Sunday, May 26, 2013

Teach for America - Still Lots of Questions (and now, Pushback)

1) So how is TFA doing in our region?  From what I can see, not so great.  There are about 17 TFA teachers in the region.  Now as you may recall, a UW Vice-Provost, Dave Szatmary, had closely questioned the dean of the College of Education, Tom Stritikus, about the costs to UW.

Szatmary: What assurances 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?

Stritikus: 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."

Well, this is coming into year three and they still don't even have 20.  So yes, folks, as tuition rises and the number of spots open in the freshman class get ever competitive, yes, UW has the money to lose on a program that apparently most districts in our state do NOT want.

 I am still unclear who is paying the TFA fees for SPS.  I know Washington STEM is paying it for any science/math teachers and Seattle Foundation had been paying for any others.  I do know the district isn't. 

And, white we don't have many actual TFA teachers, there is a plethora of ex-TFA people working in Washington State public education. 

2) In Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a portion of their higher education bill that contained funding for TFA.  (This is the same governor who signed legislation to increase the spending for K-12 education in his state.)


Gov. Mark Dayton signed the higher education bill with $250 million in additional funding Friday but vetoed its $1.5 million appropriation for Teach for America.

He called the national organization, which recruits college graduates and professionals to teach in urban and rural districts, "a well-established, national program" and noted that it has assets of $350 million.
"With those financial resources available, it is not clear why a $1.5 million grant from the State of Minnesota is required to continue or expand the organization's work here," he said in the veto letter.

"My principal concern, however, is the way in which TFA was selected as the recipient of this grant. To my knowledge, no competitive grant program was established; no other applications were solicited; and no objective review was made by an independent panel of experts. Instead, the funds were inserted into the Senate's Higher Education bill, directed to this organization, and retained in the Conference Committee's report."

Almost like someone was trying to sneak in the money without any public notice or review.

3) Ex-TFAers band together to hold a summit this summer to organize against TFA. From the Washington Post's The Answer Sheet:

Increasingly, former TFA corps members have been speaking up about problems with the program, such as in this post, in which one ex-TFAer argues that it is time for the organization to fold. (Here’s another critique from an ex-TFA corps member about his lack of preparation for troubled students, and here a professor explains why TFA can’t recruit in his classroom.)

The Summit is about organizing "resistance to Teach for America and its role in privatization" of public education. 

4) Pushback in California, as the the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing puts more demands on TFA and other intern teacher to receive more ELL training AND more mentoring and supervision. This from Ed Source.

The Commission’s unanimous vote last week followed two hours of public testimony and debate among commissioners over 14 separate recommendations aimed at improving the rigor and preparation of interns to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to teach the state’s 1.4 million English learners.

Right at the end of the article was this concern:

But Los Angeles Unified School District has a very different worry about intern teachers: They come, they get trained, they move on to schools in better neighborhoods or high-paying districts, leaving students with one intern after another.

“Those students unfortunately are experiencing a churning year after year of interns,” Janet Davis, director of a Los Angeles Unified School District committee that provides access to professional development classes, told the Commission. “We had a strand of kids who actually had an entire elementary experience with only intern teachers. And those students suffered.”

5) But the lure of TFA still exists.  J. Crew is selling a TFA t-shirt with a blurb straight from TFA.  David Letterman did his top ten reasons for Teacher Appreciation week.  From Diane Ravich:

Somewhat in Letterman’s defense, I have to say that the top ten reasons, which were mostly sardonic and cynical, did not reflect much credit on teachers or on the kids who delivered the lines.

6) From Ed Week, a story about TFA's challenge in teaching Native American students in New Mexico by Anthony Cody.

Two weeks ago we learned about some questionable practices in the state of New Mexico. These things were revealed by investigator Michael Corwin, as part of the confirmation process for would-be Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera. One part of his testimony that was of special interest was his discussion of the role of Teach For America in his state.

In 2011, Mr. Corwin was summoned to Gallup to investigate some improper conduct by assistant superintendents. He discovered that Landon Mascareñaz, then TFA's executive director for the state, had billed the Gallup-McKinley School District $110,000 for recruiting and training 55 teachers. The problem was TFA had already been paid $127,000 by the state for these same services. When Mr. Corwin interviewed Mr. Mascareñaz, he was told the reason for the double billing was that Mascareñaz did not feel the payment from the state was enough, so he intentionally double billed the school district.

But the bigger question I wanted to understand was why $800,000 in funds approved to implement the Indian Education Act were going to pay for Teach For America corps members. I reached out to several sources to gain insight. First, to Nate Morrison, who is Teach For America's current executive director in New Mexico. I then shared his responses with two experts in Native American education, Dr. Christine Sims and Dr. Carlotta Bird of the University of New Mexico.
TFA's Nate Morrison replied that the Indian Education Act was to find new teachers and that legislators - including Native Americans - had approved of this effort.

Dr. Bird asked this:

I have not seen a report on the success of this activity. Have you? How were the funds used? t would be a far better investment to prepare individuals as envisioned by the Indian Education Act who are from the communities, who have a commitment to their communities to serve as teachers and want to work in their community. The schools are the major employer in many of these rural areas and hire many local people in positions to be educational assistants, cooks, bus drivers, school liaisons, janitors, maintenance personnel, etc. so why not as teachers?

The back and forth between them is fascinating.

From Ed Week, a story about TFA alumni trying to support undersupported TFA teachers in New Orleans:

Derek Roguski and Hannah Sadtler came to New Orleans in 2008 through Teach For America.

“We found ourselves in these classrooms with no training for what we were doing there and no connection to our students’ cultures or communities.

The frustrations Ms. Sadtler and Mr. Roguski felt are not unique: With growing numbers of charter schools, increasing ranks of recruits to alternative-certification programs like Teach For America and TNTP (formerly the New Teacher Project), and proliferating turnaround efforts that remove a school’s entire staff, many urban schools are bringing in teachers who are younger, more diverse, and less experienced than the ones they replaced or others in their cities.
In the New Orleans area:

In the 2010-11 school year, close to 40 percent of the 2,500 teachers across the city had been teaching for three years or less. Although that proportion was down from a peak of almost half in 2007-08, it contrasts with the 2004-05 school year, when about 17 percent of the city’s teachers had been teaching for such a short time.
This school year, 88 percent of the 44,000 public school students across the city are African-American, but only 49 percent of their teachers are, according to the Louisiana education department. Six years ago, 73 percent of the district’s teachers were African-American.

Corporate ed reform in action:

“We have a lot of mini-experiments going on, with many charters using many different human-capital models,” said Neerav Kingsland, the chief executive officer of New Schools for New Orleans, which invests in charter schools in the city. “Do we explicitly know that high teacher turnover is bad for kids? I don’t think we know that yet.”

Yes, using TFA to "experiment" on kids and then wondering if maybe that turnover is bad for those students.

It is also interesting to note in both the New Orleans story and New Mexico story that the issue of "knowing the community" and having some kind of long-term commitment to an area matters greatly to parents.


mirmac1 said...

From what I can gather, two of the positions they garnered outside FW and Seattle, bypassed the board's approval for conditional certificates. That goes against the WAC. But they have syncophants at OSPI to rubberstamp things for them.

Definitely, the shiny new TFA have lost their luster. Now the Alliance is off on a new things to foist on SPS, the Urban Teacher Residency. In a few years, it will cost SPS nearly $40K for each teacher trainee. Now who thought THAT was a wise move? Oh yeah, the PPPE private funders who will walk away in a few years and leave us holding the bag.

chunga said...

Just curious who the ex-TFAers are in leadership positions in WA. Can I get more details?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Define leadership. Do you mean administrators or elected/appointed officials?

Dora said...

Someone I know (it's not me) is doing research into the grants that TFA receives. Apparently the grant proposals submitted by TFA, Inc. are flimsy and would normally not be accepted particularly if you're asking for $50M. If you know anything about writing grant proposals, they demand a lot of information with plenty of back-up. Not so much with TFA.

I am hoping that this researcher can blow the lid off of this scam with the discoveries that they are making.

n said...

I'm curious as well. Who are the ex-TFA people working in education? Just a few names to give me some idea. I know about Chris whats-his-name. Anybody else who is somewhat significant?

chunga said...

I was asking in response to the statement in the section, "And, white we don't have many actual TFA teachers, there is a plethora of ex-TFA people working in Washington State public education."

concerned citizen said...

Ms. Lindsay Hill, current executive director of TFA Pudget Sound, was been detained for assault and battery some 6 years ago while teaching in NYC. Ms. Hill physically assaulted and let loose several homophobic epitaphs towards her victim. How can this person be responsible for guiding this organization?

also concerned said...

Morgan Lake, a law student at Seattle University with a restraining order out against him, wrote this previous comment.