against. I wish I could have seen her whole survey. At least she has tried.)

Why isn't the SCPTSA showing some disappointment? Frustration? or even anger at the district? This is the reaction of our main parents' group, a pro and a con and an "oh, no time to ask members what they think?"

It's so disappointing. Who supports parents? We need a parents union.

16 comments:

Parents Working Hard All Over said...

Puh-leeze. Give PTA a break. Sounds like they really tried to present 2 sides. Isn't that what many want? This is all on the backs of volunteers. People, let's unite instead of blast other parent groups.

by,
Glad for PTA, PTO, and anything else out there working for parents and kids

Melissa Westbrook said...

The PTSA is supposed to be a parents group. Why no advocacy for parents?

And I am a big-time PTSA person so I absolutely know and acknowledge the work done. But it doesn't negate not being the front line for parents' rights.

Anonymous said...

If you have been involved in pta Melissa you know how it's structured then, but for others I will explain. The council has bylaws and each local unit has bylaws. The council can't just cowboy up and decide to take a stand on something that has not been endorsed by the local units. The council can only put out some "plat form" (like I assume you mean to oppose/endorse TFA) in 2 situations. The one is if there is a general meeting that's fully advertised and all members welcome and the proposed thing circulated to all local units with the right notice beforehand. The other way for a "plat form" is if the council were to send the thing to each local unit for their up/down vote. That's why not only was the levy discussed and voted on at the council general meeting, or so I heard, but each unit (like my own) had ability to vote on it.

Same thing with TFA. There has not been enough time (hello and thanks district) for PTA to go through its processes.

There are other organizations set up differently and can we PLEASE agree that they all have a use and stop the bashing? For example, Stand and CPPS can turn on a dime and utter statemnts on anything and everything tomorrow. That's part of why they are useful. PTA is useful because it is DEMOCRATIC and all members have opportunity to vote on significant things. Democracy takes time. If you want to focus on something you think is lacking, perhaps you should follow through with the Parents Union idea. If the Parents Union is non-democratic and then just 1 or 2 people can quickly respond to anything they want and take lots of public stands without members voting first on those stands. There are pros and cons to that.

Or, might be simpler to keep commenting on anything and everything in a blog-- can say whatever one wants, but no action items or responsibilities....

pta member

Melissa Westbrook said...

I didn't say one word about PTSA taking a stance. I said they are the parent organization of record and it would have been nice if they let their parents know this was happening. That they could do.

They also could have called the district out on their bad behavior. Maybe one of them will tomorrow night.

They could have been balanced in their pros and cons. This particular time they are decidedly more pro.

Dora Taylor said...
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Dora Taylor said...

It's interesting that Ramona will be lobbying full time in Olympia or DC. That is basically what she did when pushing through the ed reform bill that includes alternative certification, aka TFA.

They are trying to appear neutral about a subject that many of us, if not the majority of us, are not accepting. I would also say that if they did go to all of the PTSA's with the full story on TFA, that not too many parents would buy into it.

I am furious that they lobbied for this long and hard and were proud of their success when the bill passed and have now created this illusion of neutrality.

Just remember what Ramona did to us in Seattle and know now that she is going statewide with this. The only way to get what we need as parents for our children is to lobby also. Get to know your representatives before the next session and then go visit them. Make your voices heard. If you don't, they will only be hearing from folks who have other agendas.

Also, as an fyi, Senator Murray is on the education committee. I would suggest that you also contact her and tell her what you need to see for your child to succeed. Don't let well paid lobbyists do it for you.

Dora Taylor said...

Anonymous,

What you are describing is not how the PTSA handled the "Community Values' Statement".

That statement later became a controversial issue because as it ended, it was part of the larger package to gain "support" for the education reform bill.

As the Legislative Chair for Nova PTSA,I was notified of that general meeting about 24 hours before the meeting date and hour. I read through the statement which I had not seen before and was asked to vote on it that evening.

Heidi and Ramona did their dog and pony show with NCTQ and the Alliance present about how we want money and "effective teachers" and this would be all kinds of good for our "kids". There was about 15 minutes allowed for questions and discussion and because it just had to be voted on that night to get on board with the Alliance, et al, everyone felt forced to vote on it right then.

The whole process was bogus and an end-run around communicating the issues to the membership and allowing time for eduction on the issue and discussion.

Now is not the time to hide behind your rules. To do that would be highly hypocritical.

Central Mom said...
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Central Mom said...

Here is the memo, attached to tomorrow's board agenda, from Dr. Enfield and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson citing the reasons for allowing a contract process exemption for TFA.

Kathy said...

Taken from TFA contract:

c. A veteran teacher (district employee) is in each classroom with the corps members and a corps member advisor is often present to observe and offer feedback

It appears a district employee will be in classrooms with TFA recruits. Seems, atleast to me, a district expense. Anyone?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Look, TFA, whether some donor is paying the fee to TFA Foundation, is NOT cost neutral. There's overhead for tending to these people (because they are not just employees but people coming in under a different group), there's what Kathy said (mentor teachers watching over them but maybe that happens with all first year teachers) and, of course, the special ed teachers who ARE supposed to be watching over these non-special ed trained but in a special ed class TFAers. That is a cost.

What I find sad is that Special Ed parents will tell you their children don't have enough special ed for their children and now whatever Special Ed teacher is in each TFA school has to give more time to the TFA teacher assigned to a classroom? How is that going to happen?

Naturally, I'm sure the district will be providing a full report on what schools TFA recruits are assigned to, what class, notification of parents in that class of their FERPA rights and how each of these teachers are being mentored.

mirmac1 said...

So the teacher trainee has two teachers and our kids have barely a 1/28th. That'll improve outcomes!

This is Bizarro world.

Kathy said...

One more:

"2) Sessions on effective teaching:
a. Sessions are led by veteran teachers.
b. Topics include: how to set goals, how to develop curriculum, etc"

While TFA "fees" will be paid by private donor, it appears district dollars will be used to support these recruits! Total cost?

We just got $9M from feds and $12.5Will dollars be used for TFA recruits, while neglecting continuing support for our teachers??

My bet...yes.

Kathy said...

Melissa, I don't think our new teachers are receiving support. I could be wrong. Check with Addae. If correct, Addae wants some of the $9M fed. dollars to support our new teachers.

mirmac1 said...

I didn't see where they get ANY instruction on child development and disabilities, or differentiated instruction. First inclusion support was axed, now differentiated instruction is a nicety.

Sorry, this is not "Tommy" and our children are not Pinball Wizards. You can't plug 'em in, hook them up, and tune out. (I know, my reference to a 70's rock opera is really dating me).

seattle citizen said...

mirmac, our children can be like Tommy if we plug them in: We can spare them the trauma of knowing about truth. They will be happy little pinball players in the game of college, career and life.

They can be ignorant of art, of history, of civil discourse, argument, critique and debate...Of consequences, repercussions, unintended beauty and unexpected outcomes...Why worry their pretty little heads?

Plug them in - As The Machine builds itself further into their lives, replaces pens with flippers, books with displays, monitors at each desk will intone as into Tommy's ears:
"You didn't hear it.
You didn't see it.
You won't say nothing to no-one
ever in your life.
You never heard it.
Oh, how absurd it
All seems without any proof.
You didn't hear it.
You didn't see it.
You won't say nothing to no-one.
Never tell a soul
What you know is the Truth."