More Wendy Kopp (Fearless Leader of TFA)
I do have a rather lengthy TFA thread to write but here's some Wendy Kopp talk from the Daily Beast:
When Wendy Kopp’s son Benjamin was 8 years old, he interviewed her for a school project on learning to overcome challenges.
“I just don’t understand,” Benjamin asked his mother, “how if this is such a big problem—you know, kids not having the chance to have a good education—why would you ask people with no experience right out of college to solve it?”
Out of the mouths of babes.
Kopp modestly admits she was hoping Mayor Bloomberg would have asked her to be the NYC Schools Chancellor (but alas he didn't).
Kopp, whose four kids attend public schools on Manhattan’s West Side, says running the city’s schools would be a dream job, far more attractive than heading to Washington, D.C. to succeed Arne Duncan as the secretary of Education.Seriously? If Duncan stepped down, she thinks Obama would consider her for Secretary of Education over someone like Diane Ravitch?
Points for Wendy:
While the Bloomberg administration is fighting the United Federation of Teachers in court for the right to release to the news media individual teachers' "value added" ratings—an estimate of how effective a teacher is at improving his or her students' standardized test scores—Kopp says she finds the idea "baffling" and believes doing so would undermine trust among teachers and between teachers and administrators.
"The principals of very high performing schools would all say their No. 1 strategy is to build extraordinary teams," Kopp said. "I can't imagine it's a good organizational strategy to go publish the names of teachers and one data point about whether they are effective or not in the newspaper."
Now we get to the crux of the interview. As we recall the premise, the focus of TFA is to close the achievement gap.
Yet it remains an open question whether the program is moving the needle on the goal of closing the achievement gap between middle-class white children and their poor, minority peers.“If you look at the data on the aggregate level, the achievement gap has not closed at all in the last 20 years. But I’m so optimistic,” Kopp says.
That's so sweet but you've had 20 years and not a dent. Clearly, TFA has provided some good/fair teachers to schools that had staffing issues. But TFA was NEVER and is NEVER going to close the gap themselves. They don't have the numbers and their teachers don't have the training. That it's 20 years and she still thinks it will happen because of TFA is delusional.
Beyond not having the numbers or the training, here's why:
In her book, Kopp emphasizes the extraordinary amount of energy it takes from teachers to get low-income kids—who are often mired in dysfunctional schools and facing difficult family situations—up to grade level in reading and math. Kopp offers story after story of young TFA teachers who work themselves to the bone, rising at the crack of dawn to deliver personal wakeup calls to students; attending kids’ birthday parties and sports games; offering free afterschool piano lessons to students four days a week; organizing fundraising drives for art programs; skipping lunch every day in order to give children extra tutoring; and holding test-prep classes on Saturdays.
There is no human being who is a teacher who can keep this up. It sounds great, it's "relentless" and it sure is a great formula for burning someone out of teaching quickly.
And now we come to teaching low-income kids:
And in a direct challenge to the orthodoxies of veteran educators and their unions, Kopp says it’s fair to ask whether teaching low-income kids, given how difficult and exhausting it can be, should be a lifelong profession for most of its practitioners.
“I’ve heard a number of our alumni—people who are running schools and school systems—think a lot about different models for the teaching profession,” Kopp says. “Models sort of like in the law profession, where people come in and have to meet a very rigorous bar to make partner, maybe in year seven. You could consider a structure like that, where you try to recruit folks to spend five or seven years in teaching, and then retain a very, very few of them.”
Yes, because becoming a partner at a law firm is just like being a teacher at a low-income school.
I can agree that we need several models for teaching but having a revolving door at low-performing schools is not one of them. If anything, those students need consistency and continuity of staffing. But it's a great way to keep TFA going, no?
The article ends with the real idea around TFA (bold mine):
In October, the group announced a partnership with Goldman Sachs, in which TFA recruits are guaranteed jobs at the investment bank directly following their two years in the classroom.
The program feeds straight into criticisms of TFA as more of a résumé-builder than a serious commitment to improving public education, but Kopp defends the idea of providing a pathway directly out of the classroom.
“I think it’s hard to predict where the catalytic leadership will come from that ultimately solves the problem” of educational inequality, she says. “I think some of that will happen at the school level and the school system level, but enlightened business leaders can make an enormous difference in all sorts of things.”
“We spend some time around here asking ourselves if enough of our people are leaving,” Kopp admits. “Are enough of them going into policy… are enough of them going into business?”
Yes, those enlightened business leaders who have made health care what it is today. Those enlightened business leaders, like Goldman Sachs, who ran our economy into the ground.
Those people are the ones we need to keep AWAY from public education.
Lastly, I understand that under Obama's budget, TFA would have its federal funding cut way back and Wendy Kopp was whining on the national news that it would "zero them out." Odd, given all the private donors they have listed on their website. Maybe it would mean a cut in Wendy's paycheck but many people have done that (and worse) already.