Mercedes Schneider here recounts how Teach for America alumni manage to rise to six-figure salaries at a tender age, and her paradigmatic TFA graduate is John White.
White, now the Commissioner of Education in Louisiana, arrived to do Bobby Jindal’s handiwork, that is, demolishing public education and dismantling the teaching profession.
Quite a task for a young man, but he is up to it.
Kevin Huffman, Tennessee’s State Commissioner of Education, taught for two years as a member of Teach for America. Then he was the TFA “communications director.” That is, the PR guy.
Somehow he got picked to be head of education in a whole despite his minimal experience and his lack of any administrative experience.
He certainly lacks any political skills. He treats the duly elected Metro Nashville school board as if they are peons and he is their master. He refuses to meet with them. Where did he get these arrogance.
The state is about to adopt radical ALEC legislation to snuff out local control so the big charter corporations can set up shop without the trouble of asking for permission from a local school board. They can just go to Huffman and all his buddies will get their charters and make big bucks.
David Greene mentors many young TFA recruits in the New York City public schools. They need his help because they are assigned to some of the city’s toughest schools. He made this comment in response to an earlier post about how Nevada hopes to replace some of its career teachers with TFA youngsters.
David Greene writes:
Another business plan – not education policy.
This has become the (hopefully unintended) consequence of TFA.
It has a become a scab organization to allow this type of political maneuvering and make teaching a “temp” job for people moving elsewhere than a classroom as a career.
What it does is lower the average teaching salary and decrease radically the need to pay out pensions because <5% of these “temps” will work long enough to vest in a pension.
Please pass these posts on to those Nevada policy makers:
THE INCONVENIENT TRUTHS ABOUT TFA
TFA TEACHERS: BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
Matt Barnum, a TFA alum (2010), asks whether TFA has run its course. Now a law student, he is glad that he joined TFA, and he thinks it had a very important original mission. But now that districts are hiring TFA youngsters to replace experienced teachers, he is worried about the role that TFA is playing. The very existence of TFA, he opines, makes it easy for districts to ignore the necessity of developing career talent and holding on to experienced teachers. He has more to say that makes for provocative reading.
“The other problem is the wasted investment a school makes in a teacher who leaves after just a few years. Sadly, I’m a poster child for this. I remember my last day at my school in Colorado, as I made the rounds saying goodbye to veteran teachers, my friends and colleagues who had provided me such crucial support and mentorship. As I talked of my plans for law school in Chicago, and they bade me best wishes, I felt an overwhelming wave of guilt. Their time and energy spent making me a better teacher – and I was massively better on that day compared to my first – was for naught. The previous summer I had spent a week of training, paid for by my school, to learn to teach pre–Advanced Placement classes. I taught the class for a year; presumably, I thought, someone else would have to receive the same training – or, worse, someone else would not receive the same training. All that work on classroom management and understanding of the curriculum, all the support in connecting with students and writing lesson – it would all have to begin again with a new teacher. (Indeed, my replacement apparently had a nervous breakdown and quit after a few months. She was replaced by a long-term substitute who one of my former colleagues must write lesson plans for.)
“If Teach For America disappeared next year, I imagine that my old district and many across the country might suffer in the short term. (If TFA did ever close shop, phasing itself out slowly would surely be preferable to shutting down immediately.) But in the long term, I think it might be better for schools. Perhaps the loss of TFA would force districts to work on improving working conditions or pay, in order to retain top teachers. Perhaps it would help create more stability in schools. I admit this is speculative, and that many of these problems existed before TFA. It’s just as speculative, though, to suggest that TFA is currently having a positive influence on schools and students.”
In a move clearly intended to require greater supervision of Teach for America teachers, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing tightened the rules about the training and supervision of interns.
At hearings, civil rights groups argued that it was unfair to put poorly trained interns in charge of students with high-needs, especially English-language learners and students with disabilities. Supporters of TFA argued the other side, claiming that the rules were simply bureaucratic hurdles. The “reformers,” in other words, demanded lower standards for those who teach the neediest children.
This excerpt from the article shows the two sides at their best:
“For us, it’s a fundamental issue of equity and a constitutional right to equal educational resources,” said Tiffany Mok of the American Civil Liberties Union of California. The daughter of immigrants from Hong Kong, Mok teared up as she told the commission her parents always believed she should have the same opportunities as everyone else.
“But a powerful coalition of school boards, administrators, charter operators, reform advocates — and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy — had signed a letter to the commission arguing that state law explicitly allows interns to teach students with limited English and that they should be allowed to continue to do so. Placing more state regulations over them would create needless burdens, they argued.
“This is bureaucracy at its best,” said Jessica Garcia-Kohl of Rocketship Education, a charter-school chain based in San Jose.”
Louisiana is in a budget crisis, and Governor Bobby Jindal has been closing hospitals that serve indigent patients and other social services for the needy. He has also been trying to find a way to fund his expensive voucher program, since a state court declared it unconstitutional last fall.
But Teach for America is undaunted by the state’s budget crisis. It has applied for a grant of $5 million.
Blogger Louisiana Voice writes:
“According to the project summary submitted with its application, the money would apparently be used to provide 550 to 700 teachers and 1,000 alumni who would serve as teachers, leaders and “positive change agents (whatever that is) in the lowest income schools throughout the greater New Orleans and greater Baton Rouge areas, central Louisiana, Acadiana and the Louisiana Delta.”
But wait. LouisianaVoice has come across three state contracts with TFA totaling almost $1.6 million to recruit, train and place 570 TFA teachers in the Delta region of Louisiana and the Recovery School District.”
Meanwhile, colleges in Louisiana are producing teachers who can’t find jobs.
Shouldn’t Louisiana be encouraging career educators who plan to stay in their jobs and remain in their communities?
This is an interesting article by a Columbia student, explaining why he will not join TFA.
It is especially interesting because he is a former president of his campus Students for Educational Reform, the nicely-funded baby brother (or sister) of the Wall Street guys’ DFER.
Whenever he gets a letter pleading with him to apply for a “transformational” experience, he sends it to his spam folder.*
Why, because he went to a public school in Texas and he can still remember the names of the dedicated career teachers who inspired him.
He is also concerned that TFA is sending young white kids to replace black teachers. He notes a study (which I have not seen ) that says that three-quarters of the charter teachers are white.
In Chicago and New York City (and he doesn’t know this), there has been a sharp decline in the proportion of black and Hispanic teachers during the past decade of “reform.” Not all because of TFA, to be sure, but because those in charge don’t care.
*Note from Diane to Wendy Kopp: Please stop using the word “transform,” “transformational,” “transformative,” etc. I read your last book and checked the word every time it appeared. It appears dozens of times. Really, you need to find a new word.
Gary Rubinstein wonders why so many of TFA’s new teachers have been so quiet, not blogging about their first-year experiences. He gets a ton of responses.
Is this, he wonders, the silence of the sacrificial lambs?
In today’s post, EduShyster travels to Minneapolis to explain how one very young man, after a brief stint in Teach for America, managed to buy a school board seat.
Teach for America, as explained in earlier posts, managed to collect nearly $1 billion in contributions, gifts, and grants in a five year period. It is a good gig.
EduShyster says that it is very effective to buy school board seats.
She contrasts this strategy to the failed attempt to buy the entire Bridgeport, Ct., school board.
The victory in Minneapolis cost only $37,000.
The loss in Bridgeport cost the corporate reformers over half a million.
You can see where this is leading.
Many people have written to ask for a link to Gary Rubinstein’s “open letters to ‘reform’ leaders.”
Those who read them say they are brilliant, and indeed they are.
As you may know, Gary was one of the first alums of TFA. He became a career teacher.
He teaches mathematics at Stuyvesant High School in New York City.
He blogs regularly and whatever he writes is worth reading.
He is one of the best informed and reasonable critics of corporate-style reform in the blogosphere.