Gary Rubinstein, the most thoughtful of Teach for America’s critical alums, plans to attend the 25th anniversary of Teach for America. Gary’s blog has punctured the illusions of TFA and other corporate reformers again and again. Will he be shunned? Will anyone speak to him?


When I read Gary’s post, my first reaction was that the party would be “a conclave of losers,” considering how many of the TFA stars have faded or failed or disappeared into obscurity.  Not to mention the fact that TFA has not–in its 25 years–closed the achievement gap in any district or turned any district into a paragon of excellence. “One day,” the TFA slogan (“one day all children will have an excellent education”) seems as far away as ever.


But what a meeting it will be!


Gary writes:



Of the 200 speakers listed so far, there is only one ‘reform critic’ I see, Los Angeles Board President Steve Zimmer. Then there are about 150 people I’ve never heard of, but who are mostly from different ed companies or charter schools, and then there are about 50 A and B list ‘reformers’ and charter leaders. These include Jeremy Beard (YES Prep), Karolyn Belcher (President of TNTP), RiShawn Biddle (Dropout Nation), Tim Daly (Former President of TNTP), Mike Feinberg (KIPP), Heather Harding (former VP of research at TFA, now with Gates), Kevin Huffman (former Tennessee Education commissioner and former husband of Michelle Rhee), Michael Johnston (State senator in Colorado who got a teacher evaluation law passed where 50% of the evaluation is based on value-added), John King (current acting Secretary of Education), Dave Levin (KIPP), Kira Orange Jones (New Orleans Board Member), Paymon Rouhanifard (Camden Schools Superintendent), Alexander Russo (Writer and reform cheerleader), Hannah Skandera (secretary of education for New Mexico), Preston Smith (CEO Rocketship Charter schools), John White (State Superintendent of Louisiana), Joe Williams (DFER and now Walton). Not yet on the speakers page, but listed on some of the panels are Joel Klein (Amplify and former chancellor in NYC), John Deasy (Former head of Los Angeles Schools), Jon Schnur (Architect of Race To The Top), Chris ‘Citizen’ Stewart (blogger who I’ve sparred with on Twitter), and, of course, Michelle Rhee (StudentsFirst and star of Waiting For Superman).


Many of the sessions also have a ‘reform’ slant. There’s a session called ‘Becoming an Education Influencer on Twitter’ that I think I’d be an ideal candidate to be on. But instead of me there’s ‘Dropout Nation’s’ RiShawn Biddle and Alexander Russo.


There’s one called “Alumni Trailblazers’ Perspectives on the Path to One Day in Our Lifetime.” The panelists are the queen reformer Michelle Rhee, the prince, Louisiana Education Commissioner (for now) John White, and KIPP founders Mike Feinberg, and Dave Levin.


Joel Klein is moderating a panel called ‘What Will It Take To Reach One Day?’ and on the panel are Kevin Huffman and Kira Orange Jones.


One with an intriguing title is “What should we do when the whole school fails?” It is moderated by the husband of TFA CEO Elisa Villanueva-Beard, Jeremy Beard, who has apparently left his post at Houston Independent School District leading their failed turnaround program ‘Apollo 20’ and is now the head of YES Prep Charter Schools in Houston. On this panel is Chris ‘Citizen’ Stewart, who has been known to accuse me of being a racist from time to time. This panel also has the one and only ‘reform critic’ that I know of, Steve Zimmer, who is the head of the school board in Los Angeles.


Michael Johnston is on a bunch of panels. One is called ‘What Works and What Doesn’t in Education Policy” I think he is an expert on the latter as his horrific ‘accountability’ plan in Colorado where 50% of teacher evaluation is based on value-added scores has accomplished absolutely nothing in terms of test score increases. On that panel is ‘Chief For Change’ Hannah Skandera, New Mexico Secretary of Education , and Jon Schnur, ‘architect’ of Race To The Top.


Perhaps the craziest session is called ‘Exploring the Role of Joel Klein as Mentor and Role Model: A Case Study.’ The CEO of TFA, Elisa Villanueva-Beard is actually the moderator on this one. Most of the people who Klein mentored are no longer in power, the most recent to be forced out was Cami Anderson in Newark. I’m hoping that John White in Louisiana will be out by then and then there will be a full turnover of the Klein mentees.