Where it Stands with Teach for America

A couple of key actions have to happen this week for Teach for America to come to Seattle Schools.

One is at the Board meeting on Wednesday night.  There is a state entity called the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) that grants educational entities the right to create conditional certificate programs.  They require  School Board approval has to happen prior to "applying for a conditional certficiate for a teacher candidate.  Therefore, Board action is required to hire any TFA candidate if any are selected for hire by a school-based hiring team."

The second action that needs to happen is on Thursday, at the PESB meeting where the UW's College of Education will present their proposal for their teaching certificate program for TFA recruits (and only TFA recruits; no one else can apply to this program). 

If you would like to let the PESB know what you think of the plan, e-mail them at pesb@k12.wa.us before Thursday.

When I first read the item (which is an intro item), I was not happy.  The Board, once again, makes this claim:

Fiscal impact to this action will be negligible.  There is no cost to the district, other than minimal
staff time, to apply to OSPI/PESB for a conditional certificate (the conditional certificate fees are
paid by the candidates themselves).  The district match part of the Teach for America agreement
must be funded by private donors; no district funds will be expended. 

Okay, the fiscal impact on this action itself may be negligible but what will follow will certainly cost us money.  (Note to Peter Maier, if you go out on the campaign trail and say that TFA is not costing the district any money, I will not let it go unchallenged.)

Again, we STILL don't know where the majority of money is coming from to fund any TFA recruits.  I'm supposing Big Daddy Gates will front us the money but I think it look less than responsible when the Board is this vague.

One useful item of note is that the item states: "Any corps members who are identified for hire prior to August 17th will be specifically named in an update to this Board Action Report.  Corps members identified for hire after August 17th will be addressed in a subsequent Board action."

The item goes on to say:

School Board policy F 01.00 calls for hiring for diversity and quality.  The Teach for America
contract was initially entered into because of a belief that a broad candidate pool will result in
high quality teachers in each of our classrooms.  

However, we know right now what the TFA recruits bring to the table. According to a document I have, SPS has a larger number of African-American teachers than in the national TFA pool as well as the current pool for Puget Sound.  What they would bring is a much higher number of Latino teachers, a lower rate of mixed race teachers than SPS, and a slighter higher rate of Asians.   Kind of a mixed bag.

They leave a blank for the number of conditional certificates that they want the Superintendent to approve. 

And what is the curious rationale (besides the alleged better candidate pool)?

Bringing forward a request for conditional certificates is specifically contemplated in the Teach for America agreement, Section I (C), which states “Seattle Public Schools agrees to request conditional
certificates for all Teach for America corps members on the grounds that circumstances warrant
the issuance of such certificates, as permitted by WAC 181-79A-231.

"Circumstances warrant the issuance of such certificates" and yet, there is not mention of what these "circumstances" are? Curious.

To note, if the PESB votes no, then "this item will be postponed if there is no teacher certificate program of record by August 17, 2011."   Now I find the folks at the PESB to be thoughtful people.  They rejected UW's first application (and rightly so, it was an underwritten mess compared to the others).    They could still reject this application and UW couldn't apply again until late September.

Now UW is trying to argue that the program is to be administered through the UW Educational Outreach Center (as if it were just a little evening course).  They are trying to stave off my tuition argument by saying TFA students will be paying a "program fee."  I spoke to a Vice-Provost about this and told him that the agreement being signed between UW and TFA states that they will be paying tuition.  He said he hadn't seen the agreement.

The e-mails reference tuition.  So I'm calling it tuition and I'm saying that since the majority of the TFA recruits come from out-of-state, the state of Washington is giving them a great tuition gift that no other student in our state would get.  

The district says the alternatives would be to not hire someone a school-based team recommended.  (No, that's never happened before.)  And, that it would require a new hiring process "which could results in classrooms not having teachers on the first day."  Complete nonsense.  They are going to know WAY before school starts if they can hire TFA or not.

I am going to again state the obvious:
  • TFA has not, in any school or district in any place they are located, closed the achievement gap.  Ever.  They have some success against other conditionally certificated teachers like themselves.  In even fewer cases, there has been marginal success in math against regular teachers.  This is on a year-by-year, class-by-class basis.  It's not the foundation for anything better to continue. 
  • As my data shows, the teacher pool diversity will increase in some places and be lower in others.  It seems like a wash overall.   
  • Beyond any diversity, TFA teachers do not really bring anything new to the table that any other first-year, full-trained and certificated teacher would.
  • Having TFA in our schools will cost money the district does not have in overhead (processing them will be different than other teacher candidates) as well as in additional mentoring costs.  
I urge you to contact the PESB at the above address and tell them you do not want valuable higher ed dollars to go to ONE group of mostly out-of-state students.  Tell them you want conditional certification programs for Washington state residents eager to become teachers; not "teach for awhile"students.

After I calmed down, I had to relax and then smile.  In the end, it's going to be a whole lotta nothing.  We'll get some of these people in and they will be "relentless" for a couple of years, move on, more will come, a few good, a few bad, a lot in-between at schools where the children there need stability. 

We will end up having created churn for what I believe will be negligible progress.  What a waste of time, money and energy.


Anonymous said…
Sure, it may prove to be a wasteful fad but any school board member who continues to support this fiasco (and the interim superintendent) needs to be held accountable.

In many ways, TfA is a litmus test of values and ideology. This may be its only value.

--are you listening, DeBell and Smith Blum?
CT said…
Thanks for this reminder. I meant to do this last month and forgot.
Like all of the recent ed reform/deform since NCLB, this TFA push is ideological in nature rather than scientifically-based, with a large shot of Stritikus-ego-stroking for good measure. I had the misfortune to meet him within this last month and even before I knew who he was, I got the used-car-salesman feeling from him - over-eager and insincere. It was not a pleasant feeling.

Jack Whelan said…
TFA is to American education what Blackwater is to the American military. The effort to get TFA into the district is all part of the long-term strategy to privatize public education and break the unions. Strategically it makes sense for TFA partisans like Maier to argue it won't cost much at the beginning. The goal is first to establish a beachhead, then it can expand once established. That's why it must be rejected right away, just as Washington rejected the attempt to establish charter schools on another front of this long-term war against privatization.

The bottom line is we don't need TFA: there is no substantive reason to offer it a contract, and there are plenty of qualified teachers who are not associated with TFA who would be delighted to have those jobs.
someone said…
How can they possibly think we'd believe there are no costs? There's a huge public cost to this, given how much taxpayer money is going to fund TFA - I read one study that said, due to the high rate of attrition (not to mention the $5000 "finders fee" a district pays for each recruit) - the average TFA recruit ends up costing about $70,000 - some fascinating stuff in this report (for those who haven't read as much as Melissa has ;o):

Teach for America: A Review of the Evidence
Anonymous said…
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Nancy Willing said…
off topic - a great topic though it is. I just wanted to vent - DE is getting the ultimate Bill Gates Virus...

Delaware schools move to Microsoft Live@edu
The Delaware Department of Education announced it is working with Microsoft Corp. to bring Microsoft Live@edu, an innovative suite of online communication and collaboration tools, to students, faculty and staff in district and charter schools throughout the state. The Department of Technology and Information (DTI) initially will migrate about 20,000 faculty and staff to this no-cost platform in June 2011, with the goal being to move everyone to Microsoft Live@edu, as well as offer it to the more than 129,000 student population, over the next two years.
Microsoft Live@edu is a cloud-based suite of easy-to-use services, based on the familiar Microsoft tools many already use today. It will provide Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft Outlook email and a host of other services, including Microsoft Office Web Apps. This means educators and staff will be able to access their information in the cloud virtually anytime and anywhere through popular Web browsers and from any Internet-connected PC or mobile phone.
Microsoft Live@edu will allow Delaware schools to help reduce operating costs by migrating away from their current on-premise email systems. The Microsoft cloud services also will foster improved productivity, better learning and skills development to help students prepare for their futures.

"With Live@edu, every school district and charter school in the state will have access to the latest programs and innovations, helping to close technology gaps between schools," said Lillian M. Lowery, secretary of education. "This gives students the tools to collaborate more with their educators, as well as access to applications necessary for 21st century skills."
The DTI will be implementing the cloud-based mail service in June and Microsoft Office Web Apps later this year. In addition, DTI will be managing the implementation and covering the costs for message archiving.
"Beyond just email, the services provided through Microsoft Live@edu will allow the state to reduce overall support costs and eventually provide a seamless interface with the existing Microsoft platform to access tools such as Microsoft Office and Excel," said Jim Sills, Delaware chief information officer and secretary of DTI.
"This is a great example of how the private and public sectors can work together to improve education and support student and teacher success," said Sig Behrens, general manager of U.S. Education at Microsoft. "Microsoft Live@edu will enable Delaware schools to redefine collaboration and extend learning opportunities outside the traditional classroom walls. At no cost, schools will have the most current versions of Microsoft software that they know and trust and the enhanced privacy and security features that K-12 schools require."
dan dempsey said…
It is "Not Curious" that the motion fails to state the circumstances that create this supposed need for TfA. The circumstances do not meet the requirements of the law, thus they are not mentioned.

The WAC begins:
The purpose of the conditional certificate is to assist local school districts, approved private schools, and educational service districts in meeting the state's educational goals by giving them flexibility in hiring decisions based on shortages or the opportunity to secure the services of unusually talented individuals. 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.
#1 ... There is no shortage

#2 ... The "circumstance" is the need to narrow the achievement gap. {Other options are regularly ignored or more likely never examined.}

As usual the district flaunts the existing laws ... and presents total BS .. which it expects the PESB to swallow.

When this type of action happens outside the SPS, it is normally known as perpetrating fraud. In the SPS, it is business as usual.

Need something pushed .. then claim achievement gap.

As noted ... the data shows this is total BS.

Does the SPS ever undertake an "independent" investigation of ways to close the achievement gap? NO NO NO .. the achievement gap is used as an excuse to push previously decided actions. ... LIKE Stritikus's TfA.

Clearly the District does not have the same interest as the PESB ... " the hiring of fully certificated individuals."

In other situations where "conditional" certification is requested ... the applicant normally has at least a year of educational background in teaching.

... If the Board approves this request, it is (again) violating the law as ... the conditions are bogus.
Zebra (or Zulu) said…
In response to : Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The devil is watching the watchers...but the devil never wins...

Josh Hayes said…
Sorry, anonymous, but there are no Latin classes in SPS any more.

De gustibus non disputandem est, I suppose - but maybe we should blame the recently departed Supe. Of course, de mortuis nil nisi bonum, right?

All my Latin jocularity aside, the idea that SPS needs TFA noobs is more ridiculous today than it ever was. There's no reason to hire them, at all -- except to grease someone's pocket and turn that pocket-greasing into a business as usual operation. Resist now, so it doesn't BECOME business as usual.
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
when thinking about this diary I thought - what a bunch of sneaks downtown, slipping this onto the agenda in early july when all the teachers are burnt out and trying to recharge and far far away - and then I thought about the union leadership in this state, which is dedicated to going along to get along. Maybe SEAttle deserves 300 or 800 teach-for-awhile enthusiastic boss groveling 23 year olds? the kids of seattle don't deserve it - the adults of sleepy-cation do.

dan dempsey said…
Here is my Testimony for Wednesday's Board meeting:

Directors, I am Dan Dempsey 7-6-2011

Tonight there is an introductory item about Teach for America.

You are asked to approve a Request for the Professional Educator Standards Board to grant conditional teaching certificates to ## members of the Teach for America corps to teach in Seattle Public Schools.

A November Teach for America agreement from the Goodloe-Johnson era, {[Section I (C),]} states “Seattle Public Schools agrees to request conditional certificates for all Teach for America corps members on the grounds that circumstances warrant the issuance of such certificates, as permitted by WAC 181-79A-231.”

Unfortunately …. These circumstances are not even named in this Action Report. “There are no circumstances that warrant the issuance of such certificates”. How can the Board approve this Action? What are the circumstances?

The Action Report claims:
The conditional certificate is being requested because circumstances within Seattle Public Schools “warrant consideration of issuance of a conditional certificate.”

Please read the WAC {[181-79A-231]}. Here are some pertinent parts on Conditional Certificates for limited service:
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.

An individual with full certification and endorsed in special education shall be assigned as a mentor to the special education teacher serving on a conditional certificate for the duration of the conditional certificate.


Since the SPS has no teacher shortage it has been suggested the “unnamed circumstances” are the achievement gaps. I have been testifying here for over four years and the Board has often ignored research to pass proposals, which have widened the achievement gaps. For the Board to say that there has been “a careful review of all other options” is blatantly false.

The circumstances are:

#1.. There is no teacher shortage in Seattle

#2.. There has been no “legally required” careful review of all other options.

#3.. TfA never positively impacted the Achievement Gaps in any situation where “highly qualified fully certificated individuals” were available.

#4.. The Seattle Schools are attempting to run around state laws.

#5.. The Public does not trust you.

Clear to me that someone wishes to make a major ongoing change to employment practices and will attempt to circumvent existing state laws to do so. Shame on you.
Anonymous said…
Here is the letter I wrote to PESB:
ear Board Members,

Since the PESB has always upheld the highest standards of quality preparation for teachers in our state, I urge you to reject the Seattle Schools blanket application for alternative certification for a cadre of unknown "recruits" of the Teach for America (TfA) program.

I submit their application does not meet the standard set forth in WAC 181-79A-231.

The purpose of the conditional certificate is to assist local school districts, approved private schools, and educational service districts in meeting the state's educational goals by giving them flexibility in hiring decisions based on shortages or the opportunity to secure the services of unusually talented individuals. 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. The professional educator standards board asks districts when reviewing such individuals for employment to consider, in particular, previous experience the individual has had working with children.

•There is no shortage of highly qualified teachers in Seattle - Seattle had over 18,000 applications last year for 800 openings.
•These are not "unusually talented individuals" - They have only a B.A. degree unrelated to education. Being a mathmetician does not mean you can teach young people how to become mathmatieicians.
•Research shows no evidence for the claim that TfA will close the "achievement gap" - The largest study to date on this issue from Stanford (see attachment) studied 4,400 teachers and 132,000 students. It showed students taught by TfA recruits performed WORSE than certificated techers on all six measures of reading and match achievement.
•The district is not employing individuals with conditional certificates "only after careful review of all other options" - Disadvantaged students more individual help and more time in school, an extended school day and wrap-around services, - not inexperienced trainees - to close the achievement gap

In addition, according to this and other studies, most TfA recruits leave the classroom after their two year commitment, incrasing turnover and disruption of school communities.

This proposal undermines the professional standards that we have worked to establish in Washington. If this application is approved, it will discourage future educators from seeking traditional certification programs. Why, after all, would someone choose to pay the rising tuition rates to university education programs when they can take this shortcut?

Please save our students from well-meaning but inexperienced instructors and uphold professional teaching standards in our state by denying this application based on the district's failure to provide evidence that the application fails to meet the requirements set forth in WAC 181-79A-231.

Thank you.

Feel free to borrow any wording you like...

Anonymous said…
You're absolutely right Dan. "Circumstances Exist?" Really? What circumstances? Where's the "evidence" this "Evidence Based Decision-making" is supposed to rely on? Where are the facts? Where is the data? If the King says it's so, then it's so? WTH?

It's a predetermined decision based on a predetermined conclusion, and it couldn't be clearer. The fix is in and if the board votes in favor, off with their heads in November, for yet another act of malfeasance.

It would also be "Arbitrary and Capricious" in that no "substantial evidence" nor any evidence whatsoever has been produced by SPS administration to support of the supposed need or "circumstances." They haven't produced any evidence, because they can't. It doesn't exist. Fake, fake, fake-fake. Outright fraud, in broad daylight.

District & Board: Prepare for another lawsuit (at our expense).


Where's Crissy Coxon?
Steve said…
Since SPS is focusing on the "supply" side of the TFA issue, why don't we get them to focus on the "demand" side of the equation. How about a petition where parents can indicate they don't want their child taught by a TFA person with only 5 weeks of training? "Fully accredited teachers only for our kids."
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
Actually, Josh Hayes, there are Latin classes at Garfield. My 9th grader will be taking Latin 2 this fall.

- SPS newbie
Josh Hayes said…
Gratulatione, amicus!

Seriously, I'm glad there are still Latin classes somewhere in the district (do they have classical Greek as well?).
Anonymous said…
FYI, TFA, not sure if anyone has mentioned this, but, i was at U-Village yesterday and noticed the apple store has a big window display with about 6/7 full size figures in it and on the window is says "Teach for America".
Anonymous said…
write now! I sent my email, and here's the response I got back:
Your written feedback will be provided to the Professional Educator Standards Board members at their next regularly scheduled board meeting as long as it is received 48 hours before the next scheduled meeting. If your e-mail is not received prior to 48 hours before the meeting, you are invited to provide your public comment in person at the next meeting.

48 hours is today if the meeting is Thursday.

However, it sounds as though the meeting would be open to the public? anyone plan on going?

--former teacher
seattle citizen said…
The Seattle Public Schools administration is ALL Greek to me! Tragedies, comedies, epic tales of wandering...Classic!
Charlie Mas said…
I believe that Teach for America corps members have good intentions. I believe that Teach for America is a noble cause.

That said, there is no case for bringing Teach for America to Seattle.

First, we must consider the needs of the students. The District has said that they wanted more experienced teachers and less teacher turnover in the underperforming schools. Therefore, it makes no sense for them to bring in teachers who are absolute novices - without even student teaching experience. It also makes no sense for them to bring in teachers who are likely to move on. Yet that is exactly what Teach for America offers. It is exactly what the District has said they do not want.

Second, we must consider the needs of our teachers. Every hire of a Teach for America corps member leaves a local career teacher without a job. In addition, the use of Teach for America contributes to the de-professionalization of teaching. We should not do that.

Third, we must consider the needs of other students. There are places in the country where there are not enough teachers. If Teach for America corps members are employed here, then they are not available for the communities that really need them.
dan dempsey said…
Link to PESB meeting

location and agenda

It appears that 9:45 on Thursday is the item in question. (not specifically noted as TfA)
dan dempsey said…
Just called the PESB... the cut off for submission of written materials has passed. It was 8:30 AM on 7-5-11 (Tuesday).

I am going to the meeting. The meeting materials can be accessed via the website.

Look at the agenda for 9:45 from UW Seattle ... then the materials specified on the Agenda can be obtained from the other link to meeting materials.

Tab 4 .. A, C


Participants may submit written materials. Testimony time is limited to two minutes.
dan dempsey said…
SB Action Report of Oct 28, 2010 is at Tab 4 - A
HERE as a .pdf
dan dempsey said…
Tab 4 - C
is HERE as a .docx
dan dempsey said…
Here is the Special Circumstance.....

C. Requesting Conditional Certificate
i. Seattle Public Schools agrees to request conditional certificates for all Teach For America corps members on the grounds that circumstances warrant the issuance of such certificates, as permitted by WAC 181.79A.231. Specifically, the circumstance which warrants the issuance of the conditional certificate is the district’s commitment to partnering with Teach For America as one of the strategies the district is employing to address the achievement gap.

Oh Yeah ... that makes as much sense as adopting Everyday Math to eliminate Achievement Gaps in 5 years.... or adopting "Discovering Math" which also increased achievement gaps.

In the case of the Math textbooks at the time of the adoptions the intelligent application of relevant data revealed that Achievement Gaps would increase.

NOW TfA is the solution and the research data again reveals this is another SPS sham justification to facilitate a bad decision.
StopTFA said…
I am going to the meeting. There's alot to say in two minutes. For example, a program like U-ACT runs counter to the goals of the Fed DOE, OSPI, and PESB, and the obligations of school districts. Perhaps the ONLY worthwhile aspect of NCLB is the push to put highly qualified teachers in every classroom, especially those in high poverty/high minority schools. The commonsense definition of highly qualified includes experience and certification/endorsement as expert in subject matter. The political reality is whatever corrupt politicians and spineless bureaucrats say it can be.

Note that the linked spreadsheet shows that, considering differences in size, SPS has a better record than Bellevue at attracting core subject teachers with full certs and satisfying HQT. According to OSPI data, in 2009-10 Seattle did not have to request conditional certs (a practice that connotes out-of-field, unendorsed assignments) to fill core subject assignments. Now it intends to increase that practice by over 2000% just to pursue another faddish untested "solution to close the achievement gap"?

OSPI SPS Teacher Quality Data
StopTFA said…
The Board's folly in considering this blanket request for "learner's permits" will put a black eye on the face of successful and diligent efforts to place experienced, fully certificated, in-field teachers in SPS classrooms. Are they willing to take us back to the years where SPS stuffed any warm body in our most vulnerable schools, without consideration of professional development, training, and experience? If you thought school staffing matters were chaotic now, just wait.

If there ever was an issue to condemn incumbents come November, this is it in my book. They are so willing to buy into the hype, buzz, and BS that they would hand over the health of Title 1 schools to twenty-something short-timers and their handlers. I am disgusted.
StopTFA said…
Send your emails to stoptfaseattle@gmail.com if you would like your written testimony presented to the PESB Board on Thursday.
StopTFA said…
Not too shabby. Over 30 pages of public comment in the PESB's agenda packet.

Part 1

Part 2

If anyone else is interested in a roadtrip to lovely Tumwater on Thursday, email me....
mirmac1 said…
There are only 15 people on the list for public testimony at the 7/6 Board meeting...
dan dempsey said…
Thursday after testimony at the PESB meeting:

Melissa, Cecilia, and I were at the PESB meeting today and each of us testified for two minutes.

In two minute testimony, Cecilia congratulated the PESB members on excellent questions asked of UW-TfA presenters ... and pointed out there were few answers. (A lot like an SPS Board meeting in that respect)

Melissa pointed out that TfA had failed to close any achievement gaps.

I kind of stammered around in pointing out that the PESB had a duty to follow state laws and the state constitution with its decisions. Allowing TfA will violate WAC 181-79A-231 and clearly discriminates against low income students by denying them fully certificated teachers.

It was most apparent that the UW is using the TfA as a pilot learning experience. The presentation was filled with visions and anecdotes.

Naturally there were several two minute testimonies from representatives of various non-profits many of these testimonies can be summarized as follows:

Hi I am __ __ of the *** non-profit. I am a paid shill of the oligarchs and I support every school reform proposal so I am all in favor of Teach for America.

Harium Martin-Morris testified saying:
as a parent and not as an SPS board member, he is favor of using TfA to broaden the candidate pool.

Cecilia pointed out that the timing of all this is now very strange as TfA recruits are undergoing training right now in Phoenix (the 5 weeks of training) but not from a State approved provider of such services.

Here is my letter to the PESB as a .doc file

I also attached my SPS SB testimony from 7-6-2011.

Currently there are no returning math teachers or special ed teachers at RBHS ... makes one wonder who will be doing the STAR mentoring teachers type hand holding duties for the TfA newbies. State law reads ...

An individual with full certification and endorsed in special education shall be assigned as a mentor to the special education teacher serving on a conditional certificate for the duration of the conditional certificate.

UW loves to experimentally practice on low income schools in Seattle.

In my testimony I pointed out that UW has contributed through its professional development in math to increasing achievement gaps as OSPI annual test scores were markedly lower when the UW provides "its services" to RBHS and Cleveland HS.
Anonymous said…

~an _ordinary_ teacher
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