Archives for category: Teach for America TFA

Julian Vasquez Heilig has studied Teach for America and its effects, and has come to the conclusion that the organization is harming the future of the teaching profession by its grandiose and false claims.

It has raised well over a billion dollars to support a large and handsomely paid staff. Its recruits will go to classrooms where students need experienced teachers, not five-week trainees. And 80% will leave the classroom in 2-3 years.

I this post, he is in dialogue with historian Jack Schneider.

Heilig writes:

“TFA is an example of a solution being a part of the problem. Our current national teacher strategy in the U.S. can be likened to taking a plate of pasta and throwing it against the ceiling and seeing what sticks. Teach For America, with its high-levels of attrition out of the classroom after the two year temporary commitment exacerbates this issue for poor students.

“We know from the data that about 50% of traditionally trained teachers remain in the profession after five years. By comparison, previous research on TFA has demonstrated that their attrition rate out the classroom to greener pastures (Note: I did not say in the “field” of education, a phrase TFA likes to use—meaning that corps members have left teaching and gone to graduate school, have begun working for an education-oriented foundation, etc.) is around 80%, though it varies by community.

“The falling spaghetti is not just Teach For America. Almost 60% of all new teachers in Texas are alternatively certified teachers, which means they could have as little as 30 hours of training online before they enter the classroom. Alternatively certified teachers also have higher rates of attrition out of the classroom compared to traditionally trained teachers.

“Our strategy in the U.S. is to send the least qualified teachers to the classroom as quickly as possible. Thus, the falling temporary teacher approach is essentially the antithesis of the national teacher strategies employed by the countries with the world’s leading educational systems.”

The fact is that we need a well-prepared teacher corps. We need experienced teachers. What we do not need is the illusion that TFA can change our schools by sending in inexperienced teachers who leave after 2-3 years. That’s a hoax.

Veteran journalist Bob Braun reports that Cami Anderson–the Christie administration’s state-appointed superintendent in Newark (and a graduate of Teach for America)–may lay off 700 Newark teachers and replace many or most of them with TFA.

He writes:

“The state administration of the Newark Public Schools (NPS) is expected to lay off hundreds of experienced city teachers and replace many with new hires, including more than 300 members of Teach for America (TFA). The report comes from union sources but is supported both by the latest version of the state’s “One Newark” plan and by the Walton Family Foundation website. The foundation is expected to subsidize the hiring of the new teachers.

“The NPS has not responded to requests for information or confirmation or denial of previous reports that Cami Anderson, the state-appointed superintendent of Newark schools, will ask outgoing state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf to waive seniority rights of hundreds of Newark teachers. This would permit their firing without resort to the detenuring process. Members of the Newark school board, however, confirmed Anderson’s plans to “right-size” the teaching staff.”

The Colorado Education Association, which represents the overwhelming majority of teachers in the state, will sue to block further implementation of SB 10-191.

That law, written by ex-TFA State Senator Michael Johnston in 2010, wiped out due process for teachers and tied evaluations of teachers and principals to student test scores. This method, called VAM, has failed wherever it was tried. Most researchers agree it is inaccurate and deeply flawed.

This is the CEA statement:

“The Colorado Education Association (CEA) has announced plans for legal and legislative action to correct what the organization calls proven flaws in the mutual consent provision of Senate Bill 10-191 that allows school districts to remove qualified teachers from the classroom. SB191 gutted Colorado’s tenure protections for teachers, and replaced them with an unproven scheme that could fire teachers for their students scores on standardized tests.

“The CEA is Colorado’s largest teachers union. Denver teachers have earlier sought an arbitrator’s opinion with Denver Public Schools, an opinion which found SB191 unconstitutional.

“SB191 contains provisions that strip teachers of their teaching licenses, and in effect, the ability to earn a wage, without due process of law.”

Levi Cavener wrote this article about why young college graduates with only five weeks of training are not qualified to teach students with disabilities.

Levi B Cavener is a Special Education teacher at Vallivue High School, Caldwell, Idaho.

He wrote it after attending a local school board meeting, where a TFA representative claimed that TFA recruits are well prepared to teach students with high needs:

“At a December 10, 2013, Vallivue School Board meeting I listened to Nicole Brisbane, Idaho’s TFA point person, pitch her product. (The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, a heavy donor to the district, called the board members to see if they would meet with Ms. Brisbane.) During the presentation, board members inquired about TFA’s ability to provide staffing for “hard-to-fill” positions, particularly special education. Brisbane was clear: TFA can provide “highly qualified” special education instructors.”

In Idaho, one foundation calls the shots for education: the Albertson Foundation. This foundation promotes privatization, charters, online learning, and TFA.

EduShyster has some fun with the crazy idea that Teach for America is a charity in need of your holiday gifts, your nickels and dimes and quarters..

She notes that TFA has an annual budget of $300 million plus; it also has a score of high-paid executives, and many hundreds of millions in assets.

Let’s just say that this is not exactly like the Red Cross or the Salvation Army.

Yet some of our nation’s biggest, richest corporations ask you to buy their products with the promise that they will make a donation to TFA, which is rolling in dough.

What a great marketing plan!

Now if only they would require their recruits to have a year of professional preparation and stay in their jobs for 4-5 years, they would be worthy of all those gifts from Subaru, FedEx, J. Crew, etc.

Pennsylvania blogger Yinzercation explains the stunning victory of the education justice movement in Pittsburgh. Parents, educators, and community members organized, mobilized, and elected new members to the school board.

The new board canceled a contract with TFA and reversed the closing of an elementary school.

Santa came early in Pittsburgh

Camika Royal is an alumna of TFA and a critical friend. She knows what is wrong with TFA, but she is not sorry she joined. TFA helped to shape who she is today, even as she questions its efficacy and its boasting.

What she does know for sure is that TFA does not address the structural inequities of American education.

She has read the flurry of articles saying “don’t join TFA,” but she doesn’t agree with them.

She concludes:

“I won’t say don’t join Teach For America or I won’t write recommendation letters. Whether you enter the profession through TFA, a school of education, or some other path, I care about who enters our schools and classrooms, why they come, why they stay, if they stay, and what they do while they are there. Should you choose to teach, please examine your motives and aspirations .

“TFA teachers may have been sold tall tales of being able to correct educational injustice in the two-year commitment, but Wendy Kopp has acknowledged “I know we are not going to change the education system with people teaching for two years. That’s not what we are trying to do.” Then what, educator, are you trying to do? What is your purpose? Urban schools and classrooms don’t need hyped-up heroes who burn out before their fire really gets going. We need resilient, lifelong educators who are focused on collective responsibility and the greater good. We need servant leaders, not self-serving saviors. In too many instances, Teach For America does more for those who join it than for the students and communities it hopes to serve. If you do choose to teach FOR America, please make sure your work improves more than just your life.

“As for whether or not I would join TFA if I knew in 1999 what I know now, this question is just as spiritual and philosophical as it is political and career-oriented. If I hadn’t been affiliated with TFA, I wouldn’t be who I am now. I am better for having had my TFA experience. I hope TFA is better for having had me in it. I hope my students were better for having had me as their teacher. Still, the impacts the organization claims to have are likely gross exaggerations. (I’m not buying claims of 2.6 extra months of math growth.) And I do not support some of the directions and choices the organization makes. But that’s why I’ve also chosen to be a critical friend to the organization. Somebody has to tell TFA, in a way they can hear it, when their stuff stinks. Might as well be me.”

A reader submitted this comment about a new group formed to push back against Teach for America.

 

Join Resist TFA and spread the word to end this cult. Stephanie Rivera at Rutgers University started this program and she’ll send the materials on request. Spread the word. I print them and leave the flyers in the libraries & on student bulletin boards. My students spread the info via social networking.

http://studentsresistingtfa.k12newsnetwork.com/resources/
https://www.facebook.com/StudentsUnitedForPublicEducation

A newly elected school board in Pittsburgh voted to cancel a contract with Teach for America, reversing the vote of the previous school board, which planned to hire 30 TFA recruits.

The motion passed with six affirmative votes; two opposed and an abstention. The outgoing board previously approved the contract, 6-3.

This was remarkable because it is one of the few times–maybe the first time–that a school board rejected a TFA contract and recognized how controversial it is to hire young inexperienced teachers for the neediest students.

The school board also voted to keep open an elementary school that the previous board had decided to close.

 

A recent article by business columnist Eduardo Porter in the “New York Times” was titled “Americanized Labor Policy Is Spreading in Europe.”

This is what the “Americanization of labor policy” means:

“In 2008, 1.9 million Portuguese workers in the private sector were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Last year, the number was down to 300,000.

“Spain has eased restrictions on collective layoffs and unfair dismissal, and softened limits on extending temporary work, allowing workers to be kept on fixed-term contracts for up to four years. Ireland and Portugal have frozen the minimum wage, while Greece has cut it by nearly a fourth. This is what is known in Europe as “internal devaluation.”

“Tethered to the euro and thus unable to devalue their currency to help make their goods less expensive in export markets, many European countries — especially those along the Continent’s southern rim that have been hammered by the financial crisis — have been furiously dismantling workplace protections in a bid to reduce the cost of labor.”

Cutting back on workplace protections is sure to increase income inequality while shrinking the middle class.

Porter writes that “These policy moves are radically changing the nature of Europe’s society.”

“The speed of change has certainly been very fast,” said Raymond Torres, the chief economist of the International Labor Organization in Geneva. “As far as I can tell, these are the most significant changes since World War II.”

“While most of the debate over Europe’s response to the financial crisis has focused on the budget austerity enveloping the Continent, the comparatively unheralded erosion of worker protection is likely to have at least as big and lasting an impact on Europe’s social contract.

“It has a disastrous effect on social cohesion and a tremendous effect on inequality,” argued Jean-Paul Fitoussi, an economics professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris. “Well-being has fallen all across Europe. One symptom is the rise of extremist political parties.”

“Europe’s strategy offers a test of the role played by labor market institutions — from unions to the minimum wage — in moderating the soaring income inequality that has become one of the hallmarks of our era.

“Inequality across much of Europe has widened, but it is still quite modest when compared with the vast income gap in the United States.

“The question is whether relative equity can hold as workplace institutions that for decades protected European employees’ standard of living give way to a more lightly regulated, American-style approach, where the government hardly interferes in the job market and organized labor has little say.”

This is a model that will ill-serve Europe and which should shame our political and economic leaders. Translated, it means that the rich get richer, the middle class shrinks, and the poor feel hopeless.

The 1% say that charter schools and Teach for America will close the gap that their policies created. They know it isn’t true, but it changes the subject enough to allow them to keep enlarging their share of the pie.

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