Teach for America

May 2, 2014 - 11:23 am CDT

Teaching Alongside TFA Special Forces

By Johnny Bravo
My story starts some years back, on my first day on the job as a public school teacher. (After twenty years of private industry work and collegiate teaching experience, I shifted gears relatively recently and became a teacher). Having expected to encounter a balanced mix of experienced-to-new teachers, I was surprised at what seemed to be an extremely large number of very young recruits at our orientation. Although they weren’t introduced to us as being part of Teach for America, it didn’t take long to find out. While we all wore the same uniform, so to speak, there was something different about them.

And now it’s time for my joke
How can you tell which guest at a party is a TFA corps member?
Answer: Don’t worry. They’ll tell you.

There’s a part two to my joke that I like to call “the conversation.”

Me: “So Jenny—where are you from?”
“Wisconsin.”

Me: “Wow—Wisconsin. What brings you all the way out here?”
“I put in for this assignment. I’ve always wanted to see this place.”

Me: “This place???” feeling a bit like a Sri Lankan rice farmer.

Special forces
We’ve now been through several rounds of TFA coworkers at my school and I’ve had many conversations just like this one. They tend to end quickly because the TFA recruit on the other end rarely inquires about me in return. In fact, these one-sided exchanges are typical of the relationship between the traditional teachers and the TFA recruits at my school. They cluster together and never really integrate with us. They rent their apartments near other TFA members—away from the school district. We don’t really get a chance to know them; they don’t seem interested in getting to know us. Last year I decided that it was finally time to break the ice. I invited all of the TFA newcomers to join a group of us for lunch in my classroom. Not a single one accepted.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it

It’s not that hard to see why. TFA corps members don’t see themselves as teachers at our school. They’re TFA. Think of a transport plane that carries soldiers. There are regular infantry and then there are the Green Berets, the Special Forces. We may show up at the same school every day, ostensibly for the same reasons, but we’re not the same and the TFA corps members know it. They’re here on a brief and special mission and to integrate with us would serve as a distraction.

Until recently, I had the same mental concept of TFA that most non-teaching Americans probably have: recent college grads recruited to parachute into the sort of big-city schools seen in such films as Freedom Writers and Stand and Deliver. In other words, places where it was difficult, or even impossible, to recruit experienced teachers. The TFA recruits were filling an urgent need and using their *smart-people smarts* to help out. Except that in my predominantly suburban district there are plenty of experienced teachers looking for work. We also have a major university with a big teachers college nearby, regularly cranking out graduates who want to make a career out of teaching.

On a rescue mission—just not the one they think
While our district is more suburb than war zone, my TFA colleagues have been prepared for a rescue mission nonetheless. And they are on a rescue mission—it’s just not the one they think. The reality is that in my district, TFA recruits are hired to help balance the budget. They’re young. They start out at the bottom of the pay scale and leave long before reaching the middle, let alone the top. Gone in two years? Who cares? There will always be new corps members to take their place. District administrators have found a bottomless pool of cheap labor. Best of all, the corps members, data enthusiasts all, will work themselves virtually to death without uttering a complaint.

Corps members can’t see this exploitative situation for what it is—because they’ve been sold a brave heroic story about why they’re really here. And it’s a great story that anyone in their place would want to believe.

Sgt. Johnny Bravo serves on the front lines of public education.  Although he possesses a 4-year college degree, attended Officer Candidate School and has two decades of prior experience serving society in a different professional capacity, his true rank is not O-level, but rather non-commissioned officer. His experience on the front lines has convinced him that while many of his fellow TFA sergeants have graduated from the finest private military institutions around the nation, they don’t seem to shoot any straighter, aren’t any braver, and seem particularly vulnerable to fratricide. Sgt. Bravo’s field research interests include the impact of digital devices and culture on battlefield efficacy as well as the newly emerging study of herd dynamics.

For more go to: http://edushyster.com/

April 21, 2014 - 8:01 am CDT

Guest Post by Owen Davis

Owen Davis is a TFA alum and freelance writer who focuses on education. He’s also the education coordinator for alternative kid’s magazine IndyKids. Tweet @of_davis.

Dear Teach for America:

As an alum of your program, I like to keep apprised of your goings-on. Though we may have our differences, I always try to appreciate your bolder efforts. So I’m thrilled to see you taking a valiant stand in Newark, where the district is preparing to can over a thousand teachers without regard to seniority and in contravention of state tenure law. Remaining in a district so openly hostile to career educators must require not just millions from the Walton Family Foundation, but the bold resolve of knowing you’re part of the civil rights struggle of our generation. 

 On that note, I’m sure you know that the district’s moves will disproportionately impact teachers of color. As Rutgers’ Bruce Baker found (you follow his work I presume?), the district’s One Newark school closure/turnaround plan will almost certainly lead to a staff with fewer teachers of color. Just as the schools being impacted by One Newark enroll higher shares of black and low-income students, “teachers who face employment consequences as a function of One Newark are 2.11 times as likely to be black as to be white.”

That you, TFA, would stay committed to such an flagrantly inequitable project, despite the predictable cries of hypocrisy, speaks to the depth and subtlety of your educational vision.

I’m heartened, for instance, by your much-touted initiative to increase the number of black men in teaching (who indeed make up a too-small share of the teaching force nationwide – despite the fact, it must be mentioned, that primary school teacher is the top profession for black men with a bachelors degree, compared to no. 3 for white men). That an organization so committed to educators of color would continue ballooning in a district moving to offload droves of them speaks, more than anything, to your strength of will in the face of staggering contradiction.

One would expect an organization like yours to decry the district’s moves and, despite the fact that the plan would directly benefit you, stand with veteran teachers of color. But as your very own TFA-New Jersey exec said, “To work on behalf of kids, we have to believe and act as if the facts matter.” It’s clear that to some, they don’t.

Your ability to shrug off the naysayers is what really astonishes me. So what if TFA is on average whiter than the teachers it will replace? What does it matter that TFA is a necessary ingredient in the charter stew that drowns traditional public schools – and that Newark’s current layoff plans stem directly from the diverting of district funds  to charters? Who cares that 60% of NJ TFAers end up in that same charter sector, whose teachers are only 74% as likely to be black and half as likely to be Hispanic as in district schools? And the fact that half of TFA’s current teachers in Newark’s district schools landed in “renew schools,” where existing staff had to reapply en masse and where hundreds of educators were displaced?

As we all know, divisiveness gets us nowhere.

So rather than oppose Superintendent Cami Anderson’s baldly undemocratic One Newark plan and associated layoffs, you’ve planted a flag for transformational change. And I know it’s not just because of her history as the executive director of TFA-New York. I feel like it has more to do with your history.

The Newark situation can’t help but stir recollections of your stalwart march into New Orleans in the decade after Hurricane Katrina, when the number of TFA first- and second-years shot up from 85 to over 400, while the proportion of African-American educators dropped from 73% to 49%. Or in Chicago, where your corps size grew by a third while fifty schools were closed and a thousand positions were cut – and where previous mass layoffs hit black and Latino teachers hardest. It’s in these dire circumstances that “doing nothing is not an option.”

And boy did you do something.

So don’t let the nattering nabobs of negativity keep you from placing 370 corps members in New Jersey in the next two years, a stunning 75% increase from current levels. Don’t let them stop you from still dumping 80% of them in Newark, despite the protest and upheaval there. Don’t let them sling facts and figures “as if they matter” in the service of some outdated status quo – like the current demographics of Newark’s teaching force.

No, TFA, do what you’ve always done: Don’t back down.

Owen Davis is a TFA alum and freelance writer who focuses on education. He’s also the education coordinator for alternative kid’s magazine IndyKids. Tweet @of_davis.

For more go go: http://edushyster.com/

April 19, 2014 - 11:47 am CDT

Katie Osgood is a special education teacher in Chicago currently working at a psychiatric hospital. She previously taught in the Chicago Public Schools.

Around the country, hundreds of college seniors and a handful of career changers are receiving letters of acceptance into Teach For America (TFA). Congratulations on being accepted into this prestigious program. You clearly have demonstrated intelligence, passion, and leadership to make it this far.

And now I am asking you to quit.

TFA probably enticed you into the program with its call to end education inequality. That is a beautiful and noble mission. I applaud you for being moved by the chance to help children, to be part of creating equality in our schools, of ending poverty once and for all.

However, the actual practice of TFA does the exact opposite. TFA claims to fight to end educational inequality, and yet exacerbates one of the greatest inequalities in education today: Low-income children of color are much more likely to be given inexperienced, uncertified teachers. TFA’s five weeks of institute are simply not enough time to prepare anyone, no matter how dedicated or intelligent, with the skills necessary to help our neediest children. This fall, on that first day of school, you will be alone with kids who need so much more. You will represent one more inequality in our education system, denying kids from low-income backgrounds equitable educational opportunities.

Many of you no doubt believe you are joining a progressive education justice movement; that is the message TFA sells so well. But TFA is not progressive. The data-driven pedagogy, the fast-track preparation, the union-busting, the forced exploitation of your labor, the deep-pocketed affiliation with corporate education reform are all very conservative, very anti-progressive ideas. Look no further than TFA’s list of supporters/donors. The largest donations are from groups like the Walton Foundation, of Walmart fortune, which has a vested interest in the status quo of inequality, breaking unions, and keeping wages low and workers oppressed. Or notice the partnerships with JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, the very institutions that caused the financial collapse of 2008 and threw millions of Americans—including your future students’ families—into foreclosure, bankruptcy, and deeper poverty. These organizations choose to donate to TFA because TFA supports their agendas. If TFA was truly pushing back on the status quo of educational inequality, these donors would not only refuse financial support, they would be on the attack.

Ask yourself: Since when did billionaires, financial giants, or hedge fund managers on Wall Street begin to care about the education of poor black and brown children in America? If you follow the money, you will see the potential for mass profit through privatization, new construction, union-busting, and educational service industries. Why would a group dedicated to educational justice partner with these forces?

A Broken Model

In places like my city of Chicago, TFA represents a gross injustice from the very first day of training. TFA places up to five trainees at a time in our summer school classrooms. In Chicago, summer school is for children who failed courses during the school year. These are the children most in need of expert teaching and support; many have or eventually may need special education services. Instead, these students are used for practice as novice TFA corps members have their very first experiences working with a group of children. Last year, a phenomenal teacher friend of mine described his experience of having TFA forced upon his classroom, “They are using my kids as guinea pigs,” he lamented. This powerful, experienced teacher was told to sit silently in the back of his classroom. He was forbidden to give feedback as five novice TFAers fumbled their way through lessons for four weeks of a five-week summer term. Those kids will never get that time back.

TFA will tell you over and over that you will be offering something “better” than our traditionally trained teachers can provide. I want you to understand what even first-year teachers from traditional teacher prep programs bring with them: Preservice teachers are slowly introduced into teaching, beginning with many long hours of observation in multiple settings, along with discussion, reflection, and the study of pedagogy and child development. For many months, we practice small group instruction and short whole group lesson plans before moving on to extensive student teaching placements. The goal of this model is to minimize negative impact on children, and to create safe spaces for new teachers to practice under the watchful eye of a mentor.

Compare that to TFA’s model, in which novices take turns teaching a single group of students for four weeks, and then are placed in classrooms by themselves. Where is the time for observation and practice in different settings/age groups/subject matter/ability levels? How can anyone argue that the two types of training are comparable? And, if TFA truly offered higher quality prep, why aren’t schools serving upper-income students demanding first-year TFA teachers? The idea is preposterous. Upper-income parents would never allow uncertified, unprepared novices to teach their own children. So why should low-income students endure this type of injustice?

As former Chicago student and spoken word artist Rachel Smith explains:

Only see them for 2 years because we’re just a

steppingstone so they can get to their prep schools . . .

It’s time we refute these self-proclaimed saviors

and put our faith into the true educators,

who demand master’s degrees and double majors,

and not the ones trying to do the black community

a couple favors.

Understand the Pushback

Most corps members are being thrown into highly contested, politically unstable education environments. Here in Chicago, there is a massive grassroots battle under way led by parents, teachers, students, and community members to save public education. Over the past few years, Chicago has seen mass protests, acts of civil disobedience, and a successful teachers strike—all to protest devastating corporate education reforms being forced on our schools. Despite this mass movement, 50 schools were closed by our mayor’s appointed board of education, thousands of teachers laid off, and school budgets were slashed. Tens of thousands of parents have come out to plead for their neighborhood schools, to beg for more funding, to demand an end to excessive high-stakes testing, and to speak out for their beloved teachers. Each time, the board turned a deaf ear.

To add insult to injury, mere weeks after the announcement of mass school closings, TFA successfully pushed the board to renew and expand TFA’s contract with Chicago Public Schools. In the middle of this supposed “budget crisis,” CPS increased the funding to TFA from $600,000 to $1,587,500. The number of TFA first-year novices went from 245 to 325.

As a result, we have thousands of displaced teachers looking for jobs. We have dozens of quality schools of education producing credentialed teachers who are looking for work in Chicago and other urban centers around the country. We have quality programs like Grow Your Own, which recruits people from high-needs communities, supports them through a full teacher education program, and then helps them find work in their own communities. Unfortunately, while TFA is handed millions in public funding and private donations, programs like GYO struggle to simply survive.

Like many other cities (New York City, Detroit, and Philadelphia to name a few) we have no teacher shortages. We have teacher surpluses. And yet, TFA is still placing first-year novice corps members in places like Chicago.

TFA has developed a cozy, troubling relationship with the very people implementing these horrible policies. Here in Chicago, board of education member Andrea Zopp spoke at TFA’s 2013 induction ceremonies. New board of education member Deborah Quazzo, a millionaire businesswoman, once sat on the Chicago board of TFA. These ties represent massive conflicts of interest as the policies being passed by the board are benefiting TFA directly. TFA pushes their alumni to get elected to local school councils, democratic bodies designed to give voice to parents, teachers, and community members, where they promote their TFA-friendly corporate reform agenda.

In many placement areas, TFA is closely tied to the charter school movement. Charter schools are highly controversial; research has shown that they tend to exclude students with disabilities, English language learners, and students with behavior problems. Charter schools are usually nonunion, which leads to teacher exploitation and arbitrary firings.

To put it bluntly, the last thing our students—undergoing mass school closings, budget cuts, and chaotic school policies—need is short-term, poorly trained novices.

Why You Must Say No

This is just the tip of the iceberg of TFA’s role in the assault on teachers and public education. As people new to the world of education, it’s important to understand the context you are entering (see “Learn More About TFA”, bottom of page). Read what other TFA alumni have written, eloquently describing why they no longer support the organization. Investigate research on TFA, its effect on education, and the shoddy research they use to support their practices. Learn why TFA alumni and education activists organized against TFA last summer in Chicago. Follow facebook groups like Resistance to TFA. Listen when groups of college students launch anti-TFA campaigns on their campuses. Read about the school board in Pittsburgh, which recently rescinded a $750,000 contract with TFA.

This pushback has nothing to do with you personally. There have been multiple abuses already endured in the cities you are entering, which TFA exploits. How else are stakeholders supposed to respond as TFA takes precious resources from districts and states in budgetary crisis? Or as TFA steals jobs from experienced teachers and qualified, fully credentialed teacher candidates? Or undermines our profession with false claims that teachers need little preparation? Or partners with the very wealthy and politically connected forces wreaking havoc on our schools against the will of communities?

You new recruits did not create this current situation. But by participating in TFA you will become a part of the problem.

A Chance to Do What's Right

If you truly want to work with children as a teacher, give those future students the greatest chance possible by doing a full preparation program before teaching alone in that classroom. Those of us in the teaching profession welcome bright young beginning teachers with open arms. If you are not sure teaching is for you, volunteer in a school, tutor, participate in after-school programs. All children deserve a fully prepared teacher for every day of their educational careers. Please do not participate in denying them that right.

And please do not become a foot soldier for the corporate education reform movement. Do not partner with the very people trying to destroy public education for their own personal gain.

You have a choice to make. TFA may open doors to lucrative careers, help you get into prestigious law and graduate degree programs, even give you direct paths into high-paid jobs in the worlds of education, business, or politics. But are you willing to participate in the destruction of public education, destroy the teaching profession, and deny children experienced long-term educators?

Please make the right choice. And then join those of us on the ground fighting for real reform. We need your passion and drive.

Please, do not do Teach For America.

Sincerely,

Katie Osgood
Special education teacher in Chicago

The commentary piece was inititially posted in Alternet: An Open Letter to Teach for America Recruits | Alternet.

 

March 29, 2014 - 8:44 am CDT

I often get the sense that something happens to the brains of people who do their two years or less at Teach For America and then, rather than continue to teach, go on to "stay in education" as "leaders." Maybe their self-granted halos are a little too tight.

Take Newark State Superintendent Cami Anderson:
 

 

So, as a college student, I organized a group of female athletes to challenge the university on the basis of gender inequity. We had amazing mentors -- my aunt who was a university employee and is a sports enthusiast, the Title IX officer for the University of California, a free-lance journalist who knew a lot about the Title IX law and movement. After a thoroughly-researched, public letter threatening a lawsuit was distributed far and wide, dozens of meetings, and several news stories -- the university agreed to massive changes. Female and male sports budgets merged, across all sports, and head coaches were mandated to ensure equity. Literally, overnight, we bought three new boats, moved in to share the men's boat house, gained access to the best weight rooms at the university, and began to fly -- instead of driving 15 hours -- to races.

[...]

As Superintendent of Newark Public Schools (NPS), I am no stranger to controversy and feel many of the dynamics I experienced in my Title IX days -- and throughout my life as an activist -- are at play in the fight for educational equity (in Newark and nationally). Vilifying the leader is a way of discrediting them and preventing them from earning the trust they need to lead. Fear, intimidation, and gender politics are alive and well. More people benefit from a broken public education system than may otherwise be obvious including people who should be "natural allies" for change. In the face of abject failure, even mediocrity is celebrated and challenging that is difficult. It is wildly unpopular to say what we have been doing is failing and even more controversial to make bold proposals that challenge sacred cows -- and adult interests embedded in the status quo.

Folks, there's no bigger fan of Title IX than yours truly. I say that as the uncle and brother of some outstanding college athletes who happen to be women. Women deserve all the protections and entitlements and privileges that have been traditionally reserved for men. 

But let's recap:

Apparently, the following acts are exemplars of moral courage:
 

All of these acts are so selfless, so noble, so righteous indeed that they deserve a public self-lauding -- one where the author can tell us all about her lonely, arduous crusade at her extremely elite college to get more money for her crew team so she could fly to her meets rather than drive.

Take a sec to let that sink in...

Anderson really should be more careful: she just might re-injure herself, what with all the contorting she's doing to pat herself on the back.

For more go to: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/

March 17, 2014 - 4:40 am CDT

Have you ever found yourself trapped in the insufferable position of having to tolerate a Teach For America true believer relentlessly bombarding you with justifications for Teach For America’s placement atop the corporate org chart of educational excellence?

Teach for America is a $300 million “non-profit” organization that executes a highly sophisticated integrated marketing communications strategy that includes traditional and digital advertising, a wide range of experiential and special event initiatives, and plenty of public and media relations.

With millions spent on corporate communications, it’s to be expected that Teach For America has crafted a concise list of focus-group tested talking points. With discipline matched only by GOP pundits, Teach For America’s “brand evangelists” (from the corporate communications team all the way down to the on-campus recruitment interns) stay “on message” by relentlessly repeating the same lines. The only problem? Many are deceptive at best, while others are downright false.

Here are some suggested replies for eight of Teach For America’s most tried arguments.

1. When a Teach For America supporter says: ”Teach For America might not be the answer, but it’s a part of the solution.”

This is how you might respond: To overcome the challenges associated with educational inequity, Teach For America’s standard of training would require it to be vastly superior to any school of education or alternative route – not less. Corps members would need the ability to deconstruct their own privilege, fully understand their own role in historically oppressed communities, and develop strong relationships with true veteran teachers (not Teach For America corps members who only taught 2 or 3 years). Unfortunately, with only a few weeks of training, and often zero student-teaching hours within the placement community or assigned grade, Teach For America corps members receive nothing close to the unparalleled training that would be required to systemically reduce educational inequity. In all likelihood, by providing the least prepared teachers to the students with the greatest needs, Teach For America corps members may be doing more harm than good.

2. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Teach For America corps members are more effective teachers. The Mathematica study shows that Teach For America corps members produce gains equal to 2.6 extra months of learning.”

This is how you might respond: First, there is no such thing as a test that measures months of learning. That would mean all students learn at the same pace. As any parent or teacher knows, that’s not true. In fact, the “gain” was just .07 standard deviations (miniscule in statistics). By comparison, reducing class size can increase learning by .20 standard deviations (3x more effective). Second, the study only included Teach For America secondary math teachers (136 of them), but claims that this is true for all Teach For America corps members regardless of whether they teach secondary math or not. In most communities, the majority of Teach For America corps members teach elementary, not secondary. Therefore, the miniscule test score gains in this study do not apply to the vast majority of Teach For America corps members. Finally, the Teach For America secondary math teachers who were studied were only compared to other first and second year teachers. They were not compared to teachers who have more experience. Since most Teach For America corps members quit teaching within the first 5 years, they never grow into becoming more effective, experienced teachers. Therefore, implying that Teach For America corps members are more effective than other teachers is patently deceptive.

For more information on the Mathematica study check out:

How I teach 2.6 months more of math in a year than the rest of you slackers
New Mathematica TFA Study is Irrational Exuberance
“Does Not Compute”: Teach For America Mathematica Study is Deceptive?

3. When a Teach For America supporter says:  “Teach For America doesn’t take jobs from other teachers. Teach For America just provides corps members for regions that have teacher shortages.”

This is how you might respond: School districts run by politicians who are pushing for the corporate takeover of public education sign contracts with Teach For America to hire Teach For America corps members each year regardless of whether there is a qualified teacher shortage in the region or not. Chicago is a perfect example. In 2013, after closing 49 schools and laying off 850 teachers and staff because of “budget concerns”, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s hand-picked school board authorized an increase of 325 new Teach For America corps members at a cost to Chicago taxpayers of $1.6 million in addition to the salaries that the schools will pay Teach For America corps members. Teach For America corps members are now in direct competition with displaced teachers for available jobs at district schools and charter schools. Similar situations have occurred across the country includingBostonNew Orleans, and Newark.

4. When a Teach For America supporter says:  “Teach For America doesn’t take jobs from other teachers. Teach For America just provides teachers for subject areas that have teacher shortages.”

This is how you might respond: Teach For America’s school district contracts make clear that Teach For America teachers are to be considered for all open teaching positions in a district, not just hard to staff subject areas. Teach For America’s contract with Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Public School System explicitly states, “Teach For America Teachers will be hired by School District for vacancies across the full range of grades and subject matters and not restricted or limited to so-called ‘critical’ or ‘shortage’ subjects or grade level vacancies.”

5. When a Teach For America supporter says: “One third (33%) of Teach For America corps member alumni are still teaching.”

This is how you might respond: Teach For America’s data comes from their annual alumni survey. Unfortunately, Teach For America won’t provide that survey data to outside researchers to verify their claims. However, peer-reviewed research studies show that roughly only 20% of Teach For America corps members are still teaching anywhere after five years (the national average is approximately 50%).

6. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Two-thirds of Teach For America alumni remain in education”

This is how you might respond: Teach For America’s data comes from their annual alumni survey. Unfortunately, Teach For America won’t provide that survey data to outside researchers to verify their claims. However, it is widely accepted that many Teach For America alumni, including those who only taught for two or three years, go on to become principals at privately managed charter schools and run school districts. This begs the question, “Are novice teachers with 2-3 years experience really qualified to be running schools and districts?”

7. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Teach For America is not a part of a conspiracy to privatize education.”

This is how you might respond: In districts across the country, pro-business politicians are closing down public schools and replacing them with privately managed charter schools. Many recent court decisions have concluded that charter schools are not public schools even though they receive public money. A public entity is accountable to the public. A private enterprise is accountable to its board of directors and shareholders. Therefore, as public schools are closed and replaced by privately managed charter schools, the public school system is becoming privatized.

Teach For America’s role in this privatization agenda is by providing corps members to teach at the newly opened charter schools for wages that are often well below the first-year salary of local public school teachers. Recent documents revealed that many charter school management organizations are so dependent on Teach For America to provide them cheap labor that charter managers are reluctant to open new schools without Teach For America.

For more information on Teach For America’s connections to other agents in the privatization and corporate takeover of public education, read the report Mapping the Terrain: Teach For America, Charter School Reform, and Corporate Sponsorship by Teach For America alums, Kerry Ketchmar and Beth Sondel.

8. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Teach For America corps members will now have one year of training.”

This is how you might respond: This is a step in the right direction, but no details have emerged. Furthermore, it is being launched as a pilot program and will most likely not include all corps members. Therefore, Teach For America will still send thousands of the least prepared teachers into classrooms with children who have the greatest needs.

For all of Cloaking Inequity’s post on Teach For America click here.

Please Facebook Like, Tweet, etc below and/or reblog to share this discussion with others.

YOU CAN HELP: Do you have documents or information about TFA? Are you a TFA teacher that wants to share your experience in a blog. It’s okay if it doesn’t read like TFA’s slick promotion materials. Send to jvh@austin.utexas.edu

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Written in conjunction with Sarah Ishmael.

For more information go to:  http://cloakinginequity.com/

 

March 3, 2014 - 2:48 pm CST

In the middle of writing my piece on Jordan Davis and the lack of volume about the decision / non-decision on Michael Dunn, a few people bristled at the idea that Teach for America would use my piece as a rebuff of #ResistTFA, a trend started by education activists to combat the deleterious effects of Teach for America on K-12 education. Um, that’s not quite how it went down.

In fact, I knew about the hashtag, but I didn’t know when people would discuss this nor did I know that the conversation would make it to Al Jazeera or a few newspapers across the country. If anything, I wrote the Jordan Davis piece as its own isolated rejoinder to the ignorance I saw. I do mean ignorance in the truest sense of the word, for, to ignore this event is to ignore the students in front of you.

Unless you think you’re absolved from the results of a court case about a kid that looks like he could be my kid. Whatever works for you.

In any case, one commenter in particular found it curious that I would write this Davis piece because, “If the rule was that no one can speak out on an issue unless they have already spoken out on all the other concurrent tragedies, then everyone would have to go silent,” then went to try and challenge my record on these things.

A few things:

  • do speak to international issues, early and often. I speak on war, capitalism, race, gender, and homophobia frequently, but you’d actually have to know me to say that.
  • Me calling out folks for not speaking on these issues doesn’t dismiss any particular movement.
  • One of the more vocal people on this issue, Katie Osgood, actually did a lesson on Jordan Davis the day I published said piece, and I applauded it instantly.

But you don’t hear me though.

People want me to box me in because it behooves them. The “with us or against us” mentality helps people thick lines in the sand based on their handful of comfortable issues like Google’s latest gadgets, 1-to-1 laptop classrooms, teacher evaluation, Gates’ evil escapades, and standardized testing, as if our social ills would be instantly rectified if we just focused on the issues they only now deem relevant because it’s affecting their kids, too.

Yes, I #ResistTFA because Stephanie Rivera and Hannah Nguyen were a big part of it, and I also recognize that, while we want to reform the ways of the organization, we have a plethora of teachers in front of my kids right now, many of whom need to hear us out, not tune us out. There are teachers within TFA who agree with us and blend readily with us in marches and petition-writing campaigns. There’s also a multi-million dollar organization that negotiates with districts who, rather than have expert teachers in the neediest areas, hire novices who generally don’t see themselves as career teachers, symptomatic of a system willing to push students down a downward system of pipes meant to look like progress.

That’s called nuance, but you don’t hear me though.

Because, no matter the teacher in front of my son, I would love for her or him to have high expectations for him, a sense of cultural responsiveness, a good background in pedagogy and content knowledge, and a spine when my son needs them to have one. Perhaps I’m asking for too much, but, until them, I continue to advocate for an education system for our most in-need. This is part of an overall plan for racial justice that doesn’t just include electing a Black president.

It’s not over for me. Not by a long shot.

Jose

For more go to:  http://thejosevilson.com/

February 28, 2014 - 10:49 am CST

Broad Foundation emails indicate charter operators reluctant to expand without TFA presenceBy Chad Sommer and Jennifer BerkshireLast weekend, former Newark Starcolumnist Bob Braun published abombshell column, arguing that the state-appointed superintendent of Newark, NJ schools, Teach For America (TFA) alum Cami Anderson, wants to waive seniority rules to fire upwards of 700 tenured Newark teachers and replace a percentage of them with TFA recruits. Executive Director of Teach For America New Jersey, Fatimah Burnam Watkins, quickly dismissed Braun’s assertions as *conspiracy theories,* while claiming TFA has a small footprint in Newark.  But the heated back-and-forth misses the larger issue: TFA plays an increasingly essential role in staffing the charters that are rapidly expanding, replacing public schools from Newark to Philadelphia to Chicago to Los Angeles. In fact, newly released documents indicate that many charter operators won’t even consider opening new schools without TFA to provide a supply of *teacher talent.*TFA a requirementEmails sent by the Broad Foundation, a leading advocate of market-based education reform and charter expansion, and acquired through a freedom of information request, reveal that many charter management organizations consider TFA presence in a region a necessary prerequisite for opening new schools. According to the documents, charter management organizations including Rocketship, KIPP, Noble, LEARN and Uncommon Schools all indicated that a supply of TFA teachers was a general pre-condition for expanding into a new region. The emails, which detail the Broad Foundation’s failed efforts to lure high-performing charter operators to Detroit, were released as part of a trove ofthousands of documents requested as part of an investigation into Michigan’s embattled Education Achievement Authority.Greetings from the charter stateIn New Jersey, where controversial charter expansion plans have been unveiled in Newark and Camden, TFA is likely to play a key role in providing *local talent* to staff new schools. Cami Anderson’s One Newark education reform plan is predicated on 40% of Newark public schools becoming privately managed charter schools by the 2016-2017 school year. Meanwhile in Camden, yet another TFA-alum-turned-state-appointed-superintendent,Paymon Rouhanifard, has begun introducing local residents to the charter operators that will soon be *turning around* their public schools, but without naming the schools to be turned around. [Note: effective in the fall of 2014, TFA corps members in Newark, Camden and Trenton will all be managed under a single entity: TFA New Jersey]. Numbers gameIn Fatimah Burnam Watkins’ response to Bob Braun’s assertions, she points to the relatively tiny number of TFA corps members employed by the Newark Public Schools: *There are currently 65 TFA teachers in NPS schools (48 in their first year, 17 in their second year.* But as Watkins is no doubt aware, this number leaves out the corps members who are staffing local charter schools. If Newark bears any resemblance to neighboring Philly, the vast majority of corps members are now placed in charter schools—a pattern that is quickly becoming the norm in urban areas across the country. As previously documented on this site here and here, TFA has become an essential source of labor for urban charter schools.  The ROI of TFAWatkins also takes issue with Braun’s citing of a *months old* announcement from the Walton Family Foundation, TFA’s single largest funder, regarding a grant to recruit, train and support 370 TFA corps members in New Jersey. But it’s clear that the Walton Foundation, which has provided start-up fundingfor one out of four charter schools in the US, sees the expansion of TFA as key to its goal of *infusing competitive pressure into local schools systems.* In Los Angeles, the Walton Foundation, which is led by heirs to the Walmart fortune, has pumped millions of dollars into helping charters and TFA expand simultaneously. Last summer Walton gave TFA $20 million, much of it earmarked for the recruitment of 700 new TFA corps members in LA. An additional $4.5 million in start-up funds from Walton will help to open 23 new charter schools in the city. Ninety four percent of TFA corps members in LA last year were place in charter schools. The perfect fitCities from Newark to Chicago to Los Angeles to Philadelphia suffer from a surplus of experienced—read expensive—teachers. Add in the fact that the solidarity of a union doesn’t sit well with the privatization movement’s financial backers, and temporary, inexpensive Teach For America recruits are the obvious go-to. Anderson’s One Newark vision calls for the rapid expansion of charter schools, and by proxy, the growth of TFA. As Anderson puts it: *Teachers are selected because of their quality and ‘fit’ with the school mission.* If the mission is to drive down teacher pay, bust unions and burn out novice teachers every two years, then TFA is the perfect *fit.*Chad Sommer was a 2011 TFA corps member and taught 4th grade at Chicago’s Rudyard Kipling Elementary School. Jennifer Berkshire is the creator and editor of EduShyster.For more information go to: http://edushyster.com/

February 27, 2014 - 8:36 pm CST

Why are TFA and, more generally, “reformers” perhaps the least interested in reform? Why do they get defensive when faced with critiques based on empiricism (data and research) and efficacy (is their reform working)? See for exampleJonathan Alter get defensive when I discuss charter school data and research on the Melissa Harris-Perry show. He went Jerry Springer. Is it because their reform is driven by ideology rather than the best interests of children and society? During the past week, TFA alumni have joined members of the public in the #resistTFA movement and put forth a variety of suggestions for #reformTFA. Some Twitter users responded to the critique and framed it as “hate” and “attacks.”

TFA has gone about their usual approach of engaging the critique with their strategy of “let’s agree” and “we are all on the same side” and “we care about the same things” so they can move on and go on doing what they have been doing for the past 20 years— sending inexperienced, poorly trained teachers into our toughest classrooms. But, really, we don’t agree— we aren’t on the “same side” and we don’t “care about the same things” because the implementation of TFA is problematic for children (See Teach For America: A Return to the Evidence (The Sequel)

Juice Fong, TFA’s head of internal communications, said that the calls for reforming TFA “doesn’t keep them up at night.” Which is exactly the point isn’t it? TFA is okay with the STATUS QUO. The public is growing more and more conscious and understanding how the TFA temp model as currently implemented is problematic.

That is why there are so many reform proposals out there in the public discourse— many of them from TFA alumni. But, TFA continues to be tone deaf— or asleep as Juice alluded. Thus, the TFA “reformers” appear to be the least interested in reform— how ironic.

TFA corps members and alums email me all the time. One alum recently told me that reading Cloaking Inequity is a “guilty pleasure” of TFA teachers at her school. When they contact me, I often encourage them to write a blog post for Cloaking Inequity. Several have done so. See for example:

It’s Sommer Time: TFA alum Critiques Co-CEO’s “Slick Willie” Interview

Tell-All from Oakland TFA Teacher: “I didn’t do my research” “Left by Winter Break”

Tell-All From A TFA and KIPP Teacher: Unprepared, Isolation, Shame, and Burnout

Some choose to be anonymous because they are afraid of blowback from TFA and others are able to go on the record. Today AnnaMarie Moffit, a TFA alum from the Texas Rio Grande Valley has chosen to go on the record. Here are her five suggestions to #reformTFA.

1. Transform the current program to recruit education majors, rather than non-education majors, and provide them with a two year internship. This internship would include the development of an action research project to be implemented by the corps member at their school site and evaluated by their education team at the end of their internship.

 Making this change would provide those committed to becoming a highly-qualified and well-prepared educator an experience similar to becoming a doctor or skilled tradesman. The internship would include pairing the intern with an education team specifically selected based on the area of interest or study determined by the participant. The corp member’s team would include site-based educators (practice), designated Curriculum and Instruction staff from the local university (theory) and other TFA peers. The education team’s responsibilities would include supporting the corps member during their classroom experience, as well as assisting with the implementation of the corps members’s action research plan.

Similar to a Master’s program, successful participants would then receive a specialized degree or higher level of certification. This type of program would also provide the means to try new practices or targeted curricula in the existing public school system which contains a random sampling of children. Unlike many of the successful reforms that have been purported by the school choice movement, positive outcomes would  more likely be based on the efficacy of innovative practices or curricula, not the manipulation of student participation.

 Also, rather than displacing qualified and certified teachers in participating schools, this program would provide corps members the opportunity to participate in a post-secondary apprenticeship program that would be a collaborative effort between TFA, local universities and on-site school staff, not a competition.

2. Corps members should be assigned a team (2-3) of professional educators, including at least one special education staff member, at their school site. 

After spending five weeks at the Summer Institute, being taught only by fellow corps members, I was inadequately prepared to teach in my TFA placement. It was not until my second year through the collaboration with my first grade team did I feel equipped with the necessary tools and resources to be a successful first grade teacher.

At the Summer Institute, we were told to not be in the teacher’s lounge and were encouraged to mostly collaborate with past alums or current corps members already placed at the school site. These practices and attitudes negatively impacted the relationship between the school staff and corps members over the years, ultimately resulting in an “us vs. them” mentality. 

This site-based support group would alleviate this problem by engaging and including the experienced and certified staff at the corps members placement site, as well as utilize the resources and experiences within the current staff. During this time, corps members would work with the support team to create goals, identify areas of need within their practice and develop a long-term education career plan (ie. vision mapping).

3. Corps members should be discouraged from leading extra-curricular student groups or participating in non-academic activities (ie. coaching/community-organizing).

During my time in the Valley, TFA corp members were highly encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities or coaching sports teams that took their valuable time and attention away from the classroom. Although numerous individuals had large numbers of students not mastering material or making adequate academic gains in their classrooms, valuable time was spent on planning special TFA events or coaching teams, not improving their teaching skills or knowledge base.

Their student’s poor academic progress was often blamed on the kids or the previous years’ teachers. I believe that this was partly due to TFA’s current belief that anyone can teach. There was little pressure or incentive to spend time on reflecting, improving and developing effective instructional practices. For many of the TFA folks, their time in the Valley was a stepping-stone to other careers or universities.

4. At the end of the academic school year, interns should be required to remain in the community and attend the local university to further develop their teaching skills.

The majority of corps members I worked with in Texas would return to their homes for the summer or travel abroad. There were very few that stayed to take more classes, unless it was made mandatory by the receiving district. Once again, I attribute this to the attitude perpetuated by TFA’s messaging: anyone can teach.

By remaining in their teaching community, corps members will develop a deeper understanding of the challenges and strengths that exist within the community and build stronger relationships with their families and school staff. This would also allow corps members the opportunity to be involved in extra-curricular groups that would not interfere with their work during the academic school year.

5. TFA should no longer be allowed to place corps members in a classrooms that primarily serve children with children with special needs unless they have notified parents and received their consent. No corps member should be allowed to teach in a bilingual setting unless they can pass language competency exams.

My caseload at Rico Elementary contained OVER 40 students, Spanish and English speakers, ranging from Kindergarten to fourth grade with special needs. I was particularly concerned about my students who only spoke Spanish since I didn’t speak any Spanish. However, when I brought this concern to my Principal, she instructed me to just sit next to them in the Spanish classroom and that would be in compliance with IDEA. Of course, she was also fired that year for cheating on the mandatory state evaluation by changing answers on students’ tests.

In my experience, corps members were being placed in settings that had students with a high level of care and complex needs, but they lacked any specialized training, or even the language of instruction. This practice led to not only having kids and teachers put in danger, but also inadequate and ineffective teaching being provided to those most in need of support and remediation.

If the program would make these changes, I do believe they would be fulfilling their mission statement – One day all children will receive an excellent education.

In conclusion, as demonstrated by AnneMarie Moffit, TFA doesn’t solve the persisting teacher quality inequalities in our schools that our country has historically ignored— they magnify the problems by sending inexperience teachers into those situations. It turns out that the most successful countries in the world have taken exactly the opposite approach of TFA on this issue (See WTF: US “Reformers” arguments are antithesis of Finland). It is impossible for TFA to be unaware of the suggestions in the public discourse for #tfareform from their alums and others. As “reformers,” TFA should be the most interested in reform— not the least. #reformTFA For all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on TFA go here.

For more go to:  http://cloakinginequity.com/

 

February 18, 2014 - 6:29 am CST

From The College Voice, Connecticut College's independent student newspaper, comes this thoughtful piece about how Teach for America is undermining teacher training programs in the United States.

Arriving at Connecticut College, I had a feeling I wanted to be a teacher, but I was not quite sure how I would get there.  After volunteering at a few schools, I began to realize that teaching might not be as easy as I thought it would be. Preparing to engage in a meaningful way with a class of students who each have their own needs is not an easy task and definitely not a task that can be completed during a five-week summer training session.

Over the past four years, I have worked to complete the elementary education certificate program at Connecticut College so that I will be prepared to teach next year.  Many other recent college graduates will also enter the profession next fall, some with certification and some without.  Many of those without will be placed through Teach For America (TFA), an organization that has some troubling implications for the education system.

As a freshman, one of the other options I considered was applying to TFA and getting a certification that way.  Previously, I had only heard of it as a prestigious program that some people from my high school had ended up doing after college.  I never had a TFA corps member at any of my schools in a majority white, upper middle class, suburb about 20 minutes west of Boston, nor do I think there will ever be one there.

The people I know who were TFA corps members are nice people, people who care about others and want to make a difference.  I am not writing to critique the individuals who join TFA, but instead to take a look at the effects it has as an organization in contrast to what many of the individuals involved are lead to believe they are doing.

The TFA website states their mission: “growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education.”  TFA plans to do this by recruiting students from top colleges and universities, with or without a background in education, training them for five weeks over the summer and placing them as classroom teachers that fall.  All corps members make a two-year commitment, but there have been many cases where they fall through.  The goal is not necessarily to create lifelong teachers, but to create “lifelong leaders for a better world.”

The idea is that future leaders, some of whom will be teachers, will have exposure to the education system in a meaningful way, thus motivating them to keep it in mind for the rest of their lives.  The problem with this concept is that students are not the first priority. There’s no doubt TFA is an organization with prestige—it makes a great resume item.  Joining TFA as an entirely self-interested decision is, well, selfish, but not as bad as joining with the intent of saving the public education system.

The organization’s original idea was to place corps members in “high need” areas where there were not enough teachers.  That is no longer the case.  This summer, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) laid off 2,100 employees (over 1,000 unionized teachers) and increased their contract with TFA to $1.6 million from the $1.3 million they had spent in recruiter fees the previous school year. TFA teachers are paid by CPS, as any first year teacher would be. Chicago does not have a teacher shortage; nor do most places where TFA is placing teachers.

The financial benefit of having TFA teachers is that they are first or second year teachers so their salary is not as high.  The other financial benefit is that the teachers will likely not stay around for more than two years, so they will not have to pay into their pension through a full career.

While the financial benefits of having teachers who only stay for two years may seem enticing, it is really not a system that will help “close the achievement gap,” which refers to the difference in test scores between groups of different socioeconomic status, race and gender.  It should come as no surprise that white males of higher socioeconomic status perform better on standardized tests.  There is now a trend to call the achievement gap “the opportunity gap” to more accurately reflect the lack of opportunity that causes the difference in achievement.  Having teachers come and go every two years is not actually a good way to try to fix this gap in opportunity.

Supposedly, the TFA corps members are the best of the best, so their presence alone will make a difference.  Students deserve better than this.   They deserve teachers who are making an investment in them in the long run, teachers who are teaching because they love teaching, teachers who are working to develop their future as a teacher.  Teaching is more than a job, it’s a profession, and it’s time we started to treat it as such.

TFA recruiters call upon Connecticut College every year.   As liberal arts students, it’s our job to look at organizations critically and evaluate their true purposes.  Although it may seem like a good career decision, students should not be used as “stepping stones” to further career paths.

If teaching is really what you want to do and it’s too late to join the Education Department here at Conn, look into fellowships.  In a smaller structure, it’s more likely that your work will actually reflect the community needs and lead to a more fulfilling experience for both you and the students.

February 17, 2014 - 4:31 pm CST

12 Reasons To Resist TFA

1. Five Weeks.

 Let's get the obvious out of the way first. Five weeks of training. My flightiest fifteen-year-old students have longer relationships. The gestation period of a guinea pig is longer. Phileas Fogg could not even get halfway around the world. And even the "five weeks" is overstating it, because as numerous TFA escapees have noted, a large chunk of that five weeks is not actual training, but simply being dumped in front of a faux class to flail away.

The go-to analogy here is "Would you hire a doctor/lawyer who had only five weeks of training," but we don't have to get that fancy. I wouldn't let a five-week plumber touch my pipes or a five-week mechanic touch my car. When I worked a summer as a catalog order phone sales rep, I was trained for two entire weeks, and closely supervised for another month.  The only jobs where five weeks of training are adequate involve either "Do you want fries with that" or "Paper or plastic?"

2. Stability.

Schools need it. Schools serving poor and at-risk populations need it even more. Those students need to know that their school is stable, dependable, and there for them every day. Stability is not enhanced by a teaching staff that turns over every single year comprised of teachers who are just passing through. School is where students should meet adults who care enough about the children to stick around for the long haul. 

3. A Solution with No Problem.

Maybe once upon a time there was a shortage of teachers (and by "once upon a time" I mean 50-60 years ago), but there sure as heck isn't one now. I find unemployment figures from 6% to 9% for education, and the anecdotal info matches that.

I can believe that Wendy Kopp's mission was noble twenty years ago. But twenty years ago I was married to a different woman, and that's not who I'm going home to tonight. Today's world does not need the TFA solution from twenty years ago.

4. TFA (among others) Doesn't Understand Economics

There are, to be sure, districts that have trouble recruiting teachers. The entire state of North Carolina is doing its best to drive teachers away. But economics tells us how to fix the issue. Heck, we're all instructed in this issue every time some criminal CEO gets a raise.

If you want the right people for a particular job, you have to pay what the invisible hand of the market says you have to pay. If you can't get anybody to work for you shoveling fertilizer for minimum wage, you have to pay more. At the very least, you have to make the job more attractive.

People who squawk about attracting and retaining top quality highly effective teachers keep acting as if this is some mystery. It's not. If you want to get people to do a job, make it worth their while. That doesn't necessarily mean money-- people work for autonomy and a sense of value-- but it certainly doesn't mean you throw up your hands and grab some 22-year-old temp with no training.

5. So Discover a New Problem, or Else

Since no teacher shortage exists anywhere, TFA has massaged its message. Because how are they going to stay in business if they simply announce, "You know what? The teacher shortage of two decades ago is over. Problem solved. We can all go home now." Nope. Instead, TFA has quietly changed its mission to something else entirely.

In this, TFA reveals itself to be a status-quo loving institution just like any other. Because the number one mission of every hidebound dinosaur of an institution, the ironclad law of the institutional jungle, is Self Preservation. And TFA has arrived at that magical spot where the mission is "Say whatever you need to, but keep our directors employed and the money rolling in."

6. Its New Mission Is More Bogus That the Old One
 

Teach For America works to eliminate this injustice by finding, training, and supporting individuals who are committed to equality and placing them in high-need classrooms across the country. Through this experience, they become lifelong leaders for a better world.

Points for honesty-- we're not even pretending that TFA is aiming itself at education, really. Notice that "teach" doesn't appear anywhere except in their name. And we're going to find these special snowflakes and place them in a classroom-- what they do once they're placed there is anybody's guess.

TFA has repositioned itself as an engine for equality. Twitter is awash in TFA tweetage about getting black teachers in classrooms, and TFA has made "diversity" one of its core values. TFA is hustling like crazy to get black men into the classroom, and of all the ways in which TFA has rewritten/tweaked its mission, this is one of the least objectionable. But its mission remains the same-- recruit the elite, the people who are just better than everyone else, and give them some classroom experience. Just by placing these superior humans in a classroom with, well, inferior humans, the inferior humans will be elevated. Why? Well...

7. TFA Doesn't Understand Mobility

The average TFA body's success story goes something like this.

"I was born into a rich family and grew up in a rich neighborhood. My family's connections got me into a top private school, and connections and money made it possible for me to attend a select ivy league college. Now I'm going to go help poor kids get a good education, because the most important factor to getting ahead in this world is education."

Or: "I was born on third base, which makes me uniquely qualified to teach people how to hit triples."

8. TFA Has An Arrogance Problem

TFA has built itself around recruiting and retaining people who are Just Better Than Everyone Else. And then it devotes tons of internal communication to reminding its people that they are Just Better Than Everyone Else. Consequently, many TFAers do not play well with others. They enter schools convinced that the professional teachers who already work there are the problem, and should be ignored. The best schools, even the most not-too-bad schools, depend on collegiality and cooperation. When TFA says "team," they mean their team, not the public school team.

TFA knows they have a problem. Another core value that they've added is "respect & humility."

9. TFA Wastes the Good Intentions of Good People

Many, many TFAers join up for the very best of reasons with the very best of intentions. These are people who really want to help make the world a better place for children who face tough obstacles. Instead, they are made part of a program that sets them up for failure in the classroom and wastes all their good intentions on simply enriching TFA itself. Some of these people actually end up staying in teaching for good, and God bless those people. But how many more of those good people would still be teachers if they had actually gotten involved in, I don't know-- a teaching program.

10. A Classroom Is Not An "Experience."

The classic Onion column said it best. These are real live students with real needs and desires and hopes and dreams and needs. They do not exist simply so that some future Master of the Universe can say, "Hey, I once spent a year in a classroom with some poor people." 

Here's one way to understand Being a Professional: when you are doing your job, it's not about you. At all. When you are a doctor in an operating theater, your personal wants and dreams are the least important thing in the room. When you are a lawyer in court, you leave your personal issues for the day outside. And when you are a teacher in a classroom, the very last thing you should be wondering is "What am I going to get out of this?"

Students are not there to provide you with an experience. You are there to provide them with an education.

11. TFA Isn't Very Interested in Teaching

In addition to those already listed, TFA's Core Values are Leadership, Team and Transformational Change. Nothing about teaching. They talk about leadership a great deal, about establishing a culture of excellence, about how it is all challenging. TFA is interested in how the experience will foster your leadership skills and make you a better person when you finally get to your real job.On TFA's website, the verb "teach" rarely appears. Beyond the official materials, there's a lot of talk about TFA as a great resume-builder. But not a lot of talk about teaching.

I had a student teacher once who struggled a great deal. What became clear was that he didn't really want to be a teacher-- he just wanted to be the smartest guy in the classroom. TFA materials remind me of him a great deal. No talk of teaching techniques, pedagogical approaches, breaking down materials into manageable chunks, developmental appropriateness. TFA's pedadgogical approach appears to be, "Arrive in classroom. Be awesome. Demand excellence. Watch education magically occur. Quit and go to grad school for MBA."

12. TFA Diminishes the Profession

TFA institutionalizes the very idea that teaching is so idiot-simple that anybody can do it. Well, at least anybody from among the elite. That feeds very nicely into the newly-reformed conception of teachers as Content Delivery Units. If the teacher's job is just to unpack the unit from Pearson's shipping carton and read the script to the students-- well, yes, if teaching were that simple, any idiot COULD do it. 

Or if we decided that the only real job a teacher has is to insure good scores on The Test, well, most idiots could probably do that as well. In the end, TFA has solved its own first problem. If five weeks of training is insufficient to prepare someone to teach, well, then, let's ramp down the professional requirements of a teacher until it's something that you CAN be trained for in five weeks.

For more go to: http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/

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