Friday, June 10, 2011

Crosscut Article on UW's College of Ed and Teach for America

Crosscut published an article I wrote about the new partnership between the UW's College of Education and Teach for America.

In it, I pass no real judgment on TFA; the article is about how the partnership came about and its central creator, Dean Tom Stritikus. I had done a public disclosure request from UW and created a timeline of e-mails about the evolution of the partnership (although I was not able to include many other quotes from e-mails). I was careful to try not to take any quote out of context. I had a deadline and a word count limit and so I was not able to flesh out what has occurred past about May 18th but I'll try to do that in a separate thread (as I think there may be more to say).

As I previously wrote about here, Stritikus introduced the idea of TFA to the district. (TFA doesn't directly court districts and my understanding is that generally they have some kind of "sponsor" who does it.) Stritikus wrote to Wendy Kopp, the head of TFA, even before he officially became dean to tell her that he was the first TFA alum to become a Dean of a COE, he wanted to create a partnership with UW and TFA and could she help do press for his deanship. He certainly isn't short on self-promotion or cronyism.

Stritikus says some cryptic things here and there that certainly can be open to interpretation in several ways. For example, he e-mails the local TFA director, Janis Ortega, after the successful vote by the Board for the TFA contract and says this:

"Great work on securing the SPS [Seattle Public Schools] vote."

You could say the word "securing" is an interesting word to use in this case. Great work on lobbying for the SPS vote? Great work on persuading the Board on the SPS vote? Or something else?

He also says in an e-mail that he might talk to the UW President, Phyllis Wise (I was told by her office that he never did) about "tuition flexibility" for the TFA students. He said:

"Since it is an odd time in the University, anything might be possible."

Also a phase that is open to interpretation (or maybe him wistfully thinking outloud).

He also repeatedly says that the partnership with UW is not an endorsement of TFA. It is hard to believe that for this effort and the resources needed to create the program, that the UW College of Education doesn't believe in TFA's program. There's been a lot of talk by faculty about doing research about TFA but TFA doesn't have to be in Seattle for that to happen.

Some other troubling quotes:

In an e-mail to the dean, a TFA staffer, Justin Yan, states, "…I thought I'd reach out to you regarding our recruitment efforts considering it's a fairly controversial topic, considering that TFA applicants will now be competing for spots against your MIT [master's in teaching] grads."

Yes, and this is just what worries those grads a lot.

College of Education faculty member Charles "Cap" Peck writes to Stritikus about the program between UW and TFA and worries about TFA's “prescribed curriculum” and that “this will tend to marginalize” UW’s role. Peck continues, "They clearly do not expect us to have much of value to contribute to this process."

Professor Peck said this in early March. When I asked him about it earlier this week, he said he really hadn't known much about TFA then but does now and thinks highly of them. What is odd is that the agreement (which I have seen in 4 versions but am waiting for the final signed agreement) really is very strict on what TFA wants versus what UW wants. I would venture to say it is apparent in the "partnership" agreement who is in the driver's seat.

But here is the crux of it for me:

What about that issue of "debt load” and "tuition flexibility” for TFA recruits? According to the partnership agreement between UW and TFA, total fees and tuition for the TFA program will be about $11,000 per year, which is about the same as in-state grad students pay. However, the majority of TFA recruits will be out-of-state students.

The normal tuition for out-of-state graduate students would be between $24,000 to $26,000. TFA recruits receive a government grant from the Americorps program for more than $10,000 over two years. They also are allowed to postpone making regular payments on student loans during the two years of service.

This all comes as UW recently announced that it was taking fewer in-state residents next year because they need the tuition money that out-of-state students bring. That likely means fewer Seattle Public Schools’ 2011 grads entering UW.

How can we be asked to accept that there are so few dollars available at UW that fewer in-state students can attend UW AND tuition will likely go up 15-20% and yet there are funds to subsidize out-of-state TFA students?

I was not able to clarify one point in the article but I will here as I suspect the Dean and the College will try to make this argument.

UW is required, under a bill passed last year, to provide an alternative certification program (all public higher ed institutions must do this). They could have created anything under the 4 different alt routes and even created a program with a much wider audience (give how huge UW is). But no, they created the narrowest, least available route possible.

(For some reason, UW COE claims they never had an alternative certification program before but they certainly did because it is referenced in two research documents. It likely ran from about 2001-2004).

Because the people going for an alternative certification tend to be already working, the law provides for the tuition to be lower. I think this is fine.

So I believe UW COE will say, "We HAD to provide a lower tuition because the law requires it." That's true to the spirit of the law except that no alternative route certifications are made in consideration that those in the program might come from out-of-state.

And that would make sense. I spoke to administrators at two private schools and they said they never heard of people coming in from out-of-state to start taking an alternative certification route. When I explained it was for TFA, they both that it was a special case and they didn't think the legislators would have expected anyone to come from out-of-state to use that route. All the students in their alt certification programs are Washington State residents. (And indeed, a few TFA recruits may be Washington State residents which would make the tuition fine.)

Why is UW bending over backwards for TFA?

Why is our district bringing in out-of-state college grads for teaching jobs when there is no shortage of certificated teachers in Seattle?

You have to ask yourself just what is driving this. If I had to guess, it would need to be a pretty big player who convinced the Board to vote yes and who allowed the Dean and TFA to believe (with a lot of confidence) that yes, there would be TFA teachers in SPS in the fall of 2011. And who's the biggest player in Seattle? Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation. That's where I'd put my money.


dan dempsey said...

This is again an example of FLAT out CRAZY.

It parallels with the explanation of the NSAP.
We need to make every school a quality school and the NSAP will do that. ... Huh??

We need to close the achievement gap in high poverty schools and TfA will do that. ... Huh?

Hummm... the UW College of Education with their Math Education Project .... data shows is a major contributor to poor math scores in High Poverty schools.

Dean Stritikus needs to check the data. If the UW CoE would like to narrow the math achievement gap, then do not let the MEP folks into Seattle Schools. Forget TfA check the data ... STOP MEP.

Bellevue is an UW CoE MEP partner .... and low income students in the BSD do just as poorly as SPS low income students in MATH .... (data from OSPI annual pass rates in math at grades 4, 8, 10).

Sure looks to me that Stritikus got his postion at UW based on his ideological stance ....

To Improve a System requires the intelligent application of relevant data.

What data was Stritikus intelligently applying?

What was the SPS Board doing? It seems the only data ever examined is who is doing the pushing of the proposal.

2011 -- SPS Director elections ... Reelect no one.

WenD said...

It's strange how those who should be the most embarrassed by their actions often continue to flaunt them.

seattle citizen said...

Chris Korsmo over at the Gates organ, LEV, took no notice of Melissa's piece in her weekly roundup, but did feel that her pal Tom Stritikus was the victim of commenters' "painfully personal" attacks. Korsmo should put on her big-girl pants:

"Circuit Breaker: This guest op-ed by Tom Stritikus, Dean of Education at UW, in Crosscut reads innocuously enough. UW is working to provide alternative certification pathways to teaching, in particular, looking to provide the university backing for the Teach for America (TFA) corps coming to the Puget Sound next fall. A welcome effort in bringing this nationally regarded teaching corps to our ‘hood. But if you read the comments, you’d realize that Stritikus hates puppies, laughed inappropriately during “Steel Magnolias” and eats small chicks for breakfast. He is probably a Cincinnati Bengals fan. When historians record the fall of our current civilization, they’ll track back to the painfully personal way that comment threads kept a lot of people with intellectual prowess out of the public realm. (Aren’t you lucky, you didn’t have to wait for the collapse of civilization to get at its underpinnings.)"


Anonymous said...

And anyone who disagrees with a reformer like Big Girl Pants Korsmo is likewise the subject of sarcasm and derision. So, on top of being unfunny and obtuse, Korsmo is a hypocrite too.

We have no time to discuss things, Korsmo, because the kids are in crisis, so you say. But we do have time for stupid jokes from a thin-skinned, hot-headed melodramatic fool, don't we, Korsmo? Don't we? Clown. WSEADAWG

jamie said...

WSEADAWG, I heart you. You always cut through the crap to the heart of the matter. Your posts are spot on and highly entertaining to boot. Thanks for that!

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have not been personal with the Dean (except in this thread in saying he is self-serving - that is my opinion based on the e-mail exchanges between him and TFA). There is absolutely nothing personal in this issue.

I was at a meeting with her recently and I disagreed with her on Stitikus and the partnership with TFA. And she answering by telling the group (jokingly but I felt inappropriately), "You can see the fight out in the parking lot later."

LEV also posts a speech by her about her father and his struggles and how hard he worked. She speaks movingly.

But this is the same father that she chose to call out at the Seattle Channel event as the man who "beat the stuffing out of her" regularly. She didn't mention any of the good qualities she learned from him and the push it gave her to get an education at the Seattle Channel meeting. She chose to get extremely personal in a roomful of strangers and tell us about her childhood abuse. And then she yelled at all of us in the audience, saying we blamed kids and families for poor educational outcomes.

I think Ms. Korsmo is the one who gets personal.

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

"I am surprised no one has mentioned yet the recent hire at SPS, as a Manager of Recruiting. First name is Nathan-not that you can find any names on the new SPS website....

A former manager of "Non-Profit Alliances" from TFA."

Hummm .. the above sure looks like business as usual with no change despite the change of superintendents.

Betty Patu was the only Director that voted against Enfield as interim Superintendent.

Betty said that she wanted a clean break from the past with the change in superintendent.

Looks more and more like 6 directors wanted a continuation of past practices. The Superintendent has been changed but apparently nothing else .... except of course even "More Spin" added.

Classic Board move ... we are doing this in the interest of everyone .... we want to increase trust in the district ... we encourage increased communication .. (And are giving the public 22 hours notice before these three big unilateral moves)

StopTFA said...

Interesting that the staff at PESB feel the UW's revised proposal is not a public record and is exempt from disclosure at this time. It would not be a good thing if staff is covering for their hapless pals at the UW COE. Does not promote good will with the other universities and colleges that do not ask for special favors.

Remember that you can comment on what HAS been made available to date. Make sure PESB submits your comments as publc testimony. Write to PESB@k12.wa.us. Copy Phyllis Wise at pres@uw.edu so she can see the bang-up job the COE is doing kow-towing to Wendy Kopp and Stritikus' ego.

Original Form 2A

PESB Comments