Archives for category: Teach for America

Ed Johnson is a persistent, tireless advocate for systemic improvement of the Atlanta Public Schools. As a systems analyst, he opposes school choice, which helps some and hurts others.

He wrote the following letter to the Atlanta School Board after watching the Inauguration ceremonies on January 20:

20 January 2021

Inauguration 2021: “America United” and “a Union with Purpose”

“America United

Joseph R. Biden

President, United States of America

…a Union with Purpose…

Amanda Gorman

National Poet Laureate

Dear Atlanta Board of Education members:

We the people will have neither an “America United” nor “a Union with Purpose” as long as you continue to help pursue the ideological folly of school choice and charter schools with the aim of gradually but surely destroying public education and public schools.

The prayer and hope now is that each of you will reach into the deepest recesses of your heart and soul and extract any remnants of wisdom you find there that will lead you to understand that school choice and charter schools ideology is folly and absolutely contrary to there ever being an “America United” existing as “a Union with Purpose.”

The prayer and hope extend to you also finding the wisdom in your heart and soul to let go foolish Black racialist ideologues, such as one Howard Fuller, so that you may start living up to your sworn Oath of Office to uphold the Atlanta Independent School System as the public good it is supposed to be.

You swore, in part:

In all things pertaining to my said office, I will be governed by the public good and the interests of said school system.”

However, your chairman and known Teach for America alum and Howard Fuller acolyte, Jason Esteves, recently intimated his election to the school board constitutes a mandate to impose his adherence to Black racialist ideology à la Howard Fuller upon the public good that is the Atlanta Independent School System. 

School choice and charter schools ideology is not of, by, nor for the public good.

Neither is Black racialist ideology à la Howard Fuller and similar others.

Rather, school choice and charter schools ideology is of, by, and for private interests.

And so is Black racialist ideology à la Howard Fuller.  Witness the demise of Fuller’s Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) after private interests cut off their money flow.

If you were to strive to fulfil your sworn Oath of Office, then maybe, just maybe, the Atlanta Independent School System, which is more commonly known as Atlanta Public Schools, will stand a good chance of becoming a public good with a purpose.

Right now, the Atlanta Independent School System has no purpose of its own.

Rather, the system has any number of default purposes, where, at any given moment, a default purpose will manifest as any coordinated number of purposes of any number of private interests.

Naturally, in keeping with school choice and charter schools ideology, the relatively new APS Office of Partnerships and Development and the relatively new APS Office of Innovation function, essentially, to steer the Atlanta Independent School System always toward soliciting, aligning to, and sustaining the purposes of varied private interests that aim to supplant public interests.  

So, should you need prayer assistance with reaching deep into your heart and soul to find requisite wisdom essential to we the people ever having an “America United” existing as “a Union with Purpose,” much such assistance is generally available.

You only have to reach out and ask for it.

Ed Johnson

Advocate for Quality in Public Education

Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

Tom Ultican has written extensively about the insidious goals of “reformers,” who move forward despite multiple failures because of their billionaire funding.

In this post, he reviews the Biden education team, which is not yet fleshed out. He wrote this post before the announcement that Cindy Marten, the Superintendent of Schools in San Diego, was selected to be Deputy Secretary. This will be the first time in history that the top two jobs in the Department of Education were held by people who were actual educators with classroom experience. He added a comment about Superintendent Marten.

Tom Ultican defines the unanswered questions:

Joe Biden has chosen a person with an education background to lead the department of education but his experience running large organizations is almost non-existent. He was assistant superintendent of a school district with less than 9,000 students from 2013 to 2019. He then became Education Commissioner of Connecticut. That system serves less than 530,000 students. His primary strength seems to be he has not engaged with the controversial education issues of the day like “school choice” and testing accountability.

Which begs the question, will the Biden-Harris administration support and revitalize public schools or will they bow to big moneyed interests who make campaign contributions? Will Biden-Harris continue the neoliberal ideology of “school choice” or will they revitalize public schools? Will they continue wasting money on standardized testing that only accurately correlates with family economic conditions or will they reign in this wasteful practice?

Tom Ultican added:

Update added 1/19/2021: Today, Cindy Marten was nominated by Joe Biden to be Deputy Secretary of Education. I have met Marten a few times and believe she is a special kind of leader committed to public education. This gives me great hope. For the first time, we have two educators with deep k-12 experience running the Department of Education. This article from the San Diego Union gives a good synopsis of her education career. In his announcement Biden noted, “Superintendent, principal, vice principal and literacy specialist are all job titles Marten has held in her 32-year career as an educator.” The appointment makes me think the Biden administration may become the best friend public education has had in Washington DC since the Department of Education was created. Of course, Marten does not walk on water but from my perspective she is the real deal.
– tom

Well, that didn’t take long!

The Biden administration has selected a TFA person for one of the plum jobs in the White House.

At least half a dozen individuals recently appointed to positions in the White House include those with teaching experience and others who have worked with education-focused organizations. While several have most recently worked on the Biden-Harris campaign — and didn’t necessarily jump straight from the classroom into government — they’ll still have direct knowledge of issues that matter to both teachers and parents.

The incoming White House staff, for example, includes Kaitlyn Hobbs Demers, who taught fifth grade in the Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia and spent 2013 and 2014 advising Teach for America “corps members” and interviewing future candidates. Demers has been appointed special assistant to the president and chief of staff for the Office of Legislative Affairs.

The director of policy at DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), which consists of hedge funders who oppose teacher tenure and advocate for high-stakes testing, expressed his pleasure at the appointment.

I wonder if the Bidens know that TFA is a favorite recipient of gifts from the anti-union, anti-public school Walton Family Foundation.

In a post from 2019, Mercedes Schneider reviewed the spectacular career of a TFA “reformer” who became a star in Nevada, briefly disappeared, then resurfaced with a cushy job in the booming IDEA charter chain in Houston (Betsy DeVos’s favorite).

Alison Serafin flourished in Nevada when there was a Republican Governor. She was vice-president of the state board. She launched a start-up called Opportunity 180 to foster charter schools. She resigned from the state board in December 2015 since her Organization was seeking state funding. In April 2016 her Opportunity 180 won a $10 million grant to being high-performing charters to Nevada.

Opportunity 180 was supposed to create the Nevada Achievement School District, modeled on Tennessee’s failed program.

By 2017, Serafin resigned, and her name was scrubbed from the website of the organization she founded.

Not to worry. Now Serafin works for IDEA in Houston, which has big plans for expansion.

Reformers fail upwards.

A new reader to the blog posted her own recipe to describe “reform,” which has an unfortunate habit of failing again and again but being revived by Betsy DeVos and/or Bill Gates and the Walton Family:

Sandy Dixon Forrest Recipe for sucking in public tax money and making obscene profits on the backs of public school teachers and students: FINANCE inappropriate “standards” to be implemented by all teachers, REQUIRE the use of products which financially benefit the creator of the “goals,” SMILE as hired “cheerleaders” tout the benefits of the mandated program, BEAM proudly as profits roll into the companies producing the “magic” solution, CRINGE privately at dismal results, REWRITE the “cheerleader” script, AND THEN…drum roll, please.. BLAME the teachers for disappointing results of the non-educators’ (but obscenely wealthy) magic elixir to cure the problems of all public school students. RESULTS?! The sponsors of this hoax made buckets of money! Wave goodbye to the career teachers; TFA folks are cheaper and more (desperate) cooperative anyway. Don’t worry about the kiddos; just give them a double dose of grit. It’s all good…right?

 

In this brief video, Dr. Leslie Fenwick, former dean of the College of Education at Howard University, explains why the “schemes” of corporate reformers always fail. She doesn’t hold back about charters, vouchers, Broad superintendents, and Teach for America.

The video is part of a series of hundreds of interviews of educators, conducted by former teacher Bob Greenberg. He calls his series the Brainwaves Video Anthology. After you watch Dr. Fenwick’s wonderful interview, you should browse his collection. It’s very impressive.

Mercedes Schneider heard an interview with Jill Biden in which she pledged that a future President Bidennwoyld choose a Secretary of Education who has spent time “in the classroom.” That set Mercedes’ teeth on edge. “In the classroom” could mean a Teach for America tyro who spent two years “in the classroom.”

No, sir-ee. If you want the votes of millions of teachers, you have to do better than make a fuzzy promise.

She writes:

On the surface, that sounds fantastic. On the surface.

The problem is that the education reform movement specializes in its members having temp time “in the public schools” as a resume-padding device designed to catapult them into leadership positions in K12 education, such as district and state superintendents. So, technically, one of these classroom-exiting, sleight-of-experience resume padders could slide right on in as the next secretary of education, without spending but a moment’s time as a classroom teacher, and you, sir, might not know the difference because the person is *technically* able to declare having been “in the public schools.”

Peter Greene turns his attention to Rhode Island and finds that it has been subject to a corporate education reform takeover.
Not only is the governor a former venture capitalist who made her reputation by taking an axe to teachers’ pensions, but her husband Andy Moffitt is a TFA alum who moved on to McKinsey. Not only that, he co-authored a book with Michael Barber of Pearson about “Deliverology,” a philosophy that turns education into data analytics.

Governor Gina Raimondo hired a TFA alum to lead the State Education Department; the new Commissioner immediately joined Jen Bush’s far-rightwing Chiefs for Change and led a state takeover of Providence schools. There is no template for a successful state takeover, so we will see how that goes. Think Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District, funded with $100 million from Duncan’s Race to the Top. Think Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority, which closed after six of boasts but consistent failure.

Read Greene’s incisive review of the First Couple of Rhode Island and remember that Governor Gina Raimondo is a Democrat, though it’s hard to differentiate her views from those of Betsy DeVos.

Barbara Veltri is a teacher educator at Northern Arizona University. She has mentored TFA corps members, and she wrote a book about TFA.

In this essay, she notes that Doug Ducey, Republican Governor of Arizona and a favorite of Charles Joch, is an avid supporter of Trump, school choice, and TFA.

She writes:

Tara Kini, wrote, “We’re hearing a lot of conflicting scenarios and projections related to the teacher workforce come fall. On the one hand, there is a fear of massive layoffs precipitated by the Cov-19 recession and state budget cuts. On the other, there are projections of staffing shortages and state budget cuts. (June 25, 2020).

We have been here before.

In 2012, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that in fiscal year 2013, 35 states were spending less than they did during the recession. Since 2009, more than 200,000 teacher jobs vanished and in spite of teacher movements, states were still not back to pre-recession spending levels of a decade ago, which prompted national Teachers’ Movements and voter initiative to support K-12 teachers.

According to NEA job survey data from my state, Arizona teachers’ starting salaries at $30,404 in 2010 ranked 35th in the nation. Then, even veteran teachers in hard-to-staff assignments, such as special education faced reduced-in-force measures, while novice teachers without focused special needs training, were hired. Then, Arizona paid finder’s fees for Teach For America Teachers of more than 1.5 million dollars (noted on IRS Form 990 over the years 2010-2013).

And now, amid the rising temperatures and Cov-19 numbers, Governor Doug Ducey, who served on Teach For America’s Regional Board of Directors, announced in the Arizona Education Grant on Wednesday, “$500,000 for Teach For America to provide tutoring to students needing extra help.”

This when Wallet Hub (2019) ranked Arizona’s pupil-to-teacher ratio, the worst in the nation.

This when Arizona educators earn less than peers in 48 other states, yet pivoted immediately to prepare, present, and teach to support their students.

The Governor’s Education Grant also includes $700,000 for leadership and $1million for micro grants, that leave open too many questions as to just who will benefit from these funds.

Policies minimized educators in a state that has prioritized and legislated millions of dollars in funding directed towards Teach For America, over the last two decades, with friends in high places. In 2016, Wendy Kopp the founder of TFA was the commencement speaker at Arizona State University.

The Dean of The College of Education serves as a TFA Regional Board Member member. Ms. Kopp addressed the Arizona Legislature and Arizona Chamber of Commerce who overwhelmingly support her initiatives and corps member teachers.

The education non-profit reported:
$1,329,197 on lobbying (TFA IRS 990, 2019) ‘for direct contact with legislators, their staffs, government officials or a legislative body,” (Schedule C, IRS Form 990, 2017, pg. 3);
$45, 222, 433 in government grants (IRS 990, 2016, Part VII, p. 9);
$11, 255, 064 in Publicly Traded Securities/Non-Cash Contributions (IRS 990, 2017, line 9 p. 94) and $9,259 in crypto currency (Average sale price, line, 28).

The non-profit reports, “Program Service Revenue,” in the amount of $23, 415, 992 (Form 990, 2017, line 2A):

“Teach for America has contractual agreements with various school districts across the United States of America to recruit, select, train, and place corps members to teach within their school districts. Teach for America recognizes revenue related to these contractual agreement as earned, that is when the corps member is placed.”

These ‘program service fees’ are ‘finders’ fees’ that schools and districts pay to TFA (up front and in full), even if novice corps members leave their placement any time prior to their two-year commitment. And, Districts pay each TFA corps member’s salary and benefits.

Annie E. posed the question eight years ago, in a May 8, 2012 blog post, “So, is TFA’s mission still about education? If it is, then why take money from huge foundations and corporations whose missions are clearly not about education?”

But there’s more to this….

In a recent interview with CNBC, Merck CEO, Kenneth Frazier shared how he had the opportunity, as a black youth in Philadelphia’s inner city, to “change his life trajectory.”
He boarded a bus and rode 30 miles to the suburbs where he received a rigorous opportunity to learn from lifelong teachers and interact with peers who lived in middle-class and affluent professional neighborhoods.

A lightbulb went on for me at that moment.

As someone who researched, met, mentored and learned from TFA teachers and their students, I recognized that instead of the opportunity for schooling to change his life’s trajectory, corporations, lobbyists, universities, media, philanthropists and policymakers (who I term The CLUMPP Network) opted instead to jointly support, through financing, marketing, in-kind donations (i.e. office space), in-state tuition, and even taxpayer funded AmeriCorps stipends, a Caucasian, female’s undergraduate sociologist thesis in 1989 that she reworked with diligence, focus, and good intent.

The education initiatives that supported black and brown children moving out of high-poverty community schools, as Mr. Frazier experienced, instead brought in, recent college grads who knew nothing about education, weren’t trained, might’ve been idealistic, didn’t stay, uprooted veterans’ local knowledge of the community, but kept poor children of color, exactly where corporations and policymakers wanted them – in schools that were underfunded, with scripted teaching, constant assessments, police presence in schools, no frills curriculum, limited resources for arts, music, sports and, not removed from the realities of systemic poverty.

I chronicled my ethnographer’s notes from their teaching field, over consecutive years.
Then, in the middle of all of financial and environmental crisis when teachers lost jobs, not only was TFA hired, but Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and others (as noted on TFA tax returns) paid millions of dollars each in finder’s fees to bring TFA novices in (and out) over multiple years – while the kids, and their communities were effected by innovation.

It didn’t matter which tag line: One Day All Children, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, or Every Child Succeeds – the trajectory for poor kids, no matter how many competitions or standardized tests, didn’t match the learning that Kenneth Frazier experienced.

And the reason is this – unlike the educational policies of the 60s that transported a young Kenneth Frazier, from his Philly inner city neighborhood to the suburbs, where he notes that he received a quality education that “paved the way for my admittance to Penn State University (undergraduate degree) and then Harvard law school,” three decades of young people who just happened to be born poor, black or brown, were/are recipients of another social experiment that not only made segregation popular, but profitable – charter schools.

Policies kept poor children of color localized in their communities as suburban communities, fell back on residency requirements and real estate pricing to maintain an us vs. them mindset.

In Stamford, Connecticut my kids were transported, by bus, to a public elementary magnet school, surrounded by “the projects.” The arts and critical thinking curriculum and admissions policy: 50% majority/50% minority; 50% male/ 50% female (with siblings automatically accepted) was supported by community buy-in and integrated schools. The by-product – from a young age, kids learn from and befriend kids from different religions, ethnicities, social class, and race.

So what happened?

From 1990-2020 we saw a systemic attempt to control who gets to be schooled where and by whom. And with limited opportunity for kids to interact, learn, befriend and grow up with children other than themselves, in public schools, the system promotes and finances policies that separate us and keep kids living and learning, within limited societal structures and neighborhoods by bringing in young outsiders and paying for that service.

Over the last two decades, policies embraced by both sides of the political spectrum, advanced homeschooling, tax credits for religious schools, charter schools, encouraged a police presence within low-income schools and limited financial opportunities for programs that benefitted my kids, and Merck CEO Frazier.

The result: The alignment of the “CLUMPP” network of which, TFA was/remains the cog in the wheel that moves and advances an agenda that is predetermined and particularized to keep poor children of color from leaving where they were born, to be schooled in the suburbs.

To taxpayers, teachers and parents across the other 40 U.S. states whose Governors are appropriating pandemic education support dollars…. Examine the funding and think Teachers, not TFA.

I recently had a conversation with Julian Vasquez Heilig, the dean of the College of Education at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Heilig discusses his own background, a trajectory that took him from Michigan to Stanford, then to Texas, California, and now Kentucky. He is a scholar and an activist who now seeks to lead a new conversation about education in a Kentucky, bringing the community into close connection with the schools.

I have known Julian since 2012, when he became a founding member of the board of the Network for Public Education.

His blog, “Cloaking Inequity,” is one of the liveliest on the web. He has a passion for equity and inclusion that shines through his scholarship, his blog, and his activism.