Monday, March 21, 2011

More on Teach For America

Just as spring heralds the arrival of new growth, it is sometimes difficult to tell the flowers from the weeds (and to figure out how some things just keep growing).

As previously announced, the money for the TFA recruit fees ($4k per teacher per year for SPS and $3k per teacher per year for Federal Way) will come from a grant from the Washington STEM organization.  This would be okay except in trying to figure out how this large grant ($475k) brings more math and science to either district, it gets murky.

At the Washington STEM website, the media kit on the grants explains they will "over-recruit" for TFA recruits with a math or science degree.  I asked what this meant and couldn't quite get an answer.  (They don't have their own PR people and the question got farmed out to their PR person.)  As per TFA, I eventually had to go through the TFA regional person, Janis Ortega.  (This happens a great deal of the time.  Try to contact a former TFAer and you'll suddenly find yourself with an e-mail from her.  Weird.)

Here was my basic question:

Is TFA saying they guarantee that SPS will be getting TFA recruits who had a math or science major based on this STEM grant?

Here's Ms. Ortega's reply: Thanks for reaching out.  To answer your question, we typically can’t guarantee an exact number of math/science corps members we’d bring to a particular school district.  At this point, we have been able to forecast that at least 10 of our incoming Seattle-Tacoma corps members could be placed as math and science teachers, based on numbers of Teach For America candidates with math and science degrees who have indicated the Puget Sound as their preferred placement region.

I believe that the number of TFA recruits they hoped to bring to the Puget Sound area was about 25.  So out of those 25, 10 have math/science degree.  Let's say 7 of them pick/get assigned our area.  Let's say Federal Way gets 3 and SPS gets 4.

The Washington STEM group thought it this important to get (maybe) 7+ TFA recruits with a math/science degree.  They gave one of their biggest grants for this few recruits.  I wrote to the head of the Washington STEM organization and the Chair of the Board of Directors to ask them about this issue.  No comment yet.

Meanwhile, as I posted from Michael's meeting, Cleveland, the one and only STEM-based school in SPS, is struggling with funding for science materials to the point where the science teachers will give up funding for a department head and divvy that work up among themselves so they can buy science materials.

You have wonder why TFA is getting so much push for what appears to be so little. 

26 comments:

Kat said...

This may sound like a stupid question but I had to ask it. Is the Washington STEM organization aware of Cleveland HS's needs? It seems to me they could use the grant monies given to TSA for a director of the program and/or to buy science materials. That would help students now.

hschinske said...

That's exactly what I thought, Kat. And see Charlie's comment (as coolpapa) at the Times article: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/reader_feedback/public/display.php?source_name=mbase&source_id=2014538719

The Ballard biotech program had private backing, didn't it? You would think the same kind of thing could happen for the STEM program at Cleveland -- and according to Charlie it was supposed to attract private funding and hasn't yet.

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

Helen, Kat - this is exactly why I thought the STEM at Cleveland was rushed. There are hardly any sponsors for it and is there someone asking folks like Washington STEM for money? Writing grants? I suspect the answer is no.

It's just painful.

Jan said...

Other than admiring it from afar, I have never known exactly how the private sponsorship stuff at Ballard worked. It would be interesting to know if Cleveland's problems are a result of the program having been rushed (and what the lead time SHOULD have been), a result of the recession causing private businesses who might otherwise have been interested lacking either the time or the manpower to commit to the effort, a result of geographical issues (how close does the school need to be to a sponsor for the partnership to work well), or something else.

Does anyone know -- is there NO current interest by private parties? Are there some (one, two, many) interested but the process is just going slowly?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jan, the district never addressed this.

I know from researching the Delta High STEM program over in the Tri-Cities that they did A LOT of work with education entities and private companies before it was launched.

The "partnerships" page at the Cleveland website has:

- Seattle Bio-Medical Research Institute
-Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle
-South Seattle CC
- IGNITE - a program for young woman interested in technology careers

We are an urban city with much to offer in technology and sciences. That the above list is the best we can do for a STEM program is puzzling. I'm sure plenty of people are interested but the district has to go to them (not the other way around). I know that the Computer Science and Engineering Dept. at UW would partner with them in some way but have never been asked.

I frankly think SPS doesn't know what it takes, doesn't know what it's doing and the school may suffer for it.

hschinske said...

Here's what I posted over a year ago concerning what I could find out about how the biotech program started:

"I would look at the kinds of things that got the Ballard biotech academy off to a reasonable start.

"http://www.fhcrc.org/about/pubs/center_news/2001/feb15/sart5.html

" "The Biotechnology Career Academy at Ballard High School was initially funded by a grant from the Immunex Corporation to start a science program for high school students.

" "Further funding from the Career Academy Support Network allows academy teachers to work as a team to coordinate an integrated curriculum of science, math and English centered around the theme of biotechnology."

"I would also note that principal Chinn first started talking about Ballard becoming a STEM school about 1990 -- it was a decade or so before that really materialized (and of course the biotech thing was different than the STE focus he originally talked about), and there was a big boost because the new building and the biotech stuff all came at the same time, after a lot of very public fundraising. Even though Cleveland HAS a new building, the excitement for the new building isn't there."

Helen Schinske

dan dempsey said...

No surprise here...

"Meanwhile, as I posted from Michael's meeting, Cleveland, the one and only STEM-based school in SPS, is struggling with funding for science materials to the point where the science teachers will give up funding for a department head and divvy that work up among themselves so they can buy science materials."

When only four Directors voted for STEM at Cleveland Via the $800,000 contract with NTN, it was completely apparent that the funding on which moving forward depended was NOT in place.

Once again the "Fab Four" acted without following the previous agreed upon commitments.

The funding as Meg Diaz pointed out has been a chaotic mess.

You can read more about the STEM fraud and forgery here.

dan dempsey said...

Can we please follow the money?

Where does Washington STEM get its money?

StopTfA said...

Re: TFA,

I'll reiterate that the SEA rep (award winning teacher) at my child's school said some weeks ago that building leaders are being "urged" to get "fresh meat". Now my child's school is not Title 1, why would any administrators be pushing this I don't know. Lora is our regional Ed Director.

Anonymous said...

Triple Up That TinFoil!

In the interest of blaming teachers and doing it well, you need to get rid of teachers who have the audacity to call you out on what you're doing.

How to replace those pesky math and science teachers with hard to find math and science degrees?

How to replace them and make sure the replacements are not around long enough to start to wonder and to start to ask questions?

3 years ago I would have laughed at such Triple Thick Tin-foil Hattery.

Ed Deformers actions have a lot in common with the actions of the reagan-cheney white houses - expect the venal, and they'll always find away to do better at being venal than you'd expect!

Triple Thick Tin Foil

(p.s. of course, you'd need a compliant SEA pushing last minute back door deals with the district for this to really happen ... )

peonypower said...

wow- am really wondering if the ed. director is pushing my prinicpal on TFA. That would really suck if true- bummer. I know I will be on the hiring committee for any science/math job at my school next year.

seattle citizen said...

Triple Thick Tin foil suggested that "you'd need a compliant SEA pushing last minute back door deals with the district for this to really happen [to "get rid of teachers who have the audacity to call you out"]"

Here's some information about the SEA that I didn't know until recently, passed onto me. The following is all pasted from another source:

Teacher Union Reform Network set up in 1996 to get unions on board with the big business reform agenda. Under SEA President Verletta Wooten, our union became a charter member and financial supporter. Both the NEA and AFT national presidents now belong as well. (Note: The executive director of SEA at that time, Roger Erskine, later became a founding Board member, and is a current Director, for the anti-union, League of Education Voters.)

TURN’s mission is to “affirm the union's responsibility to collaborate with other stakeholders in public education and to seek consistently higher levels of student achievement by: Seeking to expand the scope of collective bargaining to include instructional and professional issues [and] improving continuously the quality of teaching.” Hence, the use of student scores in our evaluations, SEA support for the “coaching model”, MAP, School Improvement Grants, and so forth. (I thought unions were about worker rights, because we professionals could be trusted to look after of our own professional development, silly me.)

According to TURN's website, their “critical friends” include a consultant from Broad Foundation as well as the president of New Schools. The New Schools organization, which raised $145M in the past 10 years from high-profile Reformers including Gates, Broad and Walton, gives financial support to “turnaround” and “charter school management organizations” including KIPP, Green Dot, Teach for America and many other major charter players through its Venture Fund. To follow the money just a bit further, one of the Partners of New School org. (Deb McGriff) sits on the advisory board to Nat’l Council for Teacher Quality, the organization hired by our Alliance For Education to produce the recent “human capital” report for our district with recommendations for merit pay, attacks on seniority, etc.

So just why would our dues go to “reforming” our union in the first place, and why would some of the privatizing Billionaire’s Boys club be our “critical friends” in this transformation? Perhaps we should call on SEA leadership to withdraw their membership in TURN.

seattle citizen said...

So I went looking for more infor about TURN, which the Seattle union joined. On their website is a video of Patrick Dolan, spekaing about reform. I googled him, and he is also on this thing called the National Advisory Council. Anyone heard of this BIG reform group? I hadn't. Here's the rest of its membership:

Ms. Peggy Allan President
Nat'l State Teachers of the Year

Mr. Albert Bennett
Professor and Director, St. Clair Drake Center- Roosevelt University

Mr. Vince Bertram Superintendent
Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation

Ms. Gretchen Crosby-Sims
Director of Strategic Initiatives
The Joyce Foundation

Mr. Tim Daly President
The New Teacher Project

Mr. Patrick Dolan
Scholar in Residence - Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs
General Electric Foundation Ohio University

Mr. Matt Gandal
Executive Vice President
Achieve, Inc.

Mr. Dan Goldhaber
Research Professor / Affiliated Scholar / Senior Non-Resident Fellow
Center on Reinventing Public Education at University of Washington / Urban Institute's Education Policy Center / Education Sector

Mr. Paul Goren
Vice President
Spencer Foundation

Ms. Aimee Guidera
Director
Data Quality Campaign

Mr. Bryan Hassel
Co-Director
Public Impact

Ms. Kati Haycock
President
Education Trust

Mr. Paul Herdman
President and CEO
Rodel Foundation

Mr. Paul Hill
John & Marguerite Corbally Professor
University of Washington Director - Center on Reinventing Public Education

Ms. Kelly James
Education Program Officer
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Mr. Alex Johnston
Chief Executive Officer
ConnCAN

Mr. Richard Laine
Director of Education Programs
The Wallace Foundation

Mr. Bruno Manno
Senior Program Associate
Annie E. Casey Foundation

Mr. Gregory McGinity
Senior Director of Policy
The Broad Foundation

Ms. Linda Noonan
Managing Director
Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education

Mr. Mike Petrilli
Vice President for National Programs & Policy
Fordham Foundation

Mr. Andy Plattner
Plattner Communications

Mr. Andrew Rotherham
Co-Founder and Co-Director
Education Sector

Ms. Suzanne Tacheny
Executive Director
Policy Innovators in Education Network

Ms. Jenn Vranek
President
Education First Consulting

Ms. Kate Walsh
President
NCTQ

Mr. Ken Wong
Professor of Education / Chair for Education Policy
Brown University / Urban Education Institute / Annenberg Institute

Anonymous said...

Your point?

--seeking point

seattle citizen said...

seeking point,
My point is that SEA leadership is, perhaps, more in bed with the Reformistas than I knew. That they support an organization that is reforming, that this organization has a video of Patrick Dolan on its wesbite, that Patrick Dolan is on this huge "Council" with all these other reformers...
My point is that the web of reformists is wide and intertwined. This council, unknown to me until now, is a veritable who's who of reformers.
No pint besides those, sorry!

StopTfA said...

Here's an interesting point. There was a suggestion that Tier III hiring be moved up to May so that SPS can secure "quality" applicants. Are these quality applicants college students who haven't got their degree, let alone their five weeks of boot camp yet? That is ludicruous.

I will remind the School Board that they have to sign on the dotted line when they vote to apply for conditional certificates in conformance with the laws of this state.

kprugman said...

Seattlecitizen is making a good point - why would SEA fund TURN, an outfit that looks more like a shell for organizations that would do away with collective bargaining if they only could.

I think teacher unions serve a logical purpose that helps provide some balance to the heavy-handed approaches of modern management types. Sometimes ambiguous, irrational, or hostile management styles indicate more investigation is needed.

Dora Taylor said...

Seattle Citizen,

Awesome work!

Now the question is, who funds Washington STEM?

Bill Gates has pretty much gone through our local orgs to push trough his agenda, along with Broad who I think has probably spent their last dollar on Seattle, so my guess is that some big money has just been injected into STEM WA to pay for TFA.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, of course, Gates is one of Washington STEM's funders.

Dora Taylor said...

Found it!

Gates gave STEM WA $10,000,000 (count those zero's now), that's right, $10M this year.

So do you think that bought him just a little influence?

Gates is one of the major proponents of charter schools which hire TFA'ers as cheap, non-union labor.

I know that I am belaboring the point with many of you but it is worth repeating.

Gates is not out of the game yet in Seattle.

See: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Grants-2011/Pages/Washington-STEM-Center-OPP1027355.aspx

Dora Taylor said...

So what is Gates' true goal, following through on what he started, namely STEM at Cleveland or mindlessly following the edicts of ed reform?

I think that the Gates' Foundation has become as useless a bureaucracy as the SPS downtown office.

gavroche said...

I have heard that UW's College of Ed, headed by former TFA Alum Tom Stritikus, has signed on to sponsor TFA here in Seattle. Can anyone verify?

http://education.washington.edu/areas/ci/profiles/stritikus.html

Melissa Westbrook said...

Gavorche, working on that.

Sahila said...

@Seattle Citizen - great digging - I hadnt gotten that far...

I dont know if the union(SEA/WEA) is in on it, it being deform (though Randi Weingarten of AFT is) or just plain politically naive (stupid....)...

After conversations with some union leaders this past weekend, I'd say the latter is more likely, at least locally...

Anonymous said...

Will there be any way of knowing which positions went to TFA, and wether they were advertised properly? Postings are supposed to be up for a week minimum, and last fall when I was applying (specifically to science jobs) I saw one that was up for 6 hours, then gone. No idea which side of that was a mistake (though I got my application in).

glad I didn't get in

StopTfA said...

If you look at various Board agendas, under the consent agenda, I see where the Board rubber-stamps conditional cert applications for employees. Until now, this has been almost universally for positions like CTE.

Now they will be asserting to OSPI that so and so TFA applicant is the uniquely talented individual for the job, and no fully-certificated teacher is available. If they do this, it is not in compliance with the RCW.