Archive for the ‘Teach for America’
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
Subject: Brief chat about ************
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 ****.
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
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!
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:
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 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
Subject:Re: Brief chat about ******* at *********
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Here’s what the bill means in plain English, section by sub-section:
77th OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY–2013 Regular Session
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.
A BILL FOR AN ACT
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.
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
- 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.
It’s no secret that ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council, has an education agenda. The templates for policy can be accessed at ALEC EXPOSED. However, transforming a template to policy doesn’t happen instantaneously. How does the ideology translate into law? Could it be with a little help from Teach for America? Bear with me while I connect the dots.
Last summer, quite by accident, I met a group of about six young adults on the MAX here in Portland who were traveling from the airport to train for their new jobs. They were talking about having just finished their teaching jobs and how happy they were to be done with it. Being an unemployed teacher myself, I listened for a while and then struck up a conversation. They identified themselves as Teach for America corps members who had just completed their obligatory two year stints in the classroom. They were headed to the Stand for Children offices to be trained in writing education policy. Most had been hired to work as legislative assistants in state houses around the country. I asked a few probing questions about their education expertise, especially in policy. Turns our none of them had any education credentials. Some had worked on their masters degrees during teaching, but none had studied education or education policy. They really didn’t get my point. The arrogance was palpable. I finally asked one of them point blank, “Don’t you think you should have some education and experience before writing education policy?” They assured me that over the next two weeks (I think, anyway, short time) they would be trained to do it.
I hadn’t thought about that encounter much since. But when I read Diane Ravitch’s latest article in the Answer Sheet, Ravitch: A Primer on the Group Driving School Reform, it occurred to me that Stand for Children could be the conduit to the uniformity in education legislation using Teach for America “leaders” as the delivery system. Last summer ALEC was barely a blip on my radar so I hadn’t make a connection back then.
Could Stand for Children be training former Teach for America corps members to write ALEC policy for state legislatures? I know Oregon legislators aren’t savvy enough to develop language and coordinate ideas that mesh with those in other states, but their Teach for America, Stand for Children trained assistants may well be. With a little help from a persistent friend, this is what I found out.
Leadership for Education Equity (LEE) is the political leg of Teach for America.
Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) is a 501(c) (4) nonprofit organization that was launched in 2007 to inspire, train and support Teach For America alumni and corps members to pursue public leadership by providing or connecting them to high impact volunteer and career opportunities in politics, policy, advocacy, and elected office. Over the years, Teach For America alumni and corps members expressed a growing desire to engage more with the policy and political contexts that so impacted what they saw happening at the school and classroom level. Recognizing that Teach For America’s ability to engage in or to support advocacy and political work is quite limited as a traditional 501(c)(3) organization, LEE was born.
Translation: Legally, Teach for America can’t write or influence education policy, but by creating a faux nonprofit, it can.
On the LEE home page, a job posting for ALEC is listed.
Education Task Force Director
Company: American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
Type of Position: Full-time; Non-Profit
Location: Washington, DC
After an exhaustive search no financial records for this organization were found. Funding sources are also scarce.
Teach for America’s influence reaches far beyond the damage its recruits do in the classroom. It produces “leaders” whose mission is to privatize public education under the guise of astroturf organizations like LEE and many others that only give lip service to education equity. Through this seemingly innocuous network, TFA has been able to infiltrate every facet of education by placing former corps members in positions of power. With an infrastructure like that, it’s no that wonder ALEC has been so successful in moving its education agenda forward.
In Seattle fights Teach for America, I recently wrote about the stand-off between Seattle parents and their school board over the contracting of Teach for America (TFA). On March 22, 2012, parents lost the battle — for now — as the board voted 4 to 3 to continue the contract with TFA. You can follow the struggle by reading the Parents Across America blog.
Education Radio has produced a scathing critique that may help parents everywhere keep Teach for America out of their schools in the future. For the most part, the information is not new, but it is nicely packaged to make a compelling case against the organization that for years has belittled the teaching profession while making unsubstantiated claims about the organization. It says out loud and with authority the very things so many educators have been screaming about, unheard, for years. Hopefully, the extraordinarily wealthy and our elected officials will listen, literally.
You may listen to the show here on Education Radio.
In this week’s show (Part One of a two part series), Education Radio continues to disrupt the dominant narrative of corporate education reform by investigating the organization Teach for America (TFA). TFA is one of many insidious examples of how the language of social justice and equity is hijacked and appropriated, and instead employed to further the goals of the neoliberal education reform agenda. This agenda includes a firm belief that education should primarily serve the interests of private profit and as with all neoliberal education reformers, TFA is actively intensifying racial and class inequality, and the destruction of education as an essential public good along with the continued decimation of unions – two institutions that are primary determinants of a democratic society.
In addition, some of the myths that have long been perpetuated by and about TFA are debunked. Education Radio interviews education experts and former TFA recruits for critical input.
We speak to a variety of people who have researched and experienced Teach for America, including Barbara Veltri, Assistant Professor of Education at Northern Arizona State university, TFA corps member mentor, and author of Learning on Other People’s Kids: Becoming a Teach for America Teacher. We hear from University of Illinois Chicago Professor of Asian American Studies and Education Kevin Kumashiro on TFA’s impact on teacher education, and Associate Professor of Education at the University of Alabama Philip Kovacs, who has investigated TFA’s research, and from education historian Diane Ravitch. We also hear what TFA founder Wendy Kopp has to say about their mission and philosophy. We close the show by hearing from CUNY professor and leading proponent of critical pedagogy Ira Shor, who talks about the importance of creating spaces for authentic teaching and learning.
I would take issue with one recurring statement in the program. TFA is referred to repeatedly as a part of the neoliberal education reform agenda. In fact, the so-called education reform that showcases Teach for America is supported by both liberals and conservatives. Appropriating our public schools and handing them over to the wealthiest 1% is the only thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on. TFA grew substantially under No Child Left Behind under Gerorge W. Bush and continues to flourish as Race to the Top does its damage under President Obama. So, I hope the folks at Education Radio will correct that misconception. We have found one thing that liberals and conservatives agree on. Let’s broadcast it widely.
But homegrown Democrats can be taken by surprise when education reform legislation is promoted by one of their own. During the Q & A following his state-of-the-state address in January 2012, Oregon’s Governor, John Kitzhaber, said he would welcome Teach for America to this state. I’m hoping that the mounting evidence against Teach for America in programming like this show on Education Radio will change his thinking. All children, Oregon’s included, deserve professional teachers. I’m hoping Oregonians can avert the fight that Seattle is waging. Children can’t protect themselves, they count on us for that.
This week the New York Times published teacher rankings of 18,000 New York city teachers.
The ratings, known as teacher data reports, covered three school years ending in 2010, and are intended to show how much value individual teachers add by measuring how much their students’ test scores exceeded or fell short of expectations based on demographics and prior performance. Such “value-added assessments” are increasingly being used in teacher-evaluation systems, but they are an imprecise science. For example, the margin of error is so wide that the average confidence interval around each rating spanned 35 percentiles in math and 53 in English, the city said. Some teachers were judged on as few as 10 students.
Evaluators deserve a failing grade on their “value-added” system, but it seems only teachers must be held accountable for the work they do. How do these geniuses rank teachers, and remember this is a ranking system, not a scoring system? In ranking teachers, someone has to be at the bottom and top, everyone else falls in between. Ranking does not give teachers an A, B, C, D, or failing grade based on desired criteria. The late Gerald Bracey explained the difference in Some Common Errors in Interpreting Test Scores. Of course, the article only discusses the evaluation of students, schools, districts, and states. At the time this article was written, Bracey could not have conceived of government officials ranking teachers with a rating system as draconian as value added evaluations.
Accumulated here are articles explaining the ridiculous value-added system that has for some inexplicable reason gained legitimacy. Also, included are responses from teachers and parents.
Ratings are out for some 12,700 fourth to eighth grade New York City public schoolteachers. Called teacher data reports, they were released to the public for the first time ever Friday afternoon. Data is old, from 2007-2010, and about 30% of teachers listed no longer work for NYC schools.
“Value-added measures” to judge a teacher’s worth — what’s that all about? If we would only listen to teachers.
Value added measures sound fair, but they are not. In this video Prof. Daniel Willingham describes six problems (some conceptual, some statistical) with evaluating teachers by comparing student achievement in the fall and in the spring.
Pearson wants to control the world’s curriculum and testing. (Gag factor — ipecac)
Within the first moments of the presentation, the presenter says, “We have no idea what good teaching looks like. We’re not educators, we’re economists.” Then he goes on and on for nearly an hour to explain how to evaluate a good teacher. Jonah Rockoff, the Sidney Taurel Associate Professor of Business at Columbia Business School, and Douglas Staiger, the John French Professor in Economics at Dartmouth College, discuss research used to identify the effectiveness of teachers in achieving student outcomes by using a value-added approach, and the use of these measures for teacher evaluation and screening, in their presentations at the Social Enterprise Program’s first annual Nonprofit Leadership Forum, Measuring and Creating Excellence in Schools.
Illinois is rushing headlong into VAM (value-added-modeling) for teacher assessment, behind the cheerleading of many of the Astro-Turf “School Reform” groups ranging from Stand for Children to Advance Illinois. Under the PERA, Chicago teachers will begin being evaluated using so-called “value added” methods during the 2012 – 2013 school year. But as virtually all the credible research shows, VAM simply doesn’t work!
Normally, I respect The Nation for it’s forward thinking, but it has taken a giant step backward in quoting Bill Gates and Wendy Kopp for their opinions on teacher evaluation. “For what it’s worth, I agree with Gates and Kopp: value-added is a promising tool, but must be further refined and deployed with extreme caution.” Neither Gates nor Kopp has any education expertise. Period. What they do have is a huge stake in disclosing the rankings. What if many Teach for America recruits are in the bottom percentiles? What if teachers at the charter schools, generously funded by Bill Gates, are in the lower percentiles? Of course, they don’t want don’t want rankings published.
The New York City Education Department on Friday released the ratings of some 18,000 teachers in elementary and middle schools based on how much they helped their students succeed on standardized tests. The ratings have high margins of error, are now nearly two years out of date and are based on tests that the state has acknowledged became too predictable and easy to pass over time.
As everyone in the education world already knows, the New York Times won a lawsuit that forced the New York City Department of Education to publish the teacher-level value-added data it has been collecting as part of its accountability system. The result? The public unveiling of the work product of an expensive system that is confusing, unreliable—and apparently—error-riddled.” Don’t be fooled by the introduction, the Fordham Institute has a schizophrenic moment as it tries to rationalize value added teacher evaluation.
The height of hypocrisy. Bill Gates, and Bill Gates’s billions alone, is responsible for the farcical evaluation system now being used to publicly persecute teachers. I suppose he figures that by poo-pooing the publication of the scores, he will gain favor in the eyes of the public and perhaps even in the eyes of educators. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
The reports are now available on SchoolBook, posted on the individual pages for the elementary and middle schools whose teachers’ ratings were released. You can search for a school by using the search module on the left.
Evidence that the idea has been around for a while, this 191 page document by the oh-so-conservative Rand Corporation published in 2003 espouses analyzes of early models.
The blue markers represent NYC’s traditional public schools, while the red and yellow markers represent charter schools, with the chart plotting the average change in English Language Arts (ELA) scores (0 being the 50th percentile) from the end-of-year 4th grade tests (x-axis) to the end of 5th grade, the first year of middle school. Read Gary Rubinstein’s TeachForUs.org blog post for a more thorough explanation.
Teach for Us is a blog sponsored by Teach for America. Since Teach for America teachers are prevalent in charter schools, these evaluation results must be a huge disappointment to them. Teach for America has been effective at withholding data about the effectiveness of TFA recruits. These VAM are more evidence that TFA recruits are not the exemplary teachers they are proclaimed to be, and should be a catalyst for school districts hiring TFA recruits to demand evidence that they are worth the investment.
Also posted at Daily Kos with comments.
The Billionaire Boys Club headed up by Bill Gates and Eli Broad has spent millions on public relations and media imaging in an attempt to portray the Teach for America as something it is not. For years, mainstream media has acquiesced to their hype by repeating the myths without question. This series of articles will attempt to set the record straight on the many misconceptions about Teach for America (TFA).
Myths abound to hype Teach for America. A favorite: Teach for America is like the Peace Corps. It’s not your daddy’s Peace Corps. It’s not your mama’s, either. In fact, it in no way resembles the Peace Corps. So why does the media keep hyping Teach for America this way? In his New York Times column, Michael Winerip comments on “”A Chosen Few Teaching for America and takes a step in the direction of laying this myth to rest.
From the column following a discussion of job opportunities and career choices:
In contrast, the Peace Corps (to which Teach for America compares itself) pays a cost-of-living allowance adjusted for each country where volunteers work and a $7,500 stipend when the 27-month stint is finished.
Members of the mainstream media take note. Teach for America is nothing like the Peace Corps. Reiterating that claim is a slap in the face to Peace Corps volunteers who have served over the past twenty years.
That Wendy Kopp, alleged founder of TFA,”" espouses the organization to be “”"”like the Peace Corps”"”" confirms that she either knows nothing about the Peace Corps or is callous toward those who unselfishly use their talents to serve their country.
- TFA relentlessly recruits college students who are not education majors. The organization spends millions on this task. TFAers freely admit that their service is a resume builder. Also school districts are charged a recruiting fee for each TFA corps member they hire, anywhere from $2,000 to $30,000. Peace Corps members volunteer. Peace corps volunteers seek out the Peace Corps. They are altruistic at heart seeking an opportunity to serve.
- TFA corps recruits (who are not teachers) travel to major urban or rural areas in America and are paid a regular teacher’s salary of about $30,000 to $50,000. Peace Corps members (who are real teachers) travel abroad to live the lifestyle of natives in the poor villages they serve. They are paid a meager cost of living wage comparable to that of the villagers. They are paid as little as nine dollars a day or the lump sum of $7,”"500 upon their return home after 27 months of service.
- TFA recruits freshly graduated college students to do a job they are not trained or qualified to do. The Peace Corps requires that its members have knowledge, skills, and experience in the occupation they are to perform abroad.
- TFA members are entitled to about $5,000 at the end of each of their two years teaching from Americorps, originally set up by our government to sponsor volunteer programs in poor neighborhoods. Peace Corps workers are not given this funding.
Any newscaster or reporter who makes the Teach for America/Peace Corps comparison without challenging it is guilty of irresponsible reporting and perpetuating a myth that was falsely manufactured by TFA at its inception to misrepresent Teach for America and appeal to unsuspecting youth who believe the hype.
According to Kopp, TFA was created to send teachers to hard to staff schools. Today TFA has extraordinary access to teaching jobs even many when fully-certified, highly qualified teachers are available. It’s time for TFAers to step aside and let real teachers do their jobs.