Monday, November 01, 2010

An SPS Teacher who is a TFA Alum Speaks

Now you know that normally I wouldn't print anything that is posted anonymously (and this person's original post at the thread will be eliminated). But I decided to print one here so that you can read it for yourself. It is from a Seattle teacher who is a TFA alum (and hey, turns out one of our new Executive Directors is too - Aurora Lora).

As I pointed out in my comments, there seems to not be some clear thinking here - evidence not given for statements made, lack of connection, etc. I would say the last paragraph is, to me, shocking. Because it puts TFA in a status above all other "conventionally" trained new teachers. Not that they are all "better" but really, a better class of people to be teachers.

I find that last paragraph profoundly disrespectful and disturbing.

As a TFA alum teaching in Seattle, I find that many of the comments posted in opposition to TFA go against my direct experience.

First, people seem terribly worried about the five weeks of training being insufficient to train new TFA teachers. Please remember that the five weeks are then immediately followed by enrollment in a certification program, most often paired with a Masters degree, so that TFA teachers go through an equally rigorous training process to other new teachers. Between my masters program and the professional development I attended as part of my TFA commitment, I found that I was much better supported and in most cases, better prepared, for the challenges of teaching in under-resourced schools than my traditionally-educated first-year peers.

Second, as a teacher who specializes in working with special populations, I do not agree that teachers in Seattle Public Schools are addressing the achievement gap. The majority of the teachers in Seattle schools are not trained to work with students with special needs (Sped, English Language Learners, or gifted), and in the worst cases do not see teaching these students as their job. There is a desperate need in Seattle schools for a serious discussion about equity, and if TFA can spur this conversation, then I welcome it. TFA also has a record of recruiting teachers of color and bilingual teachers, two areas in which there is a giant shortage in Seattle schools.

In districts that contract with TFA, whether or not to hire a particular TFA teacher is a principal’s choice. TFA teachers are members of the union, with no special rights. They are regular first-year teachers, who succeed and struggle just like other first year teachers. Some of the TFA teachers I began with have gone on to become some of the best classroom teachers and administrators I have ever seen, and like other aspiring teachers, some burned out and left the profession.

As a parent, given the choice between placing my child with a new TFA teacher and a new, conventionally-trained teacher, I would choose the TFA teacher. I would never say that all TFA teachers are better, but in general, TFA selects for smart, ambitious, academically-minded individuals.

147 comments:

Jan said...

I was worried that that post might get deleted -- per the policy. Thanks for finding a way to preserve it. I thought it was worth reading.

dan dempsey said...

Interesting more anecdotes .... the SPS is famous for anecdotes and being short on data.

It seems to me that in Seattle since only 1 in 200 classes is taught by a teacher non NCLB HQ that there is no teacher shortage.

The District is, if the TfA proposal is approved, hiring an employment agency at $4000 per teacher placed. TfA is an employment agency.

This TfA action apparently is being done without competitive bidding. Why if an employment agency is desired is this not put out for competitive bid?

The answer is because there is no teacher shortage in the SPS and no employment agency is needed. Surely the District Central Administration is large enough to perform employment functions.

So why are low-income schools being targeted with at best conditionally certified teachers? Whereas non-low income schools are not.

Where is the data that shows that employing TfA teachers when a district has a full complement of NCLB highly Qualified teachers lessens the achievement gaps?

TfA --- Sure looks like more pure baloney from Team MGJ.

Hawk said...
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seattle citizen said...

But Hawk, TFA aren't teachers yet. They are conditionally or emergency certified. All the other candidates have made the commitment to become teachers, gone through programs, student taught for a quarter or more...done the work, just like a doctor or a lawyer. The TFA person here says that they are the same, same training, PD, etc etc, but they're not: They're doing a lot of that ON THE JOB.

It's been said before: Do you want someone who is almost finished their degree in medicine to be your doctor? Someeone who almost has a JD to be your lawyer? These, and education, are professions - people commit to them, work hard, get a certificate (and often a masters) BEFORE they are put in charge of a classroom.

Regarding competition - there are qualified candidates from all sorts of schools. There are RIFed teachers, there are non-continuing contract teachers, with certs, who were summarily cut last year. These people all have certs already, they're not half-trained.

If the public, and lawmakers, want to have a discussion about what it is to be a teacher, and what sort of qualifications one should have, fine. But as it stands now, the ONLY exceptions to a full cert are really only in case of shortage or in case of a need for a specialized skill.

This TFAer seems to be saying that TFA teachers are oh, so much better at working with at-risk students. That's an insult to all certificated staff who go out of their way everyday; and it's also not an "unusual skill" as per state regs.

Seattle might have shortages in some instance: THEN the district can look for other means to fill those specific jobs. But they can't, yet, just throw un-certified people into the PHASE II candidate pool and call it an "emergency."

Hawk said...

I'm glad to hear a voice representing the other side! Thank you TFA teacher.

I didn't find the TFA teachers comments any more disrespectful or disturbing than the comments posted recently on this blog suggesting that a TFA teacher could not possibly compete with a certified teacher, calling them scabs, etc.

Personally, I do not feel that there is an inherent need for TFA teachers in SPS, but I do like the idea of some healthy competition. I think it might be a good thing for a principal to be able to choose the best candidate from a larger pool (certified teachers in the displaced pool, brand new teachers with certification, and TFA teachers).

FightingForKids said...

Melissa, I don't understand why you find the last paragraph disrespectful and disturbing. She is clearly talking from her experience working the TFA trained teachers and traditionally trained teachers.

Not every college of education is a great training ground and there's data out there that says folks going into teaching Programs are at the bottom of their class in SAT scores. It doesn't mean they're less committed to kids, it just means many haven't demonstrated the academic and innovative capacity TFA screens for. And it sounds like TFA does more than the 5 week training.

Hawk said...
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seattle citizen said...

The issue, F4K, is that TFSA doesn't have certs. We Washingtonians have a process to get a teaching certificate. It requires a lengthy program (at varyng schools), a stint student teaching, and other things. We as have a state have determined that that is what we want, just as doctors need med school and lawyers law school. It is what it is, and TFA people don't have certs. There are only a couple conditions for conditional or emergency cert, and they are most certainly NOT to make the candidate pool bigger.

As I said in my previous comment, if people want to do away with certification, or deprofessionalize it, that is their choice, but they'll have to be upfront and actually DO that, change the law, make it so any ol' body can get into the pool.

As to the comment about TFA being "scabs" - well, since TFA is incestuously linked with Broad and NWEA and KIPP, etc, you could see where people would worry that TFA has become, from its honorable start as an Americorp/Peace Corp sort of thing, an agent of the general reform package, which wants to privatize, de-unionize, cheapen and turn into a free market the entire lwoer end of public education, the schools of the poor, the minorities, and others. In that view, well, TFA would be scabs in thebigger picture. Not as individuals, but as members of the Borg.

Hawk said...

Melissa, I'm still reeling from you calling this TFA teacher out for being disrespectful and writing a disturbing last paragraph, while never saying one word about the much more disturbing, and downright rude comments posted on your recent TFA threads.

Here are a couple of prime examples:

"The point is to put these inexperienced bozos in front of poor kids, so that it costs even less to "educate" poor kids.

"Next step: robot teachers."

"Let TFA enter the worst classrooms in Seattle and try to make it without the collaborative support of well-trained colleagues. No teacher in his/her right mind would give anything away for free to a TFA scab under this new contract."

"MG-J wants a dog-eat-dog market place...well now she's got it. The TFA union busters can take a hike"

"Signed...No Free Lunch for Scabs"

I shocked that this teacher was brave enough to post here, and I commend him/her for being willing to share her opinion, and experience, given the recent verbal assaults directed at TFA teachers on this blog.

karyn king said...

Well, TfA teacher, if you are still in the classroom how do you know about "most teachers in Seattle?"

"...five weeks of training immediately followed by enrollment in a certification program, most often paired with a Masters degree," is NOT
"an equally rigorous training process" UNTIL it is completed. In the meanwhile, you are practicing on Seattle's children.

You may be one of those rare, instinctively gifted teachers, but you obviously think you are better because of TfA. You would probably be just as good if you had gone through a regular university program. In any case, you have no right to paint all teacher education programs with the same brush. Besides, when regular teachers do their internship, there is an experienced teacher in the classroom to give timely feedback.

I know a number of talented young teachers in our community who have been riffed or who have recently graduated and would love to help eliminate the achievement gap in Seattle. I see no reason why we should bypass local teachers who have committed time and money to become teachers BEFORE they are hired, in favor of those who have graduated, looked around and said, "No jobs? Maybe I'll TfA (teach for awhile)."

Your dismissive attitude toward "conventionally-trained" teachers (conventional/oh, how boring!) is arrogant and insulting and will not help you win any friends for what is essentially cutting in line to get a job.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the agenda item to bring TFA members to town:

1. This has been in the works for quite some time. Two years ago, I had a conversation with a TFA recruiter who assured me that TFA would be in Seattle within three years. I naively informed him that that was impossible because teachers in WA State have to be certified… Where is the union?

2. My neighbor recently applied to TFA. He was required to choose five places he would most like to be placed, if selected. Seattle was on that list, although he was not able to select it at this time.

Robyn

Bird said...

Why TFA for Seattle?

I suspect this is the main reason...

TFA placement map

Note the glaring lack of blue dots in the upper left hand corner.

Oh, and there's also the Plan for growth

Seattle may not need TFA, but TFA needs Seattle.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Fighting for Kids, I hear arrogance in that last paragraph. Smart, ambitious, academically-minded? As opposed to all the non-TFA teachers this person comes in contact with? I"m not excusing what others have said but this is someone who knows TFA and is certain that TFA puts out a better product (with no support data).

Okay, yes, I didn't do it recently but I have in the past said please don't name call. I try to police as best I can. So please don't call names to make your points.

I think you hear in some of the names the belief that TFA wants to bust the teachers union. You could look at how they are functioning and maybe make that point.

And look, folks, most of this anger should be directed at the Board and the Superintendent. They are the ones who have not done a lick of work to explain ANYTHING to parents. Not why, not when, not where the money is coming from, not how we would sustain this effort, not who the supporting university is, nada.

That we are kicked around by our district like we as parents don't count is what is really disturbing.

dan dempsey said...

I began teaching in Sept 1968 with no degree and no student teaching and with an Idaho teaching certificate.

It was an incredibly busy year for me. If you used standardized test score improvement I did an amazing job, but I worked at it almost every waking hour during the week and some on weekends. I do have some difficulty imagining doing "academic prep work" for certification during that first year (I did none during the year). Most teachers I know said the most important thing first year is getting the school classroom prep work done and all of the other classroom duties.

I would point out that one reason I was successful was that I was in a rural environment where almost every child came from a stable family and was academically motivated by family expectations and supported by their stable family.

I find this idea that TfA is a good idea for extremely at risk students in low-income schools bizarre.

The data I can find gives no reason that this approach should be pursued in Seattle.

If the State wishes to change their certification laws based on some valid reasons, well great.

At this point in time I am appalled at the Board's succession of 4-3 votes just because the Superintendent wants it that way (and evidence be damned).

So the Superintendent as per the audit apparently wishes to continue violating state laws or running around them ... time to stop this nonsense.

The plan should be to:
Work to change laws not violate them ... quite a role model that MGJ.

Anonymous said...
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Hawk said...

I thought TFA teachers had to join the union? So why would anyone consider them scabs? And, honestly if teachers are mad at anyone it should be the district, not the TFA teachers themselves.
I can't believe any adult, let alone an adult in charge of the classroom my kid could be in, would refuse to collaborate with another teacher because they were trained at TFA, and call them a scab.

I'd take a TFA teacher over that certified teacher ANY DAY.

Anonymous said...
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dan dempsey said...

At 9:59 Anonymous said:

"Did you know that you need no background in science to teach middle school science as a certified teacher? I personally would rather have my children taught by a TFA science major than by a certified teacher who avoided as much science as possible during college."

Except that "no background in science" is not happening in the SPS. As I have stated only 1 class in 200 is taught by a teacher that is NOT NCLB Highly Qualified. To be a middle school teacher in Seattle teachers are not only certified but are NCLB HQ. Thus the Seattle Middle School Science teachers are not only certified but do have a background in science.

==============
Thus the following is a ludicrous "Strawman":

"I personally would rather have my children taught by a TFA science major than by a certified teacher who avoided as much science as possible during college."

As there is no such science teacher in Seattle Schools.

===============
Little wonder the above was posted as anonymous.

Maureen said...

Ok, can people stop setting up false dichotomies? While I too would prefer a TFA Corps Member over a racist illiterate cigar smoker, none of us would ever be given that choice.

The question is, why should we be willing to pay $4000 a year per CM to have an untrained (but smart) teacher in front of poor kids instead of a trained and experienced, but maybe or maybe not quite so smart, teacher who has demonstrated a commitment to a profession?

Yes, I prefer that MS science teachers have some content knowledge. But. Some smart people are really great teachers, some are not. My husband has a PhD in Physics from Yale. You don't want him in front of a science class at Aki with five weeks of training. Trust me.

Maureen said...

You don't want him in front of a science class at Aki with five weeks of training. Trust me.

Of course, that's a false dichotomy too--he wouldn't sign up for TfA.

Anonymous said...

Right Maureen. But shouldn't we have at least a few people available who didn't go through the traditional path. Maybe your husband isn't one of them. But if he was, and if he qualified, and if he was deemed worthy by a willing principal by interview... wouldn't that be worth something? A little diversity can't be all-bad, can it? Sometimes a little change in perspective goes a long way in a group. My experience with TFA alums has been great. We had a great TFA alum principal.

I have to say I agree with you about the 4 grand. I thought somebody else was paying for that though.

Seattle Parent

Sahila said...

well, for another perspective from a TFA alum, you could go here:

Rhymes with Each Pour America

and you could also go here and listen to Jesse Hagopian's experience. Jesse is a Seattle teacher, who started as a TFA recruit, taught in some of the toughest places in the country and went on to get a Masters in Ed and the normal certification:

Jesse Hagopian TFA experience

begins at 5:15 minutes

emeraldkity said...
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emeraldkity said...

Since we are using ancedotes...My oldest is enrolled in a Masters of education program that is two years. ( her undergrad degree is in biology ).

Apprentice teachers spend forty-hour weeks learning the art of teaching. ( Not to mention evening meetings & parent conferences) For two years, they remain with the same master teachers and their mixed-age classes, deepening their ties to both students and colleagues and thereby understanding that quintessential element of good teaching—relationship. They are considered members of the faculty at ____ School (their practicum site) and participate fully in all aspects of school life. In turn, they bring ideas and fresh energy to their classrooms and to the community at large. They are vital to the renewal of _______.

During their first year, apprentices take increasing responsibility for planning, instructing, and assessing children’s progress in their classrooms. In the spring of this year, apprentices develop and implement their first work sample in either mathematics or literacy. Their second year takes a somewhat different shape. During the fall and winter terms, apprentices write a thesis that analyzes a teaching process or project that they have conducted at ________ During the spring term, they solo teach for nine weeks, implementing a second, interdisciplinary work sample. They also create a portfolio of artifacts of their teaching and defend it in front of a committee.

Sahila said...

here's where Jesse talks about his TFA experience: time stamp 9 minutes 13 seconds:

Jesse on TFA 9:13

Here's Diane Ravitch on TFA, at the same Seattle Forum on Oct 5th:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyYtBw360dE&feature=related

and from Dismayed Teacher on the previous TFA thread, live links to two other TFA opinions:

Why I hate TFA

and:

http://www.biljohnson.com/thoughts-on-tfa.html

emeraldkity said...
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emeraldkity said...

Note that they do not solo teach until they have been in the program for 1 & 1/2 years.

She is very excited about this program- did not consider going into TFA because it is not really a teacher training program, but one that was meant for really high need areas
( the Puget Sound area which has some of the highest incomes & education level in the country, is NOT a high need area, IMO)

She was also considering another mentor program ( at the school where the Gates kids go ironically), but as she would have still been lacking an education degree- she decided to attend grad school.

emeraldkity said...

If the SPS has such a big problem with the current hiring pool in Seattle-

WHAT ARE THE STEPS THEY HAVE TAKEN TO WORK WITH THE SCHOOLS OF EDUCATION IN OUR AREA?

Have they taken steps to insure that each new teacher has a mentor teacher ( with appropriate pay & time allowed?)

Have they supported new/established principals regarding evaluation & support of prospective/continuing education staff?

Are they working with the student teachers enrolled at UW/SU/SPU etc. to encourage more classroom time in our schools, so that they have the skills that SPS needs?

What steps has SPS taken to insure that " "classroom hours"/in-service time is actually Relevant and Meaningful?

While many of the applicants to TFA are bright- and willing- I give them that-

to expect them to be SUPERHUMAN & be able to manage teaching a full-time classroom- in the process of LEARNING how to do so,

does a great disservice to the children in that classroom- as well as to the people who may actually be interested enough in the education profession to earn a degree , not to mention to the people who they are displacing.

My younger daughter had a brand new teacher- at the same time her school had a brand new principal, in elementary. The next year, she had a teacher who was caring for a sick parent and was gone/distracted for most of the time.

Those two years completely F*&^k*ed up any momentum she had previously built up and it took all of high school to get back on track.


Are we seriously considering doing that to our most challenged schools?

Families in those schools need more support than families in well established neighborhoods, not less.

It isn't fair to either the classrooms of children, to the mentor teachers in those buildings or the community to expect them to be satisfied with " band -aid" instruction.

emeraldkity said...
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Eric M said...

Well, Hawk, you're surprised that teachers feel angry and betrayed by this TFA proposal.

So, what do you do for a living? Auto mechanic? Let's put someone into your shop with 5 weeks training, and let them learn on the job. From who? From you? Bet you have your own work to do. And if the boss never even bothered to bring the new guy by and say, "this here's the new guy, and I'd like you to take him under your wing..." . Rather he just shows up, and needs your tools, and manuals, and time, and advice, and still fumbles around a lot and sometimes makes the car he's working on worse...

Barber? Let's put someone in your shop, and have customers walk away annoyed that they got a bad haircut and don't want to come back. Plus the new barber has to borrow your tools. Plus the new barber says, right in your face "This is only for a short time, then I'm going to grad school, so I can run a chain of barber shops."

I was talking with some teacher colleagues, and we agreed that if one of these TFA'ers ever needs something from us, we'll just give them Dr. No-Confidence's phone number - "Here. She's got everything you need."

Inexperienced clowns? Exactly.

Smarter, more ambitious, academically-minded?
That's just the upper-class talking to the peasants.

emeraldkity said...

this posting process is seriously messed up- it tells me my post is too large but then it posts it anyway, resulting in duplicates

Sahila said...

Another former TFA alum who went on to be a KIPP teacher, charter school founder and operator and Executive Director in the New Schools Office of Denver Public Schools, which he reshaped to become the Office of School Reform and Innovation.

Waxman's Change of Heart

Sahila said...

Diane Ravitch speaks at TFA/KIPP event in Houston:

http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/2010/10/ravitch-in-houston-challenges-kipp-and.html

Notice later in this piece the details relating to deformists funding school board elections to give themselves a "super majority"... where did that also happen in 2007, I wonder?

Charlie Mas said...

If the Teach for America training is so good, then why isn't that how we train all of our teachers?

Why don't we use the five-week intensive training followed by lots of mentoring and mandatory professional development leading to a master's degree while teaching full time as the protocol for training all teachers?

The answer, if everyone were candid, is that Teach for America recruits exclusively among very high performing college graduates while schools of education recruit largely from college graduates in the lower half of their graduating classes. No one likes to say that out loud because it reveals the elitism that makes Teach for America work, and it reveals the truth about the intellectual power of many teachers (certainly not all).

Teach for America turns back the clock to a time (before women had a lot of career choices) and schools could recruit incredibly talented people and pay them peanuts.

Schools are set up to be operated by more talented people than we generally see in the teaching profession. We had to introduce Reform Math - not because students couldn't learn math the traditional way, but because teachers couldn't teach it that way.

As it happens, the more self-directed education we are moving towards is actually a step in the right direction if we want to reform education for the 21st century. We want to shift from an industrial model to a post-industrial model. We want more individualized instruction and more self-direction. The problem is that we're doing it for the wrong reasons so the steps are being done in the wrong order and the freedoms and constraints are all out of whack.

I don't mean to insult teachers. I have nothing but admiration for teachers. All of them are, of course, college-educated, which is no small distinction. We can rely on the fact that anyone who got a degree has a good head on his or her shoulders. And, of course, many of them are extremely bright people who did very well in school, including competitive colleges. That said, the facts about whom schools of education recruit are the facts.

Teach for America, in the end, trades almost exclusively on the sparkling resumes of their recruits. They truly believe that they are better than you.

emeraldkity said...

Barber? Let's put someone in your shop, and have customers walk away annoyed that they got a bad haircut and don't want to come back.

I love this analogy.
I have a cosmetology license & it took me 2000 hours- much of that working with a mentor teacher checking my work) on (paying clients) before I could go out and be paid for cutting hair ( after I passed the practical & written exam)

However- we consider managing a classroom full of 32 high needs children to be such a piece of cake that at most 200 hours of " training" is sufficient to receive the same pay as a career educator.

Hawk said...

Eric M. if my kids ever got stuck in a classroom with a teacher that had an attitude as bad as yours, I'd roll the red carpet out for your replacement - TFA or otherwise. Are you insecure or just plain bitter?

As for emeralkity's "only 200 hours of training" comment, I suppose she is not counting the four year Ivy league college degree with a major in a field like math or science as training? Nor is she including a TFA recruits continuing education towards a masters in teaching?

Charlie, as always you make a lot of sense. I wish I could articulate my thoughts as well as you do.

anne said...

"Did you know that you need no background in science to teach middle school science as a certified teacher? I personally would rather have my children taught by a TFA science major than by a certified teacher who avoided as much science as possible during college."

I agree. I have also read that a K-5 teacher needs to only have a 4th grade math knowledge to teach math.
There has been discussion of how Singapore Math doesn't work in the US because our K-5 teachers don't have the math knowledge to teach it.

How do you attract the best and the brightest into teaching?

emeraldkity said...

I suppose she is not counting the four year Ivy league college degree with a major in a field like math or science as training?

No why would I?
All teachers have a college degree-( I also am not part of the population that feels an expensive degree is necessarily worth more, ) not even from Reed
However, I do place teachers who have actually earned credits in child development and classroom management & curriculum as being better prepared than students who maybe were considering a career in Wall street or Madison Avenue.

Sahila said...

and you might like to go here for some interviews with actual TFA recruits, done by Barbara Miner:

Looking Past the Spin - TFA, Spring 2010

Some Clarity said...

I'm always bemused by the comparisons: "we don't have 'Doctors/Lawyers/Hairdressers for America!" "This is delegitimizing the teaching profession!!"

Some clarification points: While 12% of Ivy League grads applied for TFA last year, a vast majority of their teachers come from large state schools (Michigan, UT-Austin, Cal-Berkley). Also, 20% of this year's incoming 4,100 teachers had a master's degree or greater (outside of the 'bright-eyed, idealistic young folks' narrative that gets circulated).

The larger question of how we attract the best and brightest into education is one our country must grapple with. In low income schools, the US currently gets teachers from the BOTTOM 1/3rd of college graduates. To the points of deprofessionalization: it is much harder to get into and succeed in both law school and medical school than your average education program. Looking at Washington as an example: for law, to get into Gonzaga, SU, or UW requires high scores, good undergraduate abilities, and scores. Compare that with entry-points into teaching and schools of ed. The options are almost limitless. Are these programs as selective as UW Law? UW Med? Rhetorical question.

To obtain a Masters, I had teachers who wrote book reports through an online university. Pay raise, and they were 'more qualified.'

TFA is a threat because it turns the conventional wisdom of what makes a "good" teacher on its head. Do we rely on the front-end experience and mindset "oh, you want to make a long-term difference for kids. You'll be good, but if kids aren't learning, not your fault."? Or, do we rely on how the students do in the classroom. Do we train, support, and provide guidance to teachers who need help? Do we pipeline our nations' most competitive graduates and leaders into classrooms that need them the most?

Sahila said...

MGJ is bringing us another boondoggle - first NWEA/MAP, now TFA...


Helig Policy Brief, Teach for America

Teach For America Teachers’ Careers:
Whether, When, and Why They Leave Low-Income Schools and the Teaching Profession


But then MGJ sat with Wendy Kopp on the same Broad Board, so can we all chant together now - "plant, plant, plant" - and - "conflict of interest?"

Hawk said...

"I was talking with some teacher colleagues, and we agreed that if one of these TFA'ers ever needs something from us, we'll just give them Dr. No-Confidence's phone number - "Here. She's got everything you need."

And, this is clearly in the best interest of the students, right?

Eric is willing to shut a new TFA teacher out of the mentoring and collaboration loop, and watch the students of his school suffer the consequences of those actions. Way to go Eric! Way to serve your own purpose at the cost of the kids! You should get the teacher of the year award!

It is teachers like Eric that cause parents to rise up and demand more channels, and support from principals, to remove bad apple teachers. It is teachers like Eric that unintentionally open the door for TFA and reform.

Doesn't sound like Eric's traditional, proper, education, and years of classroom experience, did much for him, does it?

Maureen said...

I believe I know where Eric teaches and TfA will not be showing up there, so I expect his point is rhetorical.

Can we go back to anne and some clarity's point: How do we attract the best and brightest to teaching? Is TfA really the best solution to whatever our problem is (and what exactly is that again?)?

Chris said...

I think Maureen touched on this with her own false dichotomy, but I think it bears some examination: even a math or science teacher needs people-skills, young-people skills, at least as much as he/she needs the latest, most advanced information in the field.

While it is true that the relatively low status of teaching does turn away some who would be great, it's a bit of a straw man to diss them all on their SAT scores, a narrow definition of intelligence at best. A good proportion of that top SAT half would be terrible in the classroom - you have to be patient, listen, and not speak in jargon, for starters.

Lori said...

There are a lot of generalizations being discussed here, such as TfA teachers being Ivy league trained scientists and mathematicians and therefore better teachers than traditionally trained teachers. I was curious exactly who TfA hires, so I looked at their website about how to apply to TFA.

The only academic requirement is a Bachelor's degree and a 2.5 GPA (out of 4.0 max GPA0. The 4,500 they hired in 2010 come from 500 different universities and all 50 states (not all Ivy league).

It also says that 11% of TfA teachers have a degree in math, science or engineering. Another 11% have a degree in business or economics. It doesn't say what the other 78% have degrees in.

So a liberal arts major with a 2.5 GPA who held leadership positions on a non-Ivy league campus could teach elementary school after 5 weeks training. That's pretty different than the picture of a 4.0-GPA math major being brought in to teach math. I'm sure the latter case happens, but I bet the former one does too.

Some Clarity said...

@Maureen "Is TFA the best solution to our problem?"

Nationally, TFA is not the best solution, but it's a part of the broader story. What TFA does exceptionally well is attract top tier leaders to teach in classrooms and engage with educational equity. I know the creepy, robot-voiced youtube clips would have you believe that these leaders then go on to work for "Auntie Broad" and promote "deform" policies, but the truth is their experiences are informed by their work in these classrooms and communities. I would much rather have a political leader with experience teaching students in low income communities setting education policy than someone who hasn't.

Locally, I think the same idea fits: TFA corps members will work hard, have a mindset towards high expectations. From TFA's website, here are the 7 qualities they look for in all applicants:

* Demonstrated past leadership and achievement: achieving ambitious, measurable results in academic, professional, extracurricular, or volunteer settings
* Perseverance and sustained focus in the face of challenges
* Strong critical thinking skills: making accurate linkages between cause and effect and generating relevant solutions to problems
* Superior organizational ability: planning well, meeting deadlines, and working efficiently
* Respect for individuals’ diverse experiences and effectively working with people from a variety of backgrounds
* Superior interpersonal skills to motivate and lead others
* Thorough understanding of and desire to work relentlessly in pursuit of our vision

Based on the above, and a 12% acceptance rate, this isn't just "anyone" heading into classrooms, but hard-working people with a mindset towards high expectations and student achievement. For those going "uh oh, TFA's Vision!! Broad! MGJ! Alliance! Head explode," TFA's vision is the close the achievement gap. Scary.

Personally, I think pipeline individuals with those 7 qualities into schools would be a net positive for our kids.

Some Clarity said...

@Lori: "So a liberal arts major with a 2.5 GPA who held leadership positions on a non-Ivy league campus could teach elementary school after 5 weeks training."

The top bullet in my last post notes Achievement in academics. Someone with a low GPA would have to be extremely strong in those other 6 qualities to have shot at getting into TFA. I think TFA is much more selective than that, as their average GPA for corps members is around a 3.6.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Do we pipeline our nations' most competitive graduates and leaders into classrooms that need them the most? "

And by most competitive you mean competitive in terms of ambition or in terms of being at the top of their class?

Also, I simply do not buy into placing TFA teachers into the most challenging classrooms. I don't see it and I can see how this looks great to people who know a TFA teacher won't be in their child's classroom but it's great for other kids.

This is not in the top 5 things to get done in this district (or does someone want to tell me it is?). So, stepping away from the philosophical, let's look at logistics.

So one, there is no revenue stream to keep this up. Doesn't matter if the first year or two is paid for. It is money WE DO NOT HAVE. I would take high school career counselors over TFA anyday.

Two, there is no teacher shortage. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said that herself. Expanding the applicant pool is not reason enough.

Three, there are plenty of other things to do to improve teaching. And, hey, in fact the district signed a new contract just this year. It has all these supports and evaluations. We're going to spend money we don't have before we even see how that is working?

emeraldkity said...


TFA is not a panacea



The first is ideological. I now no longer really identify with a lot of the policy missions of Teach for America, which caused me to view my own presence in the classroom with occasional bouts of self loathing. I don’t think I view the group with any kind of outright hostility, like an Ira Socal or something (I think the group is very aware of its flaws, and is working…relentlessly…to fix them), but I couldn’t feel good about what I was doing.

agibean said...

TFA aside, I've got to point out a few things:

1) Seattle Citizen says: "Do you want someone who is almost finished their degree in medicine to be your doctor? Someeone who almost has a JD to be your lawyer? "

Does SC not realize that this is EXACTLY what happens in medical schools and legal clinics sponsored by law schools? While these near doctors and lawyers have supervision, they are the primary contact for their patients and clients. There's a law school in my home state where the indigent can go through the entire divorce process, fight illegal evictions and more without ever seeing a "real" lawyer thanks to the school's clinic. I'm certain that's the case with other law school clinics as well.

2)Much has been said here about the "extensive" studies and certification process before teaching, and the student teaching process being more extensive than the 5 weeks TFAers get.

Well, that depends. I have an aquaintance in Alaska who is student teaching after just a year of college. She is in an education major but is doing the vast bulk of learning on the job. She's teaching every age group from early elementary to 7th grade. Maybe Alaska is just hard up, but I'd venture to guess that TFA teachers have had as much or more training than this girl has-and to boot, most of her education has been online so far.

I also have a niece who's a tenured teacher in my home state. She did her "student teaching" AFTER graduation from college, as a long-term sub since in that state you do NOT need to be certified to substitute. To repeat: she began teaching without ever setting foot in a classroom prior to that. Now it's possible that with her triple major and fluency in two languages she got special treatment-I don't know.

But my point is that if we're going to flay TFA teachers for their lack of training and experience and bring up doctors and lawyers, we need to be clear that it's entirely possible to be a non-degreed student and represent a client in court, to student teach with not even an associate's degree, and to begin teaching without even student teaching.

Oh, and I should mention a case here in Seattle. My daughter had a student math teacher in high school. Supervision? Ha! The "real" teacher left the room as soon as the kids sat down and returned as the bell rang. We parents had to report her to get that changed. Meanwhile the student teacher had lost assignments and misinformed the kids about certain math processes. But HEY! He was better than those TFA scabs, right?

wseadawg said...

I have no problem with that person's viewpoint, but the attitude that goes with it stinks. TFA teachers might very well be a higher caliber person than the average teacher. Great! But at an extra 4k each to procure them, and for only a 2 year commitment, we're basically leasing them for 2 years instead of buying them for the long haul, with a value that increases over time. I expect that, much like charters, some TFA grads who stick with teaching may do better than non TFA teachers, most probably do about the same, and some stink, fail, or bail out.

Do we need them? What makes them better at addressing the achievement gap? Lets have some facts.

And why do their alums like this one feel the need to gratuitously play the race card and lay the guilt for lack of achievement, poverty, inadequate parenting, and above all, low test scores, at the feet of nameless faceless teachers? Such aspersions turn me off from such people as this. A patronizing attitude and
condescension towards the teaching profession as comprised of a lot of lesser-thans does not interest me.

Do I want my kid taught by an aristocrat? No thanks. Give me somebody who gets it, instead. Haven't we had enough class warfare already? This TFA alums attitude just perpetuates it.

Lori said...

I agree, Clarity, and I'm glad you added those additional points. I'm not denigrating TfA's hires at all. I was just trying to clarify who TfA hires. The impression on this thread was that if you have a TfA teacher, they are an Ivy league trained specialist, perhaps in math or science. I think that person may exist but is in the minority.

wseadawg said...
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emeraldkity said...

By looking to TFA to " fix" their staffing problems- IMO, SPS is saying that the support structure they have implemented in house is failing.

Perhaps they should take a look at it.

As part of our commitment to create a school district that is aligned with our strategic plan to deliver Excellence for All, we have formed a new department within Learning and Teaching called Support, Prevention and Intervention (SPI).

Some Clarity said...

@WSEA

"Do I want my kid taught by an aristocrat? No thanks."

TFA is pretty aware of their needs to increase the diversity of their corps. This page is enlightening. Of the incoming corps last year, 18% were the first in their family to attend college.

wseadawg said...

And where is the District's case? Do we have unfulfilled math and science positions in SPS right now, or do we have a shortage of qualified math & science teachers these TFA folks will abate?

I think the reasonable path is to hire great people to fill positions that we lack a pool of great people to fill right now. If that's the case, I don't care if it's TFA or the local zoo we get the teachers from, as long as they can do the job and do it well.

But once again, I haven't seen any community engagement, nor has the district made any sort of "case" for the need to bring TFA in. Instead we have folks like Burgess and Carlyle, the LEV folks, Stand for Children, etc, etc.(I'll just call them the "Turfers" for short.), clapping and seal-barking to bring them in.

Shouldn't we at least here a genuine, sincere case from SPS before it goes on the Board's agenda?

We already know that once on the agenda, the rubber stamp machine that is the gang-of-four can't wait to clap, bark, and spew two-bit rationalizations to justify their votes in favor of the district and against their communities, so it's a done deal once it's there.

Where is the discussion, not just of pros and cons, but of actual need, costs, & the rest. You know, like we expect grownups to do?

Like it or not, the discussion of viewpoints on this blog is more sincere and informative than anything you'll get from SPS or the Board.

But as I've said elsewhere, the Board works for the district, not us, so I guess it's just the typical same-old, same-old.

wseadawg said...

Some clarity, I didn't mean for that to be a cheap-shot, and you're right that TFA is expanding its ranks and diversifying. But the top-drawer or top-hat attitude that goes with TFA's sales pitch reflects how insidious "branding" has become in our culture. (They went to Harvard? Well then genuflect to them. They're obviously brilliant! - Maybe so, but can they teach?)

Brilliant folks often stink at interpersonal skills, especially communication. And lets not forget how many people attend Ivy league schools because daddy did, or because grandpa paid for a wing on the library. "W" went to Harvard. 'Nuff said?

There is a firm paternalism embedded in the TFA mindset that super-achievers will come in and show everyone "how its done." Confidence is great, but we need temperance, humility and realism too.

The "best and brightest" on Wall Street didn't do us much good. And Kennedy's infamous "best and brightest" got us into a black hole in Vietnam, only to pen long manuscripts decades later saying, "Gee, we were wrong" and at what cost to the nation?

I want to get away from the theoretical and move toward the empirical. We all know brilliant kids who dropped out of school and dumb people who have multiple college degrees.

I want to be convinced we have a real problem before we go spending precious dollars and surrendering precious kids to yet another Ed Reform experiment or project? TFA or no TFA, there's a right way to do this stuff, and a wrong way. Our SI seems to always choose the wrong way, by saying, "Eat This, Schmucks!" I'm no fan of that. I wish the Board weren't either. But I'll sooner find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I think, than see a change in the Board or SI.

wseadawg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ParentofThree said...

Smith-Blum indicated that they are looking to add 25 TfA teachers, that is 1% of the teacher core. The $4k will be funded by private $$$. Typically TfA contracts are 2-3 years. At the end, you can renew or not.

I also find it interesting that many private schools to not require teachers to have the WA state certification, yet families flock to these schools.

Central Mom said...

This is not in the top 5 things to get done in this district (or does someone want to tell me it is?). So, stepping away from the philosophical, let's look at logistics...

...There are plenty of other things to do to improve teaching. And, hey, in fact the district signed a new contract just this year. It has all these supports and evaluations. We're going to spend money we don't have before we even see how that is working?


EXACTLY. Forget the philosophical stuff. This is a distraction we do not need at this time. Our District DOES NOT EXECUTE WELL in many many many areas. And we are in a period of major changes already. Insist that the board and staff fix what we've already started. THEN come back to us in a couple of years with this proposal.

Board members in favor of TFA here aren't going to be swayed otherwise. But they MIGHT listen to the operational reality of too much on the plate.

How's curriculum alighment going? How's SpecEd going? How bout those buses running on time (not) under the new belltimes. How bout the NSAP? How bout (insert favorite issue here.)

wseadawg said...

BTW, in my judgment, we could probably close the achievement gap by 15 points or more, simply by having a good old fashioned book burning of CMP and Everyday Math materials!

To have such a crappy curriculum and then complain about not having enough good math teachers is like compelling doctors at gunpoint to put butter on burns then saying we have a shortage of good doctors because patients keep dying of infections.

More evidence of the "zerologic principle" alive and well in SPS.

Sahila said...

Given that SPS already has an inhouse hiring department and that there is not a shortage of teachers in the District...


Am I alone in thinking there is something wrong in giving $4,000 per placed candidate to TFA - which is basically acting as a recruiting company/employment agency - to hire in expensive, minimally trained warm bodies to stand in front of kids (spouting TFA curricula?) in the most disadvantaged schools/communities in our district?

$4,000 x 25 = $100,000... plus salaries starting at $52K and benefits....

almost 75% of those recruits wont stay past their two year commitment, and so then we pay TFA again for more to replace those, and the additional ones as they get rolled out all around the district...

and I bet it doesnt cost TFA $4,000 to train each of these bodies for five weeks...

Nice work/profit if you can get it... especially when you have Broad Board team-mates (MGJ) referring their school districts to you (Kopp)...

wseadawg said...

Central Mom, you really hit the nail on the head. Shouldn't we finish one task before we start another, or is it better to panic and continue to spray a confetti of new "solutions" so kids don't "languish in the meantime?"

I think MGJ embraces chaos, because with so many changes going on at once, it's impossible to track success or failure and hold people accountable. Basically, it's harder to hit a moving target, and the Ed Reformers like Michelle Rhee and MGJ take advantage of that.

I agree that the district's failure to execute is legendary. Almost as legendary as dismissing questions outright by saying "I'll Get Back To You On That." (I think the last time MGJ said that might have been the MILLIONTH time I've heard it from her or an SPS bureaucrat.) So far as I know, SPS has a perfect record of zero compliance with "getting back" to anyone on anything.

Notice anytime Enfield, Ferguson, MGJ or Kennedy says those words, they never write a note on their to-do list. The board allows it to be their get out of jail free card, so we'll never see it end.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Some Clarity,

You said:
"TFA is a threat because it turns the conventional wisdom of what makes a "good" teacher on its head."

NO so fast on that assumption.

Where is the supporting data that TfA teachers as a group are producing better results when compared with a District like Seattle that has No Child Left Behind High Qualified teachers that are teaching in 199 out of every 200 classrooms?

The assumption that a Masters in Mathematics or Physics, Chem. etc. from Princeton or NYU will produce superior teaching at Aki Kurose or Denny/Sealth will hardly be shown to be correct as without extensive experience in that environment much success is unlikely.

Thus far the TfA supporters have given their opinions and espoused their preferences but where are their logical arguments supported by evidence?

================
Where is the outrage at the SPS choices involving pathetic instructional materials and pedagogical choices?

That is an area where data shows a true positive difference could be made.

Instead we are wasting time on a TfA proposal because Dr. No-Confidence has produced yet another pointless proposal to make her "elite sponsors" happy.

MGJ has yet again pointed to the Achievement Gaps and proposed a change that has "ZERO Chance" of positively impacting the problems named and partially produced by her.

She currently has Appealed a Superior Court ruling instead of using all the evidence.

Recently MGJ and her "favorite four" passed by violating state laws the NTN contract. NTN has produced under-performance in mathematics at almost every NTN school.

The TfA boosters ought to check the data if they wish to have a positive impact before crusading without "data".

Please focus your efforts on the UW's Math Education Project and eliminating it. That would have a positive impact on achievement gap reduction.

Buy a copy of John Hattie's Visible Learning and notice how completely upside down MGJ's plans are if academic gains are desired.

MGJ is a great example of why the Public School System is not producing better results.

dan dempsey said...

A few points:

(1) TfA tends to hire recent college grads. Last I checked 85% were recent grads.

(2) My son at age 35 applied to TfA. 3.5 GPA at NYU and a semester teaching middle school in Sri Lanka.

He also tutored in Harlem every Saturday his freshman year. He was not selected.

(3) The Seattle situation is simply that TfA is not needed. If the Achievement Gaps are the problem and not just an excuse to get TfA into Seattle, then do something constructive to close the achievement gaps.

(4) "TFA's vision is the close the achievement gap. And the SPS's vision was to close the Math Achievement Gaps, while the SPS expanded those GAPs for more than a decade. Please SHOW ME some positive "data" not more visions. ... TfA is a pointless exercise and should never have been introduced ... where is the logical argument backed by supportive data? As usual it does not exist ... another MGJ debacle in progress.

dan dempsey said...

Sahila,

Taking your $100,000 amount and the fact that TfA is acting as an employment agency ..... has the SPS issued bids to other employment agencies for the service of providing teachers to close the achievement gap?

Or would such a bid be written so specifically that it required TfA trained teachers.

Again I ask where are the positive results to justify this purchase of TfA services? Where is the existing teacher shortage for which this service is needed?

Central Mom said...

Central Mom, you really hit the nail on the head. Shouldn't we finish one task before we start another, or is it better to panic and continue to spray a confetti of new "solutions" so kids don't "languish in the meantime?"

I think MGJ embraces chaos, because with so many changes going on at once, it's impossible to track success or failure and hold people accountable. Basically, it's harder to hit a moving target


Yes. That's what I think too. She DOES have talent at creating change. She's brought lots of change to the district. Some of it is good. But can she and her staff extend the change into operations that better the classroom experience for all of our kids?

I am not convinced. I have seen only a few examples of fully executed operations that have positive results that we can track. I see A LOT of half-a**** partial rollouts. And rollouts that are NOT working. I believe it is time to focus on the changes that have been started and see them to their conclusion. Successful Great! Not successful? Evaluate and try again.

I believe it is time for a different leader with a different skill set.

Bruce Taylor said...

I've read this whole thread, 64 comments so far. Remind me: What problem are we trying to solve?

dan dempsey said...

Bruce is appears the problem is how do we fire the Superintendent with cause and Recall four school directors.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

We're not trying to solve a problem. We're participating in an exercise of distraction.

Meg said...

Maybe I missed quite a few public mentions of how much SPS leadership wanted to bring TFA in, and how they felt that if it all worked out, it would be a Strategic Partnership and super-duper wonderful and all that.

But it doesn't seem like there were any. Were there?

I am very troubled by the fact that what seems to have spurred this sudden desire to have TFA in SPS (ASAP) is a private donor. I am not against public/private partnerships. But it is very much the responsibility of the public side of that partnership to make sure that the private money is not influencing and changing the agenda, but simply helping an already existing agenda.

And where I have the biggest problem with TFA is that it looks an awful lot as if a private donor persuaded the district that because costs would be covered, bringing TFA in is a great idea.

The question the district should be asking is more or less what Maureen asked in an earlier thread: what is the problem we are trying to solve with TFA? SPS leadership shouldn't just say "Wheee! Free money! Let's do it!" But it looks disturbingly as if that's exactly what they've done.

Even if I completely accepted that TFA could be good (and I don't, but I don't think they're the embodiment of aristocratic, paternalistic ivy-league satans, either), I have to ask - how are students in struggling schools going to benefit from an influx of first-year teachers, whether TFA or fully, properly certified?

Central Mom said...

Meg...PLEASE take your comment and mail it to the individual board members today. Thanks.

The First Arnold said...

Taken from KUOW website:


Research studies do not agree about whether teachers with conditional certificates are as good as teachers with permanent or traditional certificates. A Ninth Circuit Court panel decided that putting conditionally certified teachers into poor and minority classrooms was discrimination. TFA wrote a friend–of–the–court brief for that case. It's eligible for more appeals.

Putting teachers in the classroom is only part of TFA's goal. The other part is to build a pipeline for leaders. Part of what those leaders do is help TFA expand. A Teach for America spokesperson says TFA alums who work for the district and in the private sector helped lay the groundwork for bringing TFA to Seattle.

The district has to commit to pay TFA $4,000 per teacher per year for up to two years. The district says it will get the money from a private donor. When I asked a TFA spokesperson where the money would come from, she said the organization's main funder is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Seattle School Board is scheduled to vote on a possible agreement with Teach for America this month. The Federal Way District has approved a similar agreement. TFA plans to come to Seattle if it can get another district and a university to collaborate.


The 9th circuit court of appeals feels it is discriminatory to put TFA into poor and minority schools.

So, why is the district looking at this? Usual case of stupidity. Can't argue with stupidity- folks.

The First Arnold said...

I'm still betting- If the Levy fails, Gates will foot the bill for Ed. Reform in Seattle. Gates wants a measurement tool to evaluate teacher effectiveness- badly! I'm sure he is more than willing to use our children for educational research EVEN with out parental consent or knowledge!

Our public education system is being sold!

wseadawg said...

Maybe TFA isn't the embodiment of satanism. But having listened to numerous interviews of Wendy Kopp (TFA's Founder) and Michelle Rhee (TFA Alum, Founder of New Teacher Project and former Chancellor of DC Schools), I find both to be incredibly aristocratic, condescending, and paternalistic in their views towards traditional teachers, unions, and the students they teach.

I'd agree that doesn't mean the corps of TFA teachers embodies it, but teh leadership certainly does. Guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that one Meg, at least with regard to the founder & many high profile TFA alums.

Anonymous said...

But isn't private funding already sortof the norm in Seattle schools? Most of the parents I know talk about the endless drives for PTA funds at their schools. To me private funding of another option (TFA) to get people into classroome seems like a decent thing to look at. I know a few TFA alums, some teaching now, some not, and also know a number of non-TFA teachers. I would not rule out a TFA teacher for my kid.

Thanks for putting this post out there, it is a different perspective and glad to read it and someo of the differing perspectives.

-South Seattle Mom

2 SPS kids said...

As much as Melissa found the teacher's last paragraph "profoundly disrespectful and disturbing," I am finding it pretty disturbing to read some of the commentary here that basically bashes the entire cadre of TFA teachers. It's disturbing, it's unfair, and it lends no credibility to a discussion about TFA in Seattle.

And at this point in the discussion that's not even the issue. The greater issue to be pressing the district on is why there is even a need for TFA. Show us the numbers - have they had problems hiring? In my kids' school, recent open positions have had many, many qualified applicants, and excellent hires were made. Maybe that's not the norm across the district, maybe there are schools at which it is very difficult to hire AT ALL. Do we know? Show us the numbers, and if they are there, then everyone can commence a (hopefully) civil and fact-based discussion on whether TFA is the organization to fill that need.

Chris said...

TFA's vision of creating education-savvy leaders kind of got my attention there. Wow, that's what we really need! However, TFA has been around a while - where's the beef? Was Michelle Rhee a superior superintendent because of her TFA experience? No, she makes me think a polititian is born that way and no degree of experience can make them - um, thoughtful, pragmatic, diplomatic???


Sounds like their vision of closing the achievement gap. Laudable, certainly, but research indicates there are much better means for doing that than the TFA plan.

SC Parent said...

I think TFA might be good for this district. Hopefully, it would be successful and show how student achievement could be improved by providing a support structure for teachers and students rather than shifting resources to central administration.

But, my opinion doesn't matter at this point because I can't see how SPS possibly thinks this complies with the WAC. This is a continuation of MGJ and the Board's blatant disregard for state laws and regulations.

Maureen said...

The Federal Way District has approved a similar agreement.

Aaah, that fills a gap in my knowledge. TfA provides one middle manager ("Program Director" I think) to supervise every 50 Corps Members (CMs). I figured there must be some nearby District that would take on another 25 CMs so they could pay for the PD to manage them.


Note this structure adds another layer of management that our principals will have to answer to on some level. Is this the most effective way to address the achievement gap?

Today at the North Beach coffee, MG-J said (in answer to my question) that the TfA system would look different in Seattle than in other Districts--we won't be required to place 25 CMs. They will be interviewed and can be rejected by principals. I'm not sure that makes me feel much better--if we are going to hire some of those kids, it might be better for us if they had some peer support in the city and in their schools--from what I have read, their lives sound a lot like boot camp and that would be hard enough with a peer group. If we get them, we don't want to have them fall apart in front of our most challenged kids.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The $4k will be funded by private $$$."

So is this a 2-year experiment? I don't think so. There is no private money that is going to fund long-term (5-10). So tell me, what do we cut for TFA?

I keep asking this over and over and NO ONE here ever gives me an answer. Why are we taking on a project for which we have NO dedicated revenue stream for? That is basic logistics.

Out maybe 20-25 of TFA teachers, I'd bet there are 2=3 who could make a difference. What you will probably find is a whole lot in the middle and some bad ones. It's like charters.

Funny story. My husband is a UW professor. As he was getting his PhD towards teaching at a university level, I asked him when he would be going to some ed classes. He looked puzzled. Why? I was astonished. I asked him how he knew he could teach. He said well, I know the material. I was just blown away.

It has taken him years to become great (this is based on the student assessments, not me). He gets assessed after every single course by students. I think it humbled him about how hard it is and how long it can take to develop the skills needed.

I think if we want a better teaching pool we show that we support teachers. We raise salaries, we support teachers (in Japan they spend 1/3 of their day, interacting and working with each other) and we quit giving lip service to "our teachers".

"I think MGJ embraces chaos, because with so many changes going on at once, it's impossible to track success or failure and hold people accountable."

I absolutely agree with that statement. It's quite the plan. But also to that point - if we're doing 20 things, how do we know which one to point to for results?

Maureen said...

I think there are some very basic cost neutral things we could do to improve hiring. (Some of this is based on what Tim Daly, The New Teacher Project guy, said at the last LEV forum).

We should require teachers to commit to retiring/quitting earlier in the year whenever possible. We should budget schools earlier and hire based on projections instead of waiting until fall when the kids show up. We should process more quickly. I'm sure anyone who works in the system (or wanted to but didn't get a job) has more ideas. I bet many of us know several talented teachers who are working just outside of Seattle because they couldn't sit around and wait to see if SPS would hire them.

Didn't SPS just hire a new "talent" manager? Can't we wait and see what innovations that person could put in place before we commit to TFA?

Hawk said...

"So is this a 2-year experiment? I don't think so. There is no private money that is going to fund long-term (5-10). So tell me, what do we cut for TFA? "

Who knows? After two years they may get another funder? Or a grant? And if not, they may cut the program. We don't know. They probably don't know at this point either.

"We should require teachers to commit to retiring/quitting earlier in the year whenever possible. We should budget schools earlier and hire based on projections instead of waiting until fall when the kids show up. We should process more quickly.

Great points, Maureen. Absolutely agree!

emeraldkity said...

I am concerned that the way SPS is looking to enrich the hiring pool is not a sustainable strategy

Following are highlights of a new review of independent researchvidence on the program, an analysis conducted by Assistant Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig of the University of Texas at Austin and Assistant Professor Su Jin Jez of California State University at Sacramento.

They conclude:
*More than 50 percent of Teach for America teachers leave after two years and more than 80 percent leave after three years. [About half of all teachers nationwide quit after five years, according to the National Education Association.]
-Teach for America proponents say that the program is aimed not only at supplying teachers to needy schools but also improving the teacher labor supply and shaping individuals who will care about education in their future jobs on Wall Street, in Washington, or elsewhere outside the classroom.

*Studies indicate that students of novice Teach for America teachers perform significantly less well in reading and math than those of credentialed beginning teachers.


"While the small number who stay this long are sometimes found to be more effective in mathematics than other teachers, their attrition rate of more than 80 percent means that few students receive the benefit of this greater effectiveness, while districts pay the costs of high attrition. In addition, TFA provides only a (small) fraction of America’s teachers to a small number of America’s schools, and likely has little to no impact outside of its participating schools. Unless it starts admitting larger swaths of college seniors and potentially watering down the quality of its corps members, it will not ever comprise more than a small fraction of America’s teachers.

"Finally, even in the limited cases when TFA has a positive impact, it is consistently small; other educational reforms may have more promise such as universal pre-school, mentoring programs that pair novice and expert teachers, eliminating tracking, and reducing class size in the early grades."

emeraldkity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cascade said...

Just read deBell's letter to the SEA about the levy. It seems that his words do NOT square with his support of TFA at this time. Again, why the rush!!!??!!

Strategic Plan Evaluation- The Board and staff will review our progress at the half way point of our Five Year Strategic Plan. This will include the cost and effectiveness of all of the various strands of the plan. Our current budget situation and the capacity of the system to successfully implement new initiatives will be a key part of the discussion.

gavroche said...

Maureen said..

Today at the North Beach coffee, MG-J said (in answer to my question) that the TfA system would look different in Seattle than in other Districts--we won't be required to place 25 CMs. They will be interviewed and can be rejected by principals.


But how likely is it that SPS principals, who can be transferred at any time by the Superintendent (as many as 30 percent of whom have been reshuffled around the School District this past year alone) and whose $100,000+ salaries are dependent on the whims of her Superintendent-ness, will stand up to her and reject any TFA "teacher" she sends their way?

The newer and younger principals, and those who perhaps are lucky to have their jobs and feel indebted to MGJ, will especially be unlikely to thwart her plans to plant TFAs in our schools.

If MGJ wants principals to hire TFAs, they probably will. Or else these principals will likely find themselves transferred to Rainier Beach or Lawton, to pick two entirely random examples......

Melissa Westbrook said...

So Hawk, why commit to this program over any other two-year privately funded initiative? We're going through all this work for a 2-year experiment? C'mon. And trying to find another private donor when the money runs out from the first one is no way to run a district.

Thank you, Emerald Kity. Those are my thoughts exactly - TFA cannot have a big enough impact (for its numbers)on getting educators from "better"schools.

Gavroche, yes I was laughing as well over this idea that the principals will "pick" who gets in their school to teach. I'm certain the word will go out that TFA teachers are only for the low-performing schools.

seattle citizen said...

I'm concerned that by using a private donor, by NOT funding this itself, the district can bypass the do diligence needed to research the problem, propose solutions, investigate a variety of methodoligies to implement those solutions, and, if necessary, investigate a number of outside providers. BY using a private donor, the district doesn't have to issue and RFP (Request for Proposal) to the various companies and organizations that might provide the solution (in this case, the arbitrary solutions of "expanding the candidate pool," and "addressing the schievement gap," the only "solutions" to whatever problem the district is addressing; this is not clear at all)

So by using a private funding source, the district gets to sole-source the contract to Wendy Kopp, who sat with the superintendent on the Broad board.

Where's the part about researching the problem, finding solutions, analyzing a variety of ways to provide those solutions? Nowhere to be found - this is just some money given to Wendy Kopp by the Gates Foundation to enact policy without having to address that pesky research and all that.

This is just allowing Gates, the superintendent, and now Kopp, to enact policy without actually having to state a problem and possible solutions.

Gates, Broad, Kopp and NWEA evidently run the district now.

uxolo said...

I suggest that you all write to EVERY School Board Director. Do it tonight.

Here's from Harium:

Thank you for expressing your concerns around Teach for America. I am very supportive of the TFA program and personally know many individuals that participated in the program. The contract that is up for introduction to the board has several key components:

1. This contract simply allows the TFA candidates to compete for open teaching positions. There is no guarantee of a job for TFA candidates
2. There is no special consideration during our normal hiring process given to TFA candidates. They will compete will all other certified teachers.
3. They will hold a WA State certification under the conditional provision
4. There is not additional cost to the district. The fund to pay the fees will come from the philanthropic community.
5. If there is a reducing in force TFA teachers will be treated the same as all other teachers

While I understand that there are concerns . Our goal is to find the best candidates for our students. There are multiple paths to achieve that. I would ask that you review the proposed contract for your self and see that what is being proposed. http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/10-11agendas/110310agenda/tfacontract.pdf

Harium Martin-Morris
Seattle School Board Director
District 3
PO Box 34165 MS 11-010
Seattle, WA 98124-1165
Phone: 206-252-0040
Cell: 206-795-9844
harium.martin-morris@seattleschools.org

SC Parent said...

It seems like this proposal is ripe for another lawsuit.

dan dempsey said...

I called at 8:25 AM Monday and did not make the list to testify about TfA.

1.
Chris Jackins
Final Acceptance - South Lake
2.
Joanna Cullen
Alternative Learning
3.
Lisa Macfarlane
Teach for America
4.
Dora Taylor
Teach for America
5.
Jonathan Knapp
Teach for America
6.
Jess Hasken
Teach for America
7.
India Carlson
Teach for America
8.
Noam Gundle
Teach for America
9.
Gordon Macdougall
Teach for America
10.
Tim Berndt
Teach for America
11.
Brenda Ball-Cuthbertson
Teach for America
12.
Scott McComb
Teach for America
13.
Sheila Jacobs
Teach for America
14.
Maureen Germani
Teach for America
15.
Heather Cope
Teach for America
16.
Olga Addae
Teach for America
17.
Chrissie Coxon
Teach for America
18.
Jenny Dew
Teach for America
19.
Susan Stall
Teach for America
20.
Demian Godon
Teach for America

Bird said...

I have to ask again, given what Harium says, why are we signing this contract?

What prevents TFA candidates from going through the normal hiring process without the contract? Why can't the donor just pay TFA without using the district as a go between?

dan dempsey said...

Harium has had no difficulty with violations of States laws and School Board policies. He voted to extend the Superintendent's contract in spite of the Auditor's reports.

His reasons for voting for the NTN contract were bogus. He knowingly approved a contract that violated competitive bidding on two separate occasions. These actions involved clear violations of Board policy as well as the Oath of Office that Directors swear to uphold.

It can come as no surprise to anyone that has followed the actions of this Board that Harium seems to be completely in favor of the rich and ultra rich directing the District:

4. There is not additional cost to the district. The fund to pay the fees will come from the philanthropic community.

You can read the filing for Harium's Recall and Discharge filed on October 21, 2010.

Filings made on October 21:

Martin-Morris filing

Carr filing
Maier filing
Sundquist filing

The Major donors who contributed to the "Four's Election" in 2007 sure got their money's worth out of this quartet.

============
Amazing Hubris from Harium:
"I would ask that you review the proposed contract for your self and see that what is being proposed."

Look at the piles of evidence that he continually rejects to rubber stamp almost every MGJ proposal that comes before him.

I had such high hopes for Harium ... but he has become a Robo-Voting fraud.

seattle citizen said...

Bird, this is where it gets strange: IF TFA candidates are accepted, they would need a conditional cert. The district would have to justify it. (I don't think they have, at least not in the School Board Action Report or in the TFA Contract).
My thinking is that district, Gates (the private funder), and TFA have already come to some sort of "batch" arrangement for conditional certs.

The strange thing is that Joe Blow, no matter how talented in their field, can't just plunk her or his-self down into the candidate pool unless they have a cert. Or at least, I don't think they can. If the district advertised a position and someone knew that there was a shortage or an unusual skill involved (the state criteriea for Condition Cert) then maybe they could present themselves as a candidate, and if the district decided they like them then the district helps them get the conditional cert.

It's very confusing - conditional certs are to be used as a last resort, when the district can't find someone in a shortage or unusual skill...evidently, the district wants to change this, and allow conditional certs to actually compete with regular certs for Phase III jobs openings.

Why does it need TFA to do this? The only reason I could think of is the "batch" theory and collusion with state and Gates to get these people in, damnit!

So the state and Gates (and TFA, and Broad, and the superintendent....no school board involved, it's sole-sourced, they don't get to see any rationale or nuthin') have decided to open the Phase III hiring, here and elsewhere, by somehow morphing conditional certs into regular certs. THAT may be why - a single individual wishing to bypass the cert process in Phase III would have a tough time, but here's the whole machine, set to do it for them.

seattle citizen said...

Harium: "I would ask that you review the proposed contract for your self and see that what is being proposed."

Um, I have: What's proposed is that the district offers as condition for conditional cert the "achievement gap;" It proposes to use conditional certs in the general pool of applicants in Phase III instead of as a last resort in areas of shortage or unusual skill; It is sole-sourced, bypassing any sort of responsibility to identify problems and identify possible solutions, and, if need be, put those out for competitive bidding (which is pretty funny when one of the arguments that people make for TFA is that they can compete, perhaps, with regular certs - what, other companies can't compete with TFA? I guess they can't, because they didn't have a Wendy Kopp schmoozing with with superintendent! If I were a head-hunter company, I'd be suing the disrict's butt. Or maybe some citizen will, for not getting the best deal for taxpayer dollars.)

Eric M said...

Again, Hawk, where do YOU work?

I'd like to know who your workplace accepts as having minimum competency. As soon as I find that out, I'll propose lowering the bar.

And, FYI, I'm a hell of good teacher and love working with my students. That's why I don't want TFAers teaching my kids.

I do have a bad attitude, toward people who have ideas for fixing schools that are ideological rather than research-based. I am absolutely sick of the misrepresentations surrounding the TFA cult.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm just laughing about Harium suggesting that people read the contract after his record of voting on contracts he didn't read.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

"The strange thing is that Joe Blow, no matter how talented in their field, can't just plunk her or his-self down into the candidate pool unless they have a cert. Or at least, I don't think they can. If the district advertised a position and someone knew that there was a shortage or an unusual skill involved (the state criteriea for Condition Cert) then maybe they could present themselves as a candidate, and if the district decided they like them then the district helps them get the conditional cert."

And sometimes the District doesn't even help. Six years ago, Graham Hill was in desperate need of a 4/5 Montessori Teacher. They are VERY difficult to find as only a handful of schools train Montessori teachers for upper elementary grades.

We found an amazing candidate who was eager to relocate to the PNW from Austin, TX. He flew up for the interview on his own dime, met with PTSA members from the school and had great credentials. In addition to his Montessori certification, he had a MS degree in Anthropology and 20 YEARS experience as a Montessori teacher of upper elementary/MS kids. We loved him, BUT he was not WA state certified and the District refused to help him through the process. He ended up in a school in Oregon instead.

How times change.

dan dempsey said...

It seems that laws are for others not the privileged Oligarchs.

From WAC 181-79A-231:
"(1) Conditional certificate.

(a) The purpose of the conditional certificate is to assist local school districts, approved private schools, and educational service districts in meeting the state's educational goals by giving them flexibility in hiring decisions based on shortages or the opportunity to secure the services of unusually talented individuals. The professional educator standards board encourages in all cases the hiring of fully certificated individuals and understands that districts will employ individuals with conditional certificates only after careful review of all other options. The professional educator standards board asks districts when reviewing such individuals for employment to consider, in particular, previous experience the individual has had working with children."


Sure seems to me that it couldn't be more obvious that at this point the District is NOT reviewing individuals for employment as specified in the law.

The District is proposing that a whole group of un-certified individuals none of which have been identified by name should be given "conditional certification".


{Wonder if the SEA will ever file a legal action or just continue as District lap-dogs while the public must be the watch dogs. ... Time for Bafia, Addae, & Knapp to put up or shut-up.}

The Auditor sure got the following correct ... the Board and the Superintendent do not observe state laws and/or Board policies. There is no indication that Harium intends to follow state law in regard to TfA.

==============
Don't these "Four" director folks get tired of being so disrespectful of the law? Apparently not.

uxolo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Our city has a quite pronounced achievement gap. So far nothing, none of the traditional strategies, have worked to lessen the gap. In fact, down in the corridors of the central office, I have heard that concerns about the achievement gap are heightened by the release of recent trest results which show that the gap slightly widened. TFA teachers have been the subject of a number of studies, some of which demonstrate empirically that TFA teachers have made positive impacts-- more than traditionally-trained colleagues-- in the classrooms of multiple states (for cites see the newsroom part of the TFA site). See also this Atlantic article: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/01/what-makes-a-great-teacher/7841/

See for a view of both pro and con studies the University of Indiana's metastudy-- http://education.iupui.edu/cume/pdf/teachforamerica.pdf.

I am interested in TFA because it offers something to change up the "business as usual"-- and we need it. Why not let TFA give it a try? I'm for it, and have written in support to Board members.

Signed,

Willing to Try New Things to Get Rid of Achivement Gap

Jan said...

So -- here are the reasons I see (from this post, past posts, and my own views) for NOT bringing in TfA:
1. SSD doesn't have a shortage of highly qualified teacher applicants that would justify bringing on a cadre of first-year teachers (I won't get into who is smarter, whose training programs are superior, etc. -- not that there isn't merit in those point, but there is a lot of subjectivity, anectodal evidence. Whereas, the hiring numbers are indisputable.) There is simply no need to enter into a contract with TfA to provide an ample base of qualified teaching applicants.

2. There is no money for this. The fact that a private donor "may" step in is irrelevant, unless it is clear that that commitment will survive for both years. And even then, it will still cost the District time and money to administer the contract, work with the TfA manager, etc. Given that there is no need to expand the pool of qualified applicants, we cannot at this time justify spending one dime, or one hour of district resources, on this project.

3. There has been no community involvement (other than the fake involvement by astroturf groups). If they really want to do this -- let's have them talk to the PTAs, talk to the SEA (and we want a seat in the room for this discussion), etc. AFTER all that has taken place, then let's see where we are.

4. The District already has WAY too much on its plate to be adding this new project. Let's count just the ones I can think of off the top of my head: Flawed NSAP that needs fixing, the need to draft and implement transition rules, 5 new schools (opened last year) to get up and going -- some with option programs, problems with growing numbers at STEM, new curricular alignment (really, standardization, but ssshhhh on that) in science and social sciences, problems with the new SPED model, the Audit issues, the need to put in place a workable way for schools to get waivers from standardization (see above), need to support the implementation of the new rearrangement of Education Directors (by geographical district, rather than by grade), the ongoing maintenance problems with school buildings, broken (so far) promises with respect to academic equity (you know -- that Excellence for All thing) among different schools (AP offerings, music offerings, languages, etc. etc.), the alt school audit (which was postponed last year, but was supposed to happen this year), the continuing achievement gap and the fact that test scores were flat last year (hard for me to add this, given how I feel about the validity and/or necessity of the tests, but oh well). I have no doubt that I have missed LOTS. But really -- the Board needs to MANAGE here. They need to refuse to let MGJ take on any more shiny new projects until she has actually MANAGED her existing caseload. They need to prioritize the District's work -- and, given No. 1 above, TfA is NOWHERE on any list of priorities I have EVER seen.

Cont'd.

uxolo said...

And School Board Director Betty Patu:

Thank you for your concerns, it is always positive to hear from our community in connection with what is happening in our schools. I am just learning about Teach for America, it was a subject that was really never explained to me until I asked about it a month ago. I have received numerous emails from community and parents concerning the TFA and I am reading the many studies and comments that our parents and communities are sending. To answer your first question, yes, I am pretty sure that the Superintendent saw the same reports and research that are flying around in the emails. Also, we are getting a presentation from the TFA staff at our board meeting and if we have questions we can ask publicly. Yes, we don't have teacher shortage but as a director for the SE district, we are not getting the kinds of teacher that is needed to raise high expectation for our children in our districts. I think it would be ideal if we continued to think that just bringing teachers into our schools is going to take care of the wide achievement gap that we are experiencing, it is bringing in teachers who really wants to see success for all our children. I have 9 schools right now in my district that is critically out of compliance in terms of very low academic success, and this worries me greatly. I want to see changes and yes, we the community certainly needs to come together and talk about it because it is all our responsibility not just the schools.
I want our children to have the best equity education that we can give them, even if it means that we take ourselves out of familiar grounds and look at other options.

Please know that I am listening and that I will do what is best for all our children so they can get the best equity education that they deserve.

Hawk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

Anon - Willing to Try New Things,

Where is the research on what the district has tried, how it hasn't worked (or has), a range of possible solutions, identification of "expanding the candiate pool" as a good solution to try, and then a list of ways to expand the candidate pool, and then, having decided (I guess) that getting non-credentialed people in there, TFA was THE source for non-credentialed candidates?

You point to research about TFA, great, I appreciate it (I could point to research against TFA, but that's not the point: The point is that none of can see what problem the district is addressing, how they've identified possible solutions, how they've researched various companies or orgs to send RFPs to...

This is an educational institution - might we expect a little research? A rationale? Conclusions?

Instead, BECAUSE IT IS PRIVATELY FUNED, the district has shown us nothing. They don't have to. If we were paying for it, they would HAVE to, or be sued, and rightfully so. This is a taxpayer-funded organization.

But, if the board signs off on this, we will see that the board doesn't care about any of that, that the board is willing to let private money dictate public policy.

That's a crime. Literally.

wseadawg said...

Oh, Anonymous. The district could reverse that trend if they'd listen to Dan Dempsey for one. It's not an issue of trying vs. not trying. It's whose pet project gets tried as the next magic-bullet solution, instead of replicating what works & properly funding schools.

Why don't we cut the nonsense surrounding all this "private donor" stuff and call it what it really is: Money Laundering. Gates, et al want TFA in Seattle, so they tell SPS, go get it, & we'll give you the money to pay for it. So, SPS makes the arrangements, then Voila! as if by magic, private donor funds magically appear!

This is ridiculous. So if I want to elbow a TFA teacher into my local school, I just order the principal to go find one, and then cut a check for that teacher, the rest of the system be damned. Wow! I gotta get my hands on a few millions so I can redesign the public commons in my image too!

Folks, it's more than undemocratic - remember that cute little notion of one person, one vote? It's also influence peddling, corruption, and the usurpation of our schools by private money interests doing end-arounds whenever and wherever the hell they want.

Just spare me the rhetoric and call it what it is: Money Laundering. Thanks.

seattle citizen said...

Betty Patu: "...we are not getting the kinds of teacher that is needed to raise high expectation for our children in our districts. I think it would be ideal if we continued to think that just bringing teachers into our schools is going to take care of the wide achievement gap that we are experiencing, [but]it is bringing in teachers who really wants to see success for all our children."

So Betty has a very low opinion of her teachers, her employees.

Remind me again how TFA are going to be so different?

I wonder when teachers might expect an apology from their Director?

wseadawg said...

And let's keep perspective on this. We had to close 5 schools to save 16 million bucks. How much has Gates given SPS for pet projects nobody in the real community (vs. Turfers) wanted? At least that amount by now, I think.

So the truth is, SPS is not in a financial crunch. Far from it. They have all the money they need to push the Reformist agenda. It's the textbooks, librarians and maintenance they can't afford.

Hmmmm. Some would say this district has its priorities backwards.

Jan said...

5. Legal issues: it sure doesn't look like TfA teachers qualify under current Washington law for "conditional" certifications. And the fact that at least one court in CA has ruled that their placement in ONLY low income/minority schools is discriminatory. Do we need the distraction of another potential lawsuit or two? (And of course, there are the substantive issues behind those legal challenges -- why ARE we putting these teachers only in low income schools (if in fact we are), and why ARE we hiring teachers with less robust teaching credentials, given that there is no emergency and they are not some special exception to the rule?

6. Curriculum issues. Someone on one of the prior TfA posts noted that TfA claims to give its teachers a curriculum during its summer classes, and they use THEIR curriculum, not the District's, in teaching their classes? Now, I loathe standardized curriculum (true alignment is ok, but is so often botched that I can barely bring myself to support it either), but what "curriculum" will they use? Is it aligned with the learning standards? Better or worse than what we are already using? And why are we spending millions on alignment, if TfA teachers are not going to use that work product, but will use something totally different? And how will that work with the evaluation standards -- or are these folks somehow exempt from the evaluation protocols? (for the record -- whatever they are using for math can't be worse than what we have, unless it's TERC).

7. And last -- but not least, at least in my book -- the privacy provisions of the TfA contract are totally unacceptable. How can the board agree to hand over private, identifiable student data to Tfa under an agreement that lets TfA give it to ANYONE ELSE -- with NO further restrictions on use or dissemination? All the third party needs to provide is a reason why they "need" the data. That is very different than providing assurances that they (the 3rd party) will maintain its confidentiality, etc. Frankly, if I were a parent, I would not allow my child to be taught by a TfA teacher under these conditions. What if the identifiable need is that someone wants to write a book, or an article, using children's real names, grades, school disciplinary history, class work, etc? What if the party getting the information from TfA decides to just dispose of it in the regular trash when they are done with it (complete with names, birth dates, social security numbers, etc.) Whose data base will our kids' information end up in -- permanently? In my opinion, no decent attorney would EVER let a client sign an agreement with a confidentiality/information sharing clause like that one -- unless they simply didn't care, at all, whether the confidentiality of the data was maintained. It blows me away that that language is in there.

So there are my seven reasons. May the force be with those who were lucky enough to get speaking spots this Wednesday!

Hawk said...

"I'd like to know who your workplace accepts as having minimum competency. As soon as I find that out, I'll propose lowering the bar."

I work at a small non profit. Though we've hired many bright, young, new employees, I've never been worried about being pushed out of my job by them (but then again, I'm pretty confident in my abilities). And, I don't have a contract and union protecting me either.

I'm by no means proposing lowering the bar. What I'm suggesting is exploring all avenues and channels when looking for new teachers.

When we have an opening at my organization we list in the job post the minimum requirements of a 4 year degree, and two years of work experience. But guess what? We are flexible, and gasp, sometimes we hire someone that does not meet the requirements. Sometimes we hire people that have never stepped foot on a college campus or have no work experience at all. And sometimes we hire them, gasp, over another candidate that did meet all of the requirements. Why? Because we thought the inexperience candidate had more potential, or we thought they'd be a better fit, or we liked their energy or enthusiasm, or attitude. you name it.

That's the way the work world works. Unless of course you have teachers contracts, and unions, and are strangled and suffocated by bureaucracy.

Just the thought of hiring a TFA teacher makes me want to burn my bra! It's the next best thing to the feminist movement. It's like moving the rock of Gibraltar.

Maureen said...

SC says, What's proposed is that the district offers as condition for conditional cert the "achievement gap"

Would they have to prove that the hired conditionally certified teachers can close the "achievement gap"? I'm assuming that if they allow conditional certs because they can't find science teachers that they can't use the exception to hire an uncertified art teacher, right?

If the TfA teaches for a year and their kids don't close the gap do we have to fire them for false pretenses? Do we do it after a month? What if I showed up and said I could teach Physics, would I have to prove it? How can an individual prove they are qualified to close the achievement gap?

Solvay's Montessori teacher had specific proven training and experience and could fill a specific position. SPS would not grant him certification. How is that consistent with this TFA contract?

curious said...

so, just a FERPA question: if you opt out of FERPA, they can't give out your info, right? so TFA has to pick out those who have opted in and those who have opted out?

seattle citizen said...

Hawk, you write:
"I'm by no means proposing lowering the bar. What I'm suggesting is exploring all avenues and channels when looking for new teachers."

In Washington, the bar is that one needs a certificate to teach. If you believe this is not the way it should be, by all means work to change that. But as it stands now, one needs a certificate (I personally believe this is good:among other things, it demonstrates a commitment to the profession - it's work, and lots of it.)

So one needs a cert. In two circumstances a shortage (on a job-by-job basis, not carte blanche), or an "unusual skill" area, the district is allowed to hire a conditional cert. That's it.

That is not the case here: The district is asserting that people without certs may compete with people with certs on regular hiring. So why should anyone get a cert? It's not due to shortage or unusual skill, any ol' body can get in the hiring pool?

If you think that's as it should be, then advocate to change WAC. Otherwise, it is what it is.

I'd add that the 9th Circuit recently ruled that it's an infringement on the civil rights of poor and minority children to hire conditional certs and only put them in struggling schools, which is what the district is doing here. Evidently, the 9th Circuit sees some merit in certificates - a conditional cert is not a cert.

seattle citizen said...

Jan, it's not just the summer school curriculum that TFA will feed its TFAers, it's also during their "regular" teaching in Seattle, as per contract.

This is from the TFA contract appended to the School Board Action Report (agenda item):
Section D - Professional Development Services -
Along with TFA people wandering in and out of school with clipboards and video cameras directing TFAers in the TFA Way (curriculum and instruction), there's this:
D.i:
...Teach For America shall facilitate Teacher access to an assortment of resources including sample lesson plans, assessments, grade tracking systems, and content area/grade level instructional materials.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Curious, that is a good and HUGE question. How can you protect your child's privacy versus what is in the agreement?

Here's what needs to happen. If TFA comes thru, then every single parent who has a TFA teacher needs a special sheet explaining what the FERPA is, how it relates to their child and how it relates to their child's TFA teacher.

Given that many low-performing schools tend to have more low-income/immigrant parents, these people need extra help. The district may be able to experiment on their child with a TFA teacher but they have the DUTY to tell parents of that fact AND protect those children's privacy rights.

Melissa Westbrook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MathTeacher42 said...

Hawk at 11/2/10 5:46 PM!!!

Wow! Do you leap tall buildings in a single bound?

I was a chef for 15 years, and I constantly meet people who couldn't boil water, but they have fancy job titles and fancy degrees, and they go out to eat all the time, so, therefore, they sure know how to run a food service!

Now I've been a math teacher for 6 years, and all kinds of people who went to some kind of "Leave It To Beaver" school know everything about fixing schools and kids, cuz their anecdotal experiences in 12 or 25 classrooms translates into systemic fixes for over 3.5 million teachers and over 50 million school kids.

I enjoy how people who are willing to call swill flavored kool-aid what it is - swill - are unhappy cuz they don't fit your definition of happy happy khaki clad kool aid drinkers!

What is the "small" non profit you work for? LEV? Alliance For Education? Stand For Children?

Hey - have you ever been in an elevator? I was thinking of building a 50 story building, and I need an elevator expert! Surely you're an elevator expert, too?

BM

seattle citizen said...

Ferpa, schmerpa. Your children are already being used as experiments and data in the biggest transformation of American public education in its history: Your child's HSPE scores feed the entire reform industry, which is fundamentally altering public education as we know it - dumbing it down, mostly, deprofessionalizing it (note Betty Patu's comment about how her district's teachers just aren't cutting it..."), privatizing it off, school boards subsumed below Gates and Broad desires (driven, as we see in this contract, by "the acheivement gap," which is ONLY data from HSPE.

Your children's personal data is important, sure, and to be protected, but those HSPE scores your kid generates, THAT data, is being manipulated in the public sphere to destroy our schools. I wonder if they know this, that THEIR children will be subjected to standardized, mechanized, privatized BS because of the test scores this generation's children produce?

seattle citizen said...

Top Ten Reasons this thing is ridiculous:

One: No need

Two: Quality teachers as certified by state

Three: Conflict with state conditions for conditional certification

Four: Best practive is to research the issue, propose a variety of solutions, select the best one. Hasn't been done.

Five: This contract is sole-sourced - Why? TFA's Wendy Kopp, co-Director on Broad board with Superintendent - Isn't this ANOTHER conflict of interest?

Six: Civil Rights - Ninth Circuit ruled that using emergency certs primarily in minority or low cinome schools was an infringement on the civil rights of those students. It also ruled that the US Department of Education was far too loose with with its interpretation of which teachers with emergency certifications was "highly qualified" under NCLB.

Seven: Contract language - In the the School Board Action Report the Board, if it agrees, agrees to "any minor additions, deletions and modifications deemed necessary by the Superintendent." This loophole is ominous.

Eight: Why was TFA put on the Board agenda a month ago with a placeholder where the contract would be? The contract was not ready then? That was a breach of Board Policy. Which is why it was removed two days later...This thing is still half-baked.

Nine: Ferpa issues - student info shared with TFA AND whoever it wants to share it with.

Ten: This co-option of the board by outside, private interests (Gates pays fees, district doesn't have to do due diligence) HAS TO STOP.

Jan said...

Hawk's last post has made me curious: Let's assume for a moment that a teaching certificate is "nice, but not necessary" -- as is often the case in private schools (because I have researched teaching programs before and I have to admit, I think a lot of the courses, at some institutions, look pretty lightweight and fluffy). It is the mentored student teaching, more than anything else (with good coursework on child development coming in second) that is valuable. Why do schools agree to "pay" TfA for the privelege of educating the teachers? Why don't we just allow any number of institutions to do a five or six week crash course in the summer, followed by two mentored years (during which students will finish up some coursework in foundational stuff -- child development theory, etc) and call it good. Why doesn't the teacher/student pay their OWN cost of learning -- which is how it usually works, rather than having the District pay full time teachers wages PLUS 4000 dollare AND sign agreements that give away identifiable student information, etc. to boot? Then -- let the principals decide whether to take them on as apprentice teachers! They (principals) can figure out the grade point averages, leadership potential, etc. of applicants. The first year -- they pay to be apprentices. The second year, maybe the District pays them something, but less than a full salary. At this point, they have WAY more of the really valuable stuff (mentored teaching practice) than most ed programs give or require, and they have had time to do the child development theory reading, etc.

Either the cert. matters (not sure I am a total believer, and I don't buy the idea that putting in a ton of money and effort on what, in some colleges, is a mediocre educational program as a "gatekeeping" exercise is legit, if it is true that the average teacher only lasts 5 years before leaving the profession) OR the cert does NOT really matter -- just "getting the teaching skills somehow" matters. But in either case, TfA, as it is currently structured, seems like a bad business deal.

And yes -- I realize all this would require massive law changes in all sorts of places. I am just thinking theoretically about why we care so much about teacher education in its current form, on the one hand, and why TfA is offering such a weak, bad deal for kids (as opposed to all those future leaders -- who are the real beneficiaries) on the other.

Maureen said...

SC says: So one needs a cert. In two circumstances a shortage (on a job-by-job basis, not carte blanche), or an "unusual skill" area, the district is allowed to hire a conditional cert. That's it.



So the "unusual skill" here is that TFA CMs are able to teach black kids as well as standard certs teach white kids. Isn't that what it comes down to?

seattle citizen said...

Maureen, I think that is what they are arguing: In the TFA agreement, the "specific" condition the district cites for conditional cert application is the achievement gap. From the rhetoric, in the community and in both the School Board Action Report and the TFA contract, current certified teachers just can't teach non-white kids. I guess they're racist or woefully ignorant of the myraid cultural backgrounds of their complicated students.

This is also what the entire reform movement is predicated on: The achievement gap.

What's disheartening is that teachers are being blamed, and if minority children aren't getting the same scores as white kids ("minority" as classified by HSPE, etc) then, in the reformers view, it MUST be that the "teacher quality" issue is really about teachers who are either racist or culturally ignorant. I mean, if a teacher has a bunch of different students in a class, and the "minority" students don't do as well on HSPE that year, but the white kids did just fine, it must be because the teacher is either racist or culturally ignorant: what other reason could there be, in that explanation?

It ain't the cultures outside the classroom, nor generational poverty... those teachers just arenm;t "quality" (rising minority students as fast as white students) so they must be racist or out of touch with the myraid cultures in their classroom.

If only teachers would stop being racist and teach in as many ways as there are cultures, all children would learn, right?

seattle citizen said...

Now, the TFA teachers...THEY know how to teach to minority cultures! This is their "unusual skill"; they've been drilled in it. It says so in the contract and the Action Report!

They must not be racist, nor be ignorant of cultural perspectives, like those dang fully-certified teachers!

Anonymous said...

Warning sign #287 from Betty Patu re: TFA

"it was a subject that was really never explained to me until I asked about it a month ago"

Her district is one of those most in need of consistent and trackable resources and solutions. The TFA proposal has obviously been floating around for a while yet no one from TFA or its philanthropic backers sat down with her until she had to ASK a month ago? Bad enough that the public isn't invited to these discussions...now it is certain board members too?!?!?!

-skeptical-

Hawk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan dempsey said...

Dear Willing to Try etc.,

You said at 5:03...

"Our city has a quite pronounced achievement gap. So far nothing, none of the traditional strategies, have worked to lessen the gap."

Check the data please ... over the last decade the achievements gaps in reading have shrunk dramatically.

I've advocated for strategies known to be effective to be used and the district has rejected these suggestions for improvement at every possible turn. Even going so far as to reject a Superior Court order of remand.

Thus far what can be said is the District's preference to use strategies and materials which have repeatedly been shown not to work, do not work in Seattle. Why that validates bringing in TfA is completely beyond the scope of any logic.

============
Try this for the attempts by the SPS to close the Math Achievement Gaps.

These folks just refuse to consider what has been proven to work.

Read Visible Learning and Project Follow Through results.

The statement you made:
"none of the traditional strategies, have worked to lessen the gap". Is completely false. The SPS rejects traditional strategies in favor of unproven "Nonsense".

Hawk said...

"They must not be racist, nor be ignorant of cultural perspectives, like those dang fully-certified teachers!"

Sc, you're hurting your own cause with this statement. TFA recruits teachers with the pre-determined agreement that they will be placed in the most challenging schools across the country. Schools where the majority of students are minority and low income. It doesn't make sense that a TFA teachers, with that understanding, would be a racist. On the other hand, teachers from the traditional schools of ed, have no idea where they will be teaching. As new hires they may be forced to teach in challenging schools for awhile, but they can move on up, as they get seniority (thanks again, teachers union).

In my opinion if anyone, they'd be more likely to be racists. Don't ya think?

karyn king said...

@Hawk -
Sorry to break it to you, but you are the one living in the bubble. I'm glad that your world is where "Where competition reigns and the best man gets the job." (though that makes me wonder where women fit in). I've worked in the "real world" non-profits and for-profit companies, and there is just as much, if not more, nepostism, incompetence and dysfunction there as you might think there is in teaching. The teachers I know are bright, dedicated, capable and just as - no, MORE interested in doing good work than anyone in other sectors.

Please stop bashing those who are frustrated by district leadership who refuse to provide curriculum, administrative or even moral support for the work they do.

Hawk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan dempsey said...

Oh my, what is Director Patu saying?

"Yes, we don't have teacher shortage but as a director for the SE district, we are not getting the kinds of teacher that is needed to raise high expectation for our children in our districts."

How can Director Patu determine that this is a teacher problem rather than an instructional materials and pedagogy problem?

Since we have direct evidence of the UW making the situation considerably worse in SE schools in regard to math, I find her criticism of teachers horribly misplaced.

Here once again is a link to the data that shows the incredible inaccuracy of the Director's analysis that this is a teacher problem.

=========
SC is correct an apology is needed. Teacher bashing is not acceptable. Where is her logical argument that connects her statement with any valid reasoning?

WOW has any Director paid any attention to Charlie's statements about continued lack of effective interventions.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kids, let's keep it civil. No name calling or sand throwing. Don't make me pull this car over.

Hawk said...

Sorry, you're right Melissa. I removed that post. Thanks for the reminder.

dan dempsey said...

Perhaps Director Patu might consider the following LINK.

It appears the current system rewards the experts and the administrators for producing chaos and distractions instead of positive results.

The teachers are ordered to follow the Central Admin directives and now Director Patu finds fault with the teachers for not being "the kinds of teacher that is needed".

MGJ produced this giant TfA distraction and apparently has continued to confuse some directors about the nature and sources of lack of academic progress in the SPS.

At least Director Patu normally votes against violations of state laws unlike the "Four".

seattle citizen said...

Hawk, I mean no disrespect to TFA people who, hmm, USED to basically volunteer to work in schools that had shortages, etc (it's a new ballgame now, they are, in effect, given a job for two years if they pass muster, so it's not as altruistic as it once was, apparently.

Any TFAer who chooses to stay in the profession is also free to move to other schools. They're not locked in, they, like "regular" teachers, are mobile. I don't see your point.

Your point might be that because they KNOW they will be going into a "tougher" school that might mean they're somehow less racist. I don't buy it.

MY point was that regular teachers are currently being demonized as being the cause for the achievement gap, and where that gap is based on the categories of race and ethnicity, this would mean, since everything is the teacher's responsibility, evidently, that teachers are either racist, ignorant of the infinite permutations of culture all around them, or both.

By using the achievement gap (categories compared to each other) as THE sole determinent of success; by saying teacher quality is everything; then, if the gap is race or ethnicity, then the reformistas can come in and say, ach, THOSE teachers don't know how to teach THESE children. But TFA can!"

Of course it just ain't that simple, and it's blatantly unfair and disrepectful of teachers to make this accusation. Life is way, way more nuanced than that. Yes, everybody can (and is, at some points) racist. Myself included. TFA included. But to suggest, as this current aspect of reform does, that regular teachers are more racist, are less culturally responsive than these wonderful TFA-trained wunderkind...well, that's just ridiculous.

This is THE basis for this TFA contract: "Achievement Gap" This presupposes that SPS is opening the door for non-certified people to compete on a level playing field with certified teachers based purely on race (and SES, but these often correlate, and teh schools that reformers target are largely in minority neighborhoods, so the SES is less a factor) The implicit argument is that TFA is better at diminishing the achievement gap, that these TFAers are just better at it. The research doesn't seem to back that up; on race and culture, my guess is that it's a wash: There is variability among ALL teachers or teacher-wannabes.

I just think it's disrespectful to call out current teachers as somehow lacking. This is the problem with the reform movement: It sells the idea that it's all the teacher's fault, that outside factors don't matter, therefore we have to change the whole teaching crew. Of course, this means getting these new people in, conveniently part of Broad board member Wendy Kopp's TFA, which OUR Broad board member, the superintendent, likes very much, thank you.

seattle citizen said...

And Hawk, you write that since TFA people know they are going into minority schools, it doesn't make sense for them to be racist.

Why not? Plenty of institutionally racist people believe that it is their duty to minister to the "less evolved" or whatever they believe people different than themselves to be.

I have a magazine article from 1873, the actual article, where an Episcopal priest is going west to operate a mission school "teaching" American Indians. Here's what he says: "While I will not be able to raise them to our level of civilization, my aim is to make good farmers of them," or words to that effect. He had a good heart, the best intentions, but believed that Native Americans just could NOT rise to his level. But he was gonna make the capable workers...

Hmmm....so no TFAers would go the Bronx for two years with feelings like that, eh?

Oh speaking of the Bronx, I note that one of the speakers tomorrow is a TFAer who graduated college in 2004, got a masters in 2007, was in TFA, evidently decided two years was quite enough, thank you very much, and is now the senior policy analyst at our own LEV!

Guess that commitment to teaching only went so far....

Melissa Westbrook said...

As a last thought for the night, again, this is OUR district and we are talking about what is best for it. I told a Board Director today that I don't reject new ideas or ed reform but I want my district to view all of it through the lens of how it helps OUR district (and not hop on some reform train).

We have limited resources, we have already made some big changes to our teachers contract, new assessments, curriculum alignment. I'm just not willing to throw everything and the kitchen sink at education. It's not useful and it's not possible.

Please keep in mind that for every year that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has been here, the budget has gone up. Less is going to schools. Something has to give. It looks like it is coming down the Board making a choice between slowing down on the Strategic Plan and spending more in our schools or keeping up the Strategic Plan and sending less to our schools. That IS the choice.

Lastly, look, please don't denigrate TFA teachers. Most of them are young people who sincerely believe they are doing good. Or trying to do good in an imperfect world (Some are looking to burnish a resume for sure but most, I think, have good motives.)

The criticism needs to be aimed squarely at our district which is NOT following its own processes (and to which the Board should shut this thing down tomorrow night because of it - at least temporarily) AND at the TFA Foundation which has, somewhat like the Alliance, decided they want to be more of a player. Question their motives, their desired outcomes and yes, I believe, their manipulation of some young and idealistic people.

At the end, though, this is about children. Not the short-term experience of a new college grad or a foundation trying to muscle its way onto the education stage or an ambitious superintendent.

I would caution anyone who says (maybe a little too blithely), "why not try it?" or "I would be find with a TFA teacher" - be careful what you wish for.

gavroche said...

Here's one of the speakers signed up for tomorrow night's School Board meeting:

http://www.king5.com/news/education/What-Makes-a-Good-Teacher-103890574.html

It sounds like she is a former Teach for America member who is now teaching at West Seattle Elementary.

Apparently she performed miracles in the Bronx.....

Bird said...

It sounds like she is a former Teach for America member who is now teaching at West Seattle Elementary.

Apparently she performed miracles in the Bronx.....


Quite a record in her Bronx school. Too bad for that school that she didn't stay past her two year commitment.

Sahila said...

People miss the point completely with this entire reform agenda...

Its about completing the process of turning this country into an oligarchy - and owning education is part of that... a handful of very wealthy people have decided they know what is best for this country/economy and they are using their money to make sure they create the world they think they/we need...

Melissa points out often that this is supposed to be a democratic country/process, where we, the people get to control life... government of the people by the people for the people and all of that... lovely sentiment by the way...

Well, what, in SPS, do we the people get to control for and about our kids?

Nothing now that Broad and Gates are playing in the sandbox...

"If humanity does not opt for integrity we are through completely. It is absolutely touch and go. Each one of us could make the difference." ~R. Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983), American engineer, author, designer, inventor, and futurist

wseadawg said...

Seattle Citizen PROFOUNDLY said:

This is also what the entire reform movement is predicated on: The achievement gap.

SC: That comment says it all. I think you just unlocked the mystery underlying ed reform. Without the constant threat of Terrorism, the Military Industrial complex could be kept in check.

Without a constant and growing Achievement Gap, the raison d'etre of the Ed Reform movement evaporates.

It all makes sense now.

When in history haven't the haves exploited and misled the have-nots for material and monetary gain?

Prostitution may be the world's oldest profession, but exploiting the less powerful to benefit one's own interests precedes man walking upright.

Dora Taylor said...

Over the last few years, charter schools have consistently hired TFA recruits. It has been a way to get around unions, pay a lower salary and have the recruits focus on test scores.

No retraining is needed and these recruits have historically worked longer hours including weekends for lower pay. (Although an argument can be made that our teachers now do that as well but that's another subject.)

The test scores are important for charter schools because most states require that charter schools maintain a certain level of student performance to receive state and local funding.

It has been a perfect formula for charter franchises like KIPP. TFA and KIPP go hand in hand, figuratively as well as literally.

This effort on the part of the supe to bring in TFA is not some isolated, random event. She didn't just wake up one morning and think that hiring TFA recruits is just the ticket to closing the "acheivement gap" in Seattle. An idea that defies logic any way that you look at it.

Her agenda is ed reform from merit pay to charter schools. Remember, she was Broad trained and brought in by the Broad and has been supported by the Broad through the board retreats and her first two evaluations.

Gates and Broad, the two folks who are funding all things ed reform in Seattle now, want charter schools in our city. It's just that simple. But the ground work has to be laid first. The Seattle Foundation and LEV, both backed by Broad and Gates are on their way to Olympia as we speak calling for charter schools. What do you think the charter lovefest was all about that LEV put on?

It's all part of a big picture and that is this notion of ed reform that is sweeping across our nation.

It's a formula that has worked in other states where public schools have become privatized and that's what Gates and Broad want here.

In California, there are now thousands of TFA recruits that are hired. Why? Because they bought the notion of charter schools big time in that state.

Same in New York.

This goes beyond us and yet now is here in Seattle.

It really has become a battle for Seattle.

Charlie Mas said...

There are some tragic flaws here.

First, the TfA contract appears to run directly counter to our Strategic Plan to align curriculum and assessment. As it is a program inconsistent with our stated goals, priorities and direction, the District should reject it. Where is that policy on private donations?

Second, there is no need to include teachers with alternative certification in Seattle because we have no teacher shortage here.

Third, the state law requires the justification of each alternatively certified teacher on an individual basis as someone who has some special skill unavailable among the certified applicants for the position. That simply isn't going to happen.

The whole proposal appears DOA.

Yet the superintendent has brought it forward and, I suspect, the Board will pass it. Tragic.

Bird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bird said...

I'm pretty sure the board will pass it, and I don't even think it will be a close vote.

Do you think we could at least get the board to require that the performance of these candidates is reviewed and published?

If the argument is that we are bringing them in to reduce the achievement gap, let's measure that.

If the argument is that the TFA cadidates will stay long term at these schools, let's measure that.

I'm suspect that after the initial two years, we'll be expected to continue on with TFA and I doubt that Gates is going to fund it indefinitely.

We should use these first two years to get some data on the program.

Charlie Mas said...

Personally, I'm the kind of guy who would say "Let's do it but gather data on the outcomes and use that data to determine the effectiveness of the effort."

The problem with expecting Seattle Public Schools to do that, however, is that they simply don't. The District has exactly zero track record of gathering data to measure the effectiveness of projects. They have never done it and I see no evidence to suggest that they ever will.

So to predicate the provisional approval on the expectation that this sort of data gathering and evaluation will occur in the future is a weak foundation.

curious said...

The article in the paper stated that TFA hoped that this program would become a part of the district's budget after the donor's funding ended.

I have to say that, as I have found in the past, Kay Smith-Blum has read all of my (probably annoying) emails on this subject carefully and gotten back to me on each one (after clearly having done research or gotten answers to my questions somewhere). She also has said she would ask some of my questions at the meeting. Whether or not I end up agreeing with her votes, I think she is the hardest working, most accessible Board member. I think she takes her job seriously.