Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Why Did the Board Vote on TFA?

The district's practice is to require Board approval for contracts in excess of $250,000, but the contract with Teach for America didn't have any district money associated with it. At most it would have amounted to about $100,000 (25 x $4,000). The contract did not require Board approval, so why did the Board vote on it?

The decision about whom to hire is a management decision, not a governance decision, and the Board should not be involved. The decision to open teacher hiring to un-certificated Teach for America corps members (they will be un-certificated on the day they apply and un-certificated on the day they are hired; the District must petition the OSPI for their conditional certification AFTER they are hired) did not require Board approval, so why did the Board vote on it?

The information that the District has agreed to share with Teach for America would have been available to them by request. They didn't need a contract to get it and the contract to share information would not need Board approval, so why did the Board vote on it?

There was no policy that was suspended or amended to allow the District to hire Teach for America corps members, so why did the Board vote on it?

There was no legitimate policy reason for the Board to vote on the Teach for America contract. It did not require Board approval at all. The superintendent could have moved forward on it without any Board approval - even without Board discussion. It could have been done quietly. I think the Board was asked to vote to approve the contract for Teach for America for only one reason: to create publicity for Teach for America.

56 comments:

SST said...

Had TFAers been hired "quietly" in the past? I thought I'd heard we had a few teach for America teachers in SPS already?

CT said...

Or perhaps it was done to make it appear official. It's pretty clear the board has no idea what their job is, so it would be easy to slide (yet another) one past them.

I think the TFAers who are teaching in SPS have already done their two years of experimentation elsewhere, on other people's kids.

suep. said...

I don't quite agree, Charlie. In fact, genuine, open public discussion about TFA in Seattle has been noticeably absent from the mainstream media.

TFA was all but snuck into town, as the trove of emails that Melissa got between UW DOE Dean Tom Stritikus and TFA reveal.
I believe that those pushing for TFA (Gates, Goodloe-Johnson, probably CRPE, etc) knew TFA would be controversial and unnecessary -- we have no teacher shortage in Seattle.

I believe they clearly did NOT want an open public discussion about the merits and demerits of TFA. If they had, there would have been a long article in the Seattle Times exploring and explaining TFA and all its pros and cons. Did that ever happen? No.

I believe the TFA pushers know that if they asked Seattle public school parents if they want novice, uncredentialed new college grads with only 5 weeks of training practicing teaching on their kids (before abandoning the profession for their "real" profession), the answer would be a resounding NO.

So, no, publicity was not part of the strategy for bringing TFA, Inc to Seattle until after it was a done deal. And even now, there has not been a thorough news report on TFA or the UW controversy in the maninstream media, which is curious to say the least.

TFA backers did float the idea slightly with TFA alum and cheerleader Tom Stritikus suggesting, out of the blue, alt credentialing in a S. Times op-ed last fall.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle was also tapped to be a TFA cheerleader, and he wrote an entry on his blog calling for TFA to come to Seattle -- again, seemingly out of the blue.

But that was not a thorough discussion of the enterprise.

The powers that be that are pushing TFA knew that the idea couldn't appear to come from Goodloe-Johnson or Gates, or any of Kopp's other pals. They wanted it to seem like someone in Seattle suggested or asked for TFA, all on their own. (Just like they needed someone to "invite" the DC-based, politically connected National Council on Teacher Quality - NCTQ - to town to write a $14,000 report critiquing our teachers in 2009. Thanks, Alliance...)

As for the board, my theory is that by making them vote on TFA, it implicated them in the decision, for better or worse. It allows the TFA backers to use that vote as a cover to claim legitimate support for TFA (even though I would argue the board was disturbingly clueless about what they were voting on, and should never have approved that contract which gave SPS all the liability and expense if TFA "teachers" fail).

The board meetings where TFA was introduced and voted on were stacked with pro-TFAers and alums, so there was some on-the-spot advertising going on there.

But overall, no, I believe the plan to introduce TFA to Seattle and the board vote wasn't about seeking genuine publicity. It was about manufacturing demand and legitimacy for something for which there is in fact zero demand and very questionable legitimacy.

More info & thoughts here:

More info here:
http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/why-the-sudden-pom-poms-in-seattle-for-teach-for-america-inc/

http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/controversial-teach-for-america-back-on-the-agenda-for-seattles-schools/

http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/05/plan-to-host-teach-for-america-at-univ-of-washington-highlights-hypocrisy-of-ed-reform/

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, great point. But as to cost, if you look at studies, each TFAer ends up costing about $70k in training, overhead and HR work. They are not cheap and the constant revolving door means steady work at HR.

SST, that was way back in 1993 and apparently very short-lived.

I think Sue P. sums it nicely. I do wonder if the Times' editorial yesterday was either a reaction to my latest round of e-mails and/or a message to principals.

A source of mine says there have been no TFA recruits hired so far (but the source has somewhat limited knowledge). At a school that will remain nameless, apparently the TFA recruit couldn't even tell the hiring committee some basic classroom management skills.

Charlie Mas said...

Believe me, TFA did NOT want to sneak into town.

TFA is all about publicity. They run on it. They weren't afraid of an open discussion of the pros and cons of TFA in Seattle and they were right not to fear it - it has not appeared anywhere in the mainstream media. The establishment media - along with all of the rest of the the establishment - have welcomed TFA with open arms and no questions about why they are here, what they will do or how well they will work.

TFA runs on the myth and they have to feed the myth and spread the myth. TFA needs publicity more than it needs money or recruits because publicity leads to money and recruits.

The Board - had they been thinking - would have asked "Why are we voting on this? We have no business involving ourselves in hiring decisions." But they don't think about their work; they just do whatever it put in front of them.

TFA wanted the Board vote because they wanted the photo opportunity it provided.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, you are wrong on one part of TFA wanting publicity. They do NOT want districts telling people which teachers are TFA. That is like a state secret and you'd have to have savvy parents asking hard questions of either their principal and/or the district AND then explaining to parents with children in that classroom exactly what kind of teacher they have and why.

Luckily, we have a lot of savvy parents in this district.

In one of the UW/TFA e-mails, one faculty member worries about the reception the TFA recruits will get from either their new schools and/or from Master's students in the COE.

Anonymous said...

1. Whoever accessed those TFA documents needs to create and post on the Web a playbook on how to do it. Then concerned citizens facing the juggernaut of TFA pr can provide a counterpoint in other markets here Federal Way? Kent? and in other states. This is how to start a movement showing both the lack of provable success of TFA in the classroom and the highly political backstory of maneuvering from an organization that wants to paint itself as Holy. TFA's noble aims do not mean that they are a sustainable answer to better classroom results. The myth simply does not pass the sniff test. The problem is that no one is sniffing. Public access to government documents may kickstart an answer to that problem.

2. What happens to TFAers here who do not procure a job? What do they do with their time outside the UW?

Thinker

Dorothy Neville said...

According to a quote I linked to before, about 10 years ago, TfA's mission was to put itself out of business, by making teaching a desirable occupation for the TfA sort of high-performing crowd, eliminating teacher shortages. Now, that didn't happen. But now, not surprisingly, the TfA mission has morphed into a growth model, moving from their core mission of being better than emergency certs and long term subs into blanketing the country with short term enthusiastic energetic elite youth being part of the deprofessionalising of the teaching profession. Seriously, what company really wants to make itself obsolete? Maybe 20 years ago, Wendy Kopp really did think that way, but certainly not now. Why should she?

What I think happened to spur the ST bizarre editorial is that while TfA was so sure that 35 to 50 corps members would get hired in Puget Sound, the reality is that with no shortage of certified experienced teachers, with funding going down so class size going up -- meaning we need even fewer new teachers -- her Phoenix summer camp corps members are applying for but not getting jobs in Seattle.

They told these folks that they would be teaching in Seattle, they were so bloody sure of it. And now it doesn't look like so many will be placed. I think that's why Wendy Kopp was in Seattle talking to Lynne Varner last week. She's desperate to save face and follow through with their plans for Puget Sound domination.

This will totally screw over TfA who opened an office in Seattle based on having enough corps members out here to justify the expense. This will totally screw UW who budgeted resources to accommodate a minimum of 35 corps members. If we only get 10, and they are scattered about among elementary, special ed, high school math, high school LA, then how will UW justify having the whole U-ACT program to support them getting all the different types of certifications? It's not financially sound.

So Lynne and crowd wrote a completely odd editorial demanding that TfAers get in the hiring pool. But they are in the hiring pool. So what in the world is Lynne really asking? You think she might actually demand that some get hired.

Anonymous said...

Responses to the Times Editorial on TFA have some great links:

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/reader_feedback/public/display.php?source_id=2015793838&source_name=mbase&offset=20

FYI

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, it's not Lynne demanding they get hired - it's Gates. And for entities with scarce resources and one big daddy in town, it's not just jump but, of course, how high.

I say this knowing that many, many entities are in desperate times and Gates is keeping many people afloat. I do not say it wrong for anyone to be accepting money from the Gates Foundation.

But anyone who believes there are not strings attached (that will get yanked) is naive or young.

Folks, we are taking on some big players with big money. But what we have on our side is that it is PUBLIC education and we are the public.

I don't expect to win (I never do) but I expect to cause some agita and swearing in certain quarters of this city. And if we upset some people's carefully laid plans, oh well.

Anonymous said...

An email in one link alludes to SPS' guarantee of the TFA placement quota through pressuring principals.

FYI

suep. said...

Charlie, I think TFA's publicity campaigns work where people don't dig too deep and ask too many questions, but in a town like ours where people like you and Melissa and the rest of us are keeping up on the details and machinations of ed reform trends, I suspect the TFA backers knew they'd run into pushback.

Those e-mails that Melissa has obtained reek of stealthy, behind-the-scenes maneuvering and efforts to quash dissent (i.e. at the meetings where UW DOE staff and students' had legitimate concerns about the cohousing and special treatment of TFA with their existing MA program).

I'm sure we'll get more of the puffery from the Times and the like (maybe ads on KUOW), now that TFA, Inc. is here, but I still hold that the campaign to bring TFA, Inc. to Seattle was a stealthy one.

(Like so many of the corporate ed reform agenda items that have been brought here.)

Anonymous said...

I would think that TFA would require the Board to approve the contract not because of fiscal requirements but to ensure the program has the backing of District leaders.

A friend of Seattle.

StopTFA said...

No. They had the board go on record as approving the TFA agreement because the school board must approved all applications for conditional certificates for classroom assignments.

check page 10

Way to cover your *ss, MGJ and SAE

StopTFA said...

I suggest everyone email their school principal and send this link

Pressure those principals

Dorothy Neville said...

Melissa, I think you are right that TfA does not want to advertise their actual CM in the classrooms. But that's not really feasible here. Site based hiring, anyone on the hiring team gets to see their resumes and how can TfA Summer Camp not be part of their resume? Won't the resume have their certification details?

As StopTfA points out, they will be considered conditionally certified and that is why the board MUST be involved, as they have to approve conditional certs.

Not just the board had to approve the MOU to allow the conditional certs the ability to apply, but it appears from last board meeting that they will have to approve each individual conditional cert. IE, those names will be publicly available in the board action report approving them.

See the board action item introduced July 6th 2011

Dorothy Neville said...

The board, Ms Campbell, Ms Clifford, Holly Ferguson and Susan Enfield ALL know about UW COE reluctance to place first year TfA CMs in special ed or ELL -- because I told them and I have gotten acknowledgments from several.

Since the board must approve, with individual names, each and every conditional certificate, they will be the final gatekeepers here.

(a thread on how to to a public records request is not a bad idea.)

StopTFA said...

That's right Dorothy. And the Aug Board meeting is the drop dead date to apply for, and obtain the conditional certificate before the first day of school. Ergo, Times Editorial.

WV: I feel like I'm going to unchuc

Anonymous said...

The biggest farse is that TFA recruits will bring more diversity to the SPS teaching corp.

Look at Figure 12, page 19, of the following research study on TFA in Texas:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/48028459/Texas-Teach-for-America-Study

Also, even though teacher retention rates are higher for TFA teachers in the first two years, the retention rates decrease significantly for TFA teachers after two years (compared to non-TFA teachers).

TFA skeptic

Maureen said...

the Aug Board meeting is the drop dead date to apply for, and obtain the conditional certificate before the first day of school.

StopTFA, will the names and schools of the individual TFA CMs have to be listed in the agenda for the August meeting? Will they have to go under the 'introductory' heading for one meeting before they can be acted on in the next?

Dorothy Neville said...

Maureen, see the board action report that I linked to above. The intro was at the July 6th meeting, so the next meeting can be the action. The board action report is very interestingly worded, worth a read to see Holly et al's wordcrafting.

Anonymous said...

Lynne Varner's response to the editorial comments (Seattle Public Schools hiring list should include Teach for America instructors, Seattle Times, 8/2/11):

TFA almost always assigns its teachers hard to place schools. So why not compare the burnout rates of TFA and traditional teachers on Indian reservations or rural school districts in South Dakota? I think what we'd realize is that the work is so tough, it burns out most teachers. TFA teachers may choose to move on after their time is up, but left unspoken are the many traditionally-trained teachers who request transfers to easier schools.

The Texas study did compare teachers within the same school and same district - once the two-year commitment was up, TFA retention rates were significantly lower than non-TFA teachers.

TFA skeptic (tired of the propaganda)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dorothy, you are right. That piece of it slipped my mind. Well, it makes even easier to find out where they will teach.

Jan said...

Very interesting takes on publicity, Charlie and suep. Interestingly, I think you are both right.

In my opinion, Charlie is correct in thinking that, as a corporate, ed reform organization, TfA, like Broad and Gates and the initiatives they finance, relies on a fair amount of PR "spin" to keep its donations flowing, keep its name in the press, etc. If they were really doing what it sounds like their mission was initially -- to run a "peace corps" type organization to quickly train, and then place, bright, well educated college grads in underserved areas with teacher shortages -- it would need no more publicity than the Peace Corps itself requires -- which is some, but not much. If you can't find ANY teacher -- or maybe only a string of uncertified short term subs -- to take a class in an East St. Louis school, it doesn't take a lot of hard campaigning to be really happy that a liberal arts grad from Vassar is willing to step up to the challenge and pour a couple years of his/her life into trying to make a difference for your kids.

But at the point where it morphed into an arm of ed reform, and they started looking at vastly expanding placements, in areas where no teaching shortages exist, an entirely different level of push and spin is required. And that is EXACTLY where Seattle/Federal Way/Kent currently are. For this purpose, TfA is an odd blend of a "placement agency" -- trying to "place" its recruits in jobs for which others are arguably (and in many instances obviously) better qualified and a political "leadership" movement -- trying hard to give its "leadership" corps a few years in the trenches before they move on to bigger and better ed reform/corporate jobs. This, however, is a huge "sell job," because (1) unlike the Peace Corps, (2) there is no "volunteerism" here, they have their begging bowl out everywhere -- placement fees from the School Districts; special tuition (or "fee" arrangements) that subsidize their teaching educations, even for out-of-state kids, from public universities that are busy upping tuition for (or turning away) state residents; grants from the Federal government; and tons and tons of money flowing from Gates and other foundations with specific agendas -- quid pro quos for those who want their funds; and and (3) unlike the Peace Corps model -- they offer no value here. They are MORE expensive, and LESS qualified. Under ANY business model, they simply make NO SENSE. So, the organization is reduced to lying, "spinning," using "back room pressure," and other shenanigans.

So, here is where sue is correct. THAT is what they want to keep fairly secret. They don't want any reasoned discussion of the odd disparities in the logic (and funding) of their mission in Seattle. In short, they want exactly what Lynne Varner gave them in the Seattle Times -- mindless, unthinking rah rah editorial-type pieces that do not delve into facts at all, ask no "difficult" questions, connect no dots, and expose none of the "unseemliness" that comes when public institutions (UW's COE, the Seattle School District, etc.) -- institutions that "belong" to the public, are "purchased" by big corporations.

Anonymous said...

According to an analysis by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (Alternative Routes to Teaching:
The Impacts of Teach for
America on Student
Achievement and Other
Outcomes, 2006):

We found that TFA teachers had a positive impact on
math achievement and no impact on reading achievement. The size of the impact on math scores was about 15 percent of a standard deviation, equivalent to about
one month of instruction
.
(bold added)

When ranked against students in the national norm, the average student in their sample/study ranked in the 14th percentile in math and the 13th percentile in reading. Over 95% of the students in their study were certified for FRL and 3/4 of the non-TFA teachers were African American.

http://web.missouri.edu/~podgurskym/Econ_4345/syl_articles/glazerman_MPR_TFA_JPAM.pdf

Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 25, No. 1, 75–96 (2006)
© 2006 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management
Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley InterScience
(www.interscience.wiley.com)

Anonymous said...

Can someone please tell us where to find the link to the board meeting where they were explaining why they were approving TFA? I think we should review their reasoning, if that is possible, and match it to the reality of August 2. Thank you.

Thinker

WV says it is time to look for "sanness"

seattle parent said...

According to TFA, the corps is 65% white, 12% African American, 8% Latino, 6% Asian, 5% multi-ethnic and 1% other.

While we value all forms of diversity, we place particular emphasis on recruiting individuals who share the racial or socio-economic backgrounds of the students we teach, 90 percent of whom are African American or Latino.

http://www.teachforamerica.org/why-teach-for-america/who-we-look-for/the-importance-of-diversity

(note the deceptive chart)

Dorothy Neville said...

Thinker, the past school board meetings are archived at Seattle Channel. They are available for two years. I think there is a way to ask for older ones, but am not sure.

The TfA was introduced November 3rd, 2010 and voted on November 17th. Both have lots of public testimony to watch. There are board comments and questions during both meetings.

http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/watchVideos.asp?program=schools

Jan said...

Thinker:

It was the November 17, 2010 meeting. I don't know how to copy links. But if you go to the District site (seattleschools.org), click on the School Board link, and then click on archives, you will find a link titled "streaming Seattle Board meetings" -- or something like that. That link will take you to:

Seattle Public School Board Part 1 11/17/2010
A meeting of the Seattle Public School Board. Part 1 of 2.
Seattle Public School Board Part 2 11/17/2010
A meeting of the Seattle Public School Board. Part 2 of 2.

There is also a blog post from 11/17 that has good stuff, including (1) reports by those who attended that summarize each board members comments, and (2) a long reprinted email from Kay Smith-Blum that lays out her thought process. (In essence, Kay says she polled the principals, and half of them wanted the option of having TfA in the pool." She concluded (correctly, given her assumptions) that she needed to give her managers (the principals) the tools they asked for.

Where she may have been wrong (because she may have been misled or may have made faulty assumptions) is that the principals would have the choice whether to choose TfA teachers or not -- that there would be no coercion.

If the allegation in the COE email is true -- and teachers are being strongarmed behind the scenes to hire these teachers, whether they want them or not -- then her entire argument fails. It becomes very different from a just "one more arrow in the quiver" proposition. It becomes another instance where the District lies or deceives the public to achieve a predetermined outcome under circumstances where the public (and one would hope the Board) would object if they knew what the District was REALLY doing.

Jan said...

So -- if TfA was accepted by the Board on the premise that their candidates would be competing with other teachers on a "level playing field," and it turns out that, in fact, the field was not "level," that it was tilted by administrative coercion to select TfA teachers rather than regularly certified teachers -- what now? How will we ever know?

Certainly, the email from the COE is not "proof," though when added to Wendy Kopp's assertions and other "indicia" that placements in Seattle were guaranteed, it raises a question, right? But when has the Board ever pursued "red flags" before they were forced to, by an audit or the public outing of outright scandal?

Here is what I think they SHOULD do at this point (assuming they are honest, and are not actually in on the "fix" (assuming there is one)):
1. The Board needs to go to the Superintendent and ask point blank whether she is pressuring, or permitting her Exec. Directors or the HR to pressure, any principals at any school to hire TfA teachers.

2. She needs to be directed to ask this question of her Executive Directors, and needs to be directed to instruct them to make it clear to principals that the selection, or not, of TfA teachers is solely at their discretion.

3. Then, when hiring is over for the year, the board needs to request that principals and school hiring committees be sent a survey, to be filled out anonymously, asking them whether pressure was applied, and if so, by whom. And if the survey fails to corroborate the administrations claims of a fair hiring process, a further investigation should be done to corroborate one side or the other. And if it turns out that the administration has lied, the liars should be fired and great thought should be given to firing their supervisors for failing to ensure the integrity of the process on which the school board based their decision.

This is how you clean up a culture. And it is not expensive or terribly time consuming. There are not that many principals involved. If the process is clean (and I hope it is), great. If it isn't, this is how you establish that lying and deceit will not be tolerated. You do it by NOT TOLERATING IT. You do NOT do it by saying -- "gee, we are sorry. We relied on District administration to do the right thing. Well, we won't tolerate it NEXT time."

someone said...

12+ for Jan - an excellet synopsis of what "should" happen re: possible TFA pressure.

CJ said...

PLEASE GO TO THE UNIVERSITY VILLAGE APPLE STORE ASAP! 25th Ave NE.

You know they are giving away IPAds to TFA'ers, but you won't believe your eyes when you see their full front-window display announcing: "An IPAD is even more powerful in the hands of a teacher -- TEACH FOR AMERICA!"

I saw it today and went in to complain and to educate. The first employee I spoke to said that "Teach for America is a program which specifically focuses on teaching underpriveleged kids, so we are partnering to give them IPad's." I educated him that surprise, surprise -- real, CERTIFICATED teachers are teaching under-privileged kids and that these are the very kids who need the best-trained teachers, not 5-week wannabees. He said he didn't know much about the program and that now that he heard this perspective, he could see why I would be upset. Then he got the store manager/Seattle director who said he had heard a few complaints already.

Do you think, if enough people went in to complain, we could have an impact? I told the manager that his company APPLE might see backlash in Seattle -- that he might be unaware of the highly educated, intelligent, and reasonable opposition to TFA in Seattle.

I hope everyone reading this blog will go to the UVillage Apple store ASAP and help to educate them!!!! You truly won't believe their front window . . .

Charlie Mas said...

Teach for America wants publicity. Hence the iPad banner.

Melissa Westbrook said...

CJ, I have investigated that (and some other fundraising being done for TFA).

Apple told me zero. Nice guy but "I just don't know the details. Ask TFA." Of course, I did but no reply.

Then someone else on the blog told us about Seventh Generation. I asked them about their association with TFA. No reply.

I'm sensing some kind of outreach by TFA to make them as mainstream as the Girl Scouts. That they received $50M from the feds and now $50M from the Walton Foundation (Walmart) and still have their hand out? You have to wonder.

A little bird told me that all the TFA recruits this year (at least the ones in this area) will get a new iPad.

I think it is a good idea to complain at the local level. It will get back to corporate. Write to Steve Jobs and complain. You'd be surprised at how sensitive their radar is on this kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

The TFA/Apple ipad promotion display is also emblazoned across the window in the Bellevue store. I called and spoke to the manager who did not seem to know anything about TFA and told me that the ipads were for children in schools with high poverty populations. I did educate him and let him know that, no, the ipads would go to TFA recruits with a mere five week training program as preparation to teach. I further informed him that here in Seattle we have experienced and dedicated certificated teachers working in our schools of poverty and a donation directly to these schools would be a more appropriate direction for their philanthropy. I asked for an email address or phone number to contact the person at Apple responsible for this promotion and he was unable to give me any information, he directed me to TFA. I think that anyone with concerns about this TFA promotion stunt should level a complaint with a store manager. My conversation lasted about fifteen minutes. This may make an impression if enough people engage the managers and educate them about the facts behind TFA.
Robyn

StopTFA said...

Do we want these zealots in front of our children every day?

UW professors think TFA is a cult

a reader said...

Interesting factoid: 45% of 2011 TFA corps recruits participated in Faith-based organizations such as Hillel, Campus Crusade, and Young Life.

http://www.teachforamerica.org/why-teach-for-america/who-we-look-for

Anonymous said...

There's a few things that the TFA detractors might be missing. The claim basically: "TFA is better", because, well, they're smarter and better. Could it be that there actually is some merit to this claim? Sure, teachers are all credentialed the normal way, by universities and schools of ed. But, it's pretty well known that they don't attract the best students to education programs. And while it's true that they have mostly done the work, gotten the degree, there's still a lesser base to start from. Here's a group of people, the TFA's, that actually might have been the best students since it is a more competitive basis for starters. And, they do have degrees. It's not like they're nobodies. That too is a form of diversity. And the detractors fail to recognize that diversity might actually be good.

-observer

StopTFA said...

Observer,

How much diversity do you expect from a bunch of twenty-somethings who, if they chose to stay in "the education field", it is to form edu-businesses and attend TFA alum reunions with 11,000 of their closest friends. Where they compare themselves to heroic Eqyptian marchers fighting for democracy, while clamoring for seats to Michelle Rhee's "I have a dream" speech about closing public schools so they can open more charters. Sorry, I'm not buyin' it.

suep. said...

Except, observer, that they aren't necessarily brighter.

Contrary to the hype and hubris TFA, Inc. likes to perpetuate about its recruits, they only need a C-average to qualify for the program.

Here's my post about that:

Teach for America's Best and Brightest Need only a C average to qualify

I would argue that the fact that TFA-ers are constantly told that they are "the best and brightest," to the point where a number of them actually believe it themselves, leads to a lack of humility in these young upstarts and subsequently a blindness to the very real challenges and long-term hard work of the teaching profession. (Maybe that's why so many TFAers quit the profession after 2-3 years.) This youthful arrogance and attitude tends to lead to an ignorant disrespect for the experience and wisdom of more senior teachers. We have been seeing such an attitude play out on a national scale driven by the teacher-trashing ed reformers, and it's been very ugly -- and foolish.

As for diversity, where have you heard any TFA "detractors" undervalue it? The opposite has actually been true -- TFA itself has historically been criticized for the lack of racial diversity among its recruits. It has been trying to address this, but the majority of its recruits (65%, I believe) are still white.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, one of the UW COE professors designing the program for TFA said at the PESB meeting, that TFA kids are likely to be sharper and faster learners than other students because of their college background and therefore don't need the same kind of training as their Master's students.

I'm sure the Master's students are glad to know this is what is thought of them.

In every blog I've read where TFA recruits are examined, it's that high level of confidence and core TFA belief that if you are picked for TFA, you must be something.

Dorothy Neville said...

I will add that I probably agree that the TfA CM on average are probably sharper and faster learners than the average teacher. I think in some ways this could be a good thing. But in other ways, could be dreadful. All in all it is always going to depend on the individual. That's where I found the testimony at the board meetings last fall so dreadful from a pro-TfA standpoint. One after another spoke about how they were better, not one spoke about how humbling it is to teach and how much there is to learn and how great it is to have a collaborative approach with their colleagues. Greg Wong's wife was the worst. If you watch nothing else, watch her testimony. I think she was close to number 20 at the November 17th meeting.

If one has always been the sharpest and fastest learner of their crowd, how well will one empathize with kids who struggle? If learning to read or learning algebra was a snap, how will you learn to deal with the frustrations of kids who are not so fast? What about executive functioning? If you have always been organized, managed to juggle band, drama, newspaper, perfect SAT scores and win the science fair, how will you be able to counsel the kid who loses homework in their backpack regularly, who forgets pencils and whose nose never stops running?

Really, one does not have to have all these same challenges in order to effectively teach and support kids who do, but that's where humility and experience and willingness to learn from those terribly ineffective regular old not-so-energetic, not-as-passionate, not-so-committed teachers in the next room.

mirmac1 said...

Who, I might add, don't view their students as merely a data point on which to gauge their next pay raise.

Anonymous said...

Right Suep. I'm sure you can get through an undergraduate ED program with a C average too. The point is, on entrance exams, college attended, etc, the claim is that TFA candidates are more competitive than their ed school counterparts. I can believe that. I guest taught in a school of ed for a major big 10 university with a great school of ed a number of years ago. The basic level of candidates was appallingly low. The students were unbelievably disinterested, uncurious, and unmotivated. Not the cream of the crop, actually the bottom. Education degrees were likely the only path through college available to these students. Today, these people are likely teaching your kids. Does it matter that TFA might provide something different? Maybe. Should they be the only choice for our students? No. Is it possible that those ed-school candidates have improved over the years? Yes. Let's hope so. But having some variety is usually a good thing. Sprinkling in some high achieving newbies isn't necessarily a bad thing. And they've still got to get through a very competitive interview process at the school level.

Ever sit through a school interviewing process? I can assure you, nobody wants a teacher that is going to require lots of hand-holding. There's nothing in it for the schools to make a bad decision. The decisions aren't always easy to make, and school teams might make mistakes. But, it is the unionized interview process which impedes the district's ability to really discover the best candidate. Interviews are limited to a few, canned questions, exactly the same for every candidate. Sample teaching, or demonstrations, videos or live (which might favor a truly great teacher) aren't part of it. But, the teachers have negotiated this non-transparency as part of their deal. It's almost like they don't want that teacher with a spark, or that special ability to engage. Better to have sameness and complete "fairness" than quality.


-observer

StopTFA said...

Here is the next TFA-like initiative coming down the pike, thanks to Susan Enfield and Alliance (with Gates in the shadows of course):

UTR at SPS

UTRU website

StopTFA said...

Observer, welcome to Seattle TFA class of 2012. Majors in poli sci, american studies, social work, sociology, humanities, and human resource management. Attended New College of Florida (sounds like a charter to me), Kenyon College, Colorado College, Macalester College and DeVry University. Sure, there are one or two from "ivy league", but half are from the UW. I do not denigrate these young people, but for anyone to make a blanket statement that these are the "best and the brightest" without any information on their academic experience and GPA, is stupefying. I'm flummoxed. But then I only went to Stanford and probably wouldn't make the cut.

Anonymous said...

Stop TFA, UW doesn't even have an undergraduate degree in education. UW school of ED majors will all be coming from a non-ed major too, for exactly 2 years of training. (How much expertise is that exactly?) Isn't it a good thing that maybe a few UW undergrad students have the opportunity to teach? Maybe you should take a swing at TFA, you'd likely be a good find for them.

-observer

StopTFA said...

Errh, I'm not smart enough.

Your statement regarding the UW not having a BA in Education is kind of a non-sequitur, but anyway they do offer a minor in education. So, a dedicated young person who aspires to teach, with a major in math and minor in Ed, for instance, could take a great Alt Rte 3 program offered by a quality institute of higher ed (not Stritikus') like SPU or PLU, take the early-exit option and complete by mid-year, get their cert and be teacher of record. All this without the angst, privilege and churn of TFA.

Anonymous said...

Observer-
I think you're right, and I think Suep's response is also accurate. I think the question of who is "smarter"- and therefore a better candidate for teaching- could have us chasing our tails, never recognizing the irony of all the "reform" energy just to sustain the system.

So, TfA are the best and brightest. True or not, it means these were the kids that did well w/in the system as is. It means their experience of education is one of success- the status quo worked for them. It seems counter intuitive to me that these same folks are going to have any larger vision on how to shift teaching, education philosophies or public discussion in a way that will have a true and lasting impact on the "achievement gap"- let alone its root causes.

--TfA are NOT reformers.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm not a TFA supporter. Great point. Who is smarter? And who can get the job done? That is a question for hiring committees, not for a bunch of blogging wonks. If none have been hired, then we can assume that hiring committees have not found them suitable or the best for their open jobs in a very competitive job market. The only thing lost is that the district has had to interview some extra people. That doesn't sound so horrible. A lot of angst for nothing.

-observer

Melissa Westbrook said...

Observer, you have a special needs child? An English as a second language child? You'd be okay with a 5-week trained teacher for that child? You think that is the best we can offer those children?

Fine, then. Put your child in that class. No angst for your child?

Actually, I know several of us on the blog have served on hiring committees so yes, I do know what questions get asked and boy, I'd love to hear the answers from TFA candidates.

Anonymous said...

http://amandainthemitten.teachforus.org/2011/08/01/institute-or-still-not-a-math-person/

best and brightest?

Anonymous said...

Yes Melissa, I actually do. The hiring committees have done a great job not hiring them. The process seems to be working. Since you're on hiring committees, don't you think they hire the best qualified candidates for the most part? Do you see commitees falling for the worst candidate because there's some outside pressure? I don't think so. Can you see that a committee would wonder about a TFAer, or even first year teacher, writing 25 IEPs? Do you think a principal would want the havoc that would be wreaked when a TFAer got bogged down with that, or failed to complete them on time, possibly because they didn't understand that they even had to do it. That would expose them to tremendous liability, and they know it. Principals do worry about that stuff.

-observer

Anonymous said...

Part 1.
After 50+ comments people may have tired of revisiting this thread. Though I may be another reed just blowing in the wind I am compelled to ask some questions inspired by several statements:

Dorothy Neville says that “…I will add that I probably agree that the TfA CM on average are probably sharper and faster learners than the average teacher.” Dorothy, what exactly are these TfA CM people sharper and faster at learning, and what would be the criteria for measuring this?

Observer says “…it's pretty well known that they [schools of ed] don't attract the best students to education programs.” Observer, have you referenced specific research that would document this claim? I can only speak in an anecdotal way of my 11+ years in Seattle Schools; from this pool my colleagues I’m curious if you’re aware of how many certificated teachers who matriculated in local schools of education came from a second, or third career?

Observer says, “…they [TfA recruits] do have degrees…That too is a form of diversity. Observer, I’m trying to wrap my brain around this…Am I blind to some obvious piece of this logic? Am I the only one who sees a non sequitur?

Observer says, “…The students [where ‘observer’ guest taught] were unbelievably disinterested, uncurious, and unmotivated. Today, these people are likely teaching your kids”…Then you say, “…Ever sit through a school interviewing process? I can assure you, nobody wants a teacher that is going to require lots of hand-holding. There's nothing in it for the schools to make a bad decision.” Observer, couple questions come to mind: 1) Were these disinterested, uncurious, and unmotivated behaving that way in your class? If so, what did you do to engage them, or did they drop out, or did you fail them; either, way how could they have continued on to gain an ed degree and obtain certification? 2) If you’re so certain that nobody on a hiring committee wants a teacher requiring “lots of hand-holding” [keep in mind that teachers are on most, if not all hiring committees in this School District] how in Dewey’s good name did these dregs of the Ivory Towers get hired and stay in the classroom teaching our kids? [again, your statement is a non sequitur…well just for diversity’s sake, an oxymoron. Pun intended].

Observer says, “…Isn't it a good thing that maybe a few UW undergrad students have the opportunity to teach?” Doesn’t any student at the UW have the opportunity to apply for the Master In Teaching program at the College of Ed if they want to teach in Washington Public Schools?

(Cont'd in following comment section)

ken berry
SpEd IA Van Asselt Elem

Anonymous said...

Part 2.
Observer says, “…Sample teaching, or demonstrations, videos or live (which might favor a truly great teacher) aren't part of it. Observer, isn’t the internship [i.e. student teaching] a live form of determining to both the mentor teachers and the intern if they have the potential to succeed in this profession?

Observer you say, “…But, it is the unionized interview process which impedes the district's ability to really discover the best candidate.” Ahh…maybe I’m starting to understand something: you believe the SEA is standing in the way of hiring the best candidate? If we could do away with the SEA we could improve the quality of teachers in the classroom? Should we start by making sure no union represented teacher is on the hiring committee?


Observer you say, “Who is smarter? And who can get the job done? That is a question for hiring committees, not for a bunch of blogging wonks.” Who do you think these fellow “blogging wonks” are? Can you possibly imagine that a significant number of them may be parents, teachers, administrators that have sat on a school interviewing process?

Penultimately, “…A lot of angst for nothing…” When more than one School Board Member says in public and in media interviews, “…Why wouldn’t we want the opportunity to hire the best and the brightest [referring only to TfA recruits]…” Putting yourself in the shoes of certificated subs, or riffed certificated classroom teachers because of District budget choices, or teachers who have changed careers and dedicated themselves to the time and expense to gain certification, wouldn’t you feel the least bit slighted by such comments?

ken berry
SpEd IA Van Asselt Elem

Anonymous said...

Sped IA.
1) Were these disinterested, uncurious, and unmotivated behaving that way in your class? If so, what did you do to engage them, or did they drop out, or did you fail them; either, way how could they have continued on to gain an ed degree and obtain certification?
Yes they behaved that way. Yes I tried engaging them, making it real. I can't remember the grades, it was a long time ago. School of ed had the mentality similar to social promotion. We need teachers, right? WOuldn't want to fail potential teachers, right? None dropped out that I recall. I'm not sure how they continued, or what happened to them. I'm not an educator, and am probably not the best motivator. But they were far from the best students as well. How could they have continued on to get an ed degree? Surely you jest? It just ain't that hard (or wasn't back then). Ever read an ed text book? Many of them are a whole lot of nothing. Sure it is some persistence to get through.

2 ..how in Dewey’s good name did these dregs of the Ivory Towers get hired ..
I'm not sure who you mean. TFAers? Looks like they aren't getting hired. Regular teachers? That's our current standard. Typically a school team uses its best teachers for doing interviews. If TFA is below the standard, well they won't get hired. If they're above it, maybe they will. Do they have the opportunity to do a UW masters? Of course. But maybe they don't need to. Maybe doing something else is better preparation. And like you say, lots of teachers are now from another career too. We see that as a big plus, right?

As I said, I'm not a TFA supporter. But letting them interview, expanding the interview pool, might not be so horrible. Who knows? You might get a few good ones.

-observer