TFA didn't just ring up Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and say, "Hey, we have a swell program going. Want to be part of it?" No, they needed a facilitator. The facilitator in this case is the Dean of UW's College of Education, Tom Stritikus (also former TFA alum). He's the one who got the ball rolling. And boy, he did it fast.
From my last post that contained e-mails from my public disclosure request, we learned that he couldn't do enough for TFA. Not just bringing them here, not just setting up a hidden (well at least from the public and his own students) partnership between UW and TFA but as he said the week of Sept. 13, 2010, "I am open to pursuing other ideas that would be helpful to TFA." You have to wonder if he was actually aware he had a whole college of education to run.
So what happened is that finally the students in the college learned about this partnership. A meeting was set up with the Dean and the students for this past Wednesday.
To set the scene, consider this: you are enrolled in what is considered a top college of education in the nation. It is a rigorous Master's program where you take a year of courses and a year of in-school work complete with a mentor. It could take longer than 2 years and, of course, it's going to cost you thousands of dollars.
You learn that your own Dean has set up, with no discussion publicly (and very little with faculty), a partnership with a group that "trains" recruits for 5 weeks and sets them loose in their very own classrooms to be part of your college of education.
How would YOU feel?
There were about 40 students, 10 faculty, some alums/staff and myself and another SPS parent. The Dean had brought in (for whatever reason) a Vice Provost, Ed Taylor, to facilitate. (Some of you may recall that one of my pet peeves is being "facilitated" and boy, did these two do their best facilitating complete with "Now I think I heard you saying..." to almost every single person.) One non-helpful thing Mr. Taylor did was to take questions and then not make sure that the Dean actually answered them.
Here are the highlights of what was said (and keep in mind, there were other people who heard this so I'm not making this stuff up).
- He started off saying how great his students are and then said that he would take any one of UW's certificated teacher grads over any TFA recruit any day of the week. (I'm wondering if I should send that KING-5 tape of him saying that to Wendy Kopp, Susan Enfield and the Board.) That statement very precisely says why TFA shouldn't come to SPS. We - don't - need them. We have no emergency, we have no shortage, we have plenty of full-qualified teachers to pick from for our classrooms.
- Then he said to the students to imagine that they are a new teacher in a classroom and next to them is a TFA recruit in his/her classroom. He said his students had a "moral obligation" to help those students in the next classroom because their teacher wasn't as prepared.
- He said that when he was appointed to be Dean last fall, that it was clear "TFA was coming." He said listening to the conversations and momentum, they were going to succeed.
- He said that it was the College's duty to see what is out there and react to it. He said it was a good opportunity for research on TFA and see if there was something to learn from them.
The faculty either sat mutely or tried to back up his "need to research TFA" idea.
Q&A - from students and others
- Kelley Mao, student (she was the one interviewed by KING 5 news) - Stritikus had said that the College's average for employment of its students was about 70% (which is good) so Ms. Mao asked how bringing in TFA would hurt those numbers. He said that was one way to think about it. But he said "our own grads - someone with your training is not disadvantaged in this labor market."
- He was asked about RIFs and said that was a question to direct to the districts involved. (Remember this line because it's important to Part Three which is what does this all mean to SPS.)
- There was one very brave young woman, Maya, who struggled to contain her emotions. She said she felt betrayed, that her community in South Seattle was being betrayed as well by bringing in less qualified teachers. She said TFA is probably too big to fight and that they may be sacrificing a program that took a long time to build. She said her professors taught her to fight for students because often teachers are the only ones who can.
- Another student said TFA recruits seemed to use TFA as a "stepping stone" to the next big thing and were not committed to stay in the communities (both school and city) that they worked in. He said he had 6 years and $100k in loans committed to UW's existing program.
- What was interesting is Kelley Thomas' words about being in a Teaching Fellows program in NYC and being astonished at being put into the most non-functioning, low performing schools and her struggle. She said she just wasn't sure that it wasn't the same struggle for TFA recruits and how did this make sense.
- Maya again rose to state that the professors were always talking about data. What, she asked, did the data on TFA show? One faculty members said it was a complicated answer and the research is varied but some did show that TFA recruits do better.
- One faculty member, Charles Peck, said that districts are "voting with their feet and dollars." (I waved my finger to say "no" because we know that if Gates wasn't funding TFA, they would not be in SPS.) He said it was UW's role as a research university to evaluate these programs.
- "Pushing it away is the wrong response." (Oddly, another faculty member said that "everyone has to start somewhere.") This same faculty members said that the TFA conversation at the College had been going on for years but no background to that statement.
- I also spoke and told them that Wendy Kopp says they are not "a teaching organization but are there to create a corps of leaders." I pointed out that it seemed in complete contradiction to the goal of the College of Education.
- Maya spoke up again and said by bringing them into the College, the College was endorsing them and "that won't change no matter what you say."
- The Dean said that "we will guarantee to prepare these folks and that's important to me." As he frequently didn't do, he didn't say why it was important to him that UW be the ones preparing them.
- Another student asked, "What does 5 weeks of training say about the teaching profession and trying to foster respect for it?" The response was that the 5-week training in Phoenix prepared them but that they were basically, while working on their certificate AND teaching, "learning to teach while teaching."
- Another student asked about money and Stritikus said, "We did look at the debt load area."
- One student asked about how UW would do research on TFA and got virtually no answer. It is a bit of a mystery to see how comparing 25-50 TFA recruits over two years with real certificated teachers is going to yield any big news. The claim by one faculty is that "no one else in the state can do this research."
- One faculty said that even the 10 weeks she has with her students is too short and "Some people may be able to get there faster than other people."
- Another student, Vincent, said if someone slaps you in your face, you ask why. He said the college had slapped the faces of everyone in the program. He said, "Is it about money for research?" Stritikus said, "I hear you saying that the decision feels like a slap in the face. I hear that."
- Another student, Aaron, talked about learning more about the underlying issues about labor issues and the high turnover of TFA recruits.
- One person asked if this wasn't part of a broader picture of providing alternative certification for others?
- Cecilia, an SPS parent, talked about the lawsuit in California over the issue of "highly qualified" teachers being upheld by the smaller 9th Circuit Court. This would have severely limited TFA's ability to continue/expand. It probably would have gone to the full 9th Circuit except a Congressman in California got it into an appropriations bill that said they were "highly qualified." This is something to track and get changed by the next appropriations bill.
- Another student said that Olympia had been talking about pulling the Master's program and how would the College defend the program as they support TFA? Stritikus kind of lobbed the answer with a lot of blah, blah.
- How do you sustain a 2-year program in a college of education versus what TFA does? (That was the students' main question.)
- Why does it appear that the Dean cares more about supporting TFA than the students in his College of Education? (This is my question.)