Archives for category: Teach for America

This is a great—actually an inspiring—interview with Stephanie Rivera, who is probably the most prominent student leader on behalf of properly prepare teachers and supporting public education. Stephanie started a student movement while studying to be a teacher at Rutgers University. She has also been a critic of Teach for America because she intends to make a career of teaching, not a two-year experience.

As you will read, she is deeply committed to teaching in urban schools, and she believes that students need to have teachers who look like them.

Here is a small sample:

“ES: You wrote a terrific post called Advocacy in the Age of Color Blindness where you challenged the idea that it makes no different what color a teacher is as long as s/he’s great. I’m amazed that it’s even necessary to argue about this, but the *best and brightest* first mentality seems to be gaining traction.

SR: The whole argument that if students are succeeding and all of their teachers are white then it’s OK to have all white teachers really misses the point. First of all, how are we measuring student success? Is it all test scores? Because raising test scores isn’t the only role of a teacher and it shouldn’t be. What do students learn from having teachers who look like them? I really believe that when students of color see teachers who look like them in these great professions it sends a powerful message that *hey, I can do something like that too.* It’s also about the ability of teachers to understand where their student are coming from.

ES: As a soon-to-be teacher I wonder what you think about the brewing battle over tenure.

SR: I strongly believe in teacher tenure because it protects teachers who have a more political understanding of what teaching is about. I really think that we need to be having some serious discussions in our teacher education programs about what tenure is. Future teachers don’t understand what it is, what it does and where it came from. Tenure does more than just provide job security. It allows you to speak out against things you think are wrong. It allows you to have a progressive curriculum. People who are going into teaching need a bigger, broader understanding of tenure.”

Angie Sullivan is a teacher-warrior who never gives up the fight for quality education in Nevada. She wants qualified teachers and adequate funding. She won’t back down. She wrote this letter to Senator Harry Reid:

“@TeachForAmerica: “You’ve done so much to help our country.” – @SenatorReid via video to our alumni at #ECVegas14

I have a HUGE HUGE problem with this! BIG Gigantic!

Senator Reid thanks scab labor by video at their big rally?

Teach for America that routinely union busts and funds campaigns against democrats with its war chests?

Their primary purpose is to fundraise and control the education privatizing conversation – developing reforming educational leadership with a few years of classroom experience. How do they do this? Install new graduates without teaching skill in at-risk schools and replace real teachers as fast as possible with “stars” who never intended to make the classroom a career.

Nevada has a Majority Leader but we are last in the nation in public education on too many levels to outline here. No money, no support, no help.

Me and my co-workers with actual teaching licenses worked for decades for my state in under funded conditions and get what? These frauds and Teach for America scabs?

Our conditions deteriorate, our tenure is demolished, our pensions are attacked, our supplies dwindle, our class size explodes, we aren’t allowed to teach anymore with all the crazy mandates installed, the crazy Department of Education Secretary applauds the attack, we are attached to scores for kids that can learn but will never score well due to disenfranchisement, and we are blamed by crazytown media for every social ill under the sun.

And that is what the Democratic Party has done to public education.

I haven’t even begun to list what the extremist left has done — but I’m sure those terrorists will shoot me down to exercise their 2nd amendment rights soon since they are allowed to access me as a government employee.

Enough is enough.

The answer isn’t to oppress women who teach kids to read with the same standards they have in Maine. The answer isn’t to abuse kids by making them do more and more testing – they fail before they ever set foot in public school because our community is suffering. The answer isn’t to allow Teach for America with 5 weeks of training to replace a teacher who is actually trained. And the answer definitely isn’t to fire us because democrats are on a witch hunt for “bad teachers”.

Here is the reality. Nevada has a poverty problem and importing a bunch of Harvard graduates who want to beef up their resumes as TFA teacher for a couple of years – is a drain on resources and doesn’t help at-risk kids.

CCSD is looking for 3,000 teachers at the same time it fires 300? Something is wrong. We are going to fill these jobs with “saviors” from elite colleges who become tourist teachers?

This video is a slap in the face to every fully licensed teacher in our nation.

You may celebrate this watering down and privatization of Nevada’s education – but me and my house will stand against you and them — because this secret combination is evil and subversive to the American Dream.

O God hear the words of my voice and help your Nevada teachers who love their students – let this and every other reforming and resource drain scam – stop – so that authentic learning can fill our communities.

All I can do is weep.


Joy Resmovits reports that the Onama administration plans to enforce a provision of NCLB that requires states to put experienced and highly qualified teachers in schools serving high numbers of poor and minority students.

Will this create a crisis for Teach for America, whose corps members have no experience?

Since this administration believes that teachers can be judged by student test scores, watch for policies attempting to reassign teachers from affluent suburbs to inner-city and rural schools. Watch for the next step, when those highly qualified teachers are reclassified as “bad” teachers if they can’t raise scores.

Will the Obama administration ever figure out that test scores reflect socioeconomic conditions more than teachers? They might look at research or even the recent report of the American Statistical Association, which attributed 1-14% of score variation to teachers.

Gary Rubinstein was one of the earliest members of Teach for America. He is today its most incisive critical friend or friendly critic. In this post, he remembers the days that Dave Levin and Michael Feinberg presented their KIPP plan to a TFA audience and were boed off the stage. Now, however, they are superstars.

Gary reviews KIPP’s current record. Currently, he says, KIPP has an attrition rate of 40%. Their college graduation rate is higher for low-income students than other schools.

However, he writes:

“Another thing I noticed in the annual report is that the SAT scores from their juniors are horrific. Now I’m not the one who says that test scores are everything, but reformers do, so when I see KIPP Newark, which has gotten a lot of attention lately, and KIPP Washington DC with SAT scores in the 1200s, that’s about 400 per section which you could get by answering about five questions per section and leaving the rest blank, I have to wonder how well those students will succeed in college.

“Funded, in part by the Waltons, KIPP is a bit like the Walmart of charter schools. And just like Walmart may have some good things about it — maybe prices there are low, I don’t know — KIPP might be good for the kids who are a ‘good fit’ for it. But also like Walmart, the negatives of KIPP seem to outweigh the positives. This is why the gut instinct of those 1996 corps members back in the day was correct.”

I posted about a week ago about efforts by members of Teach for America to open a charter school in rural Cheatham County in Tennessee.

The Cheatham County school board voted to deny the application for the Cumberland Academy Charter School, 5-0, with one member absent.

Yohuru Wiliams and Marla Kilfoyle explain here why reformers today are not entitled to claim the legacy of the civil rights movement. Their essay was written to mark the 50th anniversary of what was known as Freedom Summer, when advocates for civil rights risked their lives to advance the cause of freedom and equality.

They begin their essay:

“One of the more disturbing narratives employed by corporate education reformers, who support both Teach for America and the Common Core, is the claim that they are cast in the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement—specifically in the use of education as a tool to challenge economic and political inequality. The larger claim of the Common Core defenders is that it will close the achievement gap. Their rhetoric is that CCSS will increase “rigor” and make children “college and career ready.” The idea that a set of standards can erase child poverty, systemic racism that continues to exist in our educational system, and squash the rise of classist privilege is beyond absurd. To do this in the name of Civil Rights is insulting. Have the CCSS really leveled the playing field? Are they really doing what the corporate reformers say they will do.”

Williams and Kilfoyle go on to describe significant differences between then and now. One that matters is that none of the contemporary “reformers” are risking their lives. They are making monetary contributions in hopes of raising test scores. They are advancing the privatization of public schools. They are seeking to strip teachers of their rights. It is impossible to confuse the current movement–funded by the richest people in the nation–with a movement for freedom and equality.

Peter Greene asks: if you had your choice, which head of the hydra-headed reform monster would you lop off first?

Hint: one of those heads is essential for all the others. I agree with his choice.

This is an amazing story, written by investigative reporter George Joseph. It seems there are recruitment agencies that go to other nations, the Philippines especially, hire good teachers, charge outrageous placement fees, and send them to work in American schools.

He writes:

“Between 2007 and 2009, 350 Filipino teachers arrived in Louisiana, excited for the opportunity to teach math and science in public schools throughout the state. They’d been recruited through a company called Universal Placement International Inc., which professes on its website to “successfully place teachers in different schools thru out [sic] the United States.” As a lawsuit later revealed, however, their journey through the American public school system was fraught with abuse.

“According to court documents, Lourdes Navarro, chief recruiter and head of Universal Placement, made applicants pay a whopping $12,550 in interview and “processing fees” before they’d even left the Philippines. But the exploitation didn’t stop there. Immediately after the teachers landed in LAX, Navarro coerced them into signing a contract paying her 10 percent of their first and second years’ salaries; she threatened those who refused with instant deportation. Even after they started at their schools, Navarro kept the teachers dependent on her by only obtaining them one-year visas before exorbitantly charging them for an annual renewal fee. She also confiscated their passports.

“We were herded into a path, a slowly constricting path,” said Ingrid Cruz, one of the teachers, during the trial, “where the moment you feel the suspicion that something is not right, you’re already way past the point of no return.” Eventually, a Los Angeles jury awarded the teachers $4.5 million.

“Similar horror stories have abounded across the country for years. Starting in 2001, the private contractor Omni Consortium promised 273 Filipino teachers jobs within the Houston, Texas school district—in reality, there were only 100 spots open. Once they arrived, the teachers were crammed into groups of 10 to 15 in unfinished housing properties. Omni Consortium kept all their documents, did not allow them their own transportation, and threatened them with deportation if they complained about their unemployment status or looked for another job.”

In a cruel twist of fate, the recruiting agencies strip the Philippines of good teachers and at the same time, Teach for America’s international division sends in ill-trained recruits to overcrowded classrooms in the Philippines:

“Launched last year, Teach for the Philippines presents itself as “the solution” to this lack of quality teachers in the country. The Teach for Philippines promo video begins with black and white shots of multitudes of young Filipino schoolchildren packed into crowded classrooms, bored and on the verge of tears. A cover version of a Killers song proclaims, “When there’s nowhere else to run … If you can hold on, hold on” as the video shifts to the students’ inevitable fates: scenes of tattooed gang kids smoking, an isolated girl and even a desperate man behind bars. In the midst of this grotesquely Orientalizing imagery, text declares, “Our Country Needs Guidance,” “Our Country Needs Inspiration,” and finally “Our Country Needs Teachers.”

“Teach for the Philippines, though relatively small now with 53 teachers in 10 schools, presents a disturbing vision for the future of teaching in the context of a global workforce. While the Filipino teachers imported to America are not necessarily ideal fits, given their inability to remain as long-term contributors to a school community, at least they are for the most part trained, experienced instructors. Within the Teach for the Philippines paradigm, however, Filipino students, robbed of their best instructors, are forced to study under recruits, who may lack a strong understanding of the communities they are joining and have often have never even had any actual classroom experience.”

A strange labor market indeed.

Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post describes the triumph of the reform movement in New Orleans: The last public school has closed for good.

A few observations.

All schools in New Orleans are now charter schools. .

It’s hard to compare achievement pre-and post-Katrina because so many students never returned after the hurricane. Test scores are up, graduation rates are up, but populations are different. “By most indicators, school quality and academic progress have improved in Katrina’s aftermath, although it’s difficult to make direct comparisons because the student population changed drastically after the hurricane, with thousands of students not returning.

“Before the storm, the city’s high school graduation rate was 54.4 percent. In 2013, the rate for the Recovery School District was 77.6 percent. On average, 57 percent of students performed at grade level in math and reading in 2013, up from 23 percent in 2007, according to the state.”

There are no more neighborhood schools.

Almost all the teachers were fired. Almost all the fired teachers were African American. They were replaced mostly by white Teach for America recruits. The fired teachers won a lawsuit for wrongful termination and are owed $1 billion.

The central bureaucracy has been swept away.

“The city is spending about $2 billion — much of it federal hurricane recovery money — to refurbish and build schools across the city, which are then leased to charter operators at no cost.”

A curious fact: “White students disproportionately attend the best charter schools, while the worst are almost exclusively populated by African American students. Activists in New Orleans joined with others in Detroit and Newark last month to file a federal civil rights complaint, alleging that the city’s best-performing schools have admissions policies that exclude African American children. Those schools are overseen by the separate Orleans Parish School Board, and they don’t participate in OneApp, the city’s centralized school enrollment lottery.”

Observation by State Superintendent John White: “The city’s conversion to charters promises the best outcome for the most students, White said. “These kinds of interventions are never easy things,” he said. “When you look at overall outcomes, they’ve been positive. Does it have collateral negative effects? Of course. But does it work generally for the better? Yes.”

Formula for success: close public schools. Open charter schools. Fire veteran teachers. Replace them with TFA. Spend billions to refurbish buildings. This is the same formula that is being imported to urban districts across the nation. Is it sustainable? Did it really “work” or is this a manufactured success, bolstered by billions from the Waltons and other philanthropists who favor privatization?

Gary Rubinstein writes in this post about Michael Johnston and his long association with him.

Today Johnston is known in Colorado as the state senator who wrote the most punitive, anti-teacher law in the nation. At present, Harvard students are protesting the invitation to Johnston to speak at commencement

Gary knew him from Teach for America. He describes a young man who understood and cared about his students, who saw the obstacles they confronted, and who appreciated the hard work of veteran teachers.

But something happened to Michael Johnston between 2002 and 2010. The man Gary knew turned into an accountability hawk. He became a harsh critic of teachers.

For a time he was leading the test-and-punish parade, but the parade seems to be in disarray. It is no longer the leading edge but the rearguard.

Michael Johnston was invited to be the commencement speaker at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for 2014, but some students objected and called on the school to withdraw the invitation. That’s not likely to happen, nor should it. The students and graduates should have a chance to debate the issues, to debate the value of the Rhee–Duncan-Spellings style that has long been favored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Now is a good time to review the research on value-added measurement. Now is a good opportunity to ask SenatorJohnston what happened to quash his youthful wisdom.


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