Monday, April 18, 2011

TFA's Wendy Kopp on KUOW Today

The 10 am hour of Weekday on KUOW 94.9 FM will feature the head of TFA, Wendy Kopp. 

This is interesting that Ms. Kopp does not appear to be here on a book event and she was here just last month.  I'm thinking this is about setting up shop (with money from the Gates Foundation) and firing up the troops.

I predict a huge call-in.  Call 543-KUOW or e-mail  weekday@kuow.org.

We'll talk after the show.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Po3 said...

Wendy says that TFAers show greater "gains" than other "beginning teachers" But does not cite the research. How can this be verified?

Also says TFAers teach on average of 8 years. True? Thought it was closer to 2-4 year average tenure.

Anonymous said...

And she clarified and emphasized that TFA is a leadership development organization not a teacher training organization.

Oompah

Bird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Po3 said...

90 hour work weeks.

Sounds like a sweat shop organization to me.

Bird said...

And she clarified and emphasized that TFA is a leadership development organization not a teacher training organization.

Exactly.

The fundamental purpose of Teach for America is not to serve the needs of the kids in the classrooms where they are placed. It's to serve the needs of the teacher and make them into an "educational leader."

It's exploitive.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Kopp speaks with great confidence that TFA teachers WILL be in Seattle Public Schools this fall. She spoke of how TFA is working with...marketing...their product with SPS administration and principals. Great for those TFA kids to have that kind of advocacy - is there a similar role that our local institutions play with respect to getting their graduates hired into the SPS system? I bet if they got some PAYOLA in the same manner of TFA they could probably afford it.

Oompah

mirmac1 said...

Just what I want my child to learn, marketing.

Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

Fascinating how much she talked and how little she said. But key points to understand about TFA and then the final analysis:

-she said there WILL be 20-25 TFA teachers in SPS in the fall. I challenged that and the host tried to say he said it but no, she said it. Her reply was to say that they get interviewed like anyone all but "all signs were that it will work." We don't even know if there will be RIFs. There haven't even been interviews. But she's sure they will get hired.

- she said they are "cultivating supporters" here in the Puget Sound area.

- She says that three studies from North Carolina, Louisiana and Tennessee say TFA recruits do as well as other teachers even veteran teachers. I read one but it was on subject area not overall achievement. The one I read was also comparing TFA recruits to similarly qualified temp certification, not fully-certified teachers in overall achievement. I'll try to find all of them and post them. I also have one that completely debunks TFA but there you go - research that will justify both sides.

- she was asked about accountability of districts and she said two districts that were showing what accountability looks like were New Orleans and D.C. Well, New Orleans is ALL charter and that's a different kind of accountability and D. C., well, Michelle Rhee and enough said.

- She kept using this example of one TFA teacher, Megan, as how great it can be when you work overtime and on Saturdays. One former TFAer (who said because she only taught 1 1/2 she wasn't "technically" a TFA alum, why not?) said the burnout factor is huge and how can this be done with a person who has their own family or other obligations? Kopp said the Megans of the world are not the answer (but she used the example over and over).

It is not about finding good people and giving them the opportunity -quickly - to trying teaching and stick with it.

It is not getting the best qualified and trained people into classrooms.

It is most definitely NOT about closing the achievement gap.

What is the key to understand about TFA (that seems to be missed by many? I'll let Ms. Kopp say it in her own words

1) "We are NOT a teaching organization."
2) "Our mission is to create a corps of leaders."

Okay? Okay.

They don't really care about getting better teachers in the classroom (many a very few for a very short period of time).
They want to create an army of like-minded people to drive their vision of public education forward.

Know those two things above all others.

And last, follow the money. There is a lot of money to be made off public education. Ask Wendy Kopp.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was unfortunate that Melissa only got to ask her question and didn't get to comment. It was a bit too much of a love-fest for TFA in my opinion—wish Steve had been a bit harder on Ms. Kopp.
SolvayGirl

Anonymous said...

(This is actually Sue p.)

Teach for America, Inc. CEO Wendy Kopp herself has acknowledged that TFA is not really a program to create teachers but to create “leaders.” She has said that the two-year stint that TFA-ers do is just a detour on the way to their real professions — which are “two years away.” Here she is in a Jan. 21, 2011 interview on the Smiley & West radio show:

Smiley: (…) That said, as you well know, one of the criticisms, perhaps the most constant criticism of the program is this 2 year commitment. That for some of these young people it’s really not so much about staying, about choosing teaching as a profession, as Dr. West has for 35 plus years, but it’s a stepping stone.

Can you speak to the criticism of the program that for many students, many young people it’s a stepping stone and not really a lifelong commitment to young people and their learning.

Kopp: I think that’s an unfortunate perception. The people who come in to Teach for America, and I know you probably have met many of them along the way, are just deeply, deeply committed. They’re graduating seniors and the rest of their life is 2 years away. So they’re making a 2 year commitment to this instead of making a 2 year commitment to something else.


According to Kopp, then, “the rest of their life” is on hold for two years. So what does that make those two years they spend in the lives of the schoolkids they are responsible for teaching? Purgatory?

The Smiley & West interview is worth reading/listening to. The hosts graciously welcome Kopp and give her credit for doing some good work, but then they basically confront her with all the most cogent and legitimate questions and concerns many of us have about her enterprise. I found it particularly fitting to hear Dr. Cornell West speak up for the value of long-term commitment to teaching. He would know: he’s been in the profession for 35 years. Five weeks and a two year “commitment” must seem ridiculous in comparison.

It doesn’t really help TFA, Incorporated’s image that Goldman-Sachs recently announced that it would hire TFA-ers after their two year stint, and/or offer them a lucrative summer internship. That pretty much cements the impression that TFA is not about long-term commitment to kids, but a resume-stuffer for college grads before they launch into their true careers (despite Time Magazine’s recent protests to the contrary).

From TFA, Inc's site: Teach For America is Proud to Partner with Goldman Sachs

Joining Teach For America before pursuing a career in business will provide you with the management experience and skills that will help you have a greater impact in the business world. By committing two years to teach in a low-income community, you will have an unparalleled opportunity to assume tremendous responsibility—managing a classroom of students, setting ambitious goals, and inspiring your students to meet those goals. Through this experience, alumni say that they developed invaluable communication and time-management skills that are highly transferable to a career in business.

Who exactly benefits from TFA? The poor kids in the schools where TFA recuits try out teaching for a while? Or the TFA-ers themselves who get paid, trained, and handed jobs once they’ve done their two years?


(from: CRPE report casts doubt on using Teach for America novices in our neediest schools)

--Sue p. (btw, my post keeps disappearing.)

CT said...

Whatever. You don't have to be a TFA person named Megan to work overtime and on Saturdays. I can't tell you how many (properly-certificated) public school teachers are already in the buildings late into the evening, on the weekends, and during the breaks. This is technically spring break, yet my grade level partners and I are meeting on Thursday to get the last of our science unit and social studies topics mapped out and set up for the last couple of months of school. I'm sure we'll spend the weekend searching through materials, making copies, and fine tuning our rough outline, not to mention getting caught up on our grading, and we won't be alone.
Yet TFA'ers are going to step in and save Seattle schools for their 2-year tenure?
*insert eyeroll*
-CT

Money talks and BS walks said...

"And last, follow the money. There is a lot of money to be made off public education. Ask Wendy Kopp."

Feb. 2011- Broad et. al awarded TfA $100M. Not to mention the
$50M they'll be getting from the Feds.

No wonder they have the man power to promote themselves to principals.

someone said...

Melissa - all their studies are list on this page, including the 3 cited

http://www.teachforamerica.org/about-us/research/

seattle citizen said...

Here's an odd end: Over at the LEV blog, they have a post by Kristin Bailey-Fogarty, teacher, on how great the whole dump-seniority thing is, and how SOME educators, rather than wait for a good bridge (of evaluations)to be built, are throwing logs together on shore(I guess to get swept downriver on as they try to cross?)

The odd thing is, she doesn't identify herself as a TFAer. YOu'd think TFA, and Ms. Bailey-Fogerty, would be so dang proud of the whole TFA thing they'd trumpet it far and wide. But she sees no need to mention her affiliation with TFA as she promotes doing away with seniorty.

I'm surprised no one on that blog has called her out on this omission. I would, but I'm not allowed to comment there, they 86ed me because I guess I'm too snarky (or they don't like facts, sumthin'...)

Here's the SaveSeattleSchools thread where Dorothy Neville got a nasty email from Ms. Bailey-Fogerty, who at the same time "reported" Dorothy to Melissa:

Dorothy: "I received an email from a teacher at Ingraham, Kristin Bailey-Fogarty, a friend of Bree Dussault and former TfA corps. She cc'd Melissa as blog administrator to let her know that my comment about Bree and Chris was inappropriate on many levels. She called me an idiot. Now, I've been scratching my head to figure out why she would feel the need to do that. And why cc Melissa? Was Kristin feeling threatened? Was her tattling to Melissa trying to get me censored? Was it meant as fear and intimidation?"

StopTfA said...

Dorothy,
Dunce Cap! In the corner! Now!

Jan said...

I am not a fan of TfA, or Wendy Kopp -- but, let me play devil's advocate for a minute. Let me also assume that everything said by the Tfa person who works 90+ hours a week is stone cold true. If I were the parent of a 2nd grader in, say, an East St. Louis School, and I could find someone who would come in and work those hours with my child,-- as opposed to having to scrape up someone who clearly would rather teach anywhere else, but couldn't find a position, I would jump at it. Byt I think TfA should stick to those situations.

That, of course, is NOT the situation in Seattle, where dozens of experienced teachers vie for jobs at EVERY school. So -- when the TfA folks and their marketers show up, what can/will Seattle teachers do to market themselves as better alternatives to TfA?

Jan said...

Also -- I continue to be curious about the "creating curriculum" statements. Because Seattle teachers will be fighting with one hand tied behind their backs if they have to use Everyday Math and Discovery, while TfA teachers are allowed to teach using better pedagogy. Frankly, I want the better curriculum for the kids' sake -- but boy, would THAT be a bitter pill to have to swallow. To have kids getting decent math instruction ONLY if they are either at Schmitz Park, or being taught by TfA teachers?

Jan said...

And finally -- I took two other points away. I thought Wendy kept coming back again and again to higher levels of leadership -- principals. Folks who can (in theory, at least) get an entire building of teachers to agree to come in on Saturdays, or stay until 6, or rewrite a math curriculum so that they could start with 9th graders 3 to 4 years behind in math, and still get them through pre-Calc or Calc by the end of their senior years. Given that we have LESS money than ever before -- how COULD that be done, except by teachers willing to work extraordinary hours (like 90 hours a week). Clearly, that is not a sustainable pace over a teaching career. Yet, if that is what it takes to rescue a school -- what should we do? What WILL we do?

Second, I keep getting the message that ONE of the things Kopp and Rhee are saying is -- these are not career positions. They are like the peace corps, or the two year "internships" of big investment banks, where analysts come in by 8, and leave between 2 and 3 a.m. every day including many weekends -- but only for 2 or 3 years. And then -- just like TfAers, most of them leave -- with another great notch in their resumes -- for jobs that don't require so much work.

Where, in this scenario, are the master teachers, the Gary Pounders, the Stevers and Spangenbergs, the Steve Mirandas (and there are many more) -- because for MY kids -- those are the teachers who have lit bonfires of enthusiasm. Not every teacher is a "master teacher." And no beginning teacher is, I guess. But I don't want an investment bank model, where the really great master teachers teach only the enthusiatic short timers. TfA is not a horrible model, in some respects, if growing "leaders" is what you want. But if your objective is to educate each child -- and then you multiply that over many years and many children -- it is not the right model. The right system isn't TfA, though I guess I also think it isn't what we have now. I see too little mentoring and collaboration (and not enough time to do it). I get the sense, from reading posts, that too much of professional development is stuff foisted on schools by central administration/curriculum planners, and too little of it comes from a school saying -- look. None of our special ed kids passed the science HSPE. Here is a goal. Here is a plan. Here is how it gets implemented. Here is the leadership (and the authority) to get the whole thing from point a to point b.

dan dempsey said...

So good to hear that TfA is training more wizards to advise from outside the classroom. Hopefully not all TfA alums will go to Goldman Sachs.

The "non-existent" shortage of people with little classroom experience telling experienced teachers what to do can be filled by TfA alums. Just as expected for TfA alums will be experts after filling the "non-existent" shortage of teachers in Seattle Schools.

Anybody remember was TfA approval a 6-1 vote with Betty Patu as the "one"?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Peter's reply at his meeting on Saturday on the subject was he voted for TFA to expand the pool of candidates. When I noted the costs involved, he was stone cold silent (including no answer as to how these TFA recruits, if they are not math or science majors, would be paid if hired).

dan dempsey said...

Melissa,

I guess Peter had not been handed the talking points yet on those questions. Let me see they have already looted the carryover funds from 31 low income schools to pay for Cleveland NTN STEM option .. so it cannot come from there. Perhaps the looting can be done elsewhere?

wseadawg said...

People, people, people....let's call this what it is, shall we? It's nothing more than spying and double-agency going on right under our noses. To wit: Join TFA & spend 2 or 3 years figuring out how the apparatus works, befriend key administrators (often fellow agents), who hold keys to the safe and have access to the funding sources. Then, in two years, jump ship to a private think tank or educational resource provider company, and start exploiting the knowledge you've gained and the connections you've made "hook up" your new employer to the taxpayer trough, a la Bob Rubin jumping from Secy of Treasury to Citibank.

There is no difference between this and former government employees who leave government to work for lobbying firms, where they exploit the very apparatuses they studied, and often constructed to funnel public dollars into private pockets.

This game has gone on forever, and TFA, Gates, Broad, are simply playing it out in the Education context with the help of the "Premiere lobbying firm" Strategies 360, as well as LEV and the Alliance.

They feel they deserve it, because after rigging all the rules of the game via standardized testing, they may just be better at teaching students to test well, while REAL TEACHERS struggle in in vain to actually EDUCATE children.

The further we let ideologues (not persuadable by facts) like Kopp & Company encroach into our schools, the worse we allow the game to be rigged in their favor, against families, against children, against democracy, but in favor of oligarchy and aristocracy.

Is it one giant conspiracy, the object of which is ultimately money and power? Without question.

wseadawg

WenD said...

@Melissa: I'm glad you were there to ask this question of Peter. Strange that a lawyer would be rendered silent on the true cost and purpose of TFA, but Lemon Law is his legal specialty, so it all makes sense.

WenD said...

@wseadawg: Thank you. I don't think you left anything out.