Friday, May 20, 2011

UW and TFA - Part Two (Let the Right One In)

Question: how is Teach for America like a vampire?  Now if you know your vampire lore, they have to be invited in.  And so it is for TFA.

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.
Let that sink in.   Stritikus says that his trained grads are better than TFA trained recruits.  He further says that his own grads, should they be employed with TFA recruits in the classroom next to them, should help them.  He also said that it was clear TFA was coming - well of course it was.  He was orchestrating the whole thing.  

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. 
There were two major questions that didn't get a real answer.
  • 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.)
Next, Part Three - Where does this leave the UW College of Education AND SPS?

57 comments:

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

Copy of the letter I have sent to Dean Stritikus:

Dear Dean Stritikus:

I was angered, mortified, and incensed to see that the University of Washington College of Education is participating in a so called research venture concerning Teach for America that on its’ face value undermines the integrity teaching profession, ignores the current reality of the education profession within our community, and raises other legitimate questions. As a graduate of the UW in 1978 and the recipient of a teaching certificate from the UW in 1982, I question how the UW School of Education can in good faith look its’ current candidates for Masters in Teaching in the eye after agreeing to participate in this inherently flawed training program that is being tailored by people such as yourself to accommodate the Teach for America program. To argue that this is an opportunity for the U.W. to conduct research on the efficacy of the TFA program is an obvious canard and contradicts the twenty nine years of experience that I have as a public school teacher as to what it takes to be a successful teacher for all types of students.

MapleLeafer said...

Part #3

As a current educator I would have to think long and hard before I took another teaching intern from the U.W. College of Education given the glaring antipathy it shows towards teachers and its’ support for programs that are patently anti-public education and I’m sure many –if not all – of my colleagues will feel the same way once the true feelings of the College of Education become widely known. You – and any of your faculty colleagues who support this -- should be ashamed for helping to perpetuate the idea that teaching is easy, for ginning up a false need for teachers that doesn’t currently exist within our community, for using the flawed logic of a “need for research” to justify your ideology, and for ignoring the long term expense that such a program will cost all of us. Please put a stop to this deeply imperfect proposal/
Your obvious willingness to appease the forces in our society aligned against public education has angered me, your obvious willingness to sell out the integrity of my alma mater has made me mortified and your obvious willingness to do virtually anything to support an organization like the T.F.A. has made me incensed. Shame on you and the whole U.W. College of Education – you should know better.


p.s. - Speaking of making a career change, I’m beginning to think about making a career shift myself as my teaching career winds down after thirty years and am thinking it might be nice to teach at a university for a couple of years. How about facilitating a research program so that I can teach at the U.W. for a couple of years to see if I like teaching college? Let me know where I can apply – summer break is coming up and I’m pretty sure I could be prepared even if it took me ten weeks which should be plenty of time to grasp what it takes to be a college professor. If I don’t like it, I can always move on to something else.

MapleLeafer said...

Part #2

One can easily deduce from your actions what you really think. First of all it is apparent that you think teaching is easy- someone can be prepared to teach well in five short weeks and by participating in an ongoing one year program – no need to actually waste your time on something like student teaching. I’m a bit curious as to why someone would ever see the need to enroll in your currently configured Masters in Teaching program for two years and waste their time – plus tuition money- on a program that provides in-depth pedagogical training plus an opportunity to student teach. I’ll suggest to those students who observe in the school where I teach that it would be far easier and less expensive to simply apply to Teach for America and let the U.W. rush you through a certification program in no time at all with special dispensations for the expense and the amount of time required for a degree. By the way: what makes you think that these T.F.A. participants will stay in teaching any longer than the average of their fellow TFA compatriots who leave the teaching profession after several years? Secondly, you believe that there is currently a shortage of teachers in our community and schools somehow aren’t finding qualified teachers to fill our teaching vacancies. If you really believe this, take some time to ask all your Masters in Teaching students at the UW who are about to obtain their teaching certificates this year if they currently have job offers. The students I know who completed the program this year at the U.W. are very nervous about being able to find jobs. If there isn’t a current glaring shortage of qualified educators in our community, what is the need to rush people through the program you are seeking to put together for T.F.A. at the U.W.? If there isn’t a shortage of qualified teachers in our community and there is a massive shortfall in the state budget here in Washington, why should we pay to educate people at the U.W. who were going to go elsewhere to teach? Thirdly, you say there is a need to complete research on the T.F.A. program and its’ efficacy but educational research clearly isn’t the real rationale for your promotion this program. If it were, other professional schools at the UW would have jumped ahead of the College of Education in order to conduct such “cutting edge” research since there are more critical shortages in professions other than teaching – as I said earlier, just ask your own Masters in Teaching candidates if there is a glut of open teaching jobs in our region. Using your logic for the pressing need for “research” in the area of an expedited professional certification, we should anticipate seeing the Medical School propose a three to four month medical degree plus a couple of years of follow up training since we have a more critical shortage of doctors in rural and areas of poverty in this country than we do currently for qualified teachers. Is research really the motivating factor here? Lastly, you don’t seem to be very concerned with the long term health and status of the teaching profession since the vast majority of the T.F.A. participants abandon the teaching profession after several years. Why would out state spend the money quickly rushing these people through an expensive program in a time of budgetary distress only to have them abandon the teaching profession after several years? It seems like our resources might be better spent on students who actually want to commit to making teaching a lifelong career unlike those in the T.F.A. who generally seek to dabble in teaching and then go on to other professions. All in all, I’m not seeing how your thinking when carefully examined leads one to logically conclude that this is a program that should be supported by the U.W. College of Education.

Anonymous said...

Love the vampire reference!

One problem in that meeting is that the students, while angry and humiliated, were also dependent upon the College of Education for their teaching certificate. With that much time and money already invested to get the piece of paper that says you can teach, and with the prospect of another year of doing independent studies, there were few students to dared to speak up.

The faculty who were characterized as sitting mutely in the room knew better than to kick up a fuss during that meeting. They have a process through which their concerns are to be aired and addressed. That process is well underway, and I think the new change in the program, announced earlier today is a reflection the dean's reaction to the objections of the students, parents, faculty, and other sources. (Notice I said "I think" because I can't confirm it.)

I thought Maya was wonderful. In her passion she refused to allow her voice to be contained by the rules of the meeting. Would it have been better if more people had reacted the way she did? I don't think so. That would have merely given the dean all the ammunition he needed to shut down the meeting because students were too unruly and obviously not ready to accept reality.

People continue to questions the motives of the dean. I don't think his motives matter anymore. What matters now is that the schools of Seattle (and any other school district in the State of Washington that can be dragged into this deal) will be getting teachers who have contracted to teach for two years in order to get a masters degree in some area of administration and as soon as their two-year commitment has been filled, they will be free and clear to do whatever they want. They won't be around long enough to undo whatever damage they have done by jumping into a teaching job with less training time than what it takes to become a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician.

The one thing I do know for sure is that this entire issue was mishandled from the beginning.

Go to go get ready for the Rapture. It hits the Pacific time zone at 11 p.m. tonight. I don't know what I'm bothering to get ready because I will definitely be left behind.

Scrapin' Mom

StopTFA said...

But Scrapin' Mom,

It's so fun to expose the self-absorbed like Stritikus! Is this Peter's Principle in action?

The Peter Principle states that "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence", meaning that employees tend to be promoted until they reach a position at which they cannot work competently."

Anonymous said...

With this, Stop TFA, there can be no argument. The Peter Principle is alive and well and busily being proven almost everywhere I look. It is truly disappointing to me that I did not think of the Peter Principle. If I had been the one to think of it, I would STILL be traveling all over the country giving out Peter Principle Highest Achievement Awards to public figures.

As a matter of fact, I think we should start a new thread:" And the Peter Principle Highest Achievement Award goes to -- wait for it -- "

People could post their own recipient and why that person is deserving of the award.

Hmmm, yeah, I like it. Who is going to start that thread? I don't know how to do something like that.

Scrapin' Mom

cascade said...

This reporting by Melissa is amazing and shocking. It seems clear the Dean's own self interest as a TFA alum trumped what was best for his college as a whole.

The story needs to go national to places skeptical of Big Ed Reform: Huff Post, Daily Koz, Diane Ravitch, that one Washington Post reporter who writes about ed reform. And where else? Who is going to do it? And locally, the Seattle Times and where else?

Tara said...

Thank you for the great reporting!
Reading this makes my head spin! I can't help but think - as a lawyer - what would happen if my law school dean told us that some "Litigate For America" kids with a few weeks training & little to no tuition costs were going to stand up next to us in the court room with the same rights to practice as those of us who spent 3 years & tons of money. At the very least, I am certain that the law school would see a dramatic drop in donations and applications!

Anonymous said...

Melissa - fantastic reporting, albeit very disturbing. Thanks. MapleLeaf - right on letter (esp. liked the ps)

After their 2 years though, I don't think the TFA alums are going away. TFA is training leaders remember? After 2 years in the classroom and a Danforth-type program, where do you think they are headed? To be principals. TFA/ Reform Ed already has a grasp on SPS admin... they are extending their reach to newbie principals to complete the cycle. The principal pool is slim pickins. If you need a principal, you need a principal, even if that person has only spent a few years in the classroom/ in education or lacks building leadership experience.

Teachers are the last holdout here and principals directly supervise them and can force them to come around or either lose their jobs or make life so miserable that they leave. Enough of these principals out there... like an army slowly taking each school - one at a time.

--never wanted to be this cynical

FYI said...

Melissa,

Have you done a public records request for communications between MGJ and TFA/Wendy K? If you haven't, you shouldn because she was doing deals long before Stritikus got his current position.

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

I'm going to have to delete an anonymous post that didn't follow the rules, but I want to preserve a few excerpts from it.

"This blog is so incredibly anti-TFA. Why? Have you witnessed any specific TFA teachers in action?"

The blog is not anti-TFA. Teach for America does wonderful work in the places where it is needed. It isn't needed here. There are plenty of traditionally certified teachers available. There are over 100 qualified, certified applicants for every teaching position in Seattle. We do not need people with emergency credentials here.

"Frankly, I have been disappointed with several SPS teachers who have traditional degrees."

And so...

"It seems to me that a lot of people that go into TFA are creative and highly motivated and open to thinking out of the box."

Eventually every statement in support of TFA comes down to the idea that TFA corps members are somehow exceptional people - they are just better than anyone else.

"This blog's heart is in the right place but the blind opposition to TFA is ridiculous."

Again, it is not blind opposition. TFA is wonderful and does brilliant work where it is needed. It just isn't needed here. And, by the way, wouldn't blind support of TFA be just as ridiculous as blind opposition?

"I'd love to have a TFA teacher at our school next year."

Really? Why? Oh! Right! Because they are the select, elite, golden people who shine with contagious excellence. I keep forgetting that.

Anonymous said...

I teach at another University with a yearlong internship that is guided by faculty. There is NO WAY that a quality-designed preparation program with an apprenticeship model that facilitates quality mentoring between student teachers and cooperating teachers can be beaten.
It is true "traditional" teacher preparation will continue to change (and if it doesn't, it won't survive). In particular, ANY program that prioritizes specific courses over hands-on, mentored, school-based learning (over a decent stretch of time in order to get one's feet on the ground) will be GONE. The solution is not the "learn as you go" TFA model. This model does not serve p-12 students well, and the attrition rate is something like 80% after 2-3 years (they all leave after an incredible investment). It truly is "leadership preparation" for other fields and not "teacher preparation".

-UniversityProf

Marion said...

In response to:

"It seems to me that a lot of people that go into TFA are creative and highly motivated and open to thinking out of the box."

I thought, through many comments posted on this blog, that SPS no longer wants teachers who "think outside the box". Isn't the move to conformity so SPS can claim all students are receiving the same education.

Anonymous said...

There may be yet another twist to this little story, a very basic twist that we have all forgotten, a twist buried so deeply that we don't want to acknowledge its existence. Read this article if you are interested.

http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=16373

I would be very interested to see the ratio of men to women in the TFA recruits.

Techno Mom

Anonymous said...

I heard that another communication has been sent to the graduate students explaining in greater depth (or perhaps putting a better face on) the compromise (or bribe) the CoE is offering them to tamp down the controversy. Has anyone seen a copy of this new communication? Would anyone care to share it with us??

The Favorite One

Maureen said...

What about all of the teachers who have graduated from the existing UW teaching program? Isn't UW CoE saying that the tuition they paid for their second year didn't buy anything of value? Shouldn't they be suing for damages?

hschinske said...

Re the gender issue: I've always been reminded of the defense of low pay for librarians in Eleanor Cameron's first novel:

'And Letitia had exclaimed in her bland, cheerful way: "But, Mrs. Topping, you are all priestesses in the temple of learning, and that, surely, is something, is it not?" '

Helen Schinske

StopTFA said...

The favorite one:

If you are referring to an email discussed in the TFA Post #1, I urge readers to go there to read it.

I like how they try to zig where the reast of us zag (in response to their shenanigans).

Anonymous said...

I'm curious how does one become Dean of the College of Education?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to sign at the bottom:

I'm curious, how does one become the Dean of the College of Education?

ken berrry

Anonymous said...

Apparently not based on scholarship and erudite research and papers.

Mr. Ed

cdubs said...

It may be a bit off topic, but I think this article is absolutely worth the time to read. We aren't alone, and some teachers are doing all they can to get the message out for more support.

'Two Teachers And A Microphone' Rap About Standardized Testing


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/21/two-teachers-and-a_n_864501.html

Anonymous said...

How does one become the dean of the College of Education? In the case of UW CoE, the acting dean became the permanent dean because after a search of several months, none of the candidates who had applied were approved.

A dean as young as the CoE's present dean, is usually someone very ambitious.

The dean is an administrator.

A run-of-the-mill dean is one who maintains the status quo -- keeping enrollment level and taking care of budgets, and stuff like that.

A great dean is one who increases enrollment by providing the best environment for creativity and growth for both students and faculty. A great dean is one who shows vision and listens to his faculty and students, one who is willing to go out on a limb in support of his students and faculty.

A bad dean is one who -- well, people have differing ideas on exactly what constitutes a bad dean.

In the world of academia, being a dean is not considered to be a particularly prestigious position. If someone becomes a dean early in his/her career, it is usually because he/she is not a good teacher or researcher and can't do anything else but be an administrator. If the person is older, it is usually because they have become tired of competing in the academic world and want to stay in the field but not in a part of it that is so cutthroat as research.

There is one thing that almost every dean says when he/she leaves the job for anything other than retirement or assuming the deanship at a different university. That thing is: "I really want to get back to my research and teaching and spend more time with my family." When you hear that, you know that the dean has either been told or politely asked to resign.

The Favorite One

UW MIT GRAD said...

Melissa's recount of the meeting at the UW contains some major inaccuracies. You failed to mention the positive comments about TFA from Cap Peck. He touched on what TFA is doing right and the possibility the UW can learn something from them as well.

How convenient you left this out Melissa. Thanks for attending the meeting so you could take away discussion time away from UW students.

Anonymous said...

UW MIT Grad,
Is "Cap Peck" Charles Peck? Melissa did report on Charles Peck's comments. Thanks for this reporting Melissa. It's way more comprehensive that anything else out there.

Another UW MIT Grad

Anonymous said...

A very consistent linguistic pattern reveals the identity of the writer with the UW MIT moniker.

The community has awakened. Melissa's continual work in getting the word out to the community is going to be the biggest voice these students could possibly hope for. Their ill-use by this so-called Dean is reprehensible.

The principal is staying put

Anonymous said...

I don't know, UW MIT: Why should the community have a voice in a discussion full of students whose educations we subsidize, and the subject of which involves our children's futures? Why should we?

Who are we to inject ourselves into discussions involving our blood and money?

MW has as much right to be there, at a public university, protecting the community's interest, as much as anyone else in the room.

WSEADAWG

Anonymous said...

TFA has morphed -- well, maybe that was always the plan -- into a temporary, low-paid, high turnover work force for teaching our children (well, not my children, since they are neither low income nor disadvantaged).

I know some teachers who started their careers with TFA (back in the early days when TFA was just starting out). At that point, it did function to attract some high-achieving students from elite colleges into the teaching work force. One teacher I know is now a 20+ year veteran of the TFA program, and she is an excellent teacher (and she probably made up for her lack of knowledge in the beginning by working 80 hours a week to learn what she didn't know).

But now, it's become a program people enter not to teach, but to tell other people how to teach (Rhee, Stritikus, . . . .). They move up and out, and the students are left with the constant churn of an untrained workforce.

I don't know what the best way to train teachers is, but I doubt that more than a handful of teachers are even adequate in their first couple of years in the classroom. If there's a better way of training teachers, UW should be offering that to all the students in their teaching program. If there isn't they shouldn't be throwing poorly prepared teachers into the classroom, with their stamp of approval.

I, therefore, don't actually agree with Charlie -- that TFA is good, but just not for us. I don't think it's good for anyone (unless it was good for everyone -- someone could convince me that 5 week training programs are sufficient, with the appropriate data, but they've come no where close). The lack of certificated teachers in some neighborhoods and cities is a symptom of other problems that need to be fixed in those districts, not an excuse to put unprepared teachers into the classroom.

(zb)

Anonymous said...

PS: The only reason I'd consider a TFA teacher is the expectation that they'd work 80 hours a week. I think that's pretty much what it boils down to when people think they'd like access to such a teacher in their school.

zb

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I'm turned off by the hubris and cult-like fervor - only they understand the urgency, only they can push through the challenges, only they can rise above the status quo, and all with five weeks of training.

Call me a skeptic

Why TFA said...

Inside the Teach for America "Cult"
April 7, 2011

http://coveringeducation.org/schoolstories11/2011/04/qa-inside-the-teach-for-america-cult/

Anonymous said...

WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!!!!!!

TFA is not an organization to train teachers that stay in the classroom. TFA is an organization that does the minimum amount that they have to do to get their people into classrooms and then help them financially while they get their masters degree in some form of administration. Those people then go on to become principals, people high up in the administration of schools, people who gain political clout, and people who become leaders in other areas of education and politics. And guess what they do? They carry on the TFA agenda.

This doesn't really have anything to do with teaching. It is about putting the big money and politics behind the scenes at TFA in a position to make the changes in education policy they want made.

One of those changes is in the area of multiculturalism. You can see hints of that in the training methods that TFA uses during their summer training period, the way they want all children taught the same way without consideration of their culture or economic status.

There are so many more things at stake than simply the schools of Seattle and Federal Way. Once TFA has become established a teaching partnership with a university within a state, they then attempt to procure contracts with every school system within the state.

They are like the Energizer Bunny. They keep going and going and going.

The Favorite One

Josh Hayes said...

I think TFA betrays an underlying contempt for teaching.

Let's say you go to the doctor for a persistent cough, and you're ushered into an exam room, and a nice young lady comes in and tells you, "I'm not a doctor, but I have a degree in economics and five weeks of training, so I'm really just as good as a doctor!"

Really? You think so?

Oh, well, a doctor, that's a silly example: we all know those people have to go to school for years and years to gain expertise. Fair enough.

Let's say your pipes are stopped up. You call a plumber. They send out a nice young lady who tells you, "I have a degree in economics, and five weeks of plumbing training, but I'm every bit as good as a real plumber."

Really? You think so?

The underlying message of TFA is: teaching isn't a profession. ANYONE can do it. It's all about WANTING to do it. Any nice young woman (or man, of course!) with an economics degree can be every good a teacher as, well... a teacher.

Really? You think so?

Peon said...

Sadly, Josh, many professions have less than qualified individuals working with or in place of qualified individuals.

For instance in your example of the medical profession, instead of seeing a doctor/MD you may see a Physicians Assistant/PA. A PA works with autonomy and has a lot od decision making power. They can see you without a doctor present, diagnose you, and recommend treatment (though they can't write prescriptions). Though these PA's have a degree, and have worked in the medical field, they have not attended any medical school.

Whenever my doctor, or the boys pediatrician doesn't have an opening I am asked if I would like to see the PA instead. Uh, no, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article from the Washington Post on the substantive research around TFA (a response that UW needs to conduct more research). We don't need no more research...we know TFA is not good for kids, districts, or taxpayers:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/teachers/a-new-look-at-teach-for-americ.html

-UniversityProf

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

"I, therefore, don't actually agree with Charlie -- that TFA is good, but just not for us. "

I do agree with Charlie. I think TFA has it's place, just not in SPS. We do not have a teacher shortage. We have PLENTY of qualified teachers applying for every open job.

But consider the many districts that do have serious teacher shortages - especially in the math, science, and foreign language sections. There was a time not so long ago when teacher shortages were so severe that teachers were being offered signing bonuses, housing assistance, and employer paid moves as incentives (even right here in Seattle).

Some schools were/are forced to hire candidates with emergency or out of field credentials. In other words individuals that have no training as teachers. Or they have classrooms that have revolving subs all year long.

In these cases I think a TFA recruit with their 5 weeks training, access to mentors, and continuing education toward a master degree in education, might look like a shining star. Definitely an improvement over a revolving sub, or a French major teaching a Chemistry class IMHO.

http://www.alleducationschoo
ls.com/education-careers/article/teacher
-shortage

K said...

When I graduated from college in the late eighties and was living in Los Angeles there was such a severe teacher shortage that they were giving emergency certificates to anyone with a bachelor's degree--no training required. In that situation I think that a TFA teacher would have been an improvement and I had always assumed that was why a program like TFA was created.

StopTFA said...

"Cap" Peck's positive statements?! I heard him say "we should find out why some legislators want to eliminate the master's degree, why some district's are willing to pay $4K to hire these guys?"

If that's not a slap in the face, I don't know what is. He had to later correct himself and say Foundations, not districts were paying. He didn't say who or how many legislators made the asinine remark (Rep. Anonymous or maybe Martinez, CA-Sleeps with Kopp)

"Cap" was the one spreading misinformation. I'm appalled because his area of expertise is special education. Don't know why we need him when we could get someone with five weeks training to provide the specially-designed instruction some children need.

Anonymous said...

Peon,

Regarding your comments about PA or Physician Assistant, you should realize that they require extensive training (at least 2 years on top of a college degree), clinical experience, and stringent state certification before they are allowed to practice as PA. The same goes for Nurse Practictioner (NP).

This is a far cry from 5 weeks of TFA training on top of your BA/BS degree. So the analogy you make is off base.

Many NP and PA are wonderful healthcare practictioners that work in clinics and hospitals alongside MDs. Like doctors, they are heavily recruited to work in underserved areas, such as rural communities, Indian reservations, and urban public health clinics.

-Health care worker and PS mom

Anonymous said...

To get the TFA and Physician Assistant (PA) analogy right, you need to make TFA training an intensive 2 year program on top of their BA/BS degree (or a 4 year college PA program). Require extensive hands-on internship in schools with veteran teacher mentors like PA programs do with clinical work. Go through state licensure like PA must before they can practice.

Most PAs are committed and remain in their career s because it is an expen$ive and very time consuming process.

If TFA grads undergo the same training and certification as a PA, then I would be more than happy to have them teach at my kids' schools.

PS mom

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

"Regarding your comments about PA or Physician Assistant, you should realize that they require extensive training (at least 2 years on top of a college degree), clinical experience, and stringent state certification before they are allowed to practice as PA."

That's great, however, it usually takes at least 11 years to become a doctor: 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 3 years working in a hospital. For some specialties, doctors may have to work in a hospital for up to 8 years before they are trained. That means that a PA gets about 1/4 to 1/2 the training a doctor gets.

Of course in an area where doctors were in short supply a PA would be a fantastic option, much like a TFA recruit would be in a district with a severe teacher shortage. But in areas where doctors and teachers are plentiful, I'm going to stick with them.

Anonymous said...

Peon,
You may not have much choice in the future as more baby boomers age and there are fewer primary care physicians available. (Not to mention our escalating health care cost.) You may have to see a PA or a NP for well care or minor urgent care in clinics and hospitals. There is a growing shortage of family practice physicians. Google it and the numbers are there. You have lots of specialst MDs and they are expensive. Many NPs and PAs do specialized after receiving more years of training depending on their specialty.

Your analogy of TFA and PA is still out of line, IMO, as one who works with PAs and NPs extensively in health care setting and have used them for the care of my family members. They work in our best hospitals (Swedish, UW, Harborview, Group Health, etc.) and in very large physician practices in Seattle. At the hospital I work in, they have my respect and the respect of many physicians who work with them.

PS mom

Lori said...

Not to belabor the point, but the PA/MD analogy for TFA is not apt because PAs are not independent practitioners. That is, they work in conjunction with physicians, under a legally binding collaborative practice agreement that sets out the terms of what they can and cannot do. A PA does not simply set up shop in an office and start seeing and treating patients. They treat patients who are ultimately under the care of someone with an MD degree.

Like PS Mom, I have worked with some outstanding PAs, and we will as a society be relying on them and nurse practitioners more in the future to provide a lot of the basic day-to-day care that does not require a physician's expertise. But that said, when it comes to diagnosis and managing difficult cases, that's the MD's job. That is why the PA/MD relationship is always collaborative, not competitive.

TFA would be like a PA setting up a competing private practice next door to the doctor but never having to consult or work with that doctor. I would not go to that PA, but I certainly would see one that my own physician hired and entrusted specifics duties to.

Back to TFA, if it were a collaborative model in which recruits honed a skill under the guidance of a teacher, that might work. If there were a teacher shortage, a TFA recruit could perhaps teach a lesson that an actual teacher had developed. The recruit could work with groups of children while the actual teacher focused on specific children with specific needs. The teacher would develop an IEP for each child, and perhaps the TFA recruit would help implement it. But the TFA recruit would not be in charge of a classroom on her own after 5 weeks. There is simply too much that she does not yet know, and worse, some of these recruits will not know that there are things they don't know!

There's a saying in medical education that when you hear hoofbeats, think about horses, not zebras. Usually, this applies to the over-eager medical student who wants to show off all that he knows or perhaps is scared of making a mistake and orders every test out there. So this is a reminder to look for obvious problems first.

But, the truth of the matter is that that medical student knows that zebras exist. He may see a lot of horses in daily practice, and maybe a PA can manage those horses freeing him up for other tasks, but with proper education and experience, the doctor learns when to look for zebras.

The thing with TFA is that without that foundation in education, be it educational theory, best practices, or simply time on the job working with a variety of students, they simply cannot be expected to find the zebras. They can probably be taught enough about horses in 5 weeks to get by, but every classroom has its zebras. Heck, there are probably more zebras in a school than there are in a doctor's clinic each week! And I just don't get entrusting the education of these kids to someone without sufficient training.

seattle citizen said...

" And I just don't get entrusting the education of these kids to someone without sufficient training."

It's cheaper to hire TFAs on rotating basis, rather than hold onto professionals who require more money as they get more experience.

TFA is the new model of deprofessionalized educator: Qucik to train, young, eager, disposable...after two or three years they move on into "leadership" somewhere else (THAT is the part I don't get - how many "edu-leader" jobs can they create?) and the district simply hires a new batch of cheap warm bodies.

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

SC, have you done an analysis on whether senior teacher cost the district more than the constant churn of TFA recruits? Besides the, what is it $4000 (??) placement fee that comes with a TFA recruit, there are the costs associated with the constant churn of new hires every couple of years? It would be interesting to see the costs compared. Not so sure TFA is actually cheaper in the long run?

seattle citizen said...

Peon, I haven't done an analysis. In the short term, it might be a wash in terms of costs. What I believe is happening is the deprofessionalizing of the craft of teaching, the diminishment of its worth: "A five-week trainee can do it!" and "Those young ones bring energy and passion!"
I suspect that those who count beans figured out that if they could set it up so that we merely had a bunch of warm bodies in the position for two years, then out they go, that there would be big cost savings.

It would be cheaper to hire a bunch of warm bodies every two years than pay the high cost of a professional with thirty years experience.

If you make teaching into mere instructing, then you can pay the instructors less, expect less (mere data) and cycle them through like cord wood. We've already removed the certificate as requistite; now, any ol' body can fill the teacher's chair.

Melissa Westbrook said...

C'mon Peon, is money the only thing?

What about stability? Have you ever noticed that a stable teaching corps at a school makes I difference? I have. Sometimes they can get complacent but mostly, it's like a well-oiled machine.

Also, kids recognize teachers over time and look forward to having Mr. So and So for 4th grade. Having an (almost) constant churn of teachers moving in and out isn't good for any school or its population.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, I think Peon was merely fleshing out my comment, questioning whether TFA would be cheaper. Peon didn't seem to be neglecting the cost of churn, actually, quite the opposite, Peon was suggesting that the churn WAS a cost?

My point is that in the long run, edu-business might not care about that cost, that identically trained edu-bots might be stood in front of a class, mouth identical edu-speak, then be replaced with another edu-bot. Some people might think this makes sense: Standardized data doesn't recognize relationship or any o' that pap: It's all about the script, and script readers can be swapped at will. Untrained TFAers can likewise be replaced: If they do't need training, then what's the problem? Any ol' body will do.

YOu (and Peon) are stuck in the old days, when we were actually trying to give students a rich and varied edcuation that treated them like individuals. That's old-school. The costs to the student (and to real teachers) of the "churn" of TFA only matters if one cares about that old-school stuff. In the new paradigm, it's a production line, it's cheap, it's data-driven, and the parts are interchangeable. "Relationship" is a costly luxury that is to be done away with.

Jan said...

Peon and Seattle Citizen: Some of what is happening, I think, is that for-profit entities in the education field have figured out that there isn't enough money "available" for education to keep the current cost structure AND pay them to provide the goods and services that they want to provide.
One way to "free up" dollars to pay for math consumables, MAP testing, consultants, charter school managers, computer software to "run" STEM programs, etc. is to come up with a solution that moves dollars AWAY from one of the current major expenditures -- teacher salaries for experienced, committed teachers -- and into the pockets of the for-profit (or quasi-for profit) education companies. If you could figure out a way to pay ALL the teachers no more than $35 to $40,000 per year -- that frees up a lot of money to pay the annual TFA "finders" fee, the costs of providing all that support, the costs of annual consumables for text books that have been structured to require huge additional annual fees in order to function, etc. It is the same with the annual MAP test, the annual fee for the computer "platform" to run STEM, and other similar stuff. It doesn't cost NEARLY what we shell out to get GOOD math materials in front of kids, to run a STEM program, or to periodically quiz kids to figure out whether your teaching methods are working or whether they need to be adjusted. But we don't look for cost-effective measures that work. Instead, we are enriching a lot of ed reform CEOs, shareholders, textbook publishers, educational consultants, and others.

Jan said...

Peon: I am not sure that the "goal" is to spend less on education. The "goal" in the case of ed companies, is to spend less on the public side (teachers being the highest cost) so that there is more available to pay for tests, textbooks (with annual consumables -- so you "re-pay" for them every year), consultants, management companies, etc. -- all the stuff that the private side provides. The bottom line stays the same, or maybe even rises -- but the dollars flow to very different pockets. It is not very different from the military, cutting expenses, but paying Blackwater, Xe, Halliburton, etc. billions and billions of dollars. The dollars don't change (or maybe they increase), but the money goes out of the pockets of soldiers and public employees, and into the hands of the employees, management, and shareholders of the private companies.

Taxpayers have to decide where they want tax dollars to go -- and they need to insist that the public "servants" who spend those dollars spend them wisely. We don't have that now.

The taxpayers need to

Charlie Mas said...

I think there are two goals. One is to pay less on education (reduce personal and corporate expenses for the wealthy), the other is to funnel more money to corporate interests (increase private revenues for the wealthy).

Jan said...

Charlie: you are probably right. But I couldn't figure out why, with all those Republicans running the federal government, government spending kept going UP -- not DOWN (like all those limited gov types would be expected to make it do). When I thought about it, I realized that the tax cuts (which we borrowed money for) went largely to the top earners. Ok, that made sense for the Republicans. But then I realized that huge amounts of $$ for the two wars ALSO went to wealthy Republicans, through ordinary defense spending (planes, drones, bullets, etc.) but ALSO through contracts with Blackwater/Xe and others. And the same was true of the big Medicare increase. Much of it went to private companies providing supplemental plans, drugs, etc. Big business doesn't seem to care if government is limited -- or if budgets balance, as long as the (borrowed) dollars are flowing to big business.

Similary, the unholy alliance between the Democrats currently running the DoE and the Republicans seems to mean that dollars keep flowing to ed reform, because those dollars don't go to kids, they go to Big Ed (sister to Big Pharma).