Tuesday, July 23, 2013

TFA in Washington State: No Surprise to Us

Via Mirmac 1, there is this public disclosure e-mail that is quite telling but of no surprise to anyone who reads this blog.  We asked these questions from the start.  From the e-mail (italics Dr. Ginsberg's, bold mine):

1) Whose interests are we serving and, related to this questions, how are we serving the interests of our most historically under-served K-12 students?
2) How are we serving the interests of TFA teachers? of our students and graduates who are working as instructors in the program?
3) How are we serving the effectiveness and morale of state-funded and fee-based funded full time CoE faculty when TFA instructors teach a class with as few as 2 students, while other CoE faculty are currently teaching unprecedented numbers of students.  (Some of our EDLPS colleagues are teaching 60 students in very complex disciplines.)
4) How are we serving the interests of the CoE when faculty have not had a chance to actively and collectively probe the implications and consequences of decisions that are being made? 
5) Assuming that corporate donors who are interested in funding important programs such as the proposed urban residency program are behind TFA and are more like to look favorably upon the College if we provide support for TFA...as Washington's top educators, what is our responsibility to try, as a faculty, to engage in conversations with corporate funders?  Where are the opportunities for faculty to sit at a table to respectfully deliberate, teach, and learn with potential funders

Although some might suggest that this is a naive proposition, I see this as fundamental, symbolically and constructively, to democracy. 

End of e-mail portion.

It is hard to know what to say to what is clearly frustration, maybe some despair and some anger here.

We as a state can afford to have classes for two students who are not Special Ed students at our biggest and most active university?

We are allowing business interests to move our faculty members and their programs and teaching loads around like chess pieces on a board?  

We are finding out that the experts - the faculty - are NOT being consulted or asked for input by these corporate interests who, from my years of watching, think they know it all about public education by reading a white paper.

How can it be naive for faculty at a major university to want to have input on programs and teaching methods in their own department?

I'm not allowed to swear but I'll say this in exasperation - Jesus H. Christ.  Who the hell do these corporate and philanthropic people all think they are?

Where is this TFA success?  Not in our districts in and around Seattle.  There are maybe 17 TFA (give or take as some have left early).  You may recall this interchange between Tom Stritikus, the dean of the UW College of Education and Vice-Provost, Dave Szatmary early on:

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." 

If only Szatmary had taken that bet.

So we have this program at UW, only for people vetted thru TFA (and no others need apply to get in), and it's run in the red for every single year of its existence.  UW - with all its budget cuts and tuition increases and crying need for more in-state students being able to attend - has the money for a pet project for a dean.

Our district and our university have time for this nonsense? 

Very sad.


mirmac1 said...

I understand your frustration, to see everyone tied in knots for 5-6 temporary teachers.

U-ACT has some issues

Melissa Westbrook said...


And Stritikus is saying this is all "self-sustaining?" I'd like to see hard, cold proof of that.

Unknown said...

There is likely to be serious fall-out from this set of emails. There is tremendous political pressure for TFA to succeed in the Seattle area, despite the fact that there is no need.

The BMGF has given over $500,000,000 to the University of Washington, most for Global Health, but it also gave the University of Washington Foundation $560,000 in November of 2012 to strengthen its TFA program, $2,500,000 to Teach for America to establish a TFA presence in the Puget Sound Area. Through Washington STEM it also gave $475,000 to Teach for America in Seattle to "Support Effective Math and Science for Low-Income Communities." There's probably more, but that's $3.5 million riding on 15 teacher students already.

Unknown said...

Does anyone really care, though? Does the mainstream media care about $3.5 million being thrown at 15 TFA students? Or that a CoE professor at the UW rightfully questions the need for these TFA students?

mirmac1 said...

I'll bet Stritikus would say a spendthrift who's daddy pays his credit card bills, is living on a budget.

I thought the email from the BMGF person saying, hey let's meet to talk about the "Pacific Northwest Initiative" and find out what the heck everyone's doing to improve teacher quality and maybe coordinate somehow. Gee, if any of you have any DATA that would be nifty.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mary, my reason for writing on this blog is to make people care.

That TFA struggles, even now, means that somehow with all the pressure, cheerleading and money, it still can't get more than a toe-hold.

It's worth the fight.

mirmac1 said...

I'm curious to see just what Banda is expecting from his principals with respect to hiring 5-week wonders. Does he have the guts to say thanks but no thanks? Does he really think this is best for the students? Or best for scoring points with the bluebloods. The board will surely rubberstamp whomever is put forth for conditional certs, shrouded in mystery as they are (name? unique qualifications? degree? competency?)

Watching said...

Nice e-mail, Mirimac. Hope it goes viral.

Charlie Mas said...

It's a shame that the Seattle Times will never report on this.

I suspect that even if Linda Shaw wrote the story - even if she wrote it gently - it would get spiked.

Melissa Westbrook said...

And Charlie that says it all.

This IS education news in Seattle, both from the district and UW levels. It should be open to public debate (although the CoE faculty can't even get a discussion and they are on the ground).

That the Times looks the other way is sad.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's what I find really galling about all of this.

The people who think it is perfectly fine for corporate philanthropists to direct programs and meddle in the decisions of the professionals who operate our schools are the very same people who pitch a fit if the democratically elected members of the Board do anything even resembling that.

They readily grant authority and license to the rich that they would deny to the duly elected representatives of the community.

This is what defines them as oligarchs.