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Thursday, August 04, 2011

More UW/TFA E-Mail Conversations

In this batch of e-mails you start to sense some wariness on the part of UW (and I think they should be).  I think TFA is having these universities create these single-use alt certifications but will, in the end, create their own on-line teaching and cut out the middlemen.  If U-ACT still exists in 5 years, I'll be surprised.

David Szatmary (a financial Vice-Provost) to Stritikus;  he submitted a number of questions like:
  •  What assurance does UW have that the enrollments in TFA will increase to 50 in year 2?  How long would we be willing to run the program at a loss if the increased enrollments do not occur? 
Yes, quite a dilemma especially while UW is raising tuition for other students and admitting fewer in-state students.  What would the rationale be to sustain an underperforming program for which there can (allegedly) be NO guarantees by TFA?  What Stritikus says:
  • This is TFA's growth plan.  They have hit their growth plans in virtually every district nationally.  If I were a betting man (which I am), I'd say they'll hit it.  
Then an interesting statement from faculty member, Morva McDonald, to Cap Peck, another faculty member, as she muses over the reaction from other faculty members.  This is in early Jan. 2011.
  • First, it is more than a little terrifying for me to contemplate crossing rhetorical swords with the (highly respected) colleagues who have put these questions on the table in such a "loaded" way.  I notice that I have this feeling despite enjoying a good measure of the privileges of gender, rank and race (not to mention the good will of said colleagues) that might ostensibly protect me from hard. (bold mine)
I have to admit the latter statement stymied me.  Does she mean she has more power over her colleagues because she is a white woman who outranks some of them?  What can that mean in terms of how the College of Education runs?  I mean this is life and there is a pecking order at any job.  But to add gender and race into it is troubling.  Makes you wonder how the cultural competency part of the TFA training will be handled.

Professor McDonald goes on in another e-mail dated April 2011 to Professor Peck speaking of pushback from some other districts:
  • The theme was that, in each case, the central office adm courting the project had not been in communication with their respective HR departments nor with their buildings.  It's hard to gauge the severity of disconnect, because the folks that were talking to me about this are highly charged in their opposition but it made me worried about two things.  That placements will materialize and the reception the corp members will get in the schools.  
Yes, and word on the street is that the hires are  currently not materializing in SPS.  As for the reception they will get at schools, well, I think teachers and other staff are professionals and will act as such but I'm not sure TFA recruits have time to hang at schools so there's not likely to be a lot of interaction.   That said, I'm not sure they should expect the Welcome Wagon.

The next e-mail is is from Professor McDonald to Professor Peck about talking to a third Ed professor and is titled, "Gates precis"  talking about  - I believe - research around TFA:
  • "Tom is hoping to pass this to Gates in a week or so -- we'll incorporate your feedback here before it goes out.  The Gates conversation popped up fast between Tom and them.  Let us know fast, though - my sense is the Gates folks have a pretty short attention span for TE work." 
I believe TE means teacher education.  One interesting side note to UW taking on TFA is their belief that if TFA is coming, they should be the ones with the program for them AND it's a great research opportunity to study TFA and their methodology.  I'm not sure I follow this line of thought but McDonald has said on several occasions that she doesn't agree they need to be in Seattle schools but as long as they are here, might as well study them.

The next e-mail is in late April to Veronica Gallardo, SPS department of ELL, and Marni Campbell (Special Ed) from Professor Peck.  To note from this one:
  • We know that TFA is planning on sending folks in both Special Ed and ELL and we are particularly anxious to talk with each of you to begin thinking about how best to link, district, TFA and university supports for these novice teachers."
Again in April, there is an e-mail from Patrick Sexton in the UW's Washington Center for Teaching and Learning to Professor McDonald regarding Special Ed:
  • He references talking to the local TFA rep: We talked a bit about SpEd.  This is still going to need some massaging. They don't want to set up an expectation that the program will be a two-year-to-cert for some members and one year for others.  Okay.  On the other hand, as the certifying agent we aren't going to give someone a thumbs up for a cert twe are not comfortable recommending."  He goes to say that the rep seemed to believe some of them might already have a SpEd cert.  "Huh?" says I.  "Well, it happens sometimes.  They join because they want the cohort expereince but they may not need all the courses."  "So how are they part of the cohort?" I think, but don't say."  He goes on, "In any case, I think we need to keep at this.  It's going to be very difficult to plan for this group in the abstract."
Again, McDonald and Peck exchange e-mails over SpEd and ELL to Stritikus:
  • Cap and I are wondering if it makes sense to send Robert and Janice an email regarding the possible sped and ell placements.  We don't think we did a good enough job yesterday indicating that we fill (sic) confident in our ability to support such teachers in their second year and that we see a first placement for example in a special ed classroom as highly problematic."  They then ask, "Would it be okay for us to express this to them?"
For cryin' out loud!   Who is calling the shots in all this?  Who is looking out for the children?  Are both the district and UW going to roll for TFA?  "Can we express this to them?"  I think it's your duty to say it out loud to the district AND TFA.  

Then there's an e-mail in late May from Professor Isaac Gottesman in the Department of Ed at Iowa State University (and a grad from UW's COE and a member of the Alumni Advisory Board).  Here's part of what he says to Stritikus, various other deans and faculty at UW:
  • "As a professor at a public research university who teaches in a teacher preparation program and does scholarly work on the relationship between school and society, I also feel it is my professional responsibility to speak up.  Put plainly, I am disheartened by this decision."  His reason include: "the partnership is a betrayal of the COEs commitment to rigorous university-based teacher prep because it institutionally deems as equivalent and publicly deems acceptable TFAs shotgun approach to preparation; the partnership feels like a grab for Gates Foundation dollars because of the not-so hidden relationship between Gates and TFA; and the partnership is with an organization that consciously aligns itself with forces (including Gates) actively working to increase corporate influence on public education in deeply troubling ways. "
Then, as they are sussing out issues, here's what Peck, McDonald and Sexton bring up in terms of hiring a TFA local director:
  • "Overall, my nightmare is that TFA adopts an essentially 'two works' stance, hires someone with strong TFA/anti-university ideological/political commitments, operates independently of the University and takes up a lot of candidate time.  All of which would operate to make it harder to carry out our work in a coherent and functional way.  I know I am borrowing trouble here...the point is to get clear agreements early on about the nature and extent of collaboration."
Yes, I'd worried as well if I felt I had to ask permission from my own Dean to even bring up a key point on Special Ed and ELL, no less trust who they hire to run TFA locally.    I would also be worried about a powerful organization coming in and laying down the law to its host university as well as the district it will place recruits into.  Who's running this show? 

Next up, what the e-mails between SPS and TFA show (one hint: someone up the food chain is a true ed reformer.)

23 comments:

dan dempsey said...

My hope is that with new school directors elected and in office in December... TfA will be discontinued effective at the end of the 2011-2012 school year.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well Dan, they did sign a three-year contract but yes, I believe the contract states either party can walk away given something like 120 school day notice.

dan dempsey said...

YES the contract says either party can terminate with adequate notice. So let us have a real school board make a real decision for the good of the students and ditch TfA.

StopTFA said...

Yes, these emails are fascinating reading. I would only note that, due to the nested format of some email discussions it's difficult to determine the author and recipient. In one or two of your examples I believe it was Cap Peck (who is a fully tenured professor), not Morva talking.

Many are posted on
www.scribd.com/spsleaks

Jan said...

Plus, in this case, there are really two ways to terminate, You can actually end the contract under its termination provisions (though I can't recall exactly what they are, and I remember thinking they were too stiff and cumbersome for the District -- the kind of overreaching on the part of contract parties that they often seem to agree to).

Or, you can do a "de facto" termination if no TfA teachers are hired by schools. Frankly, Wendy Kopp's pronouncements and the COE emails make me suspect that TfA is doing an end run around "good faith" in the deal by making secret deals with District Administrators to "coerce" hiring where it would otherwise not occur. (So despicable, and so astonishing that the ST will not investigate the public statements and emails that hint at it.) And I do not think the District should stoop to this behavior. In fact, I think they should fire people who engage in it. I think that if there is a contract, they have to fairly and honestly evaluate, for employment, any TfA corps members who interview. But my sense is that given how many applicants we have for positions -- in ALL areas, including math, science, etc. -- it seems highly unlikely that, in a "fair procedure" (which we may or may not be getting this year), a TfA teacher would win out. And if there are no teachers hired in the system -- it's pretty much over.

Jan said...

Melissa said:

He goes to say that the rep seemed to believe some of them might already have a SpEd cert. "Huh?" says I. "Well, it happens sometimes. They join because they want the cohort expereince but they may not need all the courses." "So how are they part of the cohort?" I think, but don't say." He goes on, "In any case, I think we need to keep at this. It's going to be very difficult to plan for this group in the abstract."

Melissa, I thought that the deal here was that a few TfA corps members actually have ed degrees from their colleges -- and thus may have (or be able to quickly get) special ed certifications. Exactly WHY one would join TfA in that case is less clear -- but maybe they want the placement and coaching/mentoring help, believe in the mission, whatever.

If so, it raises an interesting question -- because now we are not talking lack of preparation -- we are just talking TfA's ideology and tactics (and cost). I am not sure I like them much better, even if the teacher shows up with a full ed degree -- but I haven't fully thought through what I think that says about some of the reasons I dislike TfA. Hm. Maybe time to go talk to Sahila. I'm thinking she wouldn't have much trouble with this issue.

Anonymous said...

Jan said: "a few TfA corps members actually have ed degrees from their colleges -- and thus may have (or be able to quickly get) special ed certifications. "

I've heard that this is exactly what is happening in at least one case -- a graduate with full certification from a Washington teacher education program is part of this TFA corps and made that move so that she could get "a free master's degree" from UW. I questioned my source about that "free master's degree" and was told it was true. Something to watch for.

Concerned Teacher Educator

Dorothy Neville said...

Lynne Varner brings up the credentialed teacher being in the TfA cohort as well in the comments on her editorial that tells the district to hire TfAers. Frustrating that she brings up this outlier, this singleton anecdote as an argument. And where did she get the info about this fellow? We all know she heard it during her chat with Wendy.

"Not all TFA teachers come straight from college. Most do. An experienced Kent teacher who will be in the upcoming TFA class, challenges that notion. The Kent teacher signed on with TFA to get professional development particularly as it relates to tackling the achieveent gap."

StopTFA said...

Check the breakdown of the Seattle Corps on spsleaks (Wow One Math Major). There are no ed majors. One has a Sped BA.

Frankly, I've read enough of these emails to have a strong suspicion that Janice Ortega will say whatever she thinks you want to hear, or whatever will save her ass. Even the UW professors question what comes out of her mouth.

Anonymous said...

I think in context, the writer referring to having the privelege of rank and gender and race is actually noting that despite a a realtive advantage they are still terrified to speak openly. They are reminding the reciever that people at a relative disadvantage in our culture (minorities, women, not tenured) may feel even more terrified to speak. I think that actually speaks to a fair amount of cultural sensitivity on the part of the author.

syd

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, Syd then what does that mean to, say, an African-America woman who is new to the department? You seem to saying that person might be terrified to speak and McDonald is kind of proving the point by saying, "I have this on my side so I can speak out."

If you read the other threads on these e-mails, you can see other faculty tried to speak up and were ignored, dismissed or shut down.

I can only speak from my own knowledge of another UW department but the one I know would never allow one small group to steamroller them, dean or no dean.

That Passionate Teacher said...

In one of the previous UW/TFA email threads it was revealed that the folks at UW were deathly afraid that the HECB (Higher Ed Coordinating Board) would call for a full review of the U-ACT program, which would (paraphrasing) 'effectively put the kibosh on U-ACT for this year'.

Does anyone know if somebody (anybody?) called the HECB and requested a full review? Seems like such a simple way to throw a sabot into the works...

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'll let StopTFA give a full answer but yes, that was tried and didn't work.

StopTFA said...

That has been done. HECB responded that the new M.Ed "option" was not so different that it merited a full review. HECB DID say it would follow up on some of the issues raised. Needless to say, the matter is not closed. The vice-provost at the Graduate School obviously had some reasons why he wanted to keep this program on the down low.

someone said...

Hmmm.. some of those docs up at SPS leaks are interesting - especially who went to meet with the BMGF folks for possible TFA funding support - hmmm....

Anonymous said...

I agree with Syd about the "privilege" comment. The author is acknowledging how touchy the subject is, that even she with her relatively high degree of power/privilege is still finding it difficult to talk openly. Acknowledging privilege doesn't cause it -- merely observes it's existence.

If your point is that you think the point suggests that the DOE has more issues with diversity than other departments -- I'd argue that a lack of effect of "privilege" is perfectly correlated with a lack of diversity (i.e. everyone has the same privilege). Not acknowledging it is much more likely to be associated with a lack of recognition (in spite of its existence). I am personally aware of no department merges diversity with a perfect acceptance of everyone's point of view with equal weight. That lack is what the author is acknowledging.

(zb)

Anonymous said...

So, I feel sorry for Mr. Stritikus -- dealing with those FIFA requests are hellish for an entire department and drives everyone crazy. The "Responding to Requests for Public Records" is always a distressing piece of email to receive: "The definition of a "record" is very broad . . . ." , "You should not assume that someone else is going to provide records that you also have in your control," The consequences of not responding promptly or completely to a request are very serious . . . . ." strikes fear in everyone's hearts (especially in the context of recent lawsuits and court cases against the University of Washington -- the latest is the settlement over Baby Einstein data.)

Mind you, I still think the info should be released, but dealing with FIFA sucks. It's why they should be more clearly forthcoming so that people don't resort to FIFA.

But then, if you're actively trying to cut you out of the loop: "Tom requested that we not send Melissa Westbrook the release until Tuesday or Wednesday . . . " then what choice do you have but to use FIFA?

Anonymous said...

Oops, that was still me, zb

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't believe the COE has more issues than any other UW department on diversity. I personally found it an odd comment.

What is interesting is that UW allowed a TFA staffer to give a seminar which claimed there is "an utter lack of diversity at UW" and how TFA would help solve that.

Anonymous said...

OK, having waded through at scribd's TFA documents, I note a couple of key things.

1) The department had a thoughtful discussion, key points of which were largely ignored in an effort to barrel into the business (for exmple, the suggestion that there would be a year delay while UW figured out its ACT -Accelerated Certification for Teaching program, that they examine and consider different "residency" models in developing their own, . . . .).

2) The University did a non-trivial review of the effects of developing a partnership on the immediate costs to the University (more, I suspect, than SPS does when it accepts grants/donation money). I'd like to see an analysis of the SPS obligations that develop from donations. I suspect not everyone would, because this would have to include school donations, too, not just donations from Broad. I don't think the U did enough, but they did more than I suspect SPS does.

3) They considered some of the interactions among the different programs, but mostly from their point of view (as a provider) and not on the students.

4) In considering the effects on the provider, the potential for TFA/Online programs that cut out the university completely were a real concern. They're concerned because such programs have the potential of offering much lower cost teacher training at least in the short term, by using low priced labor and cutting out the research mission of a department like UW's. Developing their own model helps them preserve the current professorial model (potentially, though the cost would still be a problem).

(zb)

StopTFA said...

Back to HECB, when 21 of 45 credits under a new M.Ed degree TFA "option" are undefined performance challenges and "Problems of Practice", how does that translate into a rigorous curriculum? And, interestingly, no M.Ed leads to a certificate in teaching. So how does the first year (what amounts to a truncated alternative route 4 year) of this option lead to a certificate in teaching?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

The comment I eliminated was, sadly, anonymous but stated that the U-ACT program is not free.

That's true; it's about $11,400. BUT TFA recruits get an Americorps stipend of about $5400. That certainly lowers the price below what comparable program cost.

As well, it's tricky but as I have reported before, at some point they go from fees to tuition and in that realm, again, they get a break.

Not free but not what it will certainly cost other Master's students.