Archives for category: Teach for America

Nancy Bailey expresses her astonishment that corporations and universities continue to fund TFA even though there is no evidence for its efficacy. By sending inexperienced teacher aides to replace veteran teachers, they are harming children and degrading the profession.

Open her post to see the long list of gold plated donors. Would they also fund Airline Pilots for America? No, that matters. Why ruin education by demeaning real teachers? Bailey proposes a name change: Teaching Aides for America.

The reality is that TFA supplies the temp labor force for non-union schools, specifically, charter schools.

Desperate for special education teachers, a few principals in San Francisco defied the board of education and hired inexperienced, unprepared young Teach for America recruits for special education classes.

How sad to think that the neediest students get the least qualified teachers.

Investigative journalist George Joseph assesses the alarming transformation of Teach for America into Teach for All. The Ugly American has arrived to disrupt teaching and education, to provide jobs for young college graduates, and to put poorly trained “teachers” in front of kids who need good teachers.

He writes:

Since 2007, adaptations of Teach for America’s controversial model have been implemented in 40 countries, on every continent except Antarctica, thanks to Kopp’s Teach for All network. Though the organizations are financed through varying mixes of corporate, foundation, and state funding, there’s a remarkable continuity in the network’s so-called “Theory of Change,” regardless of national differences in teacher training, student enrollment, and infrastructure quality. Given the burgeoning presence of Teach for India in the nation’s troubled school system, the project of exporting the Teach for America model is being put to a high-profile test. If deemed successful, this model will be poised to deliver large portions of India’s education system—and, indeed, others all over the world—into the control of the private sector on a for-profit basis.

Joseph goes into detail about the workings of Teach for All in India (Teach for India), where the effort is led by an Indian woman who sounds very much like Wendy Kopp: privileged, smart, and alert to a great opportunity.

TFI, according to its official account, sprang to life after Shaheen Mistri, a prominent nonprofit leader in Mumbai, walked into the Manhattan office of Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp in 2007 and declared, “We have to start Teach for India, and I need your help!” Teach for America has become famous for tackling inequality in education by training young graduates from elite schools to teach in public schools for two years and then become advocates for “education reform”—a contested agenda that includes increasing the number of privately operated charter schools and limiting the power of teachers’ unions. TFA’s critics say that inexperienced teachers make educational inequality worse, and that the organization has become a Trojan horse for the private takeover of public-sector resources. And TFA’s recruiting numbers have dropped in recent years, as skepticism of the once-lauded organization grows.

In India, meanwhile, the education system is rife with problems even more daunting than in the United States. In 1966, during the country’s post- partition development period, the Kothari Commission declared that India needed to spend at least 6 percent of its GDP on education. Like most South Asian countries, it failed to come close to this figure. In recent years, despite India’s incredible economic growth, the most it has ever spent on education was 4.4 percent of its GDP, in 2000.

The results have been predictably appalling. According to the Right to Education Forum, in the 2013–14 school year, India had 568,000 teaching positions vacant, and only 22 percent of working teachers had ever received in- service training. This massive shortage means that as of 2015, more than half of Indian public schools were unable to comply with the 2009 Right to Education Act’s mandatory class-size ratios (no more than 30 students to one teacher in elementary schools and 35 in secondary schools). Further, a whopping 91,018 Indian public schools function with just one teacher. Also, more than 50 percent of Indian public schools lack handwashing facilities; 15 percent lack girls’ toilets; and nearly 25 percent don’t have libraries. As in many developing countries, these failures fuel the problem of teacher absenteeism in India.

Like TFA founder Kopp, a Princeton graduate who realized that a career in finance was not for her, Mistri began her forays into educational reform from the outside looking in. Every bit the “global citizen,” Mistri describes her privileged upbringing, including traveling first class from “sandy coves on Greek islands” to “the Austrian countryside,” in her book on TFI’s founding. After a year at Tufts University, she experienced her epiphany while sitting in a taxicab on a family vacation in Mumbai. “Three children ran up to my window, smiling and begging, and in that moment I had a flash of introspection,” Mistri writes. “I suddenly knew that my life would have more meaning if I stayed in India. I saw potential in that fleeting moment—in the children at my open window and in myself.”

Will Teach for India solve the massive problems of Indian education? Or will they relieve the government of any need to encourage a teaching profession that is committed to careers in teaching?

Dennis Ian, a regular reader and commenter on the blog, writes here about Teach for America:

Teach for America … little more than camp counselors without the pine trees on their shirts.

Imagine for a moment the instant promotion of butchers to surgeons … or deck builders to bridge engineers. Imagine Cub Scout troop leaders as military generals … or menu makers as the next classic authors.

Like any job, teaching is layered with misconceptions … and it’s further distorted by Hollywood fantasies.

Everyone is so seduced by Hollywood and tv-land that they actually think they could sail right into a classroom and every kid would sing the theme song of “To Sir, with Love”. And the world would cry because of their greatness.

Everyone seems to see that “To Sir, With Love” guy winning over the thuggery class and becoming a revered legend overnight. Or that Mr. Chips who seems to sweat wisdom … because he’s so over-supplied with it. Were that the case, I would have hung in the position until I was a hundred and my wisdom ran dry.. But it’s not.

Teaching is lots of stuff few imagine … and lots of hours even fewer acknowledge. It’s not a job you get very good at very quickly either … even with the best preparation. It’s not all knowledge either … it’s technique and personality and polishing a persona and perfecting a delivery … as well as knowing your subject inside out … and keeping current in the ever changing field.

It’s about intuition. And listening to that intuition. And acting on it with confidence mortared over years.

It’s about love … all sorts of love.

There’s easy love …for those kids that just joy you day-in-and-day-out. They’re great students, great kids … with great personalities and great everything.

Then there’s that hard love … for the kid with the green snot and the girl with the matted hair … and unpleasant aroma. Or for the boy who’s an accomplished bully at age 13 … and thinks this is his lot in life. Then there’s the broken child … who seems already to have quit life. And the loud, annoying sort … who’s probably masking a world of hurt. What about the invisibles? … the kids who practice invisibility because their daily ambition is to go unrecognized and un-included … for whatever dark reason. Prying them out of their darkness can take months … if it ever really happens.

There’s lots more to describe, but it’s unnecessary. What is necessary is to imagine engaging all of these kids in the right way day after day … and then seeing to it that they make educational progress as well. Making sure they’re prepared for the next level … the next challenges. Oh … and you lug all of this stuff around in your head and your heart … all the time.

And then, just to make this all even more interesting, weave in the mundane that actually captures most of your time … never-ending grading that snatches away your Sundays, faculty and department meetings, parent confabs, planning, gathering things you need and resources you want. Colleague exchanges and innovative thinking. Blend in some school politics and the usual work-place agita … and maybe some deep intrigue at times. Oh, and don’t forget your family … those folks you bump into when you’re half dressed. They want a piece of you, too.

I’m certain that five week preparation period offered by the Teach for America leadership is gonna arm those greenhorn teachers to the max. However, I’am certain of much more.

Here’s the real ugly underbelly of Teach for America … and the ill-prepared idealists they let loose on lots of youngsters: the schools that take them on are almost always the poorest of the poor … because authentic teachers will not take on that challenge without proper compensation. These are the children most in need of real teachers … with real preparation … ready to change lives and manage all that such an effort entails.

Please don’t dismiss the compensation issue. The public needs to understand that the same rewards that motivate others in varied professions also applies to teachers. They are not undisguised priests or ministers. They’re family men and women with all of life’s aspirations and obligations. If society wants the best-of-the-best in the most challenging circumstances, then this society should do what is done all across the world of work … pay the deserving salaries.

To foist these ill-prepared teachers on the most disadvantaged children seems like an over-costly outrage in order to soothe some young idealist’s commitment to mankind. These young learners need our most seasoned professionals … even if the cost exceeds the usual. There is no greater long term cost to a society than a child ill-educated for the complexities of this intricate world.

Teach for America is yet another “feel good” folly that’s become so voguey among those smugly satisfied with easy imagery rather than hard reality.

Denis Ian

Peter Greene discovered that a bunch of alternative certification/charter school groups wrote a joint letter to Congress proposing that all teacher preparation programs be judged by the test scores of their students, which they call “outcome data.” He says this is one of the “Top Ten Dumbest Reform Ideas Ever.”

Yes, it’s one of the Top Ten Dumbest Reform Ideas Ever, back for another round of zombie policy debate. The same VAM-soaked high stakes test scores that has been debunked by everyone from principals to statisticians to teachers, the same sort of system that was called arbitrary and capricious by a New York judge, the same sort of system just thrown out by Houston– let’s use that not just to judge teachers, but to judge the colleges from which those teachers graduated.

Why would we do something so glaringly dumb? The signatores of the letter say that consumers need information.

Without the presence of concrete outcome measures, local education agencies and potential teacher candidates are hard-pressed to compare the quality of teacher preparation programs. Thus, it is a gamble for aspiring educators to select a teacher training program and a gamble for principals when hiring teachers for their schools

Yes, because everyone in the universe is dumb as a rock– except reformsters. Just as parents and teachers will have no idea how students are doing until they see Big Standardized Test results, nobody has any idea which teaching programs are any good. Except that, of course, virtually every program for teaching (or anything else, for that matter) has a well-developed and well-known reputation among professionals in the field….

This is just the first of a series of letters to the feds telling them what the people in charge of the nation’s shadow network of privatized faux teacher trainers. So there’s that to look forward to.

Look, it’s not just that this is a terrible terrible terrible TERRIBLE system for evaluating teacher programs, or that it’s a bald-faced attempt to grab money and power for this collection of education-flavored private businesses. These days, I suppose it’s just good business practice to lobby the feds to write the rules that help you keep raking it in. It’s that this proposal (and the other proposals like it which, sadly, often come from the USED) is about defining down what teaching even is.

It is one more back door attempt to redefine teaching as a job with just one purpose– get kids to score high on a narrow set of Big Standardized Tests. Ask a hundred people what they mean by “good teacher.” Write down the enormous list of traits you get from “knowledgeable” to “empathetic” to “uplifts children” to “creative” and on and on and on and, now that you’ve got that whole list, cross out every single item on it except “has students who get good test scores.”

It’s the fast foodifying of education. If I redefine “beautifully cooked meal” as “two pre-made patties cooked according to instructions, dressed with prescribed condiments, and slapped on the pre-made buns” then suddenly anyone can be a “great chef” (well, almost anyone– actual great chefs may have trouble adjusting). These are organizations that specialize in cranking out what non-teachers think teachers should be, and their thinking is neither deep nor complicated, because one of the things a teachers should be is easy to train and easy to replace.

Three Teach for America teachers at Blackstone Valley Prep School in Rhode Island resigned after they were discovered to have texted each other with disparaging comments about their students.

In the expletive-ridden messages, teachers spoke casually about students, calling them “idiots,” and “dumb [expletives].”

The school head denounced their actions and brought in counseling for students and teachers. He said this “very tragic thing” would not happen again.

No experienced teacher would have done something so stupid.

Some months ago, I received an email from a teacher in India. He asked for permission to translate my book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” I granted his request. He sent this post to describe what is happening in India, which may sound familiar to readers of this blog.

Grassroot experiences of global phenomena

Nexus of State-Corporates-NGOs damaging and degrading the public school education in India

Lok Shikshak Manch is a collective of school teachers, students, research scholars and others who attempt to see education in its larger socio-economic-political context. The group was formed in 2011 in Delhi, India. It has since been involved in various struggles against attacks on the public education system in India.

Diane’s book ‘The death and the life of the great American school system’ has helped us to make greater sense of our observations and experience over the last few years – particularly, since we came together as a collective some five years back. It has also allowed us to understand the import of the policy shifts we are witnessing as teachers in the public school system (in India in general but more particularly in the context of Delhi where we are based). We also totally agree with her understanding that there are limits to what education can do to remove inequality etc, so long as wider socio-economic disparities continue to exist around us. We too believe that it is the responsibility of the state to address all kinds of inequities, including in education, and this warrants a strong support to our public institutions.

India is increasingly seeing a proliferation of Non Government Organisations (NGOs), often funded by big corporations, other private businesses and individual donors, working in the field of education. Many of these are being actively encouraged by the government’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) policy to play a role in the public school system, whether at the level of providing ‘academic support’ to students or distributing those very materials as charity which the state is anyway constitutionally required to provide to all children in schools. For instance present Delhi government has come to depend upon NGOs for a range of things including testing children (Pratham), training Principals (Central Square Foundation), classroom teaching (Teach for India), improving libraries (Room to Read), activating School-Parents’ interactions (Saajha Manch) etc.

Education has caught the attention of Indian Corporates in terms of investment under CSR i.e. Corporate Social Responsibility. Chinese Magazine, Hurun reported that Indian Corporates invested 80% of their CSR in education in 2014-15.

In some parts of India, governments have been trying to fully hand over the management of public schools to corporate bodies. Some such examples exist in Delhi too. Municipal Corporation of another city, Mumbai, had handed over management of 1,174 of its schools into the hands of private players by 2013. While such outsourcing of public schools has not gone unchallenged, it has to be said that in spite of the Right to Information Act, a central legislation guaranteeing access to almost all the decisions of the government, it has proven difficult to gauge the exact conditions and parameters of these transfers.

It is noteworthy that most of these organisations lack robust academic credentials and promote a very corporatised culture in schools. For example, teachers in a government school in Delhi, which is part of 54 schools where a pilot project is being run with the intervention of some NGOs, are being asked to mark their entry to and exits from classes by registering their thumb impressions on a bio-metric instrument. They have also been told to carry a recording device on their collars and their classes have been put under CCTV monitoring. CCTVs have come to represent the era of devising technological solutions to sociological problems.

The vocabulary being used to push these interventions is perhaps quite uniform the world over – ‘improving learning outcomes’, ‘accountability and performance of teachers’, (an apparent concern for) ‘children from poor backgrounds’, ‘quality’, ‘efficiency’ etc. Anyway, the arguments advanced in support of private interventions in public schools in India seem to be very similar to those described and identified by Diane in her book on the USA.

We will like to share an example of one particular private project which was introduced in 15 Municipal schools in Delhi some six years ago. This is a program called Nanhi Kali which is run by the K. C. Mahindra Education Trust and Naandi Foundation. (Nanhi Kali, literally ‘Little Buds’, is a literary phrase in Hindi/Urdu used for young girls to signify their vulnerability and prettiness.) The program claims to support the schooling (till grade 10) of girls from impoverished families – which gets translated in action as all girls enrolled in public funded schools! – by giving them a ‘kit’ (stationery items, uniforms, bag, shoes etc.) and providing tuition. The tutors engaged by the organisers of the program are, in almost all cases, girls who are either enrolled in senior grades in schools or pursuing graduation courses through open learning/distant education institutions.

The advertisement of the program portrays a false and demeaning picture of the ‘girls in need’, claiming that they have been abandoned or that their parents are unable to send them to schools etc. Donors are then invited to ‘adopt’ a girl who would then be his/her ‘foster daughter’. In return, they get to receive regular photographs and reports on these girls. Not only are the students and parents completely uninformed of the basic idea and finances of the program they are encouraged to enroll in, the education department itself did not care to do a background check to protect the privacy and data-confidentiality, not to say the dignity, of these students. The insulting idea seems to be that now that these people are receiving aid, their other and finer human rights do not matter. The tutors who are working for the program at extremely pitiful wages – conveniently defended as ‘honorarium’ – seem to be under the impression that the students’ photographs are taken to prepare their school I-cards! Most of them have no idea of the details of the program. (And this seems to be true of almost all energetic or financially desperate volunteers working for philanthro-capitalist organisations.) Obviously, the tuition-support which these students were getting was not academically sound, and it could not have been otherwise, given the lack of academic and professional qualification of the tutors and the program’s emphases on primitive literacy and numeracy standards and pedagogy. We found that if students wanted to opt out of the tuition – which meant going back home after the regular school got over instead of staying back for another couple of hours – they were often not just disallowed but even humiliated, being told that having once accepted the ‘kit’ they could not now refuse to attend the tuition! On the one hand, the program claimed grossly inflated figures of girls enrolled under it – for example, in one school, while around 250 students stayed back for its tuitions, their report showed all the nearly 1500 students as participants! On the other hand, we had cases of parents whose daughters had been enrolled in the program without their knowledge and who would then come to school looking for them since they had not reached home by their usual time after the closure of the regular school.

We were able to engage with the parents of these students, fellow teachers and campaigned successfully with the department to get the program’s permission refused after a couple of years. In this process, some teachers have faced subtle threats and even been falsely and maliciously complained against by the organisers of the program. Moreover, the program continues to run in some neighborhoods, having once gained currency through a public institution, and there have been reports of the organisers trying to once again gain official permission to work in schools.

The other worrying trend which we are a witness to is the entry of Teach for India (TFI) volunteers in many Municipal schools. Most of these volunteers are said to be ‘bright’, young graduates freshly passed-out from colleges and other institutions of higher learning. While the wording of their permission-letter is careful enough to state that they will aid and assist the regular teachers of the English-medium sections in the teaching of English, Maths and Environmental Studies, there does come a situation when they sort of take-over the classes. (There is an increasing trend across states in India to have either ‘special’ schools which are English-medium or at least have one such section across grades in all other ‘normal’ schools. The trend is contrary to all the protestations of educationists and reports of various commissions and committees on the issue of the medium-language of education, and has to be seen in the light of a lack of serious commitment by the government to developing a system of education removed from colonial vestiges and free from the elitism of English, a tame response by the executive machinery to the ‘demands of the market’ and the peculiarly multi-lingual conditions in India.)

A teacher who used to teach, till some months back, in one such school where the TFI volunteers were working with the English-medium sections, shared his experience about a phenomenon which we term ‘student snatching’. Once, when he came back to school after a week’s leave, he was told by the TFI volunteer that she had tested the students while he was away and she wanted to exchange one ‘weak’ student under her charge with one ‘bright’ student from his class. The teacher was outraged by the suggestion, put his foot down and took the issue to the principal, who disallowed any such transfer of students but not before giving enough hints that she herself was under the impression that TFI had strong support from the bureaucracy in the department and thus their requests could not be easily negated.

Another example will perhaps make clear what the principal’s understanding of the situation meant. Sometime back, an NGO was granted written permission by the concerned authority (in the education department of the MCD) to work in five schools. When its representative came to the office which issues letters authorising such organisations to work in particular schools, he asked the official in charge of issuing the letter to mention ten schools in the letter instead of the approved figure of five. The official declared his inability to do so since their proposal had been cleared specifically for five schools. Thereupon the NGO representative made a telephonic call to a still higher official in the education department and let him speak to and pressurise this functionary in the office into releasing permission to the said NGO to work in ten schools. It is not rare to find even the education department officials, leave alone principals or teachers in the affected schools, to be kept in the dark about the details of the programs some of these NGOs seek to implement in schools. We have come across teachers, principals and even officials who did not know, for example, that the organisation working in their schools was not permitted to photograph students or bring un-authorised people to work with students in schools or to disturb the routine and functioning of the school (for days) in order to prepare the students for its promotional event in the school. No doubt, such impunity is helped not just by a culture of apathy and permissiveness in the corridors of the bureaucracy but also by the carefully worded ambiguity in the official letters which are issued to allow these NGOs to work in schools. Obviously, teachers and principals are bypassed when it comes to seeking their prior opinions and understanding of the proposed interventions by these private organisations.

It is clear that most of these organisations enjoy an undue and unaccountable reputation among the highest political and bureaucratic functionaries which makes it easy for them to influence the decision making process in their favour. Apart from the heft they gain merely due to their corporate background and bearing, they are also able to use the advantages of networking and insider-influence by recruiting education department officials who retire from senior positions in the bureaucracy. Such personnel come in handy to gain reputation, trust and access to much needed knowledge about the formal and informal functioning of the system.

Scholars in University departments of education who are working on some of these interventions have often made critical observations on the narrow focus of these programs. For example, TFI volunteers clearly emphasise the conversational aspect of English in their classroom interactions, thereby reducing the objective and pedagogy of the subject but in doing so they obviously gain some popularity with parents who see English speech as a marker of upward mobility.

Similarly, the exercise books recently introduced by the Delhi government to teach students of grades 6 to 9 for a couple of months this session are said to have been prepared under the direction of the NGO Pratham. These work-books, which are supposed to address the ‘learning deficits’ of students who have been negatively affected by the no-detention policy – in place till grade 8 under the Right to Education Act, 2009, but increasingly under attack and likely to be amended by the central government in near future – have not only been trashed by many teachers as too shallow, but have also been described by many students (in personal conversation) as demeaning to their intellect.

This intervention gels nicely with the annual report (ASER or Annual Status of Education Report) which Pratham brings out and which has been drawing a lot of negative attention to the ‘alarmingly low levels’ of achievement in Maths and Language among children enrolled in Public funded schools.

Diane consistently cautions against ignoring the socio-economic context of students while comparing their learning levels across schools. It was the public schools who catered to the education of children with special needs or children whose first language was not English in USA while Charter Schools tried to keep such students out in order to improve their results. We have similar problem with Indian think-tanks here. Reports like ASER remain silent on the question of caste and class context of children they test. They pass unqualified judgments with dangerous implications. What can’t be missed is how elected governments accept these conclusions as matter of faith. In a country where majority of households are not in a position to provide required nutrition to their children, any link between poverty and educational reality is being deliberately erased from public conscience and policy making.

Another matter of concern for us is the constant propaganda about the inefficiency and non-performance of the highly-paid government school teacher. Much like Diane describes in her book, these achievement reports and their statistics have become a part of the common but deadly arsenal of all those business leaders, management gurus and op-ed writers who, without having any credential or experience in education, passionately advocate vouchers for families and ‘performance-pay’, ‘temporary recruitment’ etc of school teachers. Not surprisingly, Pratham provides its untrained and unqualified volunteers to many public schools at the primary level to ostensibly improve upon these standards!

It is the same set of people who advocate the introduction of ‘vouchers’ and ‘choice’ in a system of schools left to the working of the market, if not the closure of public schools themselves. An experiment along the line of ‘voucher system’ was conducted in 90 villages of the southern province of Andhra Pradesh where parents were given ‘vouchers’ – called scholarships – for transferring their wards to a private school of their choice. A study released by J-PAL (Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab) in 2013 showed that only 60% of the parents applied for the vouchers in the first place and later 60% of the ‘benefitted’ parents rejected the option of changing the school. 20% of the remaining students who had used the vouchers returned back to their original schools within four years of the transfer. These figures imply that almost 80% of the students refused the benefits of the voucher program. The question is, can such short-term, isolated remedies take-over the State responsibility of providing equal and quality education to all children?

Most of these interventions are well placed in the context of the government’s declared and much-hyped projects like Skill Development, Digital India etc. Thus, the former requires students to be tested, classified and labelled early in their schooling careers in order to then move them to different programs corresponding to their ‘academic’ or ‘vocational’ aptitudes. This is most likely to affect the higher-education chances of children studying in public funded schools and has already begun making its impact on schools and students. On the other hand, digitalisation is being used as a tool of an un-examined and mostly unethical intrusion into children’s privacy, their records, attendances etc, all in the name of ensuring e-governance. The compulsory enrolment of all people, including children not in a position to give (or withhold) consent, under a bio-metric (ten fingers and iris scan) identification register (now backed by a law, in spite of facing criticism and opposition from civil liberty groups and pending final judgment in the Supreme Court) is being proudly used by the central ministry of education (the Ministry of Human Resource and Development) to showcase a tracking of children and their test (and perhaps other) records not just by parents but accessible to all as a measure of transparency, accountability and convenience for the worried parents!

The document on school education released by the ministry as a framework for inviting public comments in the process of preparing a New Education Policy presents ‘learning outcomes’ as the first issue of discussion. It also includes questions on using technology to ensure teachers’ presence, has ‘school standard and management’ as another theme and asks states to identify areas in which they would like to seek international participation! Yet, there is some sliver of hope too. While we have found colleagues in general and our representative unions more unacceptably, oblivious to the dangers posed by many of these intrusions under the garb of NGOs, more recent exchanges with colleagues across schools tell us that even politically less active teachers are beginning to identify the vested interests behind these programs. This is surely in response to the direct assault they have come to face even in their classrooms, which has begun restricting their academic judgment and freedom as professionals.

Likewise, solidarity groups of organisations like the AIFRTE (All India Forum for Right to Education, a platform of national and state-level students’ and teachers’ organisations and other activists in the field of education, working for a fully state-funded common school system and resisting policies of commercialisation and communalisation in education) continue to engage in grassroots struggles and expose and oppose policies which are seen as harming the public character of education. An evidence of the power of these associational struggles can be had from the recent successfully-waged opposition to the decision of the Andhra Pradesh government to close or merge thousands of its schools in the name of ‘rationalisation’. Many such struggles are being waged across the country because many such anti-people decisions are being taken by state governments and the centre acting under the influence if not control of neo-liberal policies.

Thus, of course, while we appreciate and hope to make use of the remarkable public-spirited documentation of evidences by Diane in her book, there is one thing on which we would take a more political position than perhaps she allows herself as an academic. We would rather identify this whole swathe of often seductive changes, which are ultimately destructive of public education systems the world over, as the necessary machinations of the neo-liberal capitalist order. We in India trace the sharp turn in state’s policies from the beginning of the 1990s, when the government adopted, under the pressure of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, a structural adjustment program to reduce its welfare role. The policy is more (un)popularly referred to as LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation, Globalisation). Where they seem to halt their onslaughts and appear to negotiate compromises favourable to our schools, students, teachers and communities, even there the neo-liberal forces make all attempts to distort the character of education and the unity of the people.

A case in point being the Ambani-Birla Report on ‘Policy Framework for Reforms In Education’ (2000) which was framed by heads of two of the richest and most influential companies in India, Reliance and Aditya Birla Group, on the invitation of The Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry. The report intended to lay guidelines for re-shaping the national higher education system. It claimed that “education must shape adaptable, competitive workers who can readily acquire new skills and innovate” for market economy thus paving the way for vocationalisation of education. A decade later, University of Delhi came to witness what Diane has called ‘cafeteria curriculum’ in the form of half-baked courses under a Four Year Undergraduate Program (FYUP) 2013-14 which students rejected on a large scale and got rolled back.

We firmly believe that the proper role of education and the unity of the people are sustained by public funding and public character of our institutions.

We also see in Diane’s work the proof, if any was needed, that all those who cherish intellectual vigour in education, even if not persuaded to name capitalism itself as responsible, will find it unable to ignore the ill-effects of the growing power and influence of corporate capital on our schools and education system. As she rightly says in her book, we cannot hope to sustain democratic societies in the absence of a strong and common public school system. No matter which part of the world we may belong to.

Gary Rubinstein, a critical friend of Teach for America, noticed something strange on Twitter: he saw tweets from Educatuon Week that boasted of TFA successes. Seemed strange. After a bit of digging, he realized that the tweets were actually sponsored advertisements, paid for by TFA.


Who is at fault here? TFA for paying for plugs? Or Education Week, for renting out its name and brand?

I previously wrote a post about the powerful multimillionaire Art Pope, who controls Tea Party politics in North Carolina. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer profiled him and showed how he cannily used his fortune to defeat moderate Republicans so Pope’s ideological allies could gain control of the party and push it to the far right. Pope funds the John Locke Foundation, which espouses his views. When Pope ran for office, he was defeated, but he was appointed state budget director by Governor Pat McCrory and set the priorities for the state, which reflected his own views.


One of his many allies is John Hood, who is former president (and current chairman) of Art Pope’s John Locke Foundation. Hood has been placing articles in the North Carolina press, boasting of North Carolina’s progress in reforming its school system. As is by now well known, the Pope battalion in the legislature has cut education funding and launched charters, vouchers, and online charters. Not many would view these “reforms” as a boost to the state’s students and teachers. But John Hood does. Indeed, his last article was titled “How to Pay Teachers More.”


Stuart Egan has been writing open letters to John Hood on his blog. Egan does not have the access to the media that is granted to the powerful Mr. Hood. In Egan’s latest open letter, he takes apart Hood’s false claims, one by one, to show how the public has been hoodwinked by the John Locke Foundation and the state government.


Hood claims that the state enjoys a budget surplus because  taxes were cut, and the economy boomed (the old supply-side mantra of the Reagan administration).


Egan writes:


Interestingly enough, that budget surplus was created by a tax revenue overhaul crafted by none other than Art Pope, who not only serves your mentor and boss, but also served as Gov. McCrory’s first budget director. You may claim that we have had lower tax rates than we did before McCrory took office, but there’s more to it.


While tax cuts did come for many, standard deductions were greatly affected. Many of the standard deductions and exemptions that were once available to citizens like teachers no longer exist. In fact, most people who make the salaries commensurate of teachers ended up paying out more of their money to the state, even when “taxes” went down. Why? Because we could not declare tax breaks any longer. Who designed that? The budget director.


Furthermore, there is now a rise in sales tax revenue because many services like auto repairs are now taxed. So to say that the surplus just appeared because of spending limitations is a little bit of a spun claim. In fact, most of those spending limitations in public schools came when we saw increased enrollment and costs of resources rise.


Hood goes on to boast that the state had eliminated salary increases for teachers who acquire additional degrees. Of course, North Carolina wants to have teachers who do not invest in continuing their education.


He also boasts that the state is embracing merit pay. As Egan points out, no merit pay program has ever produced better education.


So eliminating pay increases for more education and introducing merit pay is supposed to translate into higher pay for teachers? Scuttling North Carolina’s successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, which produced career educators, and replacing it with TFA is supposed to improve the workforce?


Egan points out that Hood is engaging in election year rhetoric:


McCrory’s claim to want to raise teacher pay looks more like pure electioneering. It is synonymous to a deadbeat dad who shows up at Christmas with extravagant gifts so that he can buy the love (or votes) of his children.

Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig reports that the San Francisco school board has dropped Teach for America for 2016-17. It is not clear what precipitated this decision but it may have been the high turnover rate of TFA teachers.