Tuesday, July 19, 2011

TFA Updates

Over at KIRO 93.7, reporter Josh Kerns did a piece on TFA coming to the Puget Sound area. 

Update:  the KIRO piece includes links to the professor at the University of Texas and Janis Ortega who is the area TFA person.  Very interesting to listen.

I have to say that one troubling thing is the language that TFA uses.  Ms. Ortega, in defending the research that supports TFA's contention of how their recruits do, said, "I wish research would be comprehensive, at least those who proport research."  Considering where some of that other research comes from, that's a little disrespectful.   It's one thing to say you disagree or have other research to back your claims; it's another to call that research proported.  I also note that TFA never seems to acknowledge teachers already in the classroom.  I wonder why. 
He references a teacher at Roxhill, Jenny Dew, who was in TFA and has continued on as a teacher nine years later (not sure how long she has been at Roxhill).

"I would hope that every teacher would be welcomed in, because their job is to teach students," says Dew. "Therefore our job is to support each other as we educate students."  

Ah, but TFA recruits need a lot more support than other credentialed first-year teachers.  Is that fair to students or fellow teachers or mentor teachers? 

From the piece:

Holly Ferguson, the Director of Policy and Government with the Seattle School District says the ultimate goal is to close the achievement gap separating the district's lowest performing schools from the rest. And she says creating the broadest pool of qualified teachers is one way to try. 

Ah but Holly, TFA has never closed the achievement gap in any school or district.  It almost feels like the district is grasping at straws to justify this decision.  (I've come to the conclusion that either there's a quid pro quo coming for the district in return for allowing TFA in OR they really do believe - both the Board and the staff - that it is somehow cost neutral so why not try?  But it's not cost neutral.)

Also from the piece:

Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig from the University of Texas at Austin conducted an extensive analysis of peer reviewed research, and concluded TFA's model is ineffective, because over 50 percent of the teachers leave after two years, and more than 80 percent leave the classroom after three years.
"You could think of TFA as a temporary agency because the vast majority of these teachers are just stopping over on their way to law school, medical school and, in their minds, bigger and better things. 

"You don't want them to come to Seattle, cut their teeth, and then head out to greener pastures. You want to grow your own. You want those teachers to stay," Heilig says.  

Next, attention UW College of Education - you might want to read up on this study to see what TFA recruits want from you.

There was an interesting study done by Teachers College Record (http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15832) of TFA called So Not Amazing! Teach for America Corps Memers Evaluation of the First Semester of their Teacher Preparation Program.  (A reader sent me this link to Norm's Notes, an education archive.)  They point out that much of the research done around TFA is about whether those recruits are ready to step into the classroom and be effective.  Their research was about their coursework and how TFA students viewed their coursework vis a vis their non-TFA peers in colleges of education.

This is fascinating work because (1) it shows the focus of what TFA and TFA recruits is needed and necessary to be a good teacher and (2) some of the comments are pretty cheeky.  

They found the following:
  • TFA students did rate their courses and instructors significantly lower than did non-TFA peers
  • TFA recruits, as teachers, were more critical of the coursework they were offered
    because they wanted "just-in-time" knowledge (they wanted practical teaching strategies that did not dumb down coursework, a lot of which they believed was useless and a waste of their time)
  • TFA recruits did not feel like they were treated like Master's students
It is worth noting that many people who choose alternative certification routes are generally more dissatisfied with their preparation programs than those in traditional programs.  "Yet, no systemic data exist to help explain why this is the case."  

  • Traditional students were twice as likely to present any critical comments about the instructor or course by beginning with something they liked and then sharing a concern. For example, one traditional student wrote:
Jacob is very motivational and a positive role model for future teachers. The only feedback I have for his instructional method is to do more demonstrations to class on how to do certain tasks and to have a syllabus updated as things change. Today’s college students, regardless of level, require strict structure concerning due dates, expectations, etc. Thanks.

TFA students were less cordial: “I think some of the activities were busy work or seemed below us. We understand the value of practice but we are also educated adults.”
  • TFA students indicated most often that they valued course qualities typical of students under pressure—that is, completing coursework and teaching in high-needs schools at the same time.  Student responses illustrating this include the following:
- Stuff I can use NOW, TOMORROW, NEXT WEEK
- Applicability—Can I put this into MY CLASS?  I don’t want resources for the future.  I can find those when I need them. I want what I NEED NOW. Getting resources and advice I can use TOMORROW.
- Learning anything that will help my students learn IMMEDIATELY.
TFA students said they needed certain things from their instructors.
That they are understanding of our unique situation and create a class that supports, not interferes with our schedules as teachers.
An instructor who respects our situation as first-year TFA members—we are stressed to the nth degree and sometimes professors do not seem to care that TFA adds all this pressure to you.
I want an instructor who understands where I’m coming from. My education is secondary, and since we are actually teaching real students, I would appreciate an instructor that understands that and can cater to my needs.
An instructor that doesn’t make us do the corny teaching things (like jigsaws).
Provides meaningful learning activities rather than fluff (creating posters and other time fillers).
Organization—Can I tell from the get go what I have to do? Give me bulleted lists of the elements of assignments.
The question about expectations for their TFA master's level coursework produced some interesting answers.
My expectations are skewed because of our circumstances. Nothing will ever seem as rigorous as actually teaching everyday. It’s like being thrown into war daily and complaining that our evening shooting practice doesn’t feel real enough.
Busy work, exams, projects that I couldn’t use in my classroom, etc. is frustrating—I teach 50–60 hours a week and to spend time on something that I can’t use is annoying.
My expectations are that [the university] will respect our time and make sure their [sic] is no “fluff” in the course.
Students also stated that they wanted courses to help them expand their knowledge about teaching and education in general; some stated that they thought their courses were light on research and theory and thought that coursework should be based on the TFA standards. One student disagreed, charging that the TFA standards were limited.  

And then there were those that made it clear who they were:

We are adults and should be treated as such (ie: don’t nag me, let me make my own decisions, I am able to multi-task and I’m a grown-up! Some professors do not treat us like adults and that’s INCREDIBLY annoying.)
The instructor should teach us at the level we should be learning and treat us at that level. We are master’s students that have come to this program through another program that weeds out unqualified people. Therefore, we are all intelligent, capable people, and we are not being treated as such.
From the study, here's what the TFA recruits thought when they were informed they are far more critical than their peers in the traditional path.  There were 88 TFA student participants who gave 184 answers.  

Students felt that they were more critical because they were collectively more intelligent, were Ivy Leaguers who graduated from some of the top universities in the country, and were raised in these institutions to be critical thinkers and more reflective and outspoken than their peers. TFA students also felt that they were more critical because they were in a state of emergency, teaching in hyper-pressure environments, in high-needs schools, in sometimes unsafe neighborhoods.  

Some students were ultracritical if what they were learning in their courses was wasting their extremely precious time or not serving their immediate needs. On a similar note, students thought that they were hypercritical because they were tired, super-stressed, annoyed, bitter, irritable, moody, mean, angry, hostile, and disgruntled. Students also felt that because they were overachievers with higher expectations than students in traditional education courses, they did not want to just get by and cruise through their coursework. 
Another small set of students were more critical of their peers. Some students thought that their peers were more critical because “they think they are generally amazing,” “they’re too good for everything,” and “they are on a high horse from college,” “are elitist,” “hoity-toity,” “have a sense of entitlement,” “think the university owes them something,” “are overly self involved,” “are chronic whiners,” and “are overly critical of everything.” These students noted they were sometimes embarrassed because of this.
Then there were final thoughts and one stuck out to me because of the issue of what TFA recruits are really paying at UW - One student expressed thanks for offering a master’s degree with in-state tuition. 
The authors offer this in their summary:
In the future, research might be conducted to compare three sets of teachers—students enrolled in the college’s traditional education programs, students enrolled in the college’s TFA partnership program, and students enrolled in another alternative certification program—to sort out these variables. Conducting further research in this area might be easier as alternative paths continue to surface and universities explore how to best meet the needs of these alternative students.
Perhaps that is where the real problem lies: Universities are trying to fit a square peg of traditional teacher preparation courses into a round hole of alternatively certified needs, and it just does not fit. Designing a program tailor made for alternatively certified teachers could take up to 2 years for internal university approval. However, the problem is bigger than any one teacher preparation program or any one college of education. Even if a university undertook such a challenge, there are still required state mandates placed on teacher preparation programs that must be included for certification.

This is a fundamental flaw in the larger policy and system of teacher certification. Until there are major changes undertaken at the state level to address the unique needs of alternatively certified teachers (such as TFA corps members), each college of education is restricted by the constraints of the state-mandated certification system. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work when preparing and supporting two different populations of teachers—those learning to teach before teaching, and those teaching while learning to teach. 

A very interesting window into TFA and alternative certification routes.   Two things seem clear - TFA recruits tend to believe they are smarter than than the average student and two, they are under tremendous pressure and time constraints from all sides which makes for an ongoing stressful situation. 


Po3 said...

But Ms. Dew did not begin her career in SPS as a TFAer, meaning she spent her required time somewhere else and left. And that is part of the problem, the revolving door TFAers create, regardless what they do after their two years are up at a school.

StopTFA said...

Nothing I read in that report tells me they're better teachers, just that they have and want fewer skills.

StopTFA said...

I find it funny that SPS is putting on the PR offensive for TFA. Wish they would use our money wisely, instead of this &%$*#!

Cap'n Billy Keg said...

"Wish they would use our money wisely..."

Maybe they would if "the board" - LONG before now - would have done THEIR job better...

Someone should direct them to the WSSDA site to learn:

"The School Board's Role In The Budget Process"

"The School Board is a governing body. Its function is not to operate the school district, but to see
that the district is run effectively. Effective boards concentrate their time and energy on determining what the district should accomplish and developing policies to carry out these goals.

They avoid day-to-day administrative questions except to ensure that the administration of the district is effective and efficient, and that it reflects the policies established by the board. This is probably one of the most important, and most difficult, concepts for board members to accept and follow

seattle citizen said...

The District should get their stories straight:
A the last board meeting, Director Patu asked the superintendent something like, why would emergency certified teachers go JUST into “at-risk” schools? That’s not right! The superintendent reassured Director Patu that the district wouldn’t be placing TFA in just at-risk schools, in fact the district isn’t placing them anywhere: Schools hired, the district didn’t. Implying, of course, that TFA could go anywhere in the district. This directly contradicts TFA’s own mission, which is to go into at-risk schools, the district’s rationale for contracting with TFA (they’ll fix the achievement gap) and here “Holly Ferguson, the Director of Policy and Government with the Seattle School District says the ultimate goal is to close the achievement gap separating the district's lowest performing schools from the rest. And she says creating the broadest pool of qualified teachers is one way to try. ‘In this country and in this district, we are not where we need to be academically. And so if this is something we can try and it works, great.’ “
So the Superintendent, the board, and Ms Ferguson need to figure out why TFA was hired in the first place: To go into “at risk” schools or to go anywhere?
Oh, and if they just go to “at-risk” schools, and if they are so good at bridging the achievement gap, then what about the students who are part of the gap that AREN’T in “at-risk” schools? This shows the very nature of the Reform mantra of “failing schools,” “at-risk schools,” “struggling schools…” These don’t exist. Schools are buildings with individual students in them. But Reform doesn’t want to see that, it will only claim a whole building is struggling (while another isn’t?) and direct resources to the building. Of course a school with a large majority of “successful” students doesn’t want, need, nor will they accept an uncertified teacher, yet that school, too, has students who struggle. Where’s the equity in THAT? Those students just don’t count, I guess. And the successful students in the “struggling school” don’t count, either, because now their entire program is deemed “at-risk” and ALL of them will get Reform curriculum and staffing, whether they need it or not.
What a farce.

Then there’s this:
"We know that people come to teaching from different walks of life," says Ferguson. And from our perspective, it is not in our best interest as a district to close off any avenues into Seattle Public Schools."
Really? Has the bar sunk so low? “Any avenue” leads to a job teaching children in Seattle? That’s pathetic.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks, Cap'n. That reminds me of a School Board piece I've been meaning to write.

gavroche said...

Those TFAers sound arrogant, impatient, self-absorbed and immature. Exactly the type of person I would not want to teach my (or anyone's) child.

Jan said...

"Holly Ferguson, the Director of Policy and Government with the Seattle School District says the ultimate goal is to close the achievement gap separating the district's lowest performing schools from the rest. And she says creating the broadest pool of qualified teachers is one way to try. ‘In this country and in this district, we are not where we need to be academically. And so if this is something we can try and it works, great.’ “

I feel like I am hearing about yellowcake again. Or the mantra that all "excess regulation" (as defined by business) must go in the name of "creating jobs."

Using Holly's logic, why is it that a school cannot say -- we elect to use Singapore math, instead of EDM, because "in this district, we are not where we need to be academically. And so if this is something we can try and it works, great." Hmmm? Where is all the enthusiasm for trying "different approaches" if you are not in sync with the pacing guide, or if you want your sophomores to take AP European History instead of AP Geography?

It is such BS. They have NO good rationale for taking TFA teachers -- NONE -- and they know it. So they use an excuse that they would NEVER permit to be used by teachers or parents seeking relief from the top-down standardization that MGJ introduced.

Gee-- what if a school wanted to, say, go to a four-period day, on the grounds that "in this district, we are not where we need to be academically. And so if this is something we can try and it works, great." Oh, wait. Never mind. That was WSHS, wasn't it? And they were told they had to conform to the 6 period day paradigm used by the rest of the District. And my recollection is that the result was -- that test scores (at least in math) went ----down!

Cap'n Billy Keg said...

From TFA website:

"How We Assign Corps Members

Teach For America assigns corps members based on three factors – your regional and teaching subject preferences, the availability of teaching positions in each region, and regional coursework requirements.

Our assignment team works hard to match each corps member’s teaching assignment with his or her preferences. Ideally, all three inputs – your preferences, regional capacity, and previous coursework – are aligned. Unfortunately, we cannot always match every corps member’s placement to all of his or her preferences. ...three of the most common scenarios where this occurs:

1. High regional need, not enough applicant interest

When the need is high but applicant interest is limited, we will place corps members in a region they may not have highly preferred in order to meet local needs.

2. High applicant interest, not enough regional spots

Some very popular regions simply don’t have enough positions for every corps member who wants to teach there, even if an applicant has an urgent reason for requesting the region. As a result, we must assign several applicants to other regions where they are more needed.

3. Stringent coursework requirements

Some regions with ample applicant interest have very stringent previous coursework requirements for certain positions, like secondary math and science. We therefore must prioritize assigning corps members who meet the region’s coursework requirements.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Another thing that jumped out at me in the study was this from the recruits:

"...thought that coursework should be based on the TFA standards."

And TFA bases its standards on what? Can just anyone see what they teach? Nope (although I have seen a lot of it via public disclosure from UW). Why do the TFA recruits believe that TFA has better standards than a College of Education?

StopTFA said...

The TFA Standard(s) is elementary: what's on the test and can you teach to it. The UW COE did a simplistic analysis of the TFA "summer institute" and that is essentially what it boiled down to. So, after the UW COE faculty had U-ACT forced down their throats, they get to listen to a bunch of privileged whiners ask (pinch your nostrils...) "Is this gonna be on the test?"

Charlie Mas said...

So I can apply for a teaching job in Seatttle Public Schools - despite the fact that I do not have a teaching certificate. And, if hired, they will support my application for a conditional certificate. Right?

seattle citizen said...

Eggzactly, StopTFA, the only TFA curriculum "standards" are what are on the state tests. We don't KNOW this, because as Melissa pointed out, we can't see their standards or their coursework. But because the only thing TFA uses to sell itself is that its "best and brightest," young, shiny, energetic TFAers will close the achievement gap, this must be what they teach: Close the achievement gap. Since the gap is only ever identified at a district, state or federal level as the gap on just a couple of standardized test scores (usually Reading and Math, those amorphous catchalls that encompass....what?) then ergo ispo facto, TFA teaches to the tests.
They HAVE to get 'test scores up," whether by dumping problematic students, browbeating them with test prep, or cheating, as was done in Atlanta (not necessarily TFA, but same principal. TFA NEEDS to justify its existence via these test scores, so that is the TFA curriculum.

Social studies? Who cares? Civics? Meh. Music? Not interested.

WV had to much Earl Grey this cloudy afternoon: It's peentee.

seattle citizen said...

Yes, Charlie, all avenues are open to become a teacher in SPS, evidently. Credentials are of no matter. As long as you diversfy and broaden the hiring pool, so schools can give you the once-over, you're golden. Oh, and being young, energetic, and passionate about kids is really the key to the vault, uh, to being hired. You're young...energetic...you're certainly passionate about kids...I realize you might think yourself unqualifed, or not really interested, but that doesn't matter: Do it for a couple of years, make bank, and if you're burned out by working Saturdays, taking one kid to the public library, get to know that one kid's parent, directing all curriculum at that one kid like, for instance, Janice Oretega did, then you can just quit.
She is a good example of how easy it is: She spent a year or two in front of a class of students, many who were ELL, yet somehow found the time to dedicate all of her time to one kid, who she focused on. After all, if HE was paying attention, they all were. Focusing on that one kid must have burned her out, for she quit teaching and is now the Managing Director for TFA. Before that she was a campaign manager (who would have guessed?)

So you don't need any cert, Charlie, you don't even have to stick with it when it gets tough - just do it for a couple of years...Ka-ching! Plus you might be able to get a job as a manager over at Edison Schools Company, or NWEA Test Corporation. It's a good career move. That ladder leads to paychecks twice as big as the ones teachers get, and without all that nasty burnout.

Jan said...

Melissa said: "...thought that coursework should be based on the TFA standards."
And TFA bases its standards on what? Can just anyone see what they teach? Nope (although I have seen a lot of it via public disclosure from UW). Why do the TFA recruits believe that TFA has better standards than a College of Education?

Melissa, I am confused. Are you talking about what is taught to TFA'ers in their summer class (and the night/weekend ones during the year? Or are you talking about what is taught to kids by TFA teachers. If the latter, why would the "curriculum" they teach be any different from what any other teacher is required (by standardized materials, pacing guides, etc.) to teach?

I am not fond of standardization in any form -- but if we have it, I cannot fathom why we would allow one group of teachers to use different books, teach to different standards, etc. And -- as for "teaching to the test," since the MAP is not aligned to state/district standards, they had certainly better NOT be teaching to it. At a minimum, what I thought alignment (which is not as bad as standardization) was, is a concrete set of educational objectives that each grade level is to master. We really DO need them to know, and teach, to those, right?

Jan said...

A following thought:

It would be the ultimate irony if TFA arrived, taught math using Singapore, ditched readers/writers workshop in favor of better reading and writing instruction, and DID, in fact, end up teaching "struggling" students more than they are able to learn using the poor curricular materials that other teachers are required to use.

Ah -- but then the parents could revolt -- march on the JSCEE with pitchforks demanding better materials for THEIR kids! And then, the evil standardization empire would be overthrown, and common sense, Singapore Math, and something better thatn Writers Workshop would prevail (under sunny skies, with rainbows, and the occasional gamboling unicorn)! Hmm. I could almost overlook the travesty of TFA for a few years if they would agree to upset the standardization applecart!

seattle citizen said...

Jan, my guess is that TFAers are taught a) classroom management; and b)how to work backward from a given test to devise lessons. (As a matter of fact, I KNOW that they do "b"; I've seen it in their materials.

Now, there is nothing wrong with have an objective for a lesson, unit, or year and planning curriculum to try and attain that objective, but when the ONLY objective is the two (or three...or four...) standardized tests on which you MUST show "progress", then the lessons thereby derived will be shallow indeed, and likely long on test prep and short on critical thinking.

Imagaine knowing (sort of) what might be on that standardized test, and working backward from it. You would have unit tests that mirror it, formative assessments that mirror it, instruction that mirrors it, and little else.

A) There would be little time for critical thinking, discussion, laughter, play, thinking outside the box...

B) Nothing that isn't on the test will be taught.

Some will argue, well, isn't the point of the instruction to teach students these very standards? Hmm, let's take a look at them - what do you see? Do you see all the rich content we expect from, say, social studies? No. There is hardly anything in any of these tests about content - it's about skills.

So TFAers are not learning how to teach content. Perhaps they KNOW some content, from their years at MIT, Yale, and Harvard, but this is not the same as teaching content.

Students will learn "how to" but not "what for."

I heard a radio show yesterday where a street musician, a b usker, said that his "essential questions," the ones that drove his craft (or at least his desire to DO his craft, were:
What does that mean? and
What difference does it make?
These are deep and thoughtful questions that aren't on stanardized tests, and in five weeks, TFAers are learning nothing about how to get students to ask them. In fact, it's counterproductive to their goal: It wastes time.
Bonus for the employers of the world, future employees won't learn how to ask, what does that mean? What difference does it make?

But they're follow directions and answer the multiple choice questions about Reading and Math accurately.

StepJ said...

The case of TFA seems to be one of many where there seems to be an obfuscation of facts in presentations to the School Board.

Other than the Superintendent or other high ranking SPS employees such as CFO...does the School Board have the authority to fire people?

If certain SPS employees lie to the School Board on a repeated basis may the School Board in turn remove their employment?

In the face of repeated deception, mis-direction or outright lies - what is the recourse of the School Board?

Can they hold individual employees accountable, or is their only recourse to hold the manager of a deceptive employee accountable?

mirmac1 said...

Actually, it is against state law to lie to a public servant:

RCW 9A.76.175
Making a false or misleading statement to a public servant.

"A person who knowingly makes a false or misleading material statement to a public servant is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. "Material statement" means a written or oral statement reasonably likely to be relied upon by a public servant in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties."

Who knows!" Maybe our new ethics police might actually take an interest....

Charlie Mas said...

No. The ethics police will not take an interest because lying to the school board is not a violation of the District's ethics policy.

The District's ethics policy recognizes only one unethical act: self-dealing. You can do anything you want except profit personally and directly from a contract with the district that you influence. Other than that crime (and you have to profit directly, personally, and in cash), nothing else is regarded as unethical behavior.

StepJ said...

That would be refreshing!

Will the new ethics police enforce the RCW's?

As a mere public citizen, voter, and tax payer I so often feel less than noticed.

StepJ said...

Ah, so back to question one.

Can the School Board take action against an employee that misleads them through intent or direction?

mirmac1 said...

I'm no ethics expert but I spoke to Wayne Barnett. He said, if in doubt, submit a complaint. I did not get the sense he would take a pass like SPS outside counsel did again and again (I think we should get a refund).

dan dempsey said...

This is about the equivalent of playing Simon Says for it makes so little sense.

#1.. "Holly Ferguson, the Director of Policy and Government with the Seattle School District says the ultimate goal is to close the achievement gap separating the district's lowest performing schools from the rest. And she says creating the broadest pool of qualified teachers is one way to try. "

#2.. Completely insane thinking by HF.

A.. The achievement gap exists between schools largely because of:
i.. the high percentage of low income students in attendance at low performing schools.
ii. The ridiculous pedagogy used in the SPS, which makes learning very difficult for those without lots of assistance from home etc.
iii.. The failure of the SPS to provide effective interventions for struggling students. (( For years the SPS ignored board policy that required interventions ... recently under HF's direction the Board changed the policy. Interventions are no longer part of Board policy. ))

B.. Creating the broadest pool of "qualified teachers" is one way to try.
i.. State law had to be skirted with lies to even get these TfAers .. conditionally certified.
ii.. Who is in charge of deciding what cock n' bull attempts will be tried next to close achievement gaps?
iii.. Ms. Ferguson needs to remember that in the TfA application to the PESB it stated that the law was satisfied for WAC 181-79A-231 : {Section 1 a}
"The professional educator standards board encourages in all cases the hiring of fully certificated individuals and understands that districts will employ individuals with conditional certificates only after careful review of all other options."

So Ms. Ferguson when did that "careful review of all other options" to close the achievement gaps happen and what was learned?

C.. If the SPS gave a damn about the achievement gaps it would:
i.. Start addressing the need for student interventions for struggling students.
ii.. Start looking at "Discovery inquiry math" "readers workshop" "writers workshop" and all the other content deficient crap they are trying to pass off as "Best Practices"... and notice that these programs correlate with the failure to close achievement gaps.
iii.. Look at Project Follow Through and John Hattie's Visible Learning ... but then the SPS would need to change course and do things that actually produce positive results.

D.. Try this Book ... it explains the SPS overall direction perfectly: Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths ---- so who are these folks continually listening to that they remain so far off base?

We have a collection of Ed Elite Guru's who just know what is best.... these folks are completely unfazed by relevant data.

Ms. Ferguson's comments are typical of the absurd foundations that anchor the direction to be followed.

dan dempsey said...

E.. To solve a problem... scientists
1.. Identify the problem
2.. Search the existing literature for relevant data and experimental results from well controlled situations
3.. Formulate a hypothesis
4.. Test the hypothesis usually in a small scale controlled situation
5.. Proceed to adopt a course of action to hopefully correct the problems

F. The SPS and the UW do the exact opposite of scientists
1.. Decide upon a course of action for what "The Elites" know is best.
2.. Weight the possibility of lots of grant money
3.. Start Cherry-picking data to "get the public to buy into this crap"
4.. call it innovative even though many times a similar course of action has been a complete failure.
5.. say it is a Best Practice and for the kids.
6.. Ignore policies and laws.

What are Ms. Ferguson's qualifications to be an Ed Guru? ... Why is HF so closely aligned with making policy revisions and attempting to make complete BS palatable to the public?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jan, I am talking about the standards to which the recruits are being taught, not their students. Why they think the only things they need to know is what TFA says they need to know, well, I guess that's also part of the training.

Holly Ferguson is a lawyer which certainly makes her qualified to do governance policy for the district but no,not really educator policy. Just like Faye Chess-Prentice wasn't really qualified to do HR just because she was a lawyer.

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

TFA students indicated most often that they valued course qualities typical of students under pressure—that is, completing coursework and teaching in high-needs schools at the same time. Student responses illustrating this include the following: - Stuff I can use NOW, TOMORROW, NEXT WEEK- Applicability—Can I put this into MY CLASS? I don’t want resources for the future. I can find those when I need them. I want what I NEED NOW. Getting resources and advice I can use TOMORROW.- Learning anything that will help my students learn IMMEDIATELY.

Huh, so it looks like the obvious improvement to Teach for America training is that it should happen BEFORE the TFA'ers are thrown into classroom.

Who'd've thunk?

I doubt that will have any impact on their program's design.

Skipping over such an obvious improvement would seem crazy if they were an organiztion devoted to improving the level of teaching in classroom.

But, of course, their not really interested in that. They're devoted to creating "leaders" and proper training will just slow down that pipeline that goes from student body president, shoots on through a classroom filled with disadvantaged students, and then lands somewhere sufficiently "leaderly", like the Dean of the College of Education.

seattle citizen said...

TFA, as Bird indicates, is only "devoted to creating "leaders" and proper training will just slow down that pipeline that goes from student body president, shoots on through a classroom filled with disadvantaged students, and then lands somewhere sufficiently "leaderly", like the Dean of the College of Education."

Yes. Tom Stritikus, according to his UW bio, was "raised in an immigrant household." The UW's Education News tells us that he "was an elementary school teacher in Baltimore for two years, an English instructor in Mexico for a year, and taught in middle school in the San Francisco area for a summer.” He [then?] wrote a book on "immigrant children and the politics of English-only policies in the classroom, [and] he studies bilingual education and has pushed for reforms in both policy and practice," according to fastcompany.
He [then?] "received 
in Education
 from the University
 of California,
Culture," according to his UW bio.

Hired by the UW College of Education in 2000. He was made Dean of UW COE in 2010, an act lauded by "Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and former president and professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, [who said], 'The appointment of Tom is a bold and exciting step by the University of Washington, an institution which is critically important to the Woodrow Wilson foundation. We believe that the UW is a leader in teacher education in the United States and Tom’s appointment stands out because of his age, vision, and the fact that he is the first Teach for America volunteer to become a dean of education at an American university. In a time of dramatic demographic, economic, technological, and global change, he is one of those rare individuals who understand the future of American education, the challenges facing our education schools, and also has the capacity move the UW forward into the future as a leader…'" (see link above to UW ed news)

Wendy Kopp, fearless leader of TFA, weighed in with these kudos on Dean Stritikus' appointment (also in UW Ed news, linked above):
"Tom’s appointment represents a major milestone for Teach For America, marking the first time one of our alumni has been appointed to lead a college of education," said Wendy Kopp, CEO and founder of Teach For America. "We're excited to see him build on the UW's innovative approach to teacher education. As we continue to partner with colleges and universities to advance teacher training and recruiting efforts, we look forward to deepening our relationship with Tom and the UW so that we can increase our collective impact in addressing the disparities in our nation’s education system."


seattle citizen said...

So Dean Stritikus came from an immigrant family, wrote a doctorate on bilingual education, focused on helping immigrant kids, and in line "with his thinking that teachers in training should see kids in broader cultural contexts, education students at UW work with minority organizations such as El Centro de la Raza and the Vietnamese Friendship House."

Yet he isn't a teacher, and while he might have made (or still make) his regular COE students go out into the community and work with multicultural kids, his TFAers just don't have to, either.

They don't have to spend any time getting to know the "broader cultural contexts," learn bilingual ed, go out and see students in their lives, BEFORE becoming certified. TFA, which Dean Stritikus rose out of, merely requires a short commitment of time, the briefest of training, NO student teaching, and certainly not anything as wise as volunteering at El Centro as you earn a cert.

Stritikus evidently believes that potential teachers should learn the diversity of the world, yet requires only the REAL COE students, those seeking a valid cert, to do this. The TFAers can come in, get mere basics in lesson design and classroom management, and go into a classroom full of diverse students. Then they can follow in Tom's footsteps, get out of teaching after a year or two, write a PhD that supports community engagement, then get a job ignoring the community.

The interesting thing is that Dean Stritikus seems genuinely interested in supporting a diverse group of students, yet he comes from and supports an organization whose whole existence is predicated on the "achievement gap" yet doesn't give teachers the depth of preparation that Tom values in order to maybe impact the achievement gap.

So the Dean wants to fix the achievement gap, has studies bilingual ed, sends his regular COE students out to the ELL community in the course of their studies, yet, out of the other side of his mouth (the paying side) supports a parallel pseudo-certification process (TFA) that does none of this preparation.

And the UW supports this?

StopTFA said...

Here is a condensed version of the UW COE's analysis of TFA's summer training, compared to WA credentialing requirements.

TFA training

seattle citizen said...

Thanks, StopTFA for the link - That's ridiculous. They don't teach them ANYTHING (except test prep, I guess, and then how to reteach to get better trest prep.

Great job, Dean Stritikus: You've blown off your own interests and study, your own conclusions about how best to serve students (I mean, you ARE the Dean of UW COE, right?) in order to push this crap. Unbelieveable.

Jan said...

Stop TFA: Thanks for the link. I agree that there is a lot that is NOT going to be covered for TFA kids when they walk in on day 1! I confess, though, I think there is a lot in the curriculum that is weak, weak, weak anyway. And while I don't have the course books and the syllabi for the courses, my natural "anti-bull" bias has me deeply suspicious that there is MUCH fluff and politically correct blather in a lot of it.

On the things they are strong in -- I can't defend TFA, but some of it may NOT be all just test prep. When you are dealing with kids who need intense catch-up ed, one of the things you have to do is keep your eye on whatever "ball" is in play. This, in my opinion, is one of the big failings of stuff like Discovery math -- no one keeps in mind what kids actually have to master before leaving the topic.

Now -- I totally agree with you that if that is ALL they are teaching (and it may be), it's dreadful. They should be doing narrow targeted instruction, to a mastery level, of specific identified skills that kids need to move forward. AND they should, at other times, be offering up a content-rich curriculum that introduces kids to, and encoursages exploration in, all sorts of other things.

But the narrow focused stuff -- with lots of adjustment to figure out exactly where you are -- is not all bad -- unless it is all there is.

dan dempsey said...

"TFA students also felt that they were more critical because they were in a state of emergency, teaching in hyper-pressure environments, in high-needs schools, in sometimes unsafe neighborhoods."

So why are the UW, the SPS, and the PESB so interested in ignoring State Law to create a situation in which: TfA teachers find themselves in a state of emergency, teaching in hyper-pressure environments, in high-needs schools?

Perhaps the four incumbents running for reelection could explain why they voted to do this?