School Board - TFA Testimony

Let's start with pro arguments:

- on speaker was yet another ex-TFAer, Timothy Schlosser who is now a TFA teaching coach.   (I asked one SPS teacher about being a coach after maybe 3-5 years in the classroom and he laughed.  That does seem a short period of time to become a coach.  But maybe not a TFA coach.)

But he was also the former TFAer that I quoted in my testimony and here's what he said in 2008 to an LA Times columnist about his first year of teaching:

"My students deserved more than I was able to deliver.  That's a year lost they can't recoup. I still feel bad that I wasn't better."

Take that in. 

And my testimony continued, "All first-year teachers have their moments of doubt but to hire people who were trained in less than 6 weeks and have them learn all their teaching skills on the job is not the best way to hire the best teachers for the students of SPS."   I also like to think that most first-year teachers, no matter their doubts, don't believe their class lost an entire year of learning because of their inability to teach well.

As an aside, naturally, Mr. Schlosser took offense at me quoting him.  He came to me as I was talking to Cecilia McCormick and Dorothy Neville in the lobby as I was leaving.  He asked me if I thought I took his words out of context.  I said no because he had said them.  He then asked me what the next line in the column was.  I was a bit taken aback as couldn't understand why he thought I would have memorized the whole column.  He said the next line was:

"I wish I could clone him," Flores told me."  (Flores is the principal of the school Schlosser taught at in 2008.)

Actually the next line is:

"His admission makes it clear to me that he's the kind of teacher I'd like my daughters to have." and it's from the columnist who wrote the article.

Also from the article, the explanation of why he joined TFA:

He graduated two years ago, at 21, from Seattle University, a Jesuit college. He hadn't planned on a teaching career, but a degree in creative writing doesn't make for a lot of options. So he signed up for a two-year stint with Teach for America, which recruits top college graduates to teach on struggling campuses.

That doesn't exactly indicate a burning desire to teach.

Mr. Schlosser again complained that I quoted him out of context.  No, I didn't.  I was quoting what he thought about himself as a teacher, not what the principal or the columnist thought.  I quoted his exact words.  He then said that his family and friends could see my testimony on TV and what would they think of him.

I honestly wanted to look around for the Candid Camera crew (yes, I'm old).  Was he really serious?

Folks, I'm thinking the circulation of the LA Times in 2008 is far, far greater than the number of viewers of a local cable station's running of a School Board meeting.

There is so much I could say but it holds true to the current TFA tactic this year of "they're being mean to us."  This is versus last year's "we're the best and the brightest, who wouldn't want us?" feeling.

More testimony:

- there was a teacher from Aki Kurose who claimed "real-time" student achievement at Aki by TFA teachers but offered not one shred of evidence.

-Lisa MacFarlane of DFER reminded the Board of her BEX service and then spoke of the Board honoring the commitments made.  For some reason she pointed out that two on the Board ran on not supporting TFA (and guess what?  they won over two who did support TFA - what should that tell her?).   She claimed more diversity (3 out of the 6 are minorities  - fine but that's not a number that really changes our district average in a significant way as TFA claimed they would).

- Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center weighed in and she had a handout and it's funny reading.  She first claims that the idea of ending the relationship with TFA means they are being "banned" from the district.  (FYI, "banned" is the new ed reform code also being used for charters.)

I want to point out - there is a big difference between banning something and not allowing it.  To ban something you have to outright say "we won't allow that here" versus not allowing it which is "we don't want/need it".

Back to Ms. Finne and her hyperbole:

She said turning away TFA recruits "artificially shrinks the talent pool" for SPS.  SPS probably had 75+ applications for nearly every spot (except Special Ed and TFA couldn't be hired for those) and that's a small pool?

She then said that "banning TFA means many UW graduates will be banned from teaching in SPS."  She seems to forget the fully-trained and educated UW graduates from the College of Education.

She used data that was not all peer-reviewed (and, in fact, used New Orleans as an example and they are a terrible example of good public education in this country).  She says:

"There is substantial evidence that Teach for America teachers are successful at closing the achievement gap."

No, there isn't.  And, tell me one district or even one SCHOOL where this has happened.  I'll wait.  Hey, what about New Orleans where TFA heavily populates schools?  What school in New Orleans has closed the gap?

One TFA teacher, Daniel Caldron, who teaches Spanish at RBHS, impressed us all by starting out by speaking Spanish.  I have no idea what that was supposed to show.  His testimony left me feeling like I was at an Up with People concert (again, I'm old).

Dorothy Neville pointed out that at their retreat they talked about their commitment to good governance.  She said what are the opportunities and risks to any commitment that SPS undertakes.  Basically the question is how does hiring TFA align with SPS's core mission of finding and keeping good teachers and building a cohesive teaching corps?

Cecilia McCormick pointed out many of the data-supported issues around TFA.

I spoke briefly about BEX IV but for TFA I pointed out that SPS hiring teams hired hundreds of new teachers and only 4 schools hired just 6 TFA teachers.  (And one of them IS already a fully-trained and certified Special Ed teacher who just decided to join TFA for some reason.)

I pointed out that Director Carr had said in an e-mail early last year that "too much political capital was being spent on TFA." 

I also said that yes, TFA is costing more in staff costs which HR head, Paul Apostle, said, after consulting his staff, really wasn't true.

Board Discussion of TFA Contract:

Smith-Blum asked HR's Paul Apostle if there was extra work for TFA applications.  He said he asked his staff and the answer was no.

Peaslee asked who was paying the TFA fees next year.  Mr. Apostle looked bewildered and said he would have to go back and get that info.  DeBell jumped in and said in the discussion last fall with the Seattle Foundation, that they expressed long-term interested in funding TFA.  Really?  Because that's not how it was put to me when I called them several months back.  It was clear it was for one year only.  As well someone from the Bezos Foundation (Amazon's CEO's foundation) complained about SPS not having "skin in the game" by not paying the fees themselves.

Peaslee also asked about evaluating TFA teachers.  It was interesting because Mr. Apostle said they check after the first 90 days and then during the second semester and there was no unsatisfactory reports about any of the TFA teachers.

Then Holly Ferguson of Governance stepped in and said there was no required review but that Director Maier had put forth an amendment for a review of the program at the end of 3 years and not a specific evaluation of the teachers.  I do recall this amendment but I would think that ANY review of the program would include evaluations of the teachers.

Smith-Blum asked about alternative certification programs for finding new teachers.  That would be a good idea but our largest public university, UW. the place where it would likely be the cheapest to take that route, chose for its one and only alt cert program to be solely for TFA recruits and no one else.  Talk about restricting the teaching pool; that's about as narrow as you can get.

Martin-Morris stated that he was worried about the precedent that "this kind of behavior represents."  I'm not sure what "behavior" he was speaking of but the contract CLEARLY states that either side can review the contract at ANY point and walk away if they want to (by a certain date).  There is no "precedent" to it but that the Board is choosing to exercise their rights within the contract.  Also, he spoke of "segregating out six employees".  I am not aware that anyone within SPS is so I am confused about why this is an issue for him.

Patu spoke of her commitment to the SPS teaching corps and believes we do have a large enough pool of fully-qualified teachers already.

Martin-Morris responded that SPS is not a "work program" and we are here to help children learn.  I thought that was quite telling because frankly TFA does function as a work program for its members.

Patu shot back that it was only her opinion.  Bit of a testy moment there.

Peaslee pointed out that the contract did allow yearly reviews.

McClaren expressed her deep concern about first-year teachers in high-need classroms and a rapid turnover of teachers in SPS.

DeBell curiously spoke of "peer districts" that use TFA.  To my knowledge, the only other district in the state that uses TFA is Federal Way.  Anyone else know anything different?  He spoke of the monopoly of colleges of education.  He's right but again, why would UW open its only alt cert teaching program to such a small pool?  We have many, many people who would like to consider teaching as a second career but want to go to a cheaper (read; public) program.  I think he should be asking UW this question.

Smith-Blum and Carr said nothing which was interesting because either one could be a swing vote depending on what they learn in the next several days.  

Luckily, the new batch of public disclosure e-mails (along with the existing ones that I read to make my point about HR costs) are going to prove Mr. Apostle either isn't aware of the issues or is trying to make light of them.  Either way, much extra time and effort are being expended on TFA within SPS.

The new batch of public disclosure e-mails also show that none of the schools that hired TFA had any parents on their teams (and at least one may have violated the SEA CBA).  They also show that several TFA teachers used the head of TFA as a reference when they probably knew her less than two months and had not worked for her in any capacity.  Two of them also used each other as references.


StopTFA said…
Yep, that about sums it up...along with the damning emails on
Anonymous said…
side note - Whistleblowing on unqualified teachers at the Air Force Academy - (it's not just for Seattle anymore...):

TacomaTeacher said…
You really don't know what Caldron was trying to do when he spoke in Spanish? My guess is he was trying to show that diversity does not simply mean "not white." Language diversity among teachers benefits kids. It allows teachers to reach more students in more authentic ways. Also, you take Schlosser to task for not knowing straight out of college that he wanted to teach, and now, years later, he has developed a passion for teaching and has chosen a career in that field. How many "regular" teachers had a passion for teaching in college? How many chose the profession because it seemed like a good way to get a job and have summers off? How many chose a career change at some point? There are a lot of reasons to become a teacher. Wanting to commit two years to service while one figures out their calling is not a bad one.
Anonymous said…
"Luckily, the new batch of public disclosure e-mails (along with the existing ones that I read to make my point about HR costs) are going to prove Mr. Apostle either isn't aware of the issues or is trying to make light of them. Either way, much extra time and effort are being expended on TFA within SPS."

How ironic, Melissa, that you speak with concern about extra time and effort being expended on TFA when it has been YOUR public disclosure requests about TFA that have cost the district an FTE to handle them (estimated at $80,000 within HR). It is YOU that is costing the district. You are a hypocrite. Stop wasting my taxpayer dollars when they could be spent on kids. Perhaps the media needs to get on this story...

- The Truth Must Be Told
Anonymous said…
TacomaTeacher, I suspect he was also speaking Spanish to show that yes, he KNOWS the language he was hired to teach, since unlike all other (non-TFA) beginning teachers, he's the one being investigated and his resume posted for public viewing.

I agree with the rest of what you say too. The best teacher my son had was a former stay at home mom who sort of fell into teaching when her own kid started school, and the best teacher my daughter had was a middle-aged woman in her third career. Lots of people take up new careers after college. The idea that teachers are "born that way" and are some kind of anointed ones and not regular people who didn't know at age 18 that's what they wanted to study is really quite a slam against them ALL.

Fourth Careerist
TacomaTeacher said…
I also must say that TFA, while flawed, is doing a favor to our schools in bringing highly intelligent, educated individuals into the profession of teaching. It is widely known that MAT degrees are perceived as the easiest to obtain. UW and WWU both have very high acceptance rates for their education programs (around 70%) while TFA is more difficult to get into than Harvard Law. I'm not saying that traditionally educated teachers are stupid, or unqualified, or anything like that (indeed, I am a traditionally educated teacher myself.). But I do believe that bringing individuals into the field of teaching through TFA who otherwise might have chosen fields perceived by society as more prestigious (doctors, lawyers, etc.)is a good thing.
dan dempsey said…
But but but ...

Also, you take Schlosser to task for not knowing straight out of college that he wanted to teach, and now, years later, he has developed a passion for teaching and has chosen a career in that field.

I was unaware that Mr. Schlosser was still a teacher. It looks to me that he has chosen to be an "education leader" but not a teacher of public school students.

Am I missing something here?

The precedent that Mr. Martin-Morris has set is the Board's frequent disinterest in following the laws of WA State. ... TFA Corps Members were not eligible for Conditional Certification the Board and Superintendent violated WAC 181-79A-231 in approving and making applications for conditional certificates.

Ms. Finne again used the completely irrelevant Mathematica study.

Check out the recent Ed Week blog on TFA with Rick Hess ...

Straight Up Conversation: TFA Research Chief Heather Harding
suep. said…
If the truth must be told,
- The Truth Must Be Told, then public disclosure requests are the only way to do it, because the Seattle School District leadership, TFA-er Tom Stritikus at UW, Goodloe-Johnson and Enfield certainly weren't offering the truth to us parents otherwise.

Where was the open discussion with SPS parents before Teach for America, Inc. was introduced on the school board agenda?

Where has there been an honest discussion from SPS leadership or the Seattle Times (our only daily paper of record, alas) about what TFA recruits actually achieve during their two-year stint, how long they stay in the field and how much they cost the district? (At the very least, $4,000 extra per recruit per year.)

Where is the honest discussion about whether it makes sense to put the least-experienced teachers in front of the most struggling (and mostly non-white) kids?

The e-mails that have been daylighted by these requests reveal what a backroom deal bringing TFA, Inc. to Seattle has been.

Clearly those involved in the deal are not comfortable that parents can now read all about it.

Their 'kill the messenger' attacks on Melissa and others simply highlight that they had something to hide and want to keep it hidden.

As a taxpayer and parent, I'd rather my money get spent on such transparency than on paying $4,000 extra per teacher to a multimillion-dollar enterprise (TFA, Inc.) for undertrained novices when we have plethora of experienced teachers in the hiring pool who don't charge a surcharge.

And there are so many other places where SPS wastes huge amounts of money -- millions -- (MAP testing, new web site, new transportation plan) that to only obsess over the relatively minor costs of fulfilling public information requests is patently absurd.
Anonymous said…
Tacoma Teacher, yes it's great that TFA folks want to test the water for 2 years to see if teaching is for them, but for the love of Mike, do so on their own dime, and NOT the taxapayers'. Honestly, is it so much to ask that we don't impose 5 week trained "teachers" who may or may not want to teach kids in S. Seattle schools? There is Americorps and Peace Corps. There is the Army, Navy, AirForce, and Coast Guard. There are all kinds of interships and program out there looking for idealistic souls hungering to test themselvs and learn new skills. Go for it, be the risk takers, but make sure you are the one taking the risk, not our kids.

But please stop taking money from poorly funded schools to pay some young, idealistic person so they can try out a career. Can we leave those jobs for people who actually went to school to become teachers and have made the committment to do so by taking out loans, sitting through classes, interning at local schools, and jumping through the hoops we've thrown at them?

-prefer experienced teachers
suep. said…
Tacoma Teacher said... (...) TFA is more difficult to get into than Harvard Law.

Really, now? On what do you base that claim?

For one thing, I don't believe Harvard tends to accept students with only C averages.

Teach for America’s “Best and Brightest” only need a C average to qualify
Someone said…
Thank you Suep - I was trying to think of a good response to "truth must be told" and you did it very eloquently.

Sure, there are pluses to TFA, I think we can acknowledge that.
I just don't get why so much political capital has been spent trying to make it fit Seattle - when Seattle is the LAST place in this state that needs TFA recruits - gee, how about...Moses Lake - Yakima - Chehalis - Castle Rock - small towns without the ability to attract fresh faces - that makes sense - but Seattle? Not so much.
Anonymous said…
Tacoma Teacher

"MIT degrees are the easiest to obtain"--Really? Where do you get that? I worked very hard for my MIT degree, and I am thankful I had the two years to do it in that it should take. And your claim that TFA, Inc. brings "highly intelligent" folks with their C averages into the teaching profession--where do you get that?

If these TFA, Inc. folks want to take their five weeks of training and step into medicine as an MD, let them go. Oh, wait, you need more than five weeks of study to be a doctor, my bad.

Okay, let the TFA, Inc. folks go into a courtroom and use their five weeks of training to replace a JD and assume the responsibilities of a lawyer. Oh, wait. Darn!! You need three years after a BA for that.

I've got it. Let them be police officers, fire fighters, nursing assistants, dental technicians, even. Will five weeks do it there? With a C average? What if we make it $5000 dollars instead of $4000? What's a grand to Gates?

Anonymous said…
Yikes. Didn't realize the public records requests were so expensive. This is pretty upsetting. It is taxpayer dollars as much as we claim it is taxpayer dollars to have TFA. Gotta admit I am thinking twice about this...

- concerned
Dorothy Neville said…
"Yikes. Didn't realize the public records requests were so expensive. This is pretty upsetting. It is taxpayer dollars as much as we claim it is taxpayer dollars to have TFA. Gotta admit I am thinking twice about this..."

Hold on a minute. Before jumping to conclusions, how about the truth? Sure, public records request cost money, but how much? And how much time was spent collecting the PDR for TFA vs everything else? I sincerely doubt these few requests for emails cost anything like $80K. Would be very surprised to see how that could get documented.

The SPS budgets a Public Records officer. I think it's $110K a year, but would need to double check.

Do a public records request yourself. Ask for a list of all the requests for the past two years. They keep that data easily accessible, so you shouldn't fear the amount of time it would take the public records office. They might even be able to provide (very fast) a summary of how much time or how many records were touched in each case. Would also be illuminating to see how many PDRs there are from media. You will see Brian Rosenthal's name there, as well as Linda Shaw and Phyllis Fletcher.
StopItSueP said…
Suep-PLEASE stop yapping about something you think you understand.

You said: "Where is the honest discussion about whether it makes sense to put the least-experienced teachers in front of the most struggling (and mostly non-white) kids? "

I HAVE a "struggling non-white kid" who was in a South Seattle school with a teacher who had less than 5 years experience. She was amazing and did a fantastic job, not just with MY kid but the kid next to her, and the one on the other side of him and so on. She may not have been "experienced" but she sure as heck knew what she was doing. She was head and shoulders better than the "experienced" teacher in the next room. And we parents and kids all knew it.

WHEN will you people get that it's NOT all about the years of experience but also the heart and caring and interest in helping children of color succeed? I can't speak for everyone but please-get off your high horse and stop speaking for us. It's frankly offensive.

The young man at RB who is from TFA certainly seems to have the qualities we look for-and a history of working with kids AND a mastery of Spanish to boot. I would take him over a burned out "experienced" guy wanting to get the heck up to a North Seattle school any time.
TacomaTeacher said…
Thanks for the responses to my comments. @ Prefer experienced teachers--I did not say MIT/MAT degrees ARE the easiest to obtain, I said they are PERCEIVED as the easiest to obtain. I worked hard for mine, too! I just think it is an interesting phenomena that ed. schools are much less competitive than other types of graduate programs, and I don't think that fact lends our profession a lot of credibility in the public eye.

I also agree with many of you who call out TFA on their five week training program. That is seriously problematic. However, I and many teachers I know all agree that the lions share of our learning about teaching came through classroom experience. Getting ed. students in schools and leading classes is the only way they will become better teachers. Teachers can have (and perhaps should have)knowledge of all the theory in the world, but knowing that is a lot diffent than having the ability to effectively lead a room full of adolescents.

Finally, data released by TFA confirms an 11% acceptance rate. Harvard Law accepts about 12%. I don't know about GPA's.
hschinske said…
Finally, data released by TFA confirms an 11% acceptance rate. Harvard Law accepts about 12%

You don't think there's a slight self-selection bias for those applying to Harvard Law? I mean, honestly, how many people are going to do that who aren't already pretty highly qualified for something? It's not 11% versus 12% of comparable pools at all.

Helen Schinske
StopTFA said…
And Harvard Law isn't advertising on media sites, with corporate sponsors and Twitter/Facebook etc either. Seriously, the drumbeat is relentless, ala DeVry University etc.
StopTFA said…
Daniel Calderon is the only language teacher at RBHS. I fault the district for that. He went up there because I have called him out as NOT having taken the requisite state competency exam to be HQ to teach a foreign language. Sorry, ELL don't cut it.

I was sorry to hear he was 'designing the IB curriculum" for foreign language education at RBHS. This from a minimally-trained, minimally-qualified temporary teacher. RBHS deserves MUCH more.
StopTFA said…
The Truth Must Be Told,

Which FTE is that? Colleen Clarkson, the SPS public records officer that every public agency must have?. What else would she be doing except fulfilling my (and others') PDRs? Filling out TFA cert apps?

That's right. Keep the sunlight away from these machinations. As taxpayers, we needn't know what staff does with their time, what stories they're making up, who they're partying with.

Nice try.
Tacoma, a career in that field? He coaches ONLY TFA, not teachers in general.

As for Caldron, sorry, I know many "white" people who speak Spanish so I still don't get his point.

I assume teachers had a passion for teaching in college as they went on to become trained to be teachers. I think you demean your own profession by saying it's easy to get a job and you get summers off.

Truth, could you tell us where you got those figures on costs for public disclosure. Also, it is not HR that handles public disclosures; it is Legal.

I absolutely believe in teaching as a second career and am disappointed that more people are not allowed access to UW's program.

Tacoma, most of them leave teaching (or did you miss that)? TFA recruits have so many deferrals (to med school, law school, business school and work that it makes my head spin).
Anonymous said…
So who do you want to speak for us, "StopIt" ? The gal from LEV, Stand for Children, Moderate Voices of Parents, etc. And who's us? I speak for me and I'm as dark as they come. The idea that I have to be in order to have a legitimate voice in this debate is offensive. All who are taxpaying citizens have a voice. I don't want a noble, well meaning 5 week trained person teaching my kids. The kids deserve better. I want a teacher who's going to stick around to teach my kids and hopefully their kids. You know the qualities of being well trained, idealistic, and competent are not mutually exclusive and not exclusive to just TFA candidates.

As for doing something for neighborhood schools, you need to look beyond the schools. Look at what isn't being done. Where's our community center and pool? How long do we wait for it? What about the cuts to programs for our teens so they have a place to go and off the streets. What about safe streets so our older parents can take a bus to the health clinics and our kids can walk to library without fearing for their safety. All these things have a hand in our kids' outcome.

So what is the school district and SCPTSA fixated on for this community? TFAs and talk about charters? There are things here that need fixing that will help our kids, help them learn and be proud of their community, and of themselves. I wil admit the caring and responsibilites have to come from our own community first. But we are not going to get there making TFAs a priority for this community.

-prefer experienced, trained teachers (enthusiasm and grit welcome)
Anonymous said…
Prefer Experienced -

You said it so well: "As for doing something for neighborhood schools, you need to look beyond the schools. Look at what isn't being done. Where's our community center and pool? How long do we wait for it? What about the cuts to programs for our teens so they have a place to go and off the streets. What about safe streets so our older parents can take a bus to the health clinics and our kids can walk to library without fearing for their safety. All these things have a hand in our kids' outcome. "

This sums up all the issues that I have with education "reform" from using standardized testing, using test scores to see if teachers are "good," and so much more. The reformists have these silly, simplistic solutions for something that is much larger than the classroom. We need a whole culture change, and we can't keep blaming teachers for problems that they can't solve because they happen outside of the classroom. We need parents that don't have to work two jobs, kids who aren't hungry, kids who get additional tutoring when then need it, etc. TfA will do nothing for all these other issues. It is so simple to say these problems will be solved by a 22 year old with an ivy league degree.

-whole picture
Anonymous said…
A legitimate question: Are TFA teacher-employing schools required to send a letter stating that their teacher isn't 'highly qualified' or even 'fully certificated'? Was that done for the TFAers who didn't hold a cert?

Wondering, of course not. The parents of those students probably have no idea about their child's teacher and think the teacher is just out of student teaching and is new teacher. Some might care, some might not. But yes, I think they deserve to know.
StopTFA said…
Amen prefer experienced and whole picture. I may not live in the immediate neighborhood, but I've lived in Seattle nearly all my life, and know how endemic this issue has been within the school district.

No "diverse, low-income" savior as some TFA staff would have you believe, will rectify the disparities I've witnessed just sitting in board committee meetings. We need to clone Betty Patu and elect more of her to keep the eye on the real prize: giving children the opportunity to fulfill the American Dream.

How 'bout it Hanauer? Can you put yourself in the position of someone who did not have inherited wealth? Who did not catch the Microsoft wave in 1984? Or are you just looking to catch the next big Wall Street boondoggle, while wearing the cloak of NW progressive savior?
Anonymous said…
To Tacoma: You said "Language diversity among teachers benefits kids. It allows teachers to reach more students in more authentic ways." You said this in defense of Mr. Calderone like TFA is all about "keeping it real." Does this mean that the already qualified and experienced teachers can't keep it real? That they don't speak other languages? No on both counts.

You also said to Melissa W "You take Schlosser to task for not knowing straight out of college that he wanted to teach, and now, years later, he has developed a passion for teaching and has chosen a career in that field." I don't recall Melissa W quoting him as saying that he had passion. I recall from his statement that he said he didn't know what he wanted to do. Please, lost souls, go find yourselves in the army or volunteer, but don't push out a teacher who has a clue while you expect so much in return.

Let's get real. TFA and their corps expect a lot. They're not in this for passion. They're in it for money.

Finally, you expect me not to spit coffee when you write: "There are a lot of reasons to become a teacher. Wanting to commit two years to service while one figures out their calling is not a bad one." The service angle. Break it down for me, the financials. Of course they're smart. They get money from Goldman Sachs, spend 5 weeks training because they're already too smart for school and get help with college debt from private colleges with prestige. They win. TFA makes money. My grandkids lose. This isn't keeping it real. This is a scam.

Mr. White
Mercermom said…
I would hope that most teachers at schools where kids are struggling with the impacts of lack of money, immigrant status, language issues, insufficient healthcare, etc. would feel dismay because they can't do enough to overcome all of the challenges their students face. That doesn't mean the teachers are responsible for fixing it; it means it's distressing to see how much there is to be done. It's unfair to criticize a TFAer for expressing it. I also think it's weak to criticize a TFA recruit for not having had a long-term goal of becoming a teacher. How many other teachers decided to major in "education" because their first dream of going pre-med was dashed with a C in chemistry. Sure, TFA is arrogant, there are serious questions about whether it's the right route for trying to close the achievement gap. Potshots at the motivations and concerns of individual TFAers detract from legitimate questions.
Charlie Mas said…
Opposition to Teach for America in Seattle schools is not opposition to Teach for America.

I think Teach for America is a noble effort when they send teachers to areas of the country where teachers are needed. We have plenty of teachers here in Seattle and don't need them. Every teacher they send to Seattle, where there are plenty of teachers available, is a teacher that they cannot send to areas of the country without teachers. This is like sending CARE packages to Bel Air.

Second, opposition to Teach for America in Seattle is not opposition to alternative certification. I LOVE alternative certification. There are, however, rules for it. Teach for America broke those rules when they came to Seattle. The Teach for America corps members did not honestly qualify for their emergency certifications. They should have followed the law instead of breaking it.

Third, opposition to Teach for America in Seattle is not opposition to the individual corps members who are here. I'm sure that they are noble young people on a crusade. Good for them. Even if they are grasping young people on a career path, good for them. They are working hard for the public good and I applaud them. They didn't make the decision to bring Teach for America to Seattle; they are only taking advantage of the opportunity.

So let's stay on topic, shall we? Let's not confuse the opposition to Teach for America in Seattle with issues that are not part of the real opposition. Let's stop arguing against false opposition set up by the Teach for America supporters. These are straw men. People are not opposed to alternative certification, not opposed to Teach for America, and not opposed to the individual corps members. People are opposed to the deployment of Teach for America corps members in areas where there are plenty of certificated teachers available and people are opposed to the dishonest and illegal process by which the corps members received their emergency certifications.

Finally, two years ago the District said that they were going to try to close the academic achievement gap by reducing teacher turnover in under-performing schools and by deploying our most expert teachers there. Now they want to use Teach for America corps members in those schools which will bring higher turnover and the least expert teachers. The District has never explained the Orwellian reversal and I think they owe us an explanation.
Charlie Mas said…
Tacoma Teacher and Truth Must be Told and similar commenters on this thread are, very likely, one person manufacturing the illusion of a larger opposition. They are definitely working to take the discussion off topic.
Maureen said…
Charlie, thank you for refocusing the discussion in your 7:29 comment.

I would add that I also object to the way TFA Corps Members are being treated as WA state residents in the MIT program at UW. From what I can see, TFA CMs from out of state are receiving a gift of about $13,000 per year in reduced tuition from the state (or possibly from UW itself?). If TFA were kicking in that extra $143,000 per year from their corporate funds, the presence of TFA in Seattle would bother me slightly less.

I have also heard that the special TFA MIT program requires a much higher enrollment to just break even, so that is costing our, already strained, higher education system even more.
TacomaTeacher said…
Last comment, just to clear things up. I am ONE commenter. I have no idea who anyone else on this blog is, and the suggestion that multiple pro-TFA voices must be one person sitting at their computer manufacturing usernames is highly offensive. That this blog, while obviously anti-TFA, could be seen as a place in which multiple voices could engage in menaingful discussion is a generous complement to the largely one-sided views espoused here. I wont make that mistake again.

Last but not least, of all the all the uninformed anti-TFA arguments, the one I hate the most is this:
"Opposition to Teach for America in Seattle schools is not opposition to Teach for America.

I think Teach for America is a noble effort when they send teachers to areas of the country where teachers are needed. We have plenty of teachers here in Seattle and don't need them."

We applaud college graduates from UW, Seattle U, etc. when they get accepted to TFA, but would never dream of having them teach in our own schools. "Thats for other communities with real problems"..."We don't have an acheivement gap here"..."We have too many qualified teachers and they're already closing the gap"...I've heard it all. Look at the numbers. Seattle has an acheivement gap. Seattle also has lots of great teachers. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. Bringing in organizations whose sole focus is closing the gap is a tenuous situation, but things will never get better in Seattle if we don't start trying new things.
StopTFA said…
Tacoma Teacher,

Thanks for speaking up on the blog. I want Seattle to try new or old things that are shown to work. It is very evident to me that TFA does NOT close the achievement gap.
Maureen said…
Tacoma, or any other pro TFA poster, can you please link to a peer reviewed study that shows that TFA CMs close the achievement gap? I have seen studies that show that TFA CMs are no worse than other conditionally certified teachers and can be better than the noncertified/substitute teachers that the often replace in underserved areas of the country. And I have read anecdotes of individual TFA CMs raising their classes' test scores. But I have never seen any evidence that they have closed achievement gaps in any statistically verified way. My understanding is that closing the achievement (or opportunity) gap as it is currently defined has required strategies like extended school days/years and one on one interventions. Thank you!
Someone said…
@TT - I think you've missed the point - I'll give you that I don't believe all the neg comments are manufactured by one commenter.

However, to say that SPS is not willing to try new things is disingenuous at best - many many "new" things have been tried over the years. The objections I've seen to TFA have nothing to do with it's being "new" - there have been other TFA members employed by SPS over the years, so this latest incarnation isn't "new".

I believe it's the method by which TFA arrived - or at least the perception of the machinations behind their arrival that raises hackles and concern.

As a long time reader of this blog - I don't always agree with the slant taken, but I do know this is a group of passionate people who care deeply about SPS and want the best possible options - "new" and "old" for this district.
Anonymous said…
Must keep repeating the point: TFA as an organization is in Seattle as a BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY FOR TFA. Pure and simple. The public disclosure documents show this.

It wanted to expand to the West Coast and Stritikus at UW gave it that opportunity, bolstered by donations from area rich high tech entrepreneurs.

The aims of TFA participants may indeed be noble. The aim of TFA in Seattle is not. It is self-serving, period.

Whether this year or at the end of the annoying 3-year contract, it will quickly be time to move on to supporting more deserving organizations working on the achievement gap. AmeriCorps anyone? Rainier Scholars? Or any of dozens of others.

TacomaTeacher said…
OK, I'll give you that. I'd rather see more extended school day programs (Lincoln Center down here in T Town is a great example of an extended day program that has effectively closed the acheivement gap) and programs like Rainier Scholars, than TFA. But its not really an either / or siituation. Also, not to throw another inflammatory wrench into the conversation, but charter legislation would make programs like those (especially like LC) much, much easier to start. Ok, NOW I'm done :)
Anonymous said…
But Tacoma Teacher, It IS an either/or problem, because people's $$ and interest only extend so far and there are so, so many organizations that need support.

TFA is a marketing machine sucking up time and interest. Do you see those same millionaires, or frankly the UW, supporting these other programs? Not so much. So I'm all for adios to TFA and hello Rainier Scholars, Lincoln Center, Americorps etc etc. Let Seattle Public Schools elevate and promote THOSE partnerships.

Anonymous said…
Melissa beat me to it by posting Seattle U and their community outreach programs using their faculty and students to help a local school. Here is where TFA in Seattle can be used, but I know it goes against the organizational set up. Recruit kids from local universities or even out of state ones and give them an internship to work in schools alongside teachers as their assistants. Work with kids in reading, if your background is science, work with teachers (especially in the ES) in developing a more in depth learning experience than the NSF science kits provide, or music/art- bring in that knowledge to build a music and art programs in schools (especially schools that don't have a PTA that can raise enough money for enrichment). (Hello SCPTSA) Get grant money to cover their stipends. If these college kids are intersted in pursuing teaching, then work with the feds to offer loans for their training similar to the NHS where they have to work off the loans after graduation in high needs area.

Finally, don't limit to just college age kids, go for the older workers in our area. Look at alternative certifications for these folks who come with technical, hands on experiences, but need the teaching in the classroom experience. Look to buddy up schools with Boeing, Microsoft, hi-tech and low tech companies where employees are allowed some volunteeer flex time to work with kids. You can have them tutor math, reading, science, computer science, music, even vocational tech classes. OMG, there is so many brilliant, skilled and noble folks out there. We need to connect them together. If we can do that, people will have a better feel for each other and can speak and understand the need of communities more genuinely.

Then you can understand why I harp about the need to open RB community center and pool. Did you know RB summer swim team was a power house? The team dominated along with Medgar Evers in Seattle Parks summer swim league. Since the pool closure, they have joined up with ME to practice daily in a very small pool. Ok, maybe these kids wouldn't get as far if they were to compete against Cascade or better financed Eastside teams that train and compete year round. But if you see the enthusiasm and joy working with these kids and watch families taking time off early from work on Friday/Sat to cheer kids on. You know opening up the pool means a lot. It would mean local kids can learn how to swim in a city surrounded by water. It would mean kids have some schedule, goals, and place to be in the summer. Not to mention it would help the transportation snafu to get to ME pool

I'll stop here. But I think if the movers and shakers would stop for a bit (I know it's asking a lot because this topic is just a platform to somewhere else), they would understand what they think we need isn't always what we really need.

Prefer experienced teacher
Upper Beach Res said…
I know this is off-topic, but isn't the community center/pool construction on schedule? I was forwarded a forward last week about a community meeting at South Shore about the construction regarding exactly what you're talking about, community partnerships.

The center did and hopefully will continue to do once reopened, a lot of good work with local kids and families. Some of the programs and classes have moved to Rainier Community Center down the street. The Boys and Girls Club and Union Gospel Mission also continue to work with kids to keep them out of trouble. Hopefully the community center and pool will be completed on time.
Eileen Donnelly said…
Sigh. There are just way too many myths and assumptions perpetuated here. I support great teachers for all students. I support TFA in our schools. I think Kopp aptly addresses some of the concerns raised on this blog in this HuffPo article:
Eileen, what myths and assumptions are you speaking of? I'd be happy to prove my research on TFA for anything I have said.

Kopps says:

Ravitch is also wrong to suggest that Teach For America corps members aren't effective. A significant body of rigorous research shows that they are more effective than other beginning teachers and, on average, equally or more effective than veteran teachers. Still, I am the first to admit -- as I do in my book -- that "the bell curve of effectiveness within our corps is still too wide" and "our teachers are still not, on average, changing the trajectory of their students."

She practically contradicts herself in one sentence. Better than veteran teachers but still not changing the trajectory of students? C'mon, most of the "research" she uses is self-generated by TFA or not peer-reviewed.

She also says:

At the core of the solution will be leadership -- people who will pursue bold change as teachers, principals, and district leaders, and who will work to shape a supportive policy and community environment as political leaders, policy makers, and advocates. More often than not, the most effective leaders have been shaped by teaching successfully in high needs classrooms.

Well at least she's honest. TFA is NOT there to build teachers - it's to take over public education. Her last sentence has ZERO proof. And, of course, she offers none.

It's fine if you believe her but I believe in evidence, not talk.
Anonymous said…
RB community center was closed in 2010 and plans for rennovation was delayed, hence now the projected date to open is Fall of 2013.

-Need to keep the pressure on to get RBCC open without anymore delays.
The news of the RB Community Center is sad. I had pushed for the district to wait and work with the City on South Shore/Community Center (as they literally were tied to one building together). That's didn't happen and the district lost an opportunity to save some money and work with the City on a cohesive design.

But I was still glad to hear that the City was redoing the community center. I am dismayed to find that its finish is delayed. That center was vital to that community and it's so sad the City undertook the project and now it will take so long. It's lengthy closure is not good.

And, that it is close by both South Shore and RBHS is a loss for those schools as well.
Charlie Mas said…
Tacoma Teacher, thank you for proving my point that you - and other Teach for America shills - don't want to address the real objections to Teach for America in Seattle. You would much rather argue against invented opposition.

""We don't have an acheivement gap here"..."We have too many qualified teachers and they're already closing the gap"...I've heard it all."

Well I guess you have heard it all, because you have head things that I have not heard. I have NEVER heard ANYONE in Seattle say what you claim to have heard. I have never heard anyone deny the academic achievement gap.

How about instead of arguing against false, invented opposition - you know, straw men - you argue against the real opposition.

You're a textbook case, Tacoma Teacher. I just didn't think you would really do it.

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