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Thursday, January 20, 2011

TFA Seems to be Limping into Town (And Hey, Where did the Fee Money Go?)

The Times had an article this week on TFA recruits coming to the Puget Sound area. This might be a tougher area to crack than they had anticipated. According to the article, they will try to bring in 35 with one sole commitment (from Federal Way) of only 4-10 teachers. (Of course, even though SPS's contract is said to only allow interviews to happen, I'm pretty sure SPS will be hosting many of them.)

From the article:

Tuesday's announcement was made on the same day Teach For America sent out its third round of acceptances for the 2011-12 school year. Twelve people learned that they will be placed in the Seattle area, Ortega said, and she expects to add another 23 later.

The program placed 100 percent of its recruits last year, and expects to be able to do the same this year.

That's a lot of confidence given they only have a guarantee for 4 from Federal Way. Hmm, makes you wonder if the fix is in.

What is also a big question mark is this (bold mine):

This fall, Seattle Public Schools agreed to consider taking 20-25 more, although it offered nothing more than the chance to interview for open positions. It also won't hire any Teach For America recruits unless it finds outside funding to cover the required district contribution — now about $4,000 per teacher.

What happened to the Gates Foundation paying the $4k per teacher? If that's not a done deal, SPS has NO business hiring any new teacher who costs the district an extra $4k. No bright-faced college grad is worth that in hard economic times with many other unemployed qualified teachers in our region. Again, why are we importing more workers to this region?

I like CAO Enfield's comment:

What's particularly exciting, she said, is that all Teach For America recruits are strongly committed to closing the achievement gap among ethnic groups.

"I'm not saying that only Teach For America candidates have that," she said, "but you know that these people are coming from that space."

And what are the other "space" are teachers in the already large teaching pool coming from? I'll have to ask Dr. Enfield.

And that raises a good point. TFA likes to say how much principals like the recruits and how they have shown, in some cases, to do well. One thing they can't say - that they helped closed the achievement gap in a single school in the U.S.

Also from the article:

Still, some area school districts have said no, including Highline. Superintendent John Welch said that's largely because he doesn't expect to hire many teachers this year, and may have to lay off some.

"It didn't seem to be the right time to be partnering with Teach For America in a recruiting strategy," he said.

The article also states that TFA is "close" to announcing which local university will be its partner.

20 comments:

StopTFA said...

I heard from an excellent, award-winning teacher today who said principals are being pressured to bring "fresh meat". Older, more experienced teachers are being pressed to seek early retirement.

Frankly, if there is a clearly documented disparity of inexperienced teachers teaching out of field at high-poverty schools, there's a battle that awaits.

Nancy Willing said...

Delaware entered into an MOU (a preface to selling R2TT to our teachers and school boards) with a Boston area reform outfit called Mass Insight. They promised to bring in outside private funding to match what we are paying them in public dollars but we haven't seen any of it yet.

I wonder if Gates will come forward with any of their promised TFA funding for Seattle.

mascarah said...

Regardless of the $4000 fee, TFA teachers are WAY cheaper for the district than older, experienced teachers. I don't think they usually have master's degrees, and they don't have experience, so they could be making literally half of what an experienced teacher is making. As a teacher in SPS, the whole thing is extremely insulting.

MAPsucks said...

From what I've observed of district staff, they will misdirect funds intended for a specific purpose, pay the $4K "finder's fee", then lie through their teeth and say it was grant money.

Melissa Westbrook said...

It seems that Linda Shaw at the Times meant that the donor hadn't been announced, not that there wasn't one. I was pretty sure that the Gates Foundation was mentioned to me by at least one Board member.

I have to wonder why, if there is one, it hasn't been announced.

WenD said...

Where is the evidence that TFA is succeeding in its mission to close the achievement gap? No matter how sincere its corps members (CMs in TFA speak), how are they making a difference, walking in with 5-6 weeks of training and two years to reach this goal?

TFA is sold to recruits as a resume enhancer, something that gets notice on things like law school applications. Goldman Sachs also offers summer internships for CMs. Bright and shiny. But what are they doing differently that makes their students more successful than the kids being taught by experienced educators who stick around?

If half the battle to educate is in the classroom, with the other half at home, how can TFA claim they have the solution if their movement is primarily designed to advance itself?

A lot of reform money comes from corporate-connected individuals who aren't concerned about income inequality. They benefit from it. Doesn't the TFA business model, in fact, bank on the enlargement of the have and have not gap they promise to close?

The whole point of the school climate change movie is that the director drove by bad schools to deliver his kids to better schools. He's not changing a thing.

TFA is a political movement with expansion plans. Recruits are encouraged to pursue careers in policy, ed reform. TFA recruits from a pool of motivated college grads with loans to pay and places to go that don't necessarily involve a classroom career. (Yale isn't cheap, even with $11K from a GS summer.)

TFA doesn't encourage a long-term commitment in the classroom, but isn't that what at-risk and under served students need? TFA students appear to be training fodder for an organization that doesn't care about their parents, and probably doesn't care about them. What they care about are sig gains:

http://www.teachforamerica.org/assets/documents/sig.gains.slide.pdf

Unless I see otherwise, this appears to be all about opening new markets that are being forcibly abandoned by the public sector. Lack of jobs, lack of tax base? Follow the cascade and make money on it, just like Hank Paulson did.

TFA is building market share on failure, not mitigating it.

When you look at it this way, it's no surprise that SPS has failed at drumming up "market share," and why Broad and TFA are moving in.

peonypower said...

oh- and the Broad foundation has given huge sums of money to TFA. By 2009 Broad has given 41 million dollars in grant funding to TFA. Does that sound like a non-profit dedicated to education or to itself. Makes me sick to my stomach. What does it 41 million dollars for but to recruit, and train the legions. Who move into policy after they teach.

wv says pagash on it all

Frederika said...

We now have 12 TFA recruits in schools in my district in Wilmington, DE. Other are in local charter schools. We had six last year. They stay for two years under the contract signed by the former super. The contract is for fees totaling $300,00. We pay $10,000 EXTRA per recruit per year. On top of a starting salary of $32,000 and full teacher benefits. The fee goes to cover administrative costs for TFA, to provide a free masters degree in Ed. Leadership for each recruit, and a $9,000 stipend at the end of two years to be used by them to "further their education" when they go on to law school or med school or to get an MBA--in other words--to do what they really wanted to do all along.

I have no idea how well the first batch did or did not do. As teacher union President, I have not been privy to that data.

As far as the arguement that the TFAers may in fact cost less than a veteran teacher. That could be true, but these folks are not replacing veteran teachers. They are taking jobs away from other unemployed teachers with little seniority and teachers just out of college--teachers who wouild cost them a heck of a lot less.

Frederika said...

Part of the hook is to get a local university invested in this idea--they get new masters degree candidates and get paid by TFA with $$ from the fees collected for each recruit. If SPS is only being charged $4000 per recruit, then someone wants this VERY BADLY. You got a specil TFA discount by all accounts. Lucky Seattle.

Anonymous said...

On Foss HS in Tacoma being closed: They were also an IB school and it did not keep them from closure. Interestingly enough they also called their school a 'family' like several challenging schools in Seattle. If these school 'families' have cultures of failure then isn't it time to become more professional and less familial?


On TFA: If TFA teachers are going into the most challenging schools then I don't see how they can stay even one year. This is based on the fact that even qualified and experienced teachers in the most challenging schools are receiving better than average but less than perfect reviews. However, if you rated poorly even near poorly then you're on probation.

How can an inexperienced uncertificated amateur hope to last in that environment?

The evaluations could be used quite harshly now to pave the way by opening spaces for TFA candidates since they get to interview with the general public during phase 1 hiring at level 1 schools. After the way has been opened then a sudden shift to very lenient evaluations could provide the TFAers with strong evals. Which brings up the fact that a TFA candidate in their second year and without a real certificate could be on the mentor track and be getting thousands of additional dollars to be a teaching lead when their sum total of experience is a semester more than student teaching and observations.

-Curious

Jet City mom said...

Interestingly enough they also called their school a 'family' like several challenging schools in Seattle. If these school 'families' have cultures of failure then isn't it time to become more professional and less familial?

They were being closed because they only enrolled 1,100 students.

These schools in Seattle enroll less than 1,100 students- some half ( or less than) that many.
( Using OSPI data)

Chief Sealth
Cleveland
Ingraham
Nathan Hale
Nova
Rainier Beach
South Lake
Center School

Some are in buildings that befit their size, some are not.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Frederika, thanks for the info. Actually SPS is getting charged $4k while Federal Way, the other district bringing in TFA, is only getting charged $3K. I can't believe they charged $9k. What the market will bear, I guess.

dan dempsey said...

Dr. Enfield may well be excited about someone having an interest in closing the achievement gaps.

Certainly neither she nor the Board has shown much interest.


Let us not forget the substandard performance of NTN schools and yet the Board approved this 4-3 and never submitted a certified correct record to the court. Instead Dr. Enfield chose to submit an inaccurate record that included a forged document.

Quite a crew that runs this operation.

Great idea put substandard teachers in low income schools to close the achievement gap. That will likely work as well as their $1.2 million high school math adoption.

seattle citizen said...

So CAO Enfield thinks TFA is all about closing the opportunity gap ("achievement gap") and says "I'm not saying that only Teach For America candidates have that...but you know that these people are coming from that space."

More of the same disrespect for the existing staff and the fully certified teachers waiting to be hired. Can current and prospective teachers expect an apology from the CAO, for suggesting that non-TFAers just don't have that certain je ne sais quoi...

Way to support staff, tell them they just don't seem to come from "that space" (whatever "that space" is)

WenD said...

@seattlecitizen:
"So CAO Enfield thinks TFA is all about closing the opportunity gap ("achievement gap") and says 'I'm not saying that only Teach For America candidates have that...but you know that these people are coming from that space.'"

Space, the business jargon definition: "A consultant's designated area of expertise or focus. The term is normally used with some form of the verb 'play.'"

Have we been served?

StopTFA said...

"Space": the area between CAO DR. Enfield's ears.

what I find amazing is, for the number DR.s at JSCEE, there is alot of ignorance about good management, good pedagogy, motivating employees, and winning people over to your side without lying.

seattle citizen said...

I think they're between a rock and a hard place (having put themselves there):

They obviously want TFA to come. So TFA is coming. The only way to sell TFA is to say they do something different and better than...fully certified teachers. Thus, you basically have to say, "the teachers we have, or foresee having, just ain't up to snuff like these TFAers." Now they have to support their decision to bring in TFA carefully, without flat out telling staff (and prospectives) that they suck, so we end up hearing that TFA comes from a good "space."

If they want cheaper teachers, or if they think the surplus of qualified teachers just doesn't care about "the achievement gap" why don't they just say it?

Anonymous said...

Per a teacher who had the experience of working with three TFA recruits in their pilot program about 7 years ago, the regular teaching staff spent a lot of time supporting these young recruits and showing them basically how to teach and manage their other duties. It was a drain on the time of other teachers and staff and did little for the students themselves.

Is this what you want for your school and children?

Do you think that it would be fair to have these teachers work in schools with a large low-income population where the difficulties are even greater?

Unknown said...

Teach For America is a horrible organization – I foolishly joined the organization in 2010 (I'm originally from near Seattle and my mother teaches in the Lake Washington school district) and was assigned to the new charter region in Detroit. I started out well, as I was placed at a brand new charter school teaching 5th grade (even though I was ‘trained’ for high school), but was a victim of budgets cut at my school (as we didn’t get enough students enrolled). I was then switched to 2nd grade after one month (and I really was doing a great job with the 5th grade class, largely because it had pretty well-behaved students and was a very small class size) and had a horrible experience there before I was asked to resign from the school (since the 2nd grade class was so outrageously out of control and I clearly had no clue what to do with seven-year-olds, the school wisely got the old teacher to come back and since it was a charter school, I was an at-will employee with no recourse even if I had wanted it). Then TFA refused to let me defer and be a teaching aid and then come back to the school to teach 6th grade (which myself and the school wanted) and instead threw me into a public school 7th grade classroom that had ripped through four teachers already. I made it about a week in that out of control classroom before I admitted myself to the hospital with the symptoms of having a complete mental breakdown from the stress/anxiety of everything. I ended up in the Detroit psych ward, got on numerous anti-psychotic/anxiety meds (which I had never been on before and am no longer on) and then finally resigned from TFA once I realized how horrifically unprepared I was for the situations I was put in and how unhealthy it was for my mental, emotional and physical well-being – I only wish it hadn’t taken me so long. All told, I made it until November.

So far in our region (seven or so months in and TFA brought in 100+ of us to Detroit), multiple Corps members have ended up hospitalized in Detroit-area psych wards due to the stress of the program and how little support they offered us, about 15-20% of our Corps has already resigned at various stages in the program and many more will gone before the two years are up (no doubt) and I know that relatively few will be staying in teaching beyond two years (except those handful who were placed at better schools and hence are doing fairly well due to the strong systems already in place). TFA’s statistics saying that 2/3′s of their Corps members are still in education are based on self-selected survey results that doesn’t count participants like me who drop out of the program (we would never see that survey) and only 45% or so of the alumni they send the survey to respond (presumably mostly those who had a decent experience with the program and don’t hate TFA with all their being and thereby immediately delete all TFA alumni emails). So those numbers are immensely exaggerated and inaccurate.

Unknown said...

Part 2 of my post:

It’s especially frustrating to me that TFA is coming to Seattle, where real teachers are being laid off all the time and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. My mother has been teaching for decades in the Seattle area and even her job isn’t necessarily safe anymore nor does she get regular cost of living increases, etc., which is very sad and frustrating.

Teach For America’s boot- camp-esque summer training is also woefully inadequate and does not have any components dealing with child psychology, the history/philosophy of different teaching movements/ideas, minimal emphasis on behavior management (which is honestly what destroys most TFA teachers who aren’t successful – it was certainly my problem, although I got thrown into absolute war zones) – we practiced experimenting (I mean, teaching) for an hour a day on summer school students and the rest of the time was devoted to learning how to do ridiculously excessive lesson plans that no one ever used again as well as being brainwashed with TFA-isms and other garbage.

Here are my predictions for the 2011 TFA Seattle Corps – out of the 50 or so TFA teachers that are supposedly coming, I bet 1-2 end up hospitalized for mental/stress reasons, 10-20% resign before their two years are complete, the vast majority of the remaining teachers get the heck out of teaching after their two year committment is up and a handful of TFA teachers who are placed at more well-established/supportive schools with stronger parental involvement and a less disruptive student population in the first place will manage to survive and will then be hailed by TFA as amazing success stories (based on bogus, inaccurate purported ‘teaching data’ for the most part) and go on to star in the up and coming privatization of education movement (KIPP CEO’s, here we come!). There is a chance the numbers in Seattle might be slightly better than that since a smaller number of Corps members are coming in, Seattle schools are probably slightly less insane than inner-city Detroit schools and hopefully TFA hires staff people for Seattle who aren’t incompentent TFA robots like most of Detroit’s staff is, so keep your fingers crossed.

Good luck Seattle schools – you’ll need it. And good luck incoming TFA Seattlites – you’ll definitely need it .

Check out my website – ‘recoveringfromTFA.wordpress.com’ if you want to read my resignation letters…you can also email me at j.asher.williamson@gmail.com. I’d love to chat more.