Archives for category: Teach for America

Peter Dreier, a professor at Occidental College and fervent advocate for public education, asks why public education continues to lavish so much favorable attention in the leaders of the privatization movement while disregarding dissenting voices or–worse–treating our nation’s public schools shabbily.

He suggests that the Republican attack of public funding of PBS may have made the network dependent on the billionaires who favor privatization and view public schools with contempt.

With the sole exception of Bill Moyers, who has run programs about ALEC’s efforts to destroy every public service, and who recently interviewed me about the profit motive in the privatization movement, PBS has made no effort to investigate the assault on public education across the nation.

Dreier contrasts the lavish attention devoted to the privatization propaganda film “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” with the absence of attention to a remarkable new film celebrating the daily struggles of public schools in Pasadena, California. This film, “Go Public,” tells the true story of life in a public school. Will it appear on public television? That’s up to you.

The same might be said of “Rise Above the Mark,” another well-produced film that tells the story of real life in schools today and the insidious efforts to destroy public education by the powerful and complicit politicians.

David Sirota recently compelled PBS to return $3.5 million to billionaire John Arnold, who had underwritten a series on the “pension crisis,” an issue dear to him as a critic of defined benefit pensions.

Maybe Dreier’s critique will encourage PBS to give equal time to our nation’s public schools, not just their critics.

PS: I mistakenly attributed the article to another wonderful Paul–Paul Horton. Wrong! My bad!

For five years, I have listened to Arne Duncan lecture the American people about how terrible our public schools are.


He goes on at length about our ignorant students, our misguided parents, our ineffective teachers, our failing public schools.


In his eyes, we seem to be a nation of slackers, bums, ignoramuses, fools, and failures.


We know that he likes: charter schools, Teach for America, closing public schools and handing them over to corporate management, and “graduate schools” that have no scholars, no researchers, just tutors of test-taking skills. And of course, he loves the heavy emphasis on test-taking in places like Shanghai and Singapore. Test scores are his North Star. He wishes we could be like Shanghai, and that all our moms were “Tiger Moms,” cracking the whip over the children and making them get ready for the next test. All work, no play. He dreams of a new America of test-taking grinds. Arne Duncan is our Mr. Gradgrind, and if you don’t know who that is, google it.


Every once in a while, he launches a campaign calling for “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” but no one believes him. They know it is just empty PR.


So, I wonder, what are the unforgettable phrases of Arne Duncan that will be his legacy, the words that encapsulate his unique combination of certainty and cluelessness.


Entry one must be his immortal comment about Hurricane Katrina, which caused the deaths of over 1,000 people and wiped out public education and the teachers’ union in New Orleans: He said that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.” Forget the fact that the great majority of charter schools in New Orleans today are rated either D or F by the state of Louisiana (which favors them). According to Secretary Duncan, every major city needs a Hurricane Katrina or some other natural disaster to demolish public education and eliminate teachers’ unions so they can be replaced by privately managed charter schools and Teach for America. Of course, then Teach for America would have to train 1,000,000 teachers a year instead of only 10,000, and it would put an end to the teaching profession, but Arne hasn’t thought that far in advance.


Entry two was captured by Gary Rubinstein in this post on his blog: At Teach for America’s 20th anniversary celebration, Arne Duncan was a featured speaker. He told the story of a school that had only a 40% graduation rate. The school was shut down and replaced by three charter schools. One graduated all of its students, and all were accepted into college. Duncan said: “Same children, same community, same poverty, same violence. Actually went to school in the same building with different adults, different expectations, different sense of what’s possible. Guess what? That made all the difference in the world.” Gary pointed out that the students were not the same kids, and that the 107 who graduated were not the same as the 166 who started in the class. Yes, the graduation rate was higher, but it was not the 100% that Arne implied. And to make matters worse, the students at that particular “miracle school” had lower test scores than the Chicago school district. But Arne was trying to promote his theory that schools get better if everyone is fired and the slate is wiped clean.


Then there was the time last year when he sneered at parents in New York state who objected to the absurd Common Core tests as “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” He quickly tried to walk that one back, but it stuck. He deeply believes that our kids are dummies and their parents want to believe that they are smart when they are not. I guess you need to have a Harvard B.A. to be so arrogant about the brainpower of other people’s children.


My personal favorite occurred when he visited a charter school in Brooklyn. He told those assembled that the United States is facing both an economic crisis and an educational crisis. And then came this immortal line: “We should be able to look every second grader in the eye and say, ‘You’re on track, you’re going to be able to go to a good college, or you’re not,’ ” he said. “Right now, in too many states, quite frankly, we lie to children. We lie to them and we lie to their families.”


The claim that we are “lying to our students” or “we are lying to our children” is like a mantra for Arne, so that’s not new. What is special about this line is the idea that you should be able to look every second grader in the eye and be able to tell them that they are on track to go to a good college. Since I have a grandson who is in second grade, I know how absurd this is. I look into his eyes and I see a laughing, happy child. That’s what I want to see. Sometimes I see a sad child, and I want to know what’s wrong and can I help. I see a child who loves to read and loves to play. The last thing in the world that would occur to me as a parent, a grandparent, or an educator is to ask whether he was on track to go to a good college. I want him to be on track to be happy, healthy, curious about the world, eager to learn, and secure in the love that surrounds him.

Julian Vasquez Heilig collected his Top Ten of Arne’s Inanities.

The reality is that it is easy to find Arne’s clueless remarks. They occur whenever he goes off script.


What is your favorite Arne Duncan line? I have known almost every Secretary of Education since the U.S. Department of Education was created in 1980. I have never known one who had so little respect for students, educators, parents, school boards, or public education as our current Secretary. Nor have I known one who had so little understanding about what constitutes genuine learning. Not test scores, but a love of learning, a love of tinkering, a love of knowledge. It is innovation, creativity, imagination, curiosity, wit, and the pursuit of new knowledge that is the genius of our nation. Those who care not to preserve those essential aspects of education are not educators, but technicians, bureaucrats, and bean counters.


My wish: Arne Duncan should take the PARCC test for eighth graders and publish his scores.


The Walton Family Foundation released its list of grantees in the education world, and once again, the foundation put its huge resources into privatizing American public education.

The billions that hard-working families spend at Walmart are used to support privately managed charters and vouchers and to undermine democratic local control and traditional public schools.

Some of the biggest recipients of the Walton family’s largesse are Teach for America (nearly $20 million), which staffs non-union charters; KIPP charter schools ($8.8 million); the Charter Fund, Inc. ($14.5 million); The Children’s Scholarship Fund (which gives our school vouchers) $8.56 million; and the California Charter School Association, $5 million. Parent Revolution got almost $2 million, the Black Alliance for Educational Options got $1.3 million.

Read the list and see who favors the privatization of public schools. Aside from a few dollars tossed to the Bentonville, Arkansas, public schools, it is a rogues’ gallery of privatization and teacher-bashing.

The Walton Family Foundation helped to underwrite the attack ads against New York City’s progressive mayor, Bill de Blasio, because he dared to turn down three charter school proposals. Two of the three schools did not exist, so no child was evicted. The third rejection was meant to stop the expansion of Eva Moskowitz’s charter school inside PS 149 in Harlem, which required the eviction of severely disabled students to make room for her desired new middle school. Apparently the theory of the billionaires is that students with high test scores deserve public space more than profoundly disabled students, who have lesser rights.

As a result of pressure by the billionaires, the legislature passed a budget that gutted mayoral control by saying that the mayor was not allowed to reject any charter approved by Bloomberg’s school board; that the mayor was not allowed to charge rent to charters, even though they had just won a lawsuit declaring that they could not be audited by the State Comptroller because they are not “a unit of the state”; giving charters the right to expand in any public school where they are now co-located, without regard to the needs of the children already enrolled in that school; and requiring that the city pay the rent of any charter that rents private space. So, with the help of the Walton Family Foundation, the charter schools, which are not public schools and are not subject to public audit, get free space and may kick public school students out of their buildings.

This was a shameful law, purchased by people of vast wealth. They are intent on busting unions, crushing the teaching profession, and harming one of our democratic institutions. Their maleficent influence is unchecked. The money they spend each year is meant to transfer public funds to private hands. They use their power to hurt the very people who have made them wealthy, destroying their communities at the same time.

The age of the robber barons is back.

A resident in Néw Jersey, one of the nation’s highest-performing states, wonders why the Legislature might pay Teach for America to lease inexperienced, uncertified young recruits who promise to stay for only two years:

“Members of the NJ legislature are considering a bill that would allocate taxpayer funding for placement of Teach for America recruits into at-risk schools. TFA lobbied these legislators with “an idea” before anyone else could educate them on the topic.

“Public funding should not be used as placement fees for people with 5 weeks of training and no certification, and who can drop out after two years. This action is not building a base of experienced and credentialed teachers, AND it is siphoning public money from an already strapped public school budget.

“Please call Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, at
(908) 757-1677. Tell him you oppose A-2032 and hope he does not post it for a hearing in his committee.

“Spread the word.”

Governor Pat McCrory and the Legislature in North Carolina are doing their best to get rid of the state’s’s star teachers, and they are succeeding.

The state is losing large numbers of experienced teachers, because of low salaries. Teachers’ salaries have been flat for six years and are now 46th in the nation.

This National Board Certified Teacher quit, and she wrote a letter to the governor to explain why.

A 13-year veteran, Melissa Taylor wrote:

“To Whom It May Concern,

It is with great sadness that I submit my written notification of resignation from my teaching position with Wake County Public School Systems effective 3/14/14. I have found it more and more difficult to pay my bills every month and continue to fall further and further into debt, not to mention the feeling of absolute disrespect that I feel every time a new “expectation” is mandated for our classrooms while all of our resources are being taken away. I had no choice but to search for a job that will allow me to provide for my family and to pay back the thousands of dollars in college loans that I took to be a teacher. I find the condition of our education system in NC to be heartbreaking. It seems that our leaders and law makers have completely forgotten what is the most important thing here, the kids! We are failing our students, our teachers and our future. Please accept this letter as my official resignation from Wake County Public Schools.


Melissa Taylor, M.Ed, NBCT”

Do you think Governor McCrory cares? Or will he gladly full her job with a TFA who will leave before vesting for a pension?

In a post called “This Is You Brain on TFA,” Jersey Jazzman scrutinizes an article written by Cami Anderson about her moral courage.

He writes:

“I often get the sense that something happens to the brains of people who do their two years or less at Teach For America and then, rather than continue to teach, go on to “stay in education” as “leaders.” Maybe their self-granted halos are a little too tight.”

Cami Anderson is the superintendent of Newark, appointed by Chris Christie. Her “One Newark” plan will lead to the layoff of hundreds of veteran teachers, most of whom will likely be black. They are likely to be replaced by TFA, whose friends at Goldman Sachs are building new housing for them called “Teachers’ Village” so that the young TFA teachers will have good housing in Newark and live with their peers.

Jersey Jazzman wonders describes what Anderson has done in Newark:

“Apparently, the following acts are exemplars of moral courage:

“Requesting that the state overturn a recent tenure law that was negotiated in good faith by the Newark Teachers Union — a law that seems to be working out well across the rest of the state.

“Implementing a school restructuring plan that disproportionately targets teachers of color, even though there is scant little evidence that plan will do a thing to help student achievement.

“Walking out on a mother because you, and you alone, have decided what is and is not appropriate speech for people who are advocating for their children.

“Suspending principals for daring to exercise their first amendment rights.

“Throwing PTO presidents out of schools and suspending staff because you don’t like what they say on the phone when they’re in the bathroom.

“Reneging on teacher compensation deals that were suspicious to begin with.

“Taking a bow at the biggest speech of the year for your boss, who has said explicitly he does not care about the opinions of those citizens of Newark who dare to disagree with him.

“According to them both, not heeding the summons of the chair of the state’s most important legislative committee on schools, and not answering the emails of the elected representative of your school board.

“All of these acts are so selfless, so noble, so righteous indeed that they deserve a public self-lauding — one where the author can tell us all about her lonely, arduous crusade at her extremely elite college to get more money for her crew team so she could fly to her meets rather than drive.”

To follow the links, read the post:

Emma Gulley is a student at one of America’s finest colleges, Bryn Mawr.

She was intrigued by the mystique of Teach for America, and she agreed to represent TFA on campus.

But the more she worked for them, the more she realized that she was not fulfilling her dream of “giving back” and “social justice,” but servicing a powerful and ambitious organization.

This is the story of her disillusionment. It appeared on Gary Rubinstein’s blog.

She writes:

“I was introduced to TFA as a college freshman, I interned for them for two years, and, had they had it “their way,” I would have interned for them for another year before teaching for two years and then being hired as a recruitment manager. The cycle from recruited to recruiter would be complete. I do feel that I was briefly inducted into a cult, and escaped to tell the tale, which is more than I can say for any other CCC I have ever met.”

EduShyster and co-author Chad Sommer reveal the contents of newly released documents that show the close relationship between Teach for America and charters (90% of which are non-union).

Sommer is an alum of TFA, class of 2011

TFA are inexperienced and inexpensive. They are an essential part of the charter business model.

They write:

Emails sent by the Broad Foundation, a leading advocate of market-based education reform and charter expansion, and acquired through a freedom of information request, reveal that many charter management organizations consider TFA presence in a region a necessary prerequisite for opening new schools. According to the documents, charter management organizations including Rocketship, KIPP, Noble, LEARN and Uncommon Schools all indicated that a supply of TFA teachers was a general pre-condition for expanding into a new region. The emails, which detail the Broad Foundation’s failed efforts to lure high-performing charter operators to Detroit, were released as part of a trove of thousands of documents requested as part of an investigation into Michigan’s embattled Education Achievement Authority.

Greetings from the charter state
In New Jersey, where controversial charter expansion plans have been unveiled in Newark and Camden, TFA is likely to play a key role in providing *local talent* to staff new schools. Cami Anderson’s One Newark education reform plan is predicated on 40% of Newark public schools becoming privately managed charter schools by the 2016-2017 school year. Meanwhile in Camden, yet another TFA-alum-turned-state-appointed-superintendent, Paymon Rouhanifard, has begun introducing local residents to the charter operators that will soon be *turning around* their public schools, but without naming the schools to be turned around. [Note: effective in the fall of 2014, TFA corps members in Newark, Camden and Trenton will all be managed under a single entity: TFA New Jersey].

The handover of public schools to private management would not be possible without the availability of the reserve army of eager and unquestioning TFA, who are willing to work long hours and won’t stay around long enough to ask for a pension.




Peter Greene has a ball with the U.S. Department of Education’s latest fantasy plan: Every child has a civil right to a “highly qualified teacher.”

Who is a “highly qualified teacher”? Any teacher who can raise test scores or anyone who belongs to Teach for America and leaves before the third year of test scores are reported.

It is all super but here is the laugh-out-loud deconstruction of Duncan-style logic:

“Discussion of teaching as a civil right often circles back around to the assertion that poor students have more lousy teachers than non-poor students. This assertion rests primarily on a model of circular reasoning. Follow along.

“A) Teachers are judged low-performing because their students score poorly on tests.

“B) Students low test scores are explained by the fact that they have low-performing teachers.

“Or, framed another way, this argument defines a low-quality teacher as any teacher whose students don’t do well on standardized tests. The assumption is that teachers are the only single solitary explanation for student standardized test scores. Nothing else affects those scores. Only teacher behavior explains the low scores. That’s it.

“Ergo, the best runners are runners who run down hills. Runners who are running uphill are slow runners, and must be replaced by those good runners– the ones we find running downhill. Or, the wettest dogs are the ones who are out in the rain, while the driest ones are the ones indoors. So if we take the indoor dogs outside, we will have drier dogs in the yard. While it rains.

“As long as we define low-quality teachers as those who teach low-achieving students (who we know will mostly be the children of poor folk), low-achieving students will always be taught by low-quality teachers. It’s the perfect education crisis, one that can never, ever be solved.”

On February 6, Michelle Rhee preferred to speak to the Minneapolis business leadership instead of debating me.

But fortunately, I got a first-hand report from someone who attended the event and explained who spoke and what they said.

Rhee, as is her custom, advised the audience that the path to excellence begins with eliminating tenure or due process for all teachers. That way, they can be fired immediately, for any reason, with no hearing. I wondered if anyone in the audience asked for examples of states or districts that have no due process for teachers and have achieved outstanding results.

There was, of course, a lot of talk about data, data, data. Big data will solve all problems since children are interchangeable widgets.

The last speaker, Kati Haycock, warned that low-income students were assigned far too many inexperienced teachers. The reporter wondered if she was talking about TFA, which is a dominant force in Minneapolis.


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