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Why the IPS School Board election matters to Oregon 0

Posted on November 19, 2014 by dmayer

Most of my school days as a student and as a public school teacher were spent in Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). These days Indianapolis seems determined to sell out its public schools. So, when I heard Stand for Children (SfC), a repressive education reform group based in Oregon (where I now live), was pouring large sums into the campaigns of three particular school board candidates, I paid attention. Why would SfC care about a school board election 2,000 miles away? Why should Oregonians think the goals of SfC in Indiana are any different for our state?

Perhaps, foreshadowing the IPS results, glossy brochures and pamphlets barraged voters at the mailbox in the final days leading up to the election. All three elected candidates, Mary Ann Sullivan, Kelly Bentley, and LaNier Echols, were endorsed by Stand for Children as well as other funders with deep pockets. SfC, in turn, receives much of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Over $100,000 was donated to the candidates who support for-profit charter schools, high stakes testing, and non-licensed school staff  like Teach for America and Teach Plus. Incumbent opponents raised only about $6,000 among the three of them, and while that may sound dismal in comparison to the outside corporate support, it had previously been the norm.

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Photo credit: Matthew Mayer

The ousted incumbents are current IPS board president Annie Roof, Samantha Adair-White and Michael Brown, who all had been endorsed by the local teachers’ union.

Brown was a strong supporter of former Superintendent Eugene White, voted against his buyout and has been skeptical of some of the changes the board has embraced since 2012, such as partnerships with charter schools. He said during the campaign that smaller class sizes, quality teachers and more involved parents are the keys to improving IPS.

Maybe Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) members, who often consults with SfC on education issues, think Oregonians aren’t aware of its bad behavior in other states. Maybe Governor Kitzhaber and Education CEO Nancy Golden think that parents, students, and community members aren’t aware of SfC’s agenda of privatizing our public schools. They would be wrong. State politicians and the OEIB cannot expect Oregonians to act like ostriches with their heads stuck in the sand on the very important issue of public education. We endorse smaller class sizes, quality teachers and more involved parents just like the ousted IPS board members.

Is SfC planning a coup to disrupt school board election here in Oregon? We’ll know soon enough in April, 2015, when Portland Public School board elections are scheduled.  Attempts on the part of  SfC and other reform funders to influence the outcome of the election will result in active protest. Oregon school boards are not for sale.

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The cost of KIPP 0

Posted on April 06, 2014 by dmayer

Bipartisan charter school legislation introduced in the House will allow states to “receive grants to develop and expand high-quality charter schools under a new bipartisan bill recently introduced in the House. The legislation—co-authored by House Education Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and ranking Democrat George Miller (CA)—would allow states to use federal funds to grow and replicate existing high-quality charter schools. Previously, federal charter school funding could only be used to open new schools.”

The fact that this is bipartisan legislation should raise red flags immediately since Republican and Democrats can’t seem to agree on anything of substance. But when little kids, teachers, and families are the target, Congress can get their act together. Big money speaks to both sides of the aisle on the topic of education.

According to ASCD:

Another provision of the bill would allow charter management organizations (such as KIPP and Uncommon Schools) to receive grants to open new schools, even if the organizations are located in states that do not receive federal charter school funding.

Is KIPP a high quality charter network? You be the judge.

Is public school for sale? This is the topic of Bill Moyer’s recent interview with Diane Ravitch. On this week’s Moyers & Company, she explains, ”I think what’s at stake is the future of American public education. I believe it is one of the foundation stones of our democracy. So, an attack on public education is an attack on democracy.”  She has become the nation’s fiercest opponent of charter schools and the movement to privatize our public schools. While Ravitch gives an overall view of the public school crisis, it seems prudent to look at the most revered charter school network, up-close and personal — KIPP.  What is KIPP like? How much has it cost students, parents, teachers, communities, the country and our democracy? Let’s take a look at KIPP.

KIPP celebrates its 20th anniversary this year (2014). KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national network of 141 charter schools now serving over 50,000 students. For comparison, think of a school district the about the size of Seattle Public Schools spread out across the country.  In the early 2000′s, with virtually no track record for excellence, KIPP gained national attention when it was praised by then Secretary of Education under George W. Bush, Rod Paige. Charter schools were clearly on the agenda, and KIPP was chosen to be the flagship charter management organization. KIPP Foundation was formed to support KIPP schools shortly thereafter. KIPP has been thriving off private charity and public dollars ever since. In addition to the per pupil expenditure provided by the government to all public schools, KIPP schools receive millions more in public support.

Now may be the opportune time to reflect on the darling charter school network of the reform movement. As KIPP leads the charge to the tipping point that will signal victory to the billionaire bullies on a quest to privatize our public schools, shouldn’t we ask hard questions about KIPP? Are we sacrificing the quality of life of poor minority children in order to promote an education regime we wouldn’t want for our own children? Are we pouring millions of dollars into a school network that cheats children out of childhood? If KIPP is the model to which all schools should aspire, will millions more be invested into all other public schools?  What is the moral and financial cost of KIPP?

A Little Background on KIPP

This is a chant students are required to repeat in unison at KIPP. What lesson are they learning?

Knowledge is power
Power is money
And I want it.

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Ready for a field trip kids?  Pile in!

Shamelessly promoting KIPP schools in Work Hard. Be Nice, author Jay Mathews regales us with tales about how co-founders Michael Feinberg and David Levin, originally Teach for America corps members, began their careers by lying about their credentials to get  teaching jobs. Soon, they courted low-income Hispanic parents to enroll children in their two KIPP classrooms by promising “field lessons” to students. When Levin and Feinberg finally did take their students on a field trip at the end of the school year, half of them were transported to an amusement park in a U-Haul type van – that’s right, the kind of truck that has no windows or seats; the kind of truck used to move furniture. The two faux teachers hadn’t raised enough money for transportation so they stuffed students into a moving van and trucked them to the park.

While professional teachers would likely have lost their licenses for such outrageous conduct, Levin and Feinberg suffered no consequences. Their blatant disregard for what is best for students is a tradition that continues at KIPP today, even as it is hailed as a model school and receives millions and millions of foundation and tax dollars to scale-up the program. Is KIPP worth the cost?

Before examining the financial cost of KIPP, spending a moment to assess the toll exacted on its students may be warranted. A day in the life of a KIPP student (KIPPster) has been well documented. For example, in Outliers Malcolm Gladwell tells the story in a chapter called “Marita’s Bargain,” explaining that poor kids need longer school days accompanied by hours of homework, Saturday school, and year-round school in order to succeed. Many rich people agree with Gladwell’s assessment that KIPP is a bargain for kids living in poverty . (I have written about Gladwell’s view on KIPP in an open letter to President Obama.) Privileged people seem to have peculiar and perplexing perspectives on what is best for underprivileged minority children.  From Outliers about a young KIPP student:

She had the hours of a lawyer trying to make partner, or a medical resident. All that was missing were the dark circles under her eyes and a steaming cup of coffee, except that she was too young for either.

Marita’s life is not the life of a typical twelve-year-old. Nor is it what we would necessarily wish for a twelve-year-old. Children, we like to believe, should have time to play and dream and sleep. Marita has responsibilities . . . Her community does not give her what she needs. So what does she have to do? Give up her evenings and weekends and friends – all the elements of her old world – and replace them with KIPP. . .

It should be noted that neither Levin or Feinberg, nor co-conspirators Richard Barth (KIPP Foundation) and his wife Wendy Kopp (Teach for America), who supply KIPP with leaders and teachers, send their kids to the neighborhood KIPP school. Perhaps their lottery numbers just never came up. Or, could they prefer that their own children have time to “play and dream and sleep”?

Among other troubling features of KIPP are its preferences for apartheid as demonstrated by segregating poor black and brown children into separate schools, for totalitarian corporate governance, and for implacable treatment of teachers, but these are topics for another discussion.

To say that the KIPP philosophy is amoral would be an understatement. To say that KIPP management has no sense of what is best for children would be euphemistic. To say that most KIPP staffers are not educators would be the truth. KIPP has created 50,000 “Marita’s” this year, many as young as six years old — that’s 50,000 stolen childhoods. Is that too dear a price to charge children for what should be their right to a free and equitable education? If the billionaire bullies, who are perpetuating this farcical charter scheme, had to compensate poor children for the misery they’ve caused them, they’d all be paupers.

KIPP by the Numbers

What about the money? What does Kipp do with all those millions of extra dollars that traditional schools do without? An examination of KIPP 990s submitted to the Internal Revenue Service reveals some puzzling answers while posing some interesting questions.

Assets

  • KIPP Foundation, headed by Richard Barth, became a tax exempt corporation in 2007 and has amassed net assets of more than $31 million.
  • KIPP NYC, David Levin’s enclave of charter schools in New York City has accumulated nearly $18 million in net assets.
  • KIPP, Inc., Michael Feinberg’s charter empire in Houston, Texas has net assets of over $22 million.

Not to mention assets belonging to the hundred or so other KIPP schools. Much of KIPP’s assets come from the generosity of Uncle Sam — that is, you and me. For example, KIPP Foundation was awarded a $50 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010. That’s in addition to other government grants and to the millions KIPP gets in per pupil expenditures each year. KIPP also receives millions from private charitable foundations. Except for the fact that it is supported by government funds and some quirky governance rules made specifically for charter schools, KIPP is a private corporation. It is called a public school only because some elite politicians and businessmen say it is. Assets that would normally be owned by the public have fallen prey to private organizations like KIPP that are formed, not with the altruistic ideal of a great education for kids, but with the greedy aspirations of acquiring more wealth for their already wealthy benefactors. If KIPP is indeed a public school, as its originators proclaim, who owns it? How and why have its assets grown so substantially in a relatively short period of time? Why isn’t more of the wealth spent on supporting its students instead of its management? Has Seattle Public Schools (or any other school district) accumulated assets so quickly?

Salaries and Such

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Michael Feinberg, David Levin, Wendy Kopp, and Richard Barth are collectively paid nearly $2 million annually for their contributions to KIPP. 

  • Michael Feinberg works 30 hours a week for KIPP Foundation at San Francisco for $196,117; 50 hours at KIPP, Inc. in Houston for $216,865 for a total of 80 hours and  $412,982 annually.
  • David Levin works 30 works hours a week at KIPP Foundation in San Francisco for $175,000; 50 hours at KIPP New York City for $243,189; 5 hours at Uncommon Knowledge and Achievement for $50,000 NYC; and an unspecified amount at Relay Graduate School of Education NYC for a total of  85 hours+ and $468,189+ annually.
  • Wendy Kopp works for Teach for America (also Teach for All, Teach for China, and Broad Center for Management of School Systems) supplying uncertified corps members to serve as teachers at KIPP for which she is compensated $468,452 annually.  KIPP schools would not be sustainable without the overworked, underpaid faux teachers provided by TFA. Wendy’s a busy girl and extremely well-compansated for having zero education credentials.
  • Richard Barth works 60 hours a week at KIPP Foundation in San Francisco (while living in New York) and is compensated $374,868 annually. He, too, has zero education credentials.

All are members of various other education organization boards that promote the reform agenda. One might wonder when they sleep. One might also wonder if the commute from their homes in New York City and Houston to the KIPP Foundation in San Francisco is a regular one for Richard, Mike, and Dave. Or, do they just phone it in? Barth, Levin, and Feinberg aren’t the only ones at KIPP taking home big, fat pay checks. Many KIPP employees make more than $100,000 a year, but sadly, only a piddling are teachers. And, what are all those $25,000 donations to individuals all about? Does Seattle Public Schools pay their staff comparably?

Travel

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Disney Swan and Dolphin Hotel (top) and Red Rock Hotel and Casino have served as accommodations for KIPP teachers and leaders during training times.

Over the past six years, since receiving tax-exempt status, KIPP Foundation has spent nearly $16 million on travel.  You are probably thinking, “WOW!  That’s more than $300 per KIPPster!  They can go on several great trips doing field lessons each year.  And, they can travel in real buses, trains, and planes.” Sadly, that is not the case.  Millions of dollars are spent each year accommodating KIPP faux teachers and leaders at exclusive resorts:  Opryland Hotel and the Disney Swan and Dolphin Hotel in 2012; Rio Suite Hotel and Casino in 2011; Marriott in 2010; Hyatt in 2009; Scottsdale Fairmont, Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas, Chicago Hilton in 2008; and Marriott, Palmer House, Fairmont, and Red Rock Casino in 2007.

Consulting 

In recent years, KIPP Foundation has hired Mathematica Policy Research for consulting and research purposes.  In the world of education reform, Mathematica provides the best research money can buy. KIPP started out small offering only a half-million-dollar contract in 2009 and then another in 2010. They upped the ante to a million in 2011 and sprung for a whopping $3,000,000 contract in 2012. From the KIPP website:

In 2013, Mathematica released the second report from their multi-year study of KIPP middle schools. This report represents the most rigorous and in-depth research on KIPP to date. The report stated that the magnitude of KIPP’s achievement impacts is substantial.

Surprised?

KIPP also pays out millions in consulting fees which are usually neatly hidden away on their tax returns as “Other” expenses. According to 2007 KIPP Foundation 990s here and here, David Levin was being paid a six-figure salary as co-founder of KIPP Foundation, another six-figure salary for consulting with KIPP Foundation, and yet another six-figure salary for acting as superintendent of KIPP schools in New York City. Nice work if you can get it, especially for the man who grades students on character. In 2008, form 990 was changed to merge the five highest paid professional contractors with other contractors. Since other contracts for construction, technology, and, apparently, travel are usually higher than professional fees, it’s difficult to say whether the practice of consulting for your own organization continues or how widespread it is.

KIPP Foundation does give grants to its schools. After all, its mission is to support KIPP schools. Often times, funding provided to the schools goes to pay consultants as well. It is taxing to figure out how much of the KIPP budget is spent on consulting, but it is safe to say that it is much more than is spent directly on KIPPsters.

Audit Anyone?

As Diane Ravitch points out in the interview, charter schools market themselves as public schools when they depend on tax dollars for support, but claim to be private corporations when an audit looms near, often escaping scrutiny. Nevertheless, not all KIPP schools have escaped as some audits have revealed. David Levin has had an aversion to audits since 2007 when the New York Daily News reported that an audit showed his charter had spent $68,000 on staff retreats.

A Bronx charter school spent nearly $68,000 on “staff development” retreats in the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, a scathing new audit shows.

Although officials at the KIPP Academy Charter School insist the trips were educational and paid for by private donations, state Controller Thomas DiNapoli said his office couldn’t verify the claims because of sloppy bookkeeping. DiNapoli questioned why the high-achieving school – part of a national franchise – would splurge on trips to the Caribbean.

“Money intended for education should be spent on education,” DiNapoli said.

KIPP still spends big money on retreats and travel and such, but management takes care to make sure the spendy good times don’t make headlines.

KIPP is only one charter network. There are many, many more, but they all operate in much the same way: declare public schools to be failing; shut them down and replace them with charters; bust teacher’s unions by churning unlicensed teachers in and out every couple of years; teach to the test; test, test, and then test some more; evaluate teachers based on student test scores; collect tons of student data; repeat.

All KIPP schools have not been listed and/or updated on EdWatch – they keep springing up like Starbucks. To glean more information about KIPP through 990s submitted to the IRS, you may first look up the KIPP school you are interested in and then visit  GuideStar or Foundation Center Online to access financial documents.

So, Are Our Public Schools for Sale? 

Now more than ever, our public schools face the ultimate threat that could spell doom. The week following the Moyers-Ravitch interview hailed the United States Supreme Court decision on McCutcheon v. the Federal Elections Commission. Five conservative justices gutted the the already fragile campaign finance law to allow the mighty rich to handsomely bankroll more candidates. In the future schools board elections will likely be fraught with big money allowing the billionaire bullies to fund candidates who will be more than willing to close public schools and replace them with charters. This phenomenon is already happening across the country and gained national attention in 2011 when former President George W. Bush campaigned against Emily Sirota in Denver, Colorado. According to Emily, who entered the race by hosting a pizza picnic and going door-to-door to solicit contributions as she talked to neighbors, she was flabbergasted when money from big oil and big banks flooded into her opponent’s campaign coffer.

So, are our public schools for sale?  At this point, FOR SALE is an euphemistic term. For sale implies that we, the public, have made a decision to sell.  For sale means we own something of value, and we don’t want it anymore so we are willing to sell it; that we will consider all offers and sell to the highest bidder and maybe even make a profit on the deal. Turnarounds and closures resulting in the creation of a charter school do not involve the public in any kind of meaningful discourse. Our public schools are being given away as fast as reformers can shut them down and open a charter in their place. The public collects nothing in return except disillusioned students, displaced teachers, and broken communities. We lose a little bit of democracy each time a transaction is made without public participation. Our public schools are not being sold, the public is being sold out.

Isn’t it time for reformers to recognize that charter schools aren’t working — that the cost is too great. They are harmful to poor, minority children and novice teachers. They are harmful to our democracy. They bleed money away from public schools. Isn’t it time for reformers to take stock and say, “We were wrong. We have no business in education.” Literally.

Below is the dynamic interview with Bill Moyers and Dianne Ravitch plus the web-extra which has even more intriguing information. In closing Bill asks the toughest question, and Diane responds with the bravest answer. Watch the entire interview to know what we’re up against, and then join in Network for Public Education to get involved.

BILL MOYERS: When you were in the Bush administration, Assistant Secretary of Education, you were critical of public schools. You were beginning to say, “We should have choice in education.”

And you were with all those conservative think-tanks for a number of years, thinking through these issues. And then you come out so strongly, having changed your mind. Was there a moment, an experience, an “aha” drama that turned you around?

DIANE RAVITCH: Well, there wasn’t a single moment. And it wasn’t in a flash that it all came to me that it was all wrong. In the early 2000s, after No Child Left Behind was enacted, starting about, well, 2005, 2006, I realized No Child Left Behind’s not working. And, from that point forward all the misgivings I had began to come together. It was a process really of years of saying, “I was wrong.” And in these times, in this society, it is so unusual to have somebody say those three words, “I was wrong.” And, it didn’t happen overnight, but I was wrong, and I’m going to do the best I can for what time remains for me to try to set things right.

Public Schools for Sale? from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.


Web Extra: Public Schools for Sale? from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

 

Go Away and Stay Away TFA! 0

Posted on September 22, 2013 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!

To read more about what people are saying about Teach for America, check out our EdWatch page.

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

Deb,

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.

Best,
Carrie

Carrie James Rankin
National Communications Director
Teach For America
617.485.4544

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.”

The ALEC — Stand for Children — Teach for America connection 0

Posted on May 07, 2012 by dmayer

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.

Featured Job
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.

The Sham of Teach for America on Education Radio 0

Posted on April 09, 2012 by dmayer

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.

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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.

Value-added teacher evaluation — all you ever wanted to know 0

Posted on March 01, 2012 by dmayer

This week the New York Times published teacher rankings of 18,000 New York city teachers.

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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.

NYC Teacher Evaluations Released

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.

The teacher and the consultant

“Value-added measures” to judge a teacher’s worth — what’s that all about? If we would only listen to teachers.

Merit Pay, Teacher Pay, and Value Added Measures

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.

Measuring student growth

Pearson wants to control the world’s curriculum and testing. (Gag factor — ipecac)

Using Teacher Evaluation to Improve School Performance

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.

Evaluating teacher evaluation… Critique of ‘Value-Added’ assessments (VAMs) shows that they are based on ‘beliefs’ rather than evidence

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!

NYC to Release Teachers’ ‘Value-Added’ Ratings: Why It’s Not Fair

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.

In Teacher Ratings, Good Test Scores Are Sometimes Not Good Enough

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.

You can’t principal-proof a school: Why top down evaluation systems are doomed to fail

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.

Shame is not the solution

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.

City Teacher Data Reports Are Released

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.

Evaluating Value-Added Models for Teacher Accountability

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.

NYC Teacher Evaluation Data Show Charter Schools Perform No Better Than Public

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.

Teach for America is not like the Peace Corps 0

Posted on July 13, 2010 by dmayer

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.

The facts:

  • 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.