Every Child Deserves a Great Education

Archive for the ‘Teach for America’

Yet another open letter to TFAers 0

Posted on June 04, 2014 by dmayer

Dear TFA Recruit,

You are considering a special education position this fall. Teach for America (TFA) has promised to transform you into an excellent, highly qualified teacher in only five weeks.  After you bought into that, it wasn’t a far stretch to believe that you could teach special education classes with only three more weeks of training.

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So, you are about to enter the world of SPED, a unique field of study with a language of its own.  It’s an alphabet soup of acronyms that provides a shorthand to experts who have additional duties over and above those of the regular classroom teacher. It comes with its own special laws, processes and protocols, and intricate funding systems. There is a reason that teaching SPED requires an additional certification.  There is so much to know. The vocabulary alone is mind-boggling. Below is a list of some SPED terms, not complete by any stretch of the imagination. Even if you could cram their names and definitions into your brain in only three weeks, the practical knowledge of how to integrate them into a curriculum demands experience.

Suppose you have a student identified with FAS? How does FAS manifest itself in a third grade boy? What kind of classroom behaviors can you expect? How does his educational needs differ from those of other students? What kind of services is he entitled to receive? Who will be on his team? How will you create the best possible IEP?  What kind of relationship will you develop with the child’s parents? 

Dear TFAer, if you really want to “give back,” become an assistant to a professional SPED teacher.  Enroll in a graduate program and learn to teach students with special needs.  Otherwise, who knows the harm you’ll do?  Certainly, not you – you may think everything is pie and ice cream because you just don’t know any better. There is real danger in not knowing what you don’t know. Your students have trusted us (the adults in the room) to give them the best teacher possible – one who knows how to teach them. It’s the least we can do.

In another open letter, An Open Letter to TFAers Tempted to Diagnose ADHD, Among Other Issues, Mercedes Schneider questions the idea of TFAers identifying or misidentifying students with ADHD.  I agree with her conclusions, but my concern runs much deeper.  I question the ability of a novice recruit to identify and educate all acronyms.


If you, dear TFAer,  are still not convinced that you aren’t the solution, here you go. Below is your new vocabulary to teach special kids. Many actual words like dyslexia and autism aren’t on the list.  To be fair, regular education teachers use some of these acronyms like DOE, ESEA, ERIC, and NCLB, too. But, then you already know that.


Teachers United Against Teach for America invites you to join our campaign to assure that every child, especially children with special needs, has a real teacher.

Who’s Failing Whom — Injustice 0

Posted on May 18, 2014 by dmayer

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During the past decade, politicians appropriated the language of civil rights for the purposes of radically changing public education. Both Republicans and Democrats have rallied around the proliferation of segregated charter schools for our poorest African-American and Latino students. Unlicensed teachers are hired to teach in these corporate schools that profess to be public schools only without the messiness of parent and community participation. Longer schooldays, weeks, and years is the remedy proscribed by faux teachers contracting to teach for two years. They enforce zero tolerance policies as they push a test-centered curriculum because they do not know how to teach. Kids suffer, teachers suffer, and schools suffer.

There is great injustice in requiring  students to learn who are not given a teacher but plenty of tests.  On this 60th anniversary of Brown v. the Board of Education, I’m positively sure that when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. professed closing the achievement gap to be the civil rights issue of our time, segregated charter schools and TFA for our poorest minority students was not what he had in mind. “Separate but equal” never was and never will be.

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Who’s Failing Whom? 0

Posted on May 17, 2014 by dmayer

Each year Teach for America places more and more recruits into teaching positions in our public schools. Even as hundreds of thousands of teachers have lost their jobs in the last decade, TFA manages to co-opt those positions for “teacher temps” who usually contract for two years. What’s wrong with this picture. This series of photos gives some clues.

You may find out much more about the inequities of TFA and like us at Teacher United Against Teach for America.


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Posted on May 05, 2014 by dmayer

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Teach for America, Inc. is asking the chosen ones — those who have been accepted into the 2014 Corps — to change their Facebook profile pictures to one that espouses their newfound status. If TFA recruits are still burying their heads in the sand to shelter themselves from the true motives of Teach for America, I offer them a heads-up. There is not teacher shortage. Over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of teachers have lost their jobs. In pursuing a position with Teach for America, you are depriving a teacher of a job. You are depriving students of a professionally licensed teacher.

Teach for America is all about teacher bashing and union busting. The end game is the privatization of our public schools. If you are still naive enough to believe that by joining Teach for America your are giving back, that your are righting a social injustice, that you are benefitting poor minority children, I implore you to wrest your head from beneath the sand. Change your Facebook photo to this instead:

Teacher Against Teach for America FB page.

Teachers United Against Teach for America 0

Posted on April 26, 2014 by dmayer

Teach for America, Inc. is the flagship of the education reform movement. The organization replaces professional teachers with unqualified college grads in the classrooms of some of our nation’s most disadvantaged children. This practice harms students and the teaching profession. It must stop!

For years I have implored NEA to support a professional recruiting organization to rival Teach for America which is nothing more than a glorified temp agency with Billionaire Boy support. At the Network for Public Education conference in Austin, Texas, leaders of both unions, NEA and AFT, agreed to give the idea consideration. So far, I’ve heard nothing from either organization.

So, I’m starting without union support and asking for yours instead. You don’t have to be a teacher to join this group. Parents, students, and everyone who cares about education justice is welcome here! Please “like” our Teachers United Against Teach for America Facebook page as we expose the harm TFA does to kids, teachers, and schools. Follow our progress as teachers begin to stand up to the dastardly behemoth of an organization that poses as an advocate for poor minority children while robbing them of the education they deserve.

Academicia – Go Away TFA – The Teacher Shortage 0

Posted on October 05, 2013 by dmayer

Teach for America wants YOU! 0

Posted on September 02, 2013 by dmayer

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Before they have entered their first class of the new academic year, seniors at colleges and universities across the country are being aggressively recruited by Teach for America. TFA is the much touted recruiting firm that places college graduates without teaching knowledge or experience into the classrooms of some of our nation’s neediest children. The following is an e-mail exchange between a TFA recruiter and my friend’s daughter who is valiantly resisting the call.  This redacted copy is reprinted with the permission of the student.  (All italics mine.)

All TFA recruiters are TFA alums who have completed two years “teaching”.  At first, the student didn’t know how TFA got her e-mail address.  She still doesn’t know for sure, but she thinks TFA has access to student data and chose her because she was an officer in a service organization.  The student is not happy that TFA has access to her data.  Some information has been redacted to protect the identities of the participants.  Authors’ names have been replaced with “TFA Recruiter” and “Student”.  

From: TFA Recruiter
Date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 11:16 AM
To: Student
Subject: Brief chat about ************

Hi Student,

I hope you are enjoying your summer vacation! I know what a treasured break this time can be before senior theses, orals, and writtens begin. However, with the fall semester of your senior year just around the corner, I thought I’d contact you about a potential post-graduate opportunity to put on your radar considering your involvement in **************.

My name is ****** *****, and I am the Recruitment Associate for Teach For America at ********. At Teach For America, we look for socially-minded, top leaders on campus, because we believe you have the passion and determination necessary to change America for the better. Teach For America’s goal is to ensure that all children have the opportunity to succeed and achieve their ambitions in life, regardless of where they grew up. However, currently only 1 in 13 children from low-income communities will graduate from college, which significantly limits their life trajectory. You have the opportunity to change this.

**** ******, a 2011 ******* Corps Member who just moved back to *********, will be meeting with select students at ********* and would love the opportunity to chat with you about your experience as an officer, Teach For America and our mission to offer every student an excellent education. Even if you don’t plan on applying to Teach For America, you can be an advocate on campus to ensure educational equity for all students.

Would you be available to meet with **** this coming week for a brief 20-30 minute chat? If you are interested, please let me know and I will send you a link to ****’s calendar so that you can find a time that works best for you.

Thank you for your time. I hope that you’ll have a chance to chat with ****.

TFA Recruiter

P.S. You may already be aware, but Teach For America is leading the movement to end educational inequity in our country. Here are some of the basics about our program:

  • All academic majors and career interests are eligible to apply
  • Receive full salary (up to $51,500) and health benefits
  • After completing the two year commitment, graduate school scholarships and employer partnerships are available

For more information check out this video and our website.

****** ****
Recruitment Associate-******* | Teach for America
Office: *********

One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

This communication and any file transmitted with it may contain information that is confidential, privileged and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. It is intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any use, dissemination or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify the sender. Thank you for your cooperation.


On Aug 30, 2013, at 8:49 AM, “****** *****” <******.****@teachforamerica.org> wrote:

Hey again Student,

Hope you’re having a great week!  I wanted to check in to make sure you got this important information about an opportunity for you to help change our country while earning a living.  I sent you an email on Wednesday (included below) and it has a lot of information about the educational injustice we are trying to solve and how you can play an integral role in the movement.   Please take 5 minutes to read the email and respond to me with your interest in chatting with us to learn more about Teach for America.

Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon!


TFA Recruiter

From: Student

Sent: Friday, August 30, 2013 9:48 AM

To: TFA Recruiter

Subject: Re: Brief chat about ************

Hello TFA Recruiter*,

First off, I’m honestly flattered that you would be interested in talking with me.

The reason I didn’t respond is because I do not agree with the methods of TFA. I believe that at-risk kids deserve experienced teachers, not hastily-trained, fresh-from-college graduates who are, at worst, naive idealists who’ll burn out after a semester, ultimately steering them away from going into education and leaving their students unhappy with school.

That said, I do sincerely wish you and ******* the best of luck here at ********. There are plenty of people here who are much more energetic and much less cynical than I am. In general, I’m incredibly unhappy with the state of education in America, so TFA’s mission is admirable.



Teach for America’s propaganda machine is so effective that even students who disagree with their methods still believe their hype.  

On Aug 30, 2013, at 8:14 PM, “****** ****” <**********@teachforamerica.org> wrote:

Hi Student,

Thanks so much for your response and your honesty.

And you know what, you’re right – this is problematic work.  It’s extremely hard – the national retention rate for first year teachers across the country, not just TFA teachers, is 86% – and it’s 83% in districts with a majority of students that qualify for free or reduced lunch.  Across the country, teacher preparation, training and support vary in quality and few programs venture into tackling issues of educational inequities and the disparities that fall along lines of race and class.  As a country, we have a lot of work to do to ensure all kids have access to great academic opportunities.

I also believe that all kids deserve high quality educators.  I would propose that rather than preventing this, TFA is promoting this by recruiting and redirecting talent into teacher hiring pools.  Ultimately, districts and schools make hiring decisions.  For example, in *********, our corps members apply to job postings and go through the standard hiring process (they actually have an additional layer of speculation in ********** and have to be approved by our school board).  So that means if a principal is hiring a corps member, they believe that they are the best candidate for the job.  Which speaks to greater issues indeed.

Ideally, TFA wouldn’t exist and I genuinely hope that day comes.  For that day to come, we need talent in education.  About 30% of all TFA teachers are still teaching – and over 60% are still in education more broadly (for example, the Dean of the College of Education at UW is a TFA alum as well as two State Superintendents of Education and two State Senators).  We don’t have this all figured out and we don’t think two years is going to change the system – but perhaps thousands of people rooted in real classroom experiences and their own students can work with their communities to foster greater systemic change.

So this is complex.  I know you’re not interested in doing TFA but I know ******* would love to meet you.  We need to be critical of our work and would very much appreciate your time and perspective.

Let me know what you think and if you’re up for it.


TFA Recruiter

TFA tosses around statistics with impunity.  They provide no reliable evidence that 30% of TFA recruits are still in classroom or that 60% are still involved in education endeavors.  TFA contracts with school districts to hire its recruits even when credentialed teachers are available for those jobs.

On Aug 31, 2013, at 1:48 AM, “****** ****” <******@********.edu> wrote:

Hi again, TFA Recruiter,

Sorry for the extra e-mail, but I just took a look at my schedule for next week and I literally have no time to talk (which is a shame, because I would have enjoyed a good debate).  I therefore took the liberty of briefly typing up the main issues with which I am concerned in regards to education.  Feel free to read and pass on to *******–or not.

  • The devaluing of teachers and the need for more funding in schools;
  • The increasing importance placed upon testing and the cheating that ensues;
  • Charter schools;
  • The impermanence of teachers at schools and the resulting lack of stability and support for students;
  • Valuing padded resumés over experience and ability

There are others issues, as well.  I’d like to note, however, that all of these are problems exacerbated by TFA.  The American education system has never been equal, but within the 20 plus years that TFA has been around, I believe things have only grown worse.  Some of the worst proponents of mis-guided educational “reform” are indeed alumni of TFA.  Michelle Rhee, to name one.

I think if TFA really wants to work for educational equality, you need to seriously reevaluate what you are doing.

I enjoyed chatting with you,


From: TFA Recruiter

Date: August 31, 2013, 8:59:15 AM PDT

To: Student

Subject:Re: Brief chat about ******* at *********

Hi Student, 

Again, thank you for such a thoughtful response. I am sorry that you and ****** won’t be able to talk next week, but she is planning on being back at ******** later this semester and I will be sure to reach out again at that time. I know that you two would be able to have a really engaging conversation around these issues and she’s excited to meet you and hear your perspective. I have forwarded your email to her as well. 

Good luck with your first few weeks of classes! I hope you’re able to do something fun on this long weekend. (I’m currently en route to ****** to see my parents!)


TFA Recruiter
 A little research shows that the school where this particular recruiter taught actually slipped in performance in both reading and math during the years she was there.  Way to close the achievement gap TFA!

One last thought from the student:

We don’t even have a School of Education at our college. If Teach for America were sincere about providing needy kids with the best teachers, wouldn’t they be recruiting from Schools of Education? I have friends who have spent four years studying to become a teacher. They can’t find jobs. The whole idea of Teach for America just doesn’t make sense to me.

No pay from TFA (Teach for America) 0

Posted on April 15, 2013 by dmayer

Summer Institute, the teacher training boot camp that according to Teach for America (TFA) advocates amazingly produces effective teachers in only five weeks, will soon begin for over 5,000 corps members. I interviewed Casey (not the real name), a TFA alum who could hardly wait to finish the two-year commitment and get on with life. I asked Casey to share advice with the upcoming batch of new recruits on how to make the most of the experience. But, Casey wanted to tell a different story.

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Before the first question eschewed from my lips, Casey blurted out, “They didn’t pay us.” Obviously still steamed after more than two years, Casey repeated, “They didn’t pay us for Summer Institute.” This had plainly been on Casey’s mind for some time, so I encouraged the TFAer to continue.

“On campus, before you apply, they promote themselves as one of the top employers of college grads in the nation. They convinced me that after five weeks of training I would be a great teacher, even better than licensed professionals they said. I couldn’t find any other job, so I signed up to work for them. I expected to earn enough money at Summer Institute to pay my expenses to move halfway across the country to my new teaching job. But, they didn’t pay us. I started off borrowing money through a loan plan they had set up for us.”

“I don’t understand. Did they promise to pay you and then renege?” I asked. I had heard a rumor about this from a disgruntled TFAer several years ago, but had dismissed it as an isolated incident.

“It isn’t really clear in the beginning. It’s embarrassing. We’re supposed to be the best and brightest, but many of us didn’t even know we weren’t getting paid for the work we did in the summer. I’m not the only one who thought we were getting paid. Other recruits thought so, too. So, the first thing I would say to new TFA recruits is that you won’t be paid for Summer Institute. So, make sure you have enough money saved up to move to your new job, pay your first and last month’s rent and security deposit, and pay for teaching materials you’ll need when school starts.

“It’s kind of demoralizing,” Casey continued. “Right from the beginning I felt like I was being taken advantage of; that TFA wasn’t straight with us, and it was too late to do anything else. I felt like, ‘What have I gotten myself into? I’m doing all this work for free?’ Maybe TFA makes it clearer to recruits these days, and if they don’t they should. They don’t pay corps members for Summer Institute. Anyway, I started out financially in the hole and spent over a year paying them back.”

As we moved on to other topics, Casey mentioned all the things I had heard before: five weeks of training isn’t nearly enough; Casey was hired to teach another subject but observed only reading and math classes during the summer; corps members felt totally unprepared to manage a classroom, and so on. So, I decided to investigate the claim about not being paid by TFA. How could a sharp young person like Casey have mistakenly thought that corps members would get a paycheck for summer work from Teach for America?

This is what I found out and quite possibly why Casey and others thought they would be paid by Teach for America:

Eleven TFA Summer Institutes will be held June-July, 2013. This sample institute daily schedule delineates a 16.5 hour work day. If corps members are paid a minimum wage of $8.00 an hour, they would make $3,300 during Institute. (16.5 hrs. x 25 days (5 weeks) x $8.00 = $3,300) If they are paid a salary approximating a beginning teacher’s salary, oddly enough, they would make about the same amount, $3,430. ($35,672/52 weeks x 5 weeks = $3,430) According to Casey, several corps members had expected a paycheck of about $3,000 for their work during Summer Institute.

TFA does have a salary and benefits page which clearly states CORPS MEMBERS RECEIVE A FULL SALARY AND COMPREHENSIVE BENEFITS.

As a corps member, you will be a full-time teacher and receive a full salary and the same comprehensive health benefits as other beginning teachers in your school district.

This statement doesn’t address Summer Institute, nor does it say who will pay the teacher’s salary. The information seems to indicate that recruits will receive a salary from Teach for America, but the amount will vary according to the school district.

Casey mentioned that campus recruiters said Teach for America was a top employer of college graduates. In 2011 College Grad.com ranked Teach for America as Number 2 in Best Companies for New Grads.

No. 2 Teach For America; hiring forecast 4,925. Average salary for teachers, $42,451

For years TV, newspapers, magazines, and websites including ABC, CBS, Washington Post, Forbes, Fortune, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Schools.com have promoted Teach for America as a top employer of college grads.

In 2010 TFA boasted about its “top employer” status to win a $50 million grant from the Department of Education (DOE), saying it ranked higher than both Microsoft and Goldman Sachs. Making the same claim in 2011, TFA was granted another $8 million SEED grant by the DOE. In that grant application TFA reported that the organization spent over $43,000 on each recruit placed in the classroom. It’s no wonder that Casey thought some of that money would be paid to corps members. Most likely the officials at the DOE and politicians promoting Teach for America have that impression, too.

Glass Door, a website that lists salaries paid by companies, reports Teach for America as paying corps member and teacher salaries. At this point I was confused myself. According to 2011 IRS form 990, TFA had assets of nearly $300 million dollars and revenue of over $270 million. You might think that an organization with that kind of moola could afford to pay recruits — their lifeblood — a salary.

Next, I called Teach for America and talked to Carrie Rankin, National Communications Director for Teach for America. I explained the claim that a corps member had made about not being paid for Summer Institute, told her I was confused about the policy myself, and asked if she could offer some clarity. She did not act surprised by my query. Neither did she confirm or deny that she had heard this complaint before. She refrained from commenting any further, and said she would send the documentation that is offered to corps members. A few days later I received this e-mail from her. I’m including her contact information here (it wasn’t easy to find) for anyone seeking clarity on this issue.

From: Carrie.Rankin@teachforamerica.org
Subject: Teach For America
Date: April 15, 2013 7:57:47 AM PDT


I wanted to follow up on the info you requested last week.

First, you said you were investigating an alleged miscommunication about paying corps members for summer Institute. On our website, we explain that Teach For America covers the costs of Institute, but corps members are not told that they will be paid. Teach For America pays for room and board during Institute, as well as for transportation to and from school sites. Corps members are responsible for all other costs. We do have grant programs available to help corps members cover the cost of travel to and from Institute.


Carrie James Rankin
National Communications Director
Teach For America

The “documentation” is nothing more than a connection to TFA’s Financing Your Transition page offering INTEREST-FREE TRANSITIONAL LOANS AND GRANTS. It contains no mention of compensation for Summer Institute nor does it specifically say that recruits will not be paid for their summer work.

So, it would seem that Teach for America does not tell recruits they will be paid for their summer work, nor does the organization tell them they will not be paid. The unambiguous thing to do would be to tell recruits upfront that they will not be paid for Summer Institute. TFA should not pretend to be an employer of college grads when, in fact, they are not.

The simple truth is this: Teach for America does not employ a single teacher straight out of college. Zero. Zip. Teach for America does not employ teachers nor does it pay teachers. Teach for America is a recruiting firm. The organization provides minimally trained temps to work in place of professionals, while falsely promoting itself as a top employer of college grads/teachers.

It does seem that Teach for America is coloring reality by promoting itself as an employer instead of a recruiting firm. It is misleading, to say the least. Some might even say it’s dishonest. Certainly it is confusing to recruits who think they are employed by TFA and expect a paycheck. At any rate, the message from Casey to new TFA recruits is this: “Don’t think of Summer Institute as a summer job, and you are employed by Teach for America. TFA doesn’t pay you anything. You can bank on it.”

Go Away TFA — Oregon HB 2878 0

Posted on March 19, 2013 by dmayer

Oregon may be opening the door for Teach for America, the recruiting service that places non-licensed college graduates in the classrooms of mostly poor, minority children after only five weeks of “training” to serve in place of professional teachers. Maybe or maybe not. This bill is so ambiguous and poorly written that it’s difficult to figure out its purpose. One thing is certain. It calls for Oregonians to trust non-licensed employees to teach their children.
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Click here for a larger version.

Here’s what the bill means in plain English, section by sub-section:

House Bill 2878

Sponsored by Representative PARRISH

Not surprisingly, Julie Parrish, District 37 — Tualitin and West Linn –  is supported by Stand for Children, an astroturf organization that has been successful in passing this type of legislation nationwide. Oregon is the only state where SFC operates that does not allow non-licensed teachers in schools. Parrish also pushed for legislation favoring charter schools and tying teacher evaluations to standardized test results.

Parrish on Twitter:

Thank you Oregonian for calling out the thuggish behavior of the OEA. Love my kids’ teachers, their union, not… http://t.co/guPJWc6o2h 02:10:04 PM March 14, 2013

Parrish is definitely anti-union.


The following summary is not prepared by the sponsors of the measure and is not a part of the body thereof subject to consideration by the Legislative Assembly. It is an editor’s brief statement of the essential features of the measure as introduced. 

Allows person to teach certain courses in schools without being licensed by or registered with Teacher Standards and Practices Commission if certain requirements are met. Specifies restrictions to employment.

Non-licensed people can teach if they meet certain requirements.


Relating to teacher qualifications.

Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:
SECTION 1. (1) Notwithstanding ORS 338.135 and 342.173, a person employed by a school district or a public charter school may teach without being licensed by or registered with the
Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) if:

Notwithstanding ORS 338.135 and 342.173 — Notwithstanding means forget about these laws. Not usually a good thing. What laws should we ignore? ORS 338.135 defines among other things employees licensure and registration requirements and collective bargaining rights. ORS 342.173 states the effect of employing unlicensed teacher or administrator by certain districts including penalties and fines for hiring non-licensed teachers. A person employed by a school district or a public charter school may teach without being licensed by or registered with the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission if:

(a) The person is teaching only courses for which the State Board of Education has not adopted academic content standards as required by ORS 329.045;

ORS 329.045 is a revision of common curriculum goals, performance indicators, diploma requirements, essential learning skills and academic content standards. This includes rigorous academic content standards in mathematics, science, English, history, geography, economics, civics, physical education, health, the arts and second languages. This list seems to be fairly inclusive. What courses would the non-licensed teacher be able to teach? Is there a shortage of certified teachers in some courses? What are they? Why not name them in the bill?

I contacted TSPC and asked this question. The response:

I cannot tell you exactly which courses would be allowed to be taught by a non-licensed teacher; but they would be courses for which the Department has not adopted content standards. I can tell you that it will certainly cause confusion unless regulations were clear following passage of the bill.

I highly recommend that you contact the legislative representatives for teachers at the Oregon Education Association regarding this bill.

I’m currently waiting for a response from OEA.

(b) The school district or public charter school follows the instructor appraisal committee procedures adopted by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission; and  

Follows the instructor appraisal committee procedures? Does this mean that the non-certified teacher will be evaluated like every other teacher?  This is vague.

(c) The person meets the other training or experience requirements established by the State Board of Education and by the district school board of the school district or the public charter school governing body.

Other training or experience requirements? What are the training and experience requirement? Why would we pass a law to allow non-certified people to teach with out even know what the requirements are?

(2) A person who is employed to teach as provided by this section:

(a) Is not eligible to become a member of the Public Employees Retirement System as a result of the employment; and

No PERS for non-licensed employees posing as teachers. Will the employee have any type of retirement plan?

(b) May not become a member of a collective bargaining unit that represents licensed or registered teachers.

Non-licensed employees posing as teachers can not join a union.

(3) No more than 40 percent of the total classroom teaching time at a school may be provided by persons who are teaching as provided by this section.

Whoa! Allows person to teach certain courses in schools without being licensed is a far cry from 40 percent of classroom teaching time provided by non-licensed employees. Does this mean that nearly half of any school faculty may be non-licensed employees posing as teachers.

There are red flags all over this bill. Even if it isn’t a pretext to welcome TFA into Oregon, it is a frightening precedent in regard to retirement restrictions, collective bargaining rights, and faculty composition. This bill is slated for a hearing March 25th. Let your representatives hear from you.

An Evening with Andy Hargreaves at PSU 0

Posted on February 05, 2013 by dmayer

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Professor Andy Hargreaves was welcomed by Portland State University President, Wim Wiewel, who talked in vague terms of Governor Kitzhaber’s pipeline to streamline Oregon education from cradle to career. He emphasized the ambiguity of the plan saying, “Where are all the boxes?” We don’t know yet. And, “Who or what will live in those boxes? We don’t know.” Hargreaves was introduced as someone to help figure this out.

What had been billed as a lecture turned out to be a 30 minute book talk followed by a short Q & A and book signing. Here are some key points from Hargreaves’ newest book, Professional Capital, co-authored with Michael Fullan, as noted in his presentation.

In his opening remarks, Hargreaves focused our attention on transforming teaching in every school. His formula: PC = f(HC,SC,DC).

“Teachers, along with parents, are the most important people in our lives. It’s the teacher, stupid.” he said.

He elaborated on the system we now have in place that knows only two strategies: to either reward or remove teachers. Then he said something that experienced teachers have known all along. He said in all the mountains of data collected on teacher quality and tying kids’ tests scores to teacher evaluations, reliable numbers correspond to principals’ judgements. Let me say that again with emphasis: He said principals are the best evaluators of teacher performance. Just as research shows that the grades a teacher assigns to a student are the best indicator of how that student will do in college (Krashen), the judgements, or evaluations, principals assign to a teachers are only reinforced by data. (One might ask why we are wasting extraordinary amounts of money on a system that tells us what we already know.)

Although I agree with much of what Hargreaves says, I am not comfortable with the language and presentation of his ideas. For example, his method of defining every idea in terms of “capital.” I have a strong aversion to using the word “capital” to describe human worth since I first came across this website: Strategic Management of Human Capital some years ago. The site elaborates in no uncertain terms the value and manipulation of human life in monetary (capital) terms. Knowing that as a teacher, I am thought of as human capital forces me, on some level, to think of my students in those terms, when for decades that thought had never entered my mind. Maybe this is a compromise educators must accede to these days in order to gain a foothold in today’s profit-driven, business-dominated education environment. I think the price is too dear.

In the words of Hargreaves:

Capital relates to one’s own or group worth –particularly concerning assets that can be leveraged to accomplish desired goals.

Business capital assumes that good teaching:

  • is technically simple
  • a quick study
  • can be mastered readily
  • should be driven by hard performance data
  • is about enthusiasm, effort, talent, and results
  • is replaceable by online instruction.

He then likened  so-called “teachers” produced in droves by organizations like Teach for America, The New Teacher Project/Center, and Teaching Fellows programs as delivering curriculum “karaoke style” — to applause from the educators in the audience.

Professional capital as it pertains to teaching:

  • is technically sophisticated and difficult
  • requires high levels of education and training over a long time
  • is perfected through continuous improvement
  • is a collective accomplishment
  • maximizes,mediates, and moderates online instruction

“Technology and teachers work well together.  One should not replace the other,” he said.

Hargreaves defines three other types of capital as a subset of professional capital: human capital, social capital, and decisional capital.

Human capital involves qualifications, knowledge, preparation, skills, and emotional intelligence.

Social capital involves trust, collaboration, collective responsibility, mutual assistance, professional networks, and a healthy amount of push, pull, and nudge to reach goals.

Decisional capital involves judgement, case experience, practice, challenge and stretching, and reflection.

Notably absent from this discussion is the idea of how cultural capital including race, ethnicity, socio-economic, and other conditions, factors into education.

Hargreaves mentioned Finland as an example of a country that reveres teachers as professionals. In 1992, Finland had an unemployment rate of 19%. Proactively, officials decided to invest in education by investing in teachers. Every teacher in Finland must earn a master’s degree before entering the classroom. Teachers are highly qualified in the true sense of that concept: knowledgeable, prepared, skilled, and emotionally intelligent. They earn the trust of their respective communities, and together with members of the community collaborate, take collective responsibility, mutually assist each other, create professional networks, and help each other to reach goals. Based on case experience, practice, challenges, and reflection they are able to make judgements on how to meet goals. Now fifteen years later, Finland’s education system is hailed as the finest in the world.

Fifteen years ago, the Finns did not articulate their education goals in terms of capital. They did not think of their children or teachers in terms of human capital. Using the definition of humans identified as capital, how difficult will it be for us to give children in our state or country the education they need and deserve? Do the same attributes that worked so well for the Finns take on a new and different meaning when we define ourselves as capital?

He gave a statistic that I find unbelievable. He said that in this country the average time spent in the classroom by new teachers is one year before leaving. (GASP from audience.) I have not been able to confirm that statistic.

Near the end of his talk, Hargreaves announced that he would be working on the governor’s vision of cradle to career. He said that he would be working with Education Northwest, Inc., which had just been awarded a $1.8 million grant for continued support of their work. He is part of the pipeline created by the OEIB that promises to do more with less. From Education Northwest:

As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pointed out, NWRCC (Education Northwest) and the nation’s network of comprehensive centers “will help low-performing schools and districts close the achievement gap. They provide valuable support of the Administration’s P–12 initiatives to ensure that every child is able to receive a high-quality education.”

Hargreaves mentioned vaguely these as some of the goals for Oregon:

  • a smaller number of schools in districts to promote social capital
  • tighter faculty groups, and a smaller number of groups to promote decisional capital
  • higher standards for accreditation

On testing:

  • test prudently, not profitably
  • do not test every student in every grade every year
  • do test less people less often and give better tests

“We are not at a stage to give up testing altogether as Finland has done,” he said.

He left us with this quote from Nelson Mandela:

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children and their teachers.

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