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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Board Meeting Tonight

I won't be able to attend tonight's meeting but here is what I told the Board:

"I will write you a longer message about my philosophical objections to TFA in another e-mail. This is just about rejecting the motion tonight.

I ask you to reject the TFA proposal tonight for a couple of reasons, very basic reasons.

1) We don't have a dedicated revenue stream to sustain this. With all due respect, you have absolutely no business committing to another initiative when the district just put its hand out for yet another levy. If we have no money, we have no money.

Yes, I know there is some mysterious donor out there but that is for a limited time. After that, what then? We can't be funding programs on a wish and a prayer. That is NOT good governance. If our district (and our nation's economy) rights itself, the issue of TFA can be revisited. But we should NOT be going down this road with no money to sustain it.

2) public engagement. You can imagine my surprise when I saw on the item under Public Engagement, the public engagement that TFA has done. I'm sorry but I don't care who TFA has talked to (but not surprisingly, no parents). I want to know who STAFF talked to for this decision. The public engagement piece is about staff, not some outside entity. As such, there was NO public engagement and this item should be turned back on that basis.

There is a process for presenting these items before you. This is a proposal that will affect hundreds of our students and their families. To not have put the word out about what it is and what it means is wrong. Why staff did not follow the process is moot at this point. They simply didn't.

You have a responsibility to hold them accountable to a process and I hope you do. If not, you have shown parents/community that decisions can be made AND then there is public engagement in the form of an announcement. If not, you have shown staff that you don't care about the process and will okay anything.

You HAVE to show staff and parent/community that you expect the process to be followed every single time.

You have to know when to say no."

If the Board doesn't hold the line here, then we know they won't ever do it. The TFA proposal is not an emergency or even a real need. So there should be no allowance for skirting what the process is. The two weeks between introduction and action are NOT enough.

I have no idea why the Seattle Council PTSA knew about this and felt no need to tell parents. But that doesn't negate the Board's duty to parents and community. They should not accept an item that has not been properly vetted and that includes public engagement.

90 comments:

curious said...

nice. whoa-- seattle PTSA knew about this? i didn't know that. what the heck?

Anonymous said...

I hope the Board does approve this motion, personally. I respect your right Melissa to email Board members. I did the same asking that the Board go with it. Our achievement gap is growing and it would be a great thing to have a new tool in the tool chest. And if it doesn't work, research shows the TFA teachers will at least have no worse outcomes.

Poster Not Like Most-er on this Blog

chunga said...

You're spot on, Melissa, about the administration not following process and engaging stakeholders.

Regarding Anonymous' support, if it doesn't work, there are costs to the district, both in terms of TFA's finder fee, but more importantly the costs associated with the high turnover of TFA teachers. Moreover, if it doesn't work, that doesn't mean it'll be no worse - it actually can be worse.

Bird said...

And if it doesn't work, research shows the TFA teachers will at least have no worse outcome

The research shows they have no worse outcome than equally inexperienced teachers. Inexperienced teachers, however, have been shown to have worse outcomes. TFA has been shown to have higher turnover than other new hires, so it's probable that the net result will be more inexperienced, ineffective teachers churning through high poverty schools. This may lead to worse outcomes.

Maybe this won't turn out to be damaging. Maybe it won't be a waste of money. At the very least, the district needs to commit to evaluating the effects before extending the program beyond the donor's commitment.

Maureen said...

poster, here's a little preview of my testimony:

TFA is the opposite of consistency. It guarantees churn. If our goal is to reduce the achievement gap, we need to ask if TFA Corps Members will provide more consistency and quality than the teachers the kids would otherwise have had.

Even if studies have shown that TFA did no worse than the teachers LA or NOL or NYC had available to teach their neediest kids, that doesn't mean the same would hold for Seattle. Many inner cities and rural areas face a real shortage of certified teachers. That is not true in Seattle, let's make sure we're comparing apples to apples (and not relying on TFA studies.)

SolvayGirl said...

Support it or not, the process was not followed. If everyone has the "process be damned; I support this" attitude then why do we even bother having a process? Or public board meetings?

"Not Like Most"—would you be upset if process was not followed on a proposal you didn't support?

dan dempsey said...

Dear Director DeBell,

Please see my attached testimony for tonight.

Consider the following carefully:

The District is entering into a contract for employment services with TfA in excess of 40,000 dollars.

To do this requires competitive bidding for employment services unless an exemption is sought from competitive bidding. That requires following State law and board polices that govern exemptions from competitive bidding.

The District would begin the exemption process by submitting a "Sole Source Justification Form", which they have not done.

Also in regard to the state law and conditional certificates.

The granting of conditional certificates is done on an individual basis.
1. The lack of a qualified applicant must be shown
2. The qualifications of the particular individual must be examined.

The District has shown no lack of qualified applicants and it is attempting to put forth a group of unidentified folks rather than individuals for examination.

Further the District will place these individuals only in low-income schools and yet the district lacks an NCLB HQ teacher in only 1 of 200 classrooms. If this is a shortage, that shortage is the same in non-low income schools as in low-income schools. Why do only the low-income schools get stuck with the conditional certs?


Here comes the District's Next big lawsuit.

Why not actually address the reasons for the math achievement gaps rather than participate in yet another of MGJ's diversions from the reality of our situation?

Sincerely,

Dan Dempsey

Melissa Westbrook said...

Poster, they did not follow their process - the Board should reject this and tell staff to follow the process and bring it back. They won't but they should.

Anonymous said...

The "mysterious" donor was said to be the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to KUOW.

This is so similar to how MAP was brought into the District: no competition, paid for initially by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, then the high costs to be taken over by the District in later years.

Skeptinonymous

Sarah said...

"This is so similar to how MAP was brought into the District."

At first, MAP was "Just another assesment tool." We're all familiar with the progression of MAP. Wonder if TFA will be the same.

KSG said...

The data seems to suggest that TFA teachers provide no strong advantage over non-TFA teachers. But they can be useful for emergency situations. See probably the most complete balanced review of the literature at:
http://www.greatlakescenter.org/docs/Policy_Briefs/Heilig_TeachForAmerica.pdf

"Most studies
find that the relatively few TFA teachers who stay long enough to become
fully credentialed (typically after two years) appear to do about as well as other
similarly experienced credentialed teachers in teaching reading; they do as well
as, and sometimes better than, that comparison group in teaching mathematics.
However, since more than 50% of TFA teachers leave after two years, and more
than 80% leave after three years, it is impossible to know whether these more positive
findings for experienced recruits result from additional training and experience
or from attrition of TFA teachers who may be less effective."

KSG said...

Sorry the URL appears to be too long, so here is a tinyurl with preview:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/2dnqyd7

kellie said...

The PDF from the work session on integrated planning is now posted.
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/10-11agendas/110310agenda/110310spagenda.pdf

Chris S. said...

Watching the public testimony...wow those TFA teachers sure are ...different...like they all came out of the same mold...I wonder how much of the five weeks is spent learning the goal-setting data jargon.

Who woulda thought all poor & minority children need is...nah, I better stop or I'll get in trouble.

OH, also they do seem to be getting a lot of mileage out of that increasing math gap. EDM is the sickness, TFA is the cure. Can someone find the connection there?

Chris S. said...

Another impression: TFA is so good because their teachers are supported! And they believe all children can succeed!

It's just like the charter school story - and we can't do that in the existing system WHY? Seriously, is there anyone out there who believes all children can succeed at EDM?

I'm still laughing about the poster who supported TFA in the hopes that they'd have the guts to chuck the math curriculum. Talk about a disconnect between the problem and the solution.

seattle citizen said...

I found some of the TFA testimony to be...an insult to regularly certified teachers. Sort of like a "we bring high expectations" vibe, as opposed to the regular teachers in the schools we deign to teach in.

I admire their dedication, I admire that they've chosen to teach, I admire that many go on to get certificates and actually become professional teachers...but much of what they say they do, regular certified teachers do, too, and it seemed smug to say, we BRING this, like they are some sort of super-teacher (ah! Waiting for Super Teacher! I get it now!) when the focus seems to be on setting goals for students to succeed on standardized tests.

They sure are organized.

I wish Heather Cope had spoken - she ceded her time to another TFAer - She graduated UW in 2004, joined TFA and taught in the Bronx, got a Masters of some sort in 2007, and is now LEV's senior policy analyst. So it's true: at least some TFA stay in education, even if many do not. They get jobs in the Gates-funded reform "movement" pushing district's to hire more TFA. But at least now that she had a couple years in the Bronx before she quit, she can call herself an educator, right? We see that so much: "I was a teacher (for two years) before I rose to this position of prominence in the education field!" Bah.

peonypower said...

I was there tonight- and I agree Chris and Seattle Citizen- so much of what the TFA alum had to say was how awesome and new their training was. Well, hello- all teacher programs teach assessment, reflection, etc, and I would be willing to bet that any teacher who went through a regular ed program had to do about twice as much as a TFA teacher does. 5 weeks training is not enough, and a special ed parent, and as a teacher I do not want an unqualified teacher teaching my child.

Dora nailed it with her question about the education schools right here in Seattle. We have excellent schools of education here, are these programs not instilling in students the need to close the achievement gap and or working to address equity. If not why not? I would think that the education schools would have something to say about this.

I found the whole evening maddening and frustrating because bringing TFA in is a political move and has absolutely nothing to do with helping students. If we want to address the gap we need to talk about the number of dollars spent on students - because it is not the same over the city. Funding matters.

Charlie Mas said...

What I saw was a clash of epistemologies. On one side were a number of TfA alums telling their personal stories. They were inspiring personal stories. In short, emotion.

On the other side were an equal number of people quoting studies that showed that TfA didn't get any better results than other inexperienced teachers and results that were worse than experienced teachers. People quoting the law on hiring teachers with conditional certifications. People quoting the District Policy on single source contracting. People noting that Seattle has no shortage of teachers. In short, reason.

So now we will see if the Board makes decisions based on rules and data and reason, or whether the Board makes decisions based on inspiring stories.

Sahila said...

what's with the elephant on Page 15?

and back to closing AS#1.... and putting geographic zones around alt schools....

Maureen said...

At the Board meeting, Harium is pushing on the fact that TFA CMs will only be hirable in Tier III. It will be interesting to see if the hiring process gets suddenly more rational to the point that Tier III hiring goes on earlier in the summer than it has. It seems that TFA likes to place its CMs earlier rather than later. That would be a good thing for other candidates as well.

Kathy said...

"Another impression: TFA is so good because their teachers are supported!"

Our school has hundreds and hundreds of kids falling through the cracks. There isn't a support system in sight. Would be nice if ALL teachers recieved support.

The district is going to spend tens of millions installing computers to link teacher effectiveness to student test scores.

Would love to see our teachers supported. With support, I'm sure all teachers can succeed.

The District will be asking community for budget input.
I hope everyone takes the time to respond.

I advocate dollars stay in the classrooms.

Maureen said...

Maier is asking Holly Ferguson about SPS public engagement about TFA. HF is saying they couldn't because they were talking during labor negotiations and says that's part of the reason they are doing more extensive discussion during this Board meeting than usual.

DeBell is saying the Exec Committee has been talking about it and has been bound by various things--negotitions and TFA's timeline and blaming it on other stuff they've been busy with.

Patu is sticking up for SPS teachers. 'Our staff should be our priority, can they work with this? We owe them an explanation.'

I think Addae says SEA will be bringing a motion not to contract with TFA.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have talked extensively with two former TFAers. A nicer and more sincere couple of guys I have never met. And not phony sincere.

But two observations:

- they honestly think that TFA has the corner on caring about their students and their outcomes. It's a little hard to get. I've put two kids through SPS and I've met a lot of teachers who care (even the ones I didn't agree with).

- I have no idea if it is the 5-week boot camp (I've seen the summer institute referred to this way) but TFA sort of has this cult feel. You read the accounts of training, experience and TFA and it sounds almost too similar. (And before you jump down my throat, doing research I found many people saying this as well.)

Charlie Mas said...

It's significant that the TfA motion came straight from the Executive Committee. It wasn't discussed in the Operations Committee.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, can you explain that comment? I don't understand the nuance.

-skeptical-

seattle citizen said...

One the issues of non-cert applicants in the hiring pool, and on the sole-source contract, District's legal guy (I forget his name)explained that they're covered:

It's "legal" in both cases, but certainly not ethical.

On whether conditional certs are entitled to be considered in Phase III, it turns out (and tehy must have discussed this with State already, so they're all in this together) that (get this circular logic!) since the TFA would have conditional certs, they are certified, so they can apply Phase III! Sooo...Anyone can apply Phase III? Nooo....you need a cert to apply for a job in WA. Sooo...these people don't have certs? Yes, they have conditional certs, which are certs, no? No.

No one spoke to the issue of whether these is need due to shortage or "unusual skill"....But no matter, since they are conditional certs they are certs and that's that. Crazy. Evidently "legal," if State agrees (and no one sues) but does it meet the parameters and intent of conditional certs? Absolutely not. What a charade.

One the topic of whether the district can sole source at will, well, I guess it can: Not only is this a "service" contract, which does not "require" RFP (and, I guess, research and rationale for its need) but the Superintend is allowed a....wait for it...Superintendent Exemption! She gets to decide if the exemption is warranted! And she did!

I guess it's an exemption from process and logic...one would figure that an ACCOUNTABLE board and administration would identify need, identify sources, in-house if possible, etc etc...then look for good providers if it has to be outsourced (I thought this was the law, but I guess not; only for actual physical stuff, like building and design, go figure.) But I guess she exempted herself from all that because, like that clause she tried to stick into the CBA in serve, she is the divine ruler of all things.

So much for democracy. And accountability.

Un-freakin'-believable.

seattle citizen said...

Maureen, Director DeBell told us that the discussion they were having there on the Tee Vee WAS public engagement! What with the questions and answers and all.

What a hoot.

And all that stuff about how "timelines" and TFA just HAD to get THREE districts, tight schedule and all that, ya know it made public engagement difficult...

So TFA not only got to do all the public engagement, but they got to drive the timeline for the process by making up some phony baloney stuff about THEIR timeline!

Who runs this district? Anybody? Anybody?

seattle citizen said...

Oh, and not only is there the much-discussed but still un-named (Gates) source for the $4000, but it turns out that TFA evidently seeks funding for the OTHER $36,000 it costs them to "train" a TFAer from local sources as well. They have been given money by Gates and two other "local" foundations.

So if TFA gets 25 teachers into Seattle, it will cost TFA 40000X25 = One MILLLLLion dollars, to be funded by local, generous and altruistic "foundations." Plus that extra 100k for the district's "contribution"

What a bunch of smoke and mirrors. Can't we just get Gates to put a million into staff development towards the stuff TFA is supposedly so good at? Oh, right, as we saw last night, all the current staff is bad, we need that good TFA stuff, because they are on A Mission From God. THEY care about the kids, damnit.

another mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

Good for Betty to ask what was being done to work with staff around this. I really appreciated her talking about the current staff, how it might seem to them that the district was dismissive of their efforts. Thank you, Betty.

another mom said...

Melissa, There is plenty out there about the TfA cult phenomenom. All folks need to do is google.

It all reminds me of EST in the 70's, where those who participated "got it" and spent quite a bit of money to do so.

The article below is an opinion piece about Tfa recruiting.

thedartmouth.com/2008/02/21/opinion/corps

Parent said...

But how did the board members vote? Thursday morning and I don't see that information available anywhere.

Charlie Mas said...

Parent, the Board didn't vote last night. They will vote on the motion at their next meeting.

The motion came straight out of the Executive Committee instead of going through the Operations Committee (which is the one that should have discussed it). The significance of that process is how it short-cut opportunities for the public to know about it and discuss it and for the Board members to discuss it. Committee work is important for a variety of reasons and should not be skipped. In this case, however, it was.

Charlie Mas said...

This motion, this contract, this whole idea, skipped a TON of process that it should have followed.

It skipped the Board Committee notice and deliberation process.

It is skipping the requirements for emergency or conditional teacher certification.

It is skipping a negotiation with the SEA that is required by their Collective Bargaining Agreement.

It is skipping all community engagement save that done between introduction and action by the Board.

This is not the way the Board or the District should be conducting their business.

Charlie Mas said...

It occurs to me that the District can move really fast when they want to, as they have with Teach for America, and they can move really slowly when they want to, as they have with awarding high school credit for courses taken in middle school, as they have for implementing RTI, as they have for implementing the Capacity Management Policy, as they have for any number of other things that are meaningful to students and families but not interesting to district staff, and the superintendent in particular.

When she wants something - no matter how big - it happens in weeks. When we want something - no matter how small - it is deferred for years and years.

Anonymous said...

I stayed through what DeBell referred to as the "community engagement" piece of this process which was the Q and A period when the board members asked questions of a TFA representative, SEA, represented by Olga and Jonathan and SPS represented by Ferguson and Enfield.

I was flabbergasted when DeBell said that because of the "challenging time-line" of TFA needing a "series of commitments" from different districts in the state on hiring TFAers and with all of the other issues on the table that have to be dealt with, he decided to have this Q and A session instead.

I got the distinct impression that DeBell and whoever else is on the "Executive Committee", do not want community engagement from parents and teachers.

Ferguson said that TFA had done a lot of "community engagement" with other organizations in the community. You have all seen the list of who they "engaged" with, all the faux groups backed by the same money, Gates and Broad, who will be paying for at least the first year of cost in hiring these young people.

I am particularly concerned that if TFA "engaged" with the PTSA why didn't we hear about that as parents? Heidi was unsually quiet during this session. She was there but did not speak.

What does the PTSA think about our children being taught by rookies straight out of school? It IS part of the package that the PTSA pushed for when they were touting Bill 6696 and all things ed reform. The alternative certification process was part of that package. So where are they now?

And then all of this talk about the "achievement gap". Do these folks honestly think that all they have to do is hire TFA and everything will be taken care of in terms of providing all students with the same opportunity for a good education?

What about all of the other things that are necessary to help our children be ready to learn?

Patu seemed to feel that she was missing something because she asked the TFA person in a rather incredulous manner about the number of weeks of training that TFAers receive before starting to teach.

In broad terms this was a snake oil show and the traveling salesman was TFA.

Maier, Sundquist, DeBell and Harium are are ready to buy the snake oil and rub it all over themselves. Maybe it will make them feel better thinking that they have done a miraculous thing in closing the achievement gap here in Seattle with such an easy and simple solution.

Why didn't any of us think of this before!?

Patu is still mystified about this whole thing. Smith-Blum has a grasp on things and Sherry is being extremely cautious particularly when it comes to TFA being able to use our students' information and pass it on to a third party.

That aspect by the way is most troubling to me. It should not be OK for TFA to have information about our children and then be able to give it to whomever they want to. SPS was skating on very thin ice when the Alliance gave the student information to Our Schools Coalition who then gave it to the 360 marketing firm. That was more than likely an illegal move and certainly unethical.

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Anonymous said...

Part 2

(By the way, blogger is messing up. Sorry about the triple post. I was able to delete one of them but not the other.)

Anyway...

One other thing. I found out last night that the $4,000 that SPS is to pay TFA to bring us these boy and girl wonders is required to be paid for both years that these wunderkinds are "teaching". That is a total of $8,000 per TFAer.

Question. What happens if a TFAer quits as they do sometimes. Do we still have to pay TFA? For both years?

And as Melissa said, what about next year? Will Gates get tired of paying out this cash? And yes, this TFA rep said that Gates and the Seattle Foundation, funded by Gates, will be footing the bill.

MGJ and DeBell didn't want to divulge who else might be paying for this, like it's suppose to be a big secret.

With 1098 not passing, Gates will be paying for all of this out of his own cash box for a while because we don't have the money to fund TFA's push into our state.

There is a lot more that I want to share but first I want to go through my notes and get it into some kind of order before passing on my other observations.

When it's together, I'll post it on Seattle Ed.

For now I would suggest that anyone who wants to "engage" with our board better do it now and be very clear on their thoughts because they have no plans to come to us.

lendlees said...

What I kept waiting for was for someone to ask what happens after the two years...is the private donor still going to pay or does the district?

Anonymous said...

Neither the supe nor DeBell said anything about what would happen after that.

Basically, TFA wants to get its' foot in the door in our state because they know that charter schools will once again be up for debate next year.

The only place that TFA goes is into the back country of some of our southern states to do good deeds and get hired by charter schools who want to do an end run around unions.

It's all part of a larger picture.

If charter schools come through, then TFA will not be concerned about who pays because they know that the charter franchises will foot their bill.

This is a huge money making industry that is coming our way. I call them the moneychangers, referring to the money changers in the Bible because that's what they are.

You have the testing companies, the charter schools, the folks who will come up with the manufactured curriculum, books and worksheets and TFA. This is going to bring huge profits to a few folks. Unfortunately, I don't think that it will benefit our children in the end.

SolvayGirl said...

Phyllis Fletcher gave a brief and impartial report on the TFA aspect of the Board Mtg. om KUOW this morning.

Bird said...

I was flabbergasted when DeBell said that because of the "challenging time-line" of TFA needing a "series of commitments" from different districts in the state on hiring TFAers...

Uh, so what's the hurry again?

We have to hurry or we'll miss out on what?

On the opportunity to pay to put inexperienced teachers with high turnover in high poverty schools?

Is this really an opportunity we can't miss out on?

If we took a pass now, wouldn't TFA be delighted to come back to the district later? It's a one time opportunity?

Unlikely. They do have an "expansion plan" after all.

This whole thing is ridiculous.

seattle said...
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Bird said...

What does the PTSA think about our children being taught by rookies straight out of school? It IS part of the package that the PTSA pushed for when they were touting Bill 6696 and all things ed reform

Can someone explain to me where the leadership of the PTSA comes from? They're elected? When and how?

I'm new to the PTSA.

Anonymous said...

It's that Bush era tactic of the sky is falling so we have to do it now.

The supe pushes through her agenda, and this IS her agenda, in the same manner.

There was a big hurry to close schools. We had between Thanksgiving and New Year's to figure our what was going on before the vote to close schools.

The rif was the same way. She was in such a hurry to fire teachers becasue otherwise our budget would explode.

This is also a manufactured deadline.

In reality, this could and should wait until we have real debate, until more parents know and understand what is getting shoved down our throats.

Some Clarity said...

"what is getting shoved down our throats."

Love the incorporation of Tea Party language here. I remember when they said the same thing about health care legislation...

Changes are coming. They're scary. Adopt a conspiracy theory. Looks like it happens on the Left and the Right.

Anonymous said...

Bird,

They had elections last spring.

Unfortunately, basically the same folks stayed in their positions because no one else took the time or made the effort to challenge them.

At the last minute I decided to make a run for Legislative VP but the required paper work was not in place in time for the vote.

I have attended the Seattle Council meetings and there is an opportunity to speak up. More parents should attend those meetings. Usually the only people in attendance are the board members and a lot of decisions get made during those meetings that affect our students.

mirmac1 said...

District Policy for Contracting for Services (other than A&E, legal etc.)

Procedure 4

Not worth the paper it's printed on, I guess.

It's apparent there are other organizations that provide a similar service (e.g. Golden Apple). Once again, the district plays fast and loose with purchasing.

SolvayGirl said...

Speculation on this blog says TFA teachers will likely end up at RBHS. Does the District think this will make RBHS more attractive to the 800+ families who have shunned the school in the past?

Speaking as one of those 800, my answer is a resounding NO. But I'd like to hear from others on this blog—I know you're out there. Would TFA make RBHS more or less attractive?

I would think the District should consider that when making a decision about placing TFA. AT least I hope the District is trying to figure out a way to increase RBHS enrollment.

Anonymous said...

Clarity,

I have no problem with change or growth.

What we are talking about is tfa recruits coming in and touted as saviors of our educational system.

All will be right with the world, the achievement gap will close if only you buy this oil.

Well, it doesn't work like that.

To close the achievement gap takes time, commitment and money.

The achievement gap is really an opportunity gap. An opportunity to be ready to learn, to have the books and materials at hand, to have an opportunity to explore the arts, to have an opportunity to develop critical thinking skills, and to have the opportunity to play and not be distracted by hunger or homelessness.

It is about wrap around services, taking care of the whole child.

TFA does not address that at all.

You look at the Harlem School Zone, which will be coming to town soon by the way (oh what a coinkidink that is!) to see how they have been successful, besides the fact that they kick students out if it doesn't look like they will graduate but that's another story. Anyway, the school looks at the family, the social context that the child is in and deals with all of it whether is is a medical, psychological or emotional issue. It is all dealt with.

Then the student is ready to learn.

Unfortunately there is the issue of scale. How can we do this for all of our children. HSZ receives millions of dollars from donors for this work so then the question becomes is it sustainable?

The picture IS much larger than whether TFA comes here today or next year or preferably not at all.

It is about whether we want to privatize our school system and it is about how we reasonably address the issues of inequality in our systems. Is privatization the answer to inequality in our schools? I don't think so. I think that we can take a page from the HSZ playbook to learn how to address these gaps of opportunity but I don't think that charter schools are the answer and neither is TFA.

wseadawg said...

George Carlin explains it all here.

Mature audiences only - not for young ears. The truth is never for young ears, as we know.

Anonymous said...

OMG! wseadawg, that is so perfect!

dan dempsey said...

Here comes the District Score Card meeting:

Dear SPS staff:

State of the District: Tuesday, November 9, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., Mercer Middle School Cafeteria

On Tuesday, November 9 we will make public our second annual District Scorecard, and for the first time, a School Report for every school in our system. Publication of school reports is an important step – and will kick-off a community wide dialogue about how we can work together with our parents, families, organizations and community members to support our students.

From 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. on November 9 I will be delivering the State of the District address at Mercer Middle School. The purpose of this presentation is to share data on district progress and successes, and also discuss areas where persistent challenges remain. I will provide an overview on which elements of the strategic plan have been implemented and what milestones lie ahead.

The presentation will be taped and posted on our website.
I will send a link out to you when it is posted.


I also want to invite you to attend the event. The event will begin with a meet and greet from 6:00 to 6:20 p.m., presentation from 6:20 to approximately 6:50 p.m., and another opportunity for informal discussion immediately following the presentation. A series of regional community meetings, to focus on the District Scorecard and School Reports, are scheduled beginning on November 29.

Working collaboratively we will accelerate progress and reach the 2013 goals outlined in Excellence For All.

Thank you for all that you do to help our students achieve.

Sincerely,

Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Ph.D.
Superintendent

dan dempsey said...

Mirmac1,

Thanks for procedure 4.

Bird said...

...and for the first time, a School Report for every school in our system

The district keeps saying this, and I don't understand it.

Haven't we always had an annual report for each school? Is there something new other than the label?

dan dempsey said...

Dear Some Clarity,

What is getting shoved?

A plan with no data to support it.

(1) No justified need

(2) Zero evidence of success in a situation in which a District has no shortage of highly qualified teachers.

Numerous procedures skipped to fast track.

If that is not shoving, what is it?

Bird said...

They had elections last spring.

So is it that there's a SCPTSA meeting in the spring and then whoever attends that gets to vote? I get to vote if I show up?

seattle said...

"Would TFA make RBHS more or less attractive?"

I don't think RBHS could get any less attractive.

While I think there are better solutions and options for RBHS than TFA, I don't think the district is exploring them. With little hope of any other intervention, do we accept the status quo, and let RBHS keep on keepin on, or do we take a risk and try TFA?

Without personally knowing the dynamic of the teachers, staff, and leadership at RBHS, it's hard to say whether TFA would help or not. We've heard from Michael Rice who sounds like he is a super fantastic teacher. Is he the norm or the exception? And, while having him at RBGS, has probably had a profound positive impact on his students, has it done anything to change the perception of the school?

Maureen said...

Wasn't there a recent post from RBHS PTSA people saying that they are actively looking for ideas and are drawing in families from all of their feeder schools? I remember mention of a Law focus and sports medicine as possibilities. Sounded like there is movement going on there.

You know, some school in a District has to be 'last' I suppose, but if you read about conditions in South Central LA High Schools, RBHS sounds like Roosevelt in comparison.

Last night it was said that there were 800 applicants for four job openings at West Seattle (Elementary I think, but could be HS). We have no shortage of qualified teachers wanting to work with challenged kids.

Maureen said...

You know, one thought I had, listening to all of those dedicated TfA alum speaking to the Board last night is: Let them go practice in Baltimore or South Central for two years (where their kids would otherwise have subs and not certified teachers), earn their certificates and THEN they can come back and apply to teach in Seattle. No one is trying to keep out the TfA grads who want to stay in teaching. We just don't have the level of need that makes it necessary for us to let them practice on our kids. They'll be just as good or better at closing the gap in two years and there seem to be tons of them out there who want to work in Seattle.

mirmac1 said...

Bird,

For the soon to be unveiled school report, take a look at

Aunty Broad's SPSLeaks

for a sample that the district rolled out to its true bosses, the Foundation masters. Will be posted soon.

Lori said...

I watched only part of the meeting last nite, so maybe I missed this, but it seems like there is a discrepancy about TfA. I've read here that TfA teachers would only be going into high-poverty and/or low-performing schools, yet during the Q&A last nite, it sounded like hiring is a site-based decision and that a TfA teacher could apply for any job at any school, and if chosen, then the district goes to the donor to pony up the $4K fee.

So which is it? Will TfA be able to able to interview at any school or just select schools? Also, do we know if TfA's interest is at all grade levels, just high school, what exactly?

to Maureen's point about having them gain some experience in other cities first, that got me thinking. I perused some of the various reports about TfA's effectiveness, and they tend to mention that one criticism of TfA is their teachers' short tenures. If I were employed by TfA to strategically think about how to mitigate this sort of criticism, one approach would be to place as many teachers as possible into "easier" environments where maybe they would stay longer, thus bumping up the average time spent teaching by TfA alumni. A district like Seattle seems like a place where TfA teachers might not burn out so fast and may stay more than 2-3 years. Pure speculation, but not out of the realm of possibility, particularly if we are going to let TfA into any school they choose, independent of "need."

Bird said...

I've read here that TfA teachers would only be going into high-poverty and/or low-performing schools, yet during the Q&A last nite, it sounded like hiring is a site-based decision and that a TfA teacher could apply for any job at any school

Read the contract.

It includes this...

In order to be considered an appropriate school (a “Partner School”) for
iii.
placement of a Teacher, (i) the school’s student population must be considered
high poverty relative to the student population elsewhere in the district. To the
extent reasonably practicable, Seattle Public Schools will employ two or more
Teachers per individual Partner School.

Anonymous said...

Maureen, you say: "Let them go practice in Baltimore or South Central for two years (where their kids would otherwise have subs and not certified teachers), earn their certificates and THEN they can come back and apply to teach in Seattle."

So...you're ok with TFA "practicing" on other kids in other cities because OUR Seattle kids are just so much better off that they don't deserve those TFA faux teachers. GOT IT.

Of course, in some huge cities with very high poverty rates there are schools that would indeed make RBHS seem like Ballard or Roosevelt, But you're still saying that kids in those schools should be ok with with teachers of the TFA type, while ours would not.

That's like Barbara Bush telling the Katrina refugees in Texas living in make-shift housing that surely they were better off than in the 9th Ward. You manage to insult both TFA and families in poverty with your comment.

If TFA is good enough for S. Central, they are good enough for Seattle's minority/poverty population. Unless you really do mean that those other kids don't deserve the same level of care as our kids do. But maybe you don't really mean that. Maybe it's that THOSE kids are just...so much worse off that ANYONE, even a TFAer, would be a step up. Good thing we have none of THOSE kids HERE...

Look, ALL KIDS EVERYWHERE deserve the SAME LEVEL of instruction and care. To elevate one population above another saying they would be harmed less somehow (assuming that TFA would be harming them at all) is just wrong.

Anonymouse

Sahila said...

"Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things."

~Russell Baker (1925- ), American journalist, essayist, Pulitzer Prize writer

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

Anonymouse,

I think you're probably being a little harsh on Maureen. I don't think Maureen would, given the ability to design a system, choose to have some other population of kids as proving ground for our teachers.

I think the sentiment is just that these TFA teachers are being used elsewhere. We don't really have a lot of control over that.

If that's true, and these folks want to come to Seattle and they will stick it out in the profession long enough, then, sure, who wouldn't want to let them go through the hiring process. But we don't need them to dabble in teaching with high poverty students in our district when it is completely unnecessary and possibly risky.

Chris S. said...

Anonymouse, I had to read Maureen's post more than once, but I do not believe she is saying what you attribute to her. She is saying TFA represents an improvement in other cities where the status quo is non-certified and long-term subs, and she would not begrudge those students that improvement. However, we have adequate staffing in Seattle such that there is no reason to believe TFA would actually be an improvement.

She didn't say anything about what kids DESERVE. But I will - all kids deserve MUCH more than TFA. One of my major concerns is that the deep-pocketed donors and the board will believe they have done justice to these kids by letting TFA in, and stop trying to get the "best and brightest and certified" in those schools.

Maureen said...

ALL KIDS EVERYWHERE deserve the SAME LEVEL of instruction and care.

I absolutely agree with you here.

And Chris has interpreted my post perfectly. I'm sorry if I was unclear.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lendees, your question - where does the money to pay the TFA fee per teacher come from after our "private donor" money goes? is a good one. I keep asking it over and over. I also put to anyone who wants to "try" TFA, please tell us what you would cut to pay for TFA? Waiting...

Who is Seattle Council PTSA leadership? I think you have to be a member of your school PTA and then you are a member of Seattle Council and you can run for any position. They take nominations in the spring but there is rarely any contest as few people want these busy and challenging posts. Maybe more people should run if you want the direction of the PTSA (agreeing with the district) to change and/or you want PTSA to be more for parents.

Our district is working overtime to help TFA? That's what this rush is about? Screw that.

Lean on DeBell. He needs to hear from many, loud and clear, that a Q&A at a Board meeting is not adequate public engagement for TFA or any topic.

It is in the agreement that the TFA teachers will teach in low-performing schools. Yes, they can interview with any principal but I'm sure the principals will get directives over who can and can't hire TFA teachers.

P.S. Hello from Sunny Arizona.

curious said...

Does Debell read or answer emails from people? I have written to him a couple of times on a couple of matters and have never gotten a response.

Anonymous said...

Curious: The Board members often have hundreds of emails a week concerning board business. You want a board member to understand you and your cause?...You have to go to their coffee hour and have a conversation. That way they have a name, face, and a chance to understand a full argument.

Write an email, or many, too! But the Coffee Hour rule is an effective one for the public.

HOWEVER, if you are a Large Nonprofit With Lots Of Money, other rules of access and communication apply. LOL (bitterly)

-skeptical-

curious said...

I have spoken with Director Debell before. He assured me that the Superintendent worked for *them* (the Board) and that they had full oversight and authority over her.

Anonymous said...

Curious: Debell's biggest asset and his biggest flaw is that he likes to address controversy with the super behind the scenes so that publicly the board/super have a cordial relationship.

After we had huge unruly screaming matches during board meetings at the end of Raj's Reign, I can see the benefit of the more cordial approach.

Unfortunately though, a few years in, his approach has become more and more hindrance than help. Some controversies, especially ones where the public feels it is not getting a voice, need to be aired, well, publicly. He didn't support the super nearly so much as his review of her lead the public to believe. And he left the board members who actually spoke their feelings high and dry as the evaluation came into its final formation. Lame, especially because we might have been a giant step closer to new leadership if he would have manned up and been candid.

And the final tipping point for me is this TFA thing. Debell heads the Exec committee. He knowingly and encouragely brokered this deal behind the scenes in part because he himself is a fan of TFA. It was a shoddy crappy way to treat the community at large and even worse to treat the many esteemed teachers in this district. I dare say it is the worst action he has carried out in two terms, not because he likes TFA, but because of his sneakiness. I used to be a fan but those days are over.

-skeptical-

Anonymous said...

This is an excerpt of a book review for "Learning on Other People's Kids: Becoming a Teach For America Teacher" in the Daily Kos

"...As should be clear from how I began, Veltri now raises serious questions about our reliance upon Teach For America. That does not mean she is necessarily opposed to alternative programs to recruit and train teachers for hard to staff schools in inner cities and rural areas: in her Acknowledgments she refers to Jumpstart of Manhattanville College, whose model "includes 6 months of coursework, practicum, and mentoring, prior to placement of career-changers into New York Schools." By comparison, TFA Corp members get a 5 week institute.

The difference can perhaps be reflected best in retention statistics - as of the writing of the book, 85% of those who completed Jumpstart remained in the classroom (these are 9 year figures(, whereas the vast majority of TFA leave the classroom upon completion of their two year commitments, taking advantage of the benefits offered by graduate and professional schools towards former TFAers, and includes a stipend from AmeriCorps equal to $5,000/year for use against any past or future educational expense. Remember (1) this is paid for by our taxes, and (2) TFAers qualify for this regardless of any financial need.

And while I am on the financial aspects about which you will learn in this book, let me also note the following. TFA requires that their Corp members be paid the same as would certified teachers in the same positions EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE NOT THEMSELVES CERTIFIED.

Further, the contracts with school districts require a payment to TFA of several thousand dollars additional for each Corps Members, thus effectively making a TFA placement MORE EXPENSIVE than hiring others to teach, whether fully certified or - like TFAers - provisionally certified.

And there are the costs associated with the constant turnover of teaching faculty. On p. 168 Veltri cites a study that says the costs of teachers leaving the classroom range from $4,366 and $17,872 for each teacher leaving this classroom. There is further non-financial impact in the negative effect upon learning that is clearly documented across the professional literature in schools lacking a constant teaching faculty."

An interesting read.

Chris S. said...

here is a very interesting, and two sided, discussion of TFA.

Anonymous said...

A little bit more from the book.

To follow are quotes from TFAer's with the author's notes in between the quotes:

"... And, part of the problem is, I just never know exactly if I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and that creates a lot of stress." (Kyle)

"That stress is increased by the requirement of completing 15 credit hours during their rookie year, because of their emergency certification status:"

"What does TFA want me to do? Attend UPenn classes four nights in a row, grade my student papers, and prepare for teaching, or listen to them? I'm done with it!" (Curtis)

"Let me comment briefly on the requirement for 15 credit hours. When I began my doctoral studies while in my 2nd year at my current school, I needed special permission to take 9 credit hours, because our system believes taking on anything more than 6 credit hours at time jeopardizes one' effectiveness as a teacher. I already had 4 years of teaching experience, one of which was in the school with the same preps as I would have while attending graduate school. I have seen beginning teachers with emergency or provisional credentials struggle to balance the demands of the classes they teach and those they attend, even with 6 hours and MORE PREPARATION than the 5 weeks offered in TFA institutes."

seattle said...

"I also put to anyone who wants to "try" TFA, please tell us what you would cut to pay for TFA? Waiting..."

We don't have to cut a single thing for at least two years since we have private funding. If the program is successful, maybe after the initial two years, that same organization would offer us funding for another two years? Or maybe we'd find a new funder? Or a grant? Or maybe, if no funding or grants materiale, we would cut the program?

Are we signing a contract with TFA? If so, is it per teacher? Or for so many teachers per year for X amount of years?

Anyway, I think we will have options. And if not, we move on. I'd have to see the contract, but I doubt we are committed to TFA beyond two years or so.

seattle citizen said...

TFA will not be an option when people get wind of the district's (and the state's, apparently) rationale about how it is okay to have a non-certified applicant in the general hiring pool because, you see, they have conditional certs so they're certified!


See, a conditional cert is just like a cert!
And down the rabbit hole we go...

dan dempsey said...

Yahoo the Video is online NOW

another mom said...

@ Hawk
IMHO, a shortage of certified teachers is the only legitmate rationale to bring TFA to the District. Right now that situation simply does not exist. SPS has riffed a National Board Certified science teacher, who had 3 years of experience. Who knows how many good certs. have been let go in this economy.

In light of that and what the Seattle Times noted about graduates from teaching programs at our state institutions -they cannot find jobs, this proposal by all rights should be DOA.

A friend's child and recent graduate from the UW's cert program was unable to find a job in WA state. He is now teaching in Arizona. Our state's loss. He is in fact one of the best and brightest kids that I know.

Maureen said...

another mom, is there some way you could get those two teachers (especially the science one) to email all of the Board members? I can imagine that they believe that we still have a shortage of science and math teachers (I've wondered that myself.)

another mom said...

@Maureen - my understanding is that the science teacher actually testified at the Board mtg. per Karyn King on the What happened to Harium threa.d As to the young man in AZ, I will ask him to send an email to the Board.
Also, if it is true that hundreds of teachers applied for positions at W. Seattle, then the pool seems to be plenty big and probably deep too :)

The Seattle Times reported that new grads coming out of our local Ed degree programs are not getting jobs here. The information is out there if the board bothers.

Maureen said...

Oh, I heard her! I missed the fact that she was a science teacher. She was very effective.

wseadawg said...

What happened to all the parents who petitioned and picketed to save the jobs of the dozens of awesome, young, and non-TFA teachers when the RIF's came down in '08?

With all those awesome and talented teachers needing work and being bumped out by seniority, the facts say we not only have a bunch of qualified, unemployed teachers already here in Seattle, but damn good ones too! So said many, many parents who picketed and signed the CPPS Anti-Seniority Petition in '08.

Yet, here we are, not bringing those folks back to work, but instead rolling out the red carpet for another Ed Reform experiment. I don't care if all TFA teachers graduate from Harvard with the highest honors, only 1 in 5 wind up teaching after 3 years, so we might as well say 4 out of 5 "flunk the big test" of becoming a teacher. Fair is fair, and let's call it like it is. I'm not calling these folks failures or losers. Quite the contrary. But TFA is about teachers, isn't it? So procuring 1 in 5 isn't something that should get the Board to roll out the red carpet and drop to their knees like they are.

Someone needs to explain to me why, above all, TFA should get preferential treatment over anyone? Because they did well in college? Well so did I, but you wouldn't want me teaching your kids, trust me!

There are many ways to reward high achieving college grads, but allowing them to MAYBE succeed in helping struggling kids is a pretty thin rationale.

I tend to agree with Maureen above and take issue with her critics. Why LA and not here? Because the conditions in LA schools, not the kids, dictate that TFA would likely have a much bigger impact, if only by showing up to work each day where many teachers don't. We aren't comparing apples to apples and generic comments about all kids being treated equal miss the point. People should be deployed where they can have the biggest impact and their talents put to the best use. Deploying people where they aren't needed is simply and inefficient distribution of human capital.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"If the program is successful, maybe after the initial two years, that same organization would offer us funding for another two years? Or maybe we'd find a new funder? Or a grant? Or maybe, if no funding or grants materiale, we would cut the program"

Oh please, I'm sorry but that is a dreamer rationale. No, there is no organization that is going to keep fronting it.

So if you say this is a grand experiment for two years, fine. Get it in writing. Otherwise, this district is not going to walk away (and may not be able to) after two years.

A grant or something else? It is not good governance to take on a project that you do not know how to fund down the line. It's like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney "hey kids let's put on a show!" No, in these allegedly rough economic times, we cannot start new initiatives without understanding where we are going and why and how we fund it. That is what governance is about. It's fine if we, as parents, want to say "try it and we'll figure out funding later" but for the Board and the Superintendent it should not be an option.

seattle citizen said...

I'd repeat that it is not good (or democratic) policy to bring in private funders to do the work of public schools. If private entities want to help out by buying a sound board for an auditorium, or by funding an after-school tutorial identified as necessary by the board and admin, great. I thank them from t he bottom of my heart. But what we've seen, of late, is private interests directing district direction and initiatives - "hey, these people will fund it, so it's great! Oh, what a coincidence, these people are funding a deal teh superintendent made with TFA's Kopp when they sat together on the Broad board! Ha ha, just a coincidence, we swear!"

Private money should not fund insertion of non-vetted inititatives into SPS operations. It's a erosion of public process. And in this case it smells distinctly of cronyism

Maureen said...

"If the program is successful, maybe after the initial two years, that same organization would offer us funding for another two years?

It's my understanding that this is basically coming from Gates and, in my book, Gates has consistently exhibited lack of follow through when it comes to education issues. How many of your schools spent hours of teacher PD time on your "transformation plans" eight years ago? Where was the money to continue that work? What has happened to all of those Gates sponsored "small academies?" Where have they actually followed through in K-12 education? (ThrivebyFive does still seem to be going).

Maureen said...

To be fair, this is common in philanthropy--Foundations give money to 'build capacity' or get something started--they don't pretend to be in it for the long run. That's why it's important that the grantee think ahead about where the resources to continue will come from.