Archives for category: Teach for America

Something amazing happened in Nevada in the 2016 election. Democrats won control of both houses of the legislature. There is still a Republican governor.

 

Angie Sullivan is a second-grade teacher in Nevada who often writes letters to legislators and journalists, to keep them grounded in the reality of the classroom. Nevada has what is very likely the worst performing charter sector in the nation; most of the state’s lowest performing schools are charter schools. It also has a voucher program with no income limits, that is utilized by affluent families to underwrite private school tuition. It is starting an “achievement school district,” modeled on the one that failed in Tennessee and the one that voters in Georgia just rejected, where state officials may take over public schools with low scores and hand them over to charter operators.

Here is Angie with her good-sense newsletter:

Read this:

http://m.reviewjournal.com/opinion/lawmakers-must-work-together-fund-schools

Educators have been forced to become issue based in our state. We can no longer afford to depend wholly on either party. We have to get things done and work with any ally.

We have to get things done.

We will not get everything we want but we have to make headway.

Last session I was proud of the leadership in my state.

Teachers are used to compromise – we do it everyday to make headway for kids. Please be willing to do the same again this session.

These are my asks.

_______________

First Ask: A real teacher in every classroom –

In the recent past, politicians, administrators and businessmen have scape-goated Nevada’s education problems onto those working directly with students – the teachers.

This has lead to unfunded mandates, witch-hunt type behavior, firing professionals, and driving off good teachers in our state. This never made sense – since the classroom teacher is directed by many others and very little is in our control at any level. My day is outlined and many classrooms are micromanaged to the point of damaging students. And the supplies are very limited. Teachers were blamed none-the-less.

These attacks on professional teachers occurred on both sides of the aisle.

Less productive.

We are the front line. We never were the enemy.

Now we have at-risk schools filled with under-prepared people struggling to become an educator. It is the poor, the disenfranchised, and the needy who do not have a teacher for several years in a row. If a child has an IEP and a special education need, they probably do not have a prepared professional to implement the plan.

This is reform?

We need to step back from attacks on collective bargaining, whittling teacher due process, and proclamations that skilled teachers are the problem. Filling our schools with temporary labor is damaging a generation of students – mainly students of color.

Spending all our time looking for the “lemon” instead of retaining the “good guys” is costly in more ways than one.

_______________________

Second Ask: Stop funding scams and craziness.

In an effort to produce quick results, Nevada grabs ideas from other states. These ideas have not proven themselves and flaunt questionable research. None have proven effective with populations as diverse as ours. These Nevada legislative ideas are failing on epic levels and need to be cleaned up.

– Charters are a disaster in Nevada. The amount of fraud, embezzlement, and criminal type behavior occurring in Nevada’s charters is astounding. The bipartisan legislature who supported and implemented reform by charter needs to put some teeth into laws to clean this mess up. I’m adding up the cost and it is millions and millions.

– Read-by-Three which is grant based will fund programs in the north. 75% of the students in need are in the south but the way the language was built – only a drizzle of funding will help students who are most likely to be punished by this legislation in Vegas. Again Nevada demands rigor without giving students and teachers resources to get the job done. Punishing 8 year olds without giving them adequate opportunity is a violation of civil rights. Read-by-Three has only been successful in states willing to fully fund early intervention. And that costs a significant amount of money. States which implement Read-By-Three as Nevada is doing without funding – fail miserably. This is not tough love – it is a crime.

-ASD [Achievement School District] is scary. Due to our lack of per pupil funding, Nevada cannot attract viable charter operators. We spent $10 million on a harbor master, Allison Serafin, to attract charters to Nevada. What a waste. We will now replace 6 failing public schools with charters who have failed elsewhere. To be watched over by the same system that allows the charter systems in Nevada to fail on an epic level already. Just how much are we spending on the Charter Authority and other groups responsible for overseeing charters? Do we continue to ask public schools to be accountable while ignoring the atrocious failure of charters? And we force charters on communities of color with the ASD – in the name of school choice. Force is not choice.

– ESA [Education Savings Accounts–or vouchers] is scary. A treasurer will determine education curriculum and spot check for fraud. Parents will “police themselves”. Blank checks will be given to mainly white affluent parents to take wherever they like or allow children to lay on the couch. And those checks will go to 8,000 applicants in the amount of $40 million in tax payer money. While lack of regulation sounds like a great idea, in Nevada education it leads to waste and fraud. This is a nightmare of waste ready to happen.

We have little money for real research based best practice but have spent millions on unproven and failing reform.

Ten years of reform and limited gains. Some reform may have damaged a generator. Of learners. Time for a return to the steady growth produced by funding best practice. It’s not fancy or flashy but it works.

____________________

Third Ask: Funding Fairness.

The Southern Caucus needs to advocate for our children.

In a bipartisan manner, the southern caucus needs to work and make progress for our children. Teachers and students need our legislators to do the heavy lift for the kids in our area. Frankly we need money.

The south generates most of the revenue for the state. 80% of the DSA (Distributive Schools Account) is funding put there from Clark County.

Clark County receives 50% in return. This is the antiquated Nevada Plan.

Also the south does not have access to mining proceeds which many rural communities can also tap for school funds.

I am not advocating a grab from other schools. I am advocating for restructuring that is fair to all students wherever they reside.

The south serves students who traditionally need more financial support to be successful.

CCSD [Clark County School District: Las Vegas] has huge numbers of children in poverty.

Our students cannot continue to endure class sizes of 40 plus.

We cannot continue to ignore early intervention so vital to future success.

We have to continue to fund and expand Victory and ZOOM schools.

CCSD was considering an ELL plan which is necessary. The cost would be $1 billion to fund at a level appropriate for our learners in Clark County.

We cannot continue to train educators who leave for greener pastures. We need committed and permanent educators to see a return in teacher development investment. We need to invest in teacher pipelines and retention of excellent and fully qualified professionals. We also need teachers who reflect the faces we see in our community. It is very expensive to endure teacher churn as skilled labor looks for a better deal.

__________________________

Final Ask:

Listen up both sides of the aisle . . .

Everything costs.

Unfunded mandates that may be easily implemented in a tiny rural district, can cost multiple millions to implement in CCSD with 380,000 students and 36,000 educators.

That great idea a random legislator has – needs to have a price tag on it. Just one thing – can rob a classroom of supplies. A great idea – can mean my students do not have books. The pot is limited. The budget is already stretched thin. We have to prioritize and necessities need to come first.

We cannot continue to do more with less.

Unfunded mandates are killing public schools. Do not send that idea without cash.

Just don’t do it.

I’m looking at everyone here because I have seen it non-stop. Most returning law makers are guilty.

If we are running at a deficit of $300-$400 million, please know unfunded mandates will rob from another need.

If there is zero money. There is zero money. No money – no reform. No money – no new ideas. No money – no change. It is not that different from a budget at your house. It is not that we do not want things, we just cannot afford it right now.

Whipping teachers like we are going to row faster on a Viking ship – just leaves us too whipped to teach.

Unfunded mandates are usually implemented by teachers from our own pockets – we pull from our personal bank accounts, our families, and our time to implement that great idea. Many unfunded mandates are half implemented and just waste time and money because they are impossible. It is a burden.

Ideas cost money.

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Listen to me.

I am without guile.

My hands are clean as I work to teach seven year olds to read.

These are my asks.

I have spent a lifetime educating children. I am from Nevada where we used to fund near the top and achieve results near the top too. I have watched my state’s educational success plummet as our per pupil spending has declined. That is a fact proven with real data.

Educating students costs.

Competition has not and will not improve Nevada’s system.

Tough love, fads and gimmicks are draining precious resources.

Teachers will fail if we do not have what we need to do the job.

Some things are more important than winning and losing a political game.

Please work together for kids this session in a well thought out way that makes progress.

You expect a lot from teachers.

Teachers need resources spent the right way to make progress.

Gary Rubinstein entered teaching via Teach for America, but unlike most TFA recruits, he made teaching his career. He is also TFA’s most incisive critic, sometimes a critical friend, other times a critic of TFA hypocrisy.

In this post, Gary deconstructs TFA’s statement on Trump’s nomination of choice zealot Betsy DeVos. TFA, like other reform organizations, is in a dilemma because they want to be on the side of social justice, but they also want to be on the side of the new administration, which will be very good indeed for TFA. More charters mean more jobs for young recruits. Billions of dollars for school choice are heading the way of the “reformers,” and it is hard for them to seem sad about that. Gary wishes the TFA statement had included a few good words on behalf of public schools and on behalf of teachers. It didn’t.

The TFA statement includes 11 policy priorities, and Gary analyzes each of them. He wishes TFA had called on DeVos to stop the teacher bashing. It didn’t. He wishes it had called on DeVos to protect the funding of public schools while promoting choice. It didn’t.

Read the whole post for links and analysis.

Gary concludes:

Accountability has been used as a weapon to fire teachers and close schools throughout the country based on highly flawed metrics. Obama and Duncan did a lot of damage with this one and maybe TFA feels that they used it in a fair way, even if I don’t. But that same weapon in the hands of Trump and DeVos should be something that TFA should be concerned about. I don’t think that this was something that TFA needed to ask the new Secretary to be vigilant. Based on the contempt she has shown for public schools and teachers over the years, it’s pretty clear that DeVos will use her power to try to make it even easier to fire teachers and close schools. This could have a negative effect on not just all the TFA alumni who are still working in public schools, but also for the ones who are at the few charter schools that try to keep their most needy students and whose test scores suffer for it. In the bigger picture, I think that having DeVos too strong on accountability will negatively affect so many students in this country.

Finally there’s policy number nine about using “evidence and data” to ‘drive’ “teacher improvement and development over time.” This is code for trying to use test scores and value-added metrics to rate teachers, no matter how inaccurate those metrics are.

More telling than the policies TFA chose to include on this list is the ones they chose to exclude. Knowing that DeVos is planning to use her power to divert funds from the public schools (and charter schools too) for vouchers for private schools, perhaps TFA could have asked that she not cut funding to schools. Knowing how much contempt DeVos has shown toward public school teachers, TFA could asked her not to bash teachers so much. Knowing that DeVos has funded reform propaganda sites like Campbell Brown’s The Seventy Four, TFA could have suggested that she spend time in public schools and see what great work is being done.

There’s a lot they could have said to help stave off the at least four year battle everyone in non-charter schools is going to have to fight daily. Instead they padded their valid concerns about discrimination with a bunch of reform code.

Of their nine policies that TFA is urging DeVos to consider (three of the eleven are basically saying, make schools safe for all students), six of them are things that she was already on board with. It’s the TFA way of saying “We are already in agreement with you on most things so you can trust us and work with us to help you out in general.” They seem to care more about their own survival and the continuation of Duncan’s reform strategies than they do about the potential damage that the Trump / DeVos duo can wreak on the children of this country.

G. F. Brandenburg, a fearless blogger who taught math for many years in the schools of D.C., writes here about the hypocrisy of reformer rhetoric. 

 

He writes:

 

If you look at the lingo used to justify all the horrendous crap being imposed by “Ed reform”, you’ll see that it’s all couched in lefty-liberal civil rights language. But its results are anything but. Very strange.

 

He takes, for example, the flowery language used to recruit college students to join Teach for America. They are led to believe that their presence will reduce the achievement gap and bring us closer to the day when all children, regardless of zip code, get an excellent education.

 

 

He writes:

 

GFB: However, the way TFA works in practice is that the kids who need the most experienced, skillful teachers, instead get total newbies straight out of college with no teaching experience, no mentoring, and courses on how to teach whatever subject they are they are assigned to. Their five weeks of summer training are mostly rah-rah cheerleading and browbeating. Their only classroom experiences during that summer are a dozen or so hours teaching a handful of kids, **in a subject or grade level totally different from whatever they will be randomly assigned to**.

What underprivileged students do NOT need is an untrained newbie who won’t stick with them. If anything, this policy INCREASES the ‘achievement gap’.

 

He then proposes 17 ideas that would actually improve the lives of children and their education. Begin, he says, by getting non-educators out of the drivers’ seat.

 

Get people who don’t have actual, extensive teaching or research experience out of the command and control centers of education except as advisors. So, no Michelle Rhee, Andre Agassi, Arne Duncan, Billionaire Broad at the helm.

 

Read his other good ideas, and add your own.

 

 

A reader sent this announcement:

BREAKING news from MINNESOTA
CEHD Dean’s Office 
cehddean@umn.edu to CEHD-OFFICIAL 
November 7, 2016
Dear CEHD Faculty and Staff Members:
We are reaching out to you today with an important message related to one of our teacher licensure programs in our college.
The University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development’s alternative pathway to teaching program for Teach for America corps members will not be renewing the contract we have with TFA. This means that we will not admit new corps members to a 2017 cohort. Reasons for ending the partnership program include an unsustainable funding model for the program and dwindling numbers of corps members.<br 
Corps members currently in the TFA program who are part of the 2015 and 2016 cohorts will continue in their high-quality, University preparation to enable them to be recommended for teacher licensure in May 2017 and 2018, respectively. We appreciate the opportunity we have had to learn from the corps members and this partnership.
This decision will not impact the many other teacher licensure programs and pathways at the University of Minnesota. We are committed to providing multiple pathway programs to teaching. We believe that the best use of our limited resources in moving forward is to focus on innovative curriculum development and ways to prepare teachers in partnership with our K-12 colleagues. As a land-grant research institution, we are committed to working side-by-side with K-12 educators to ensure that teachers are prepared and then supported in their early years of teaching. We will work to prepare teachers who teach in multiple school settings—including rural and high-need schools—so they can meet the needs of Minnesota’s children.
Research indicates that programs such as the Minneapolis Residency Program (MRP), developed with Minneapolis Public Schools to grow their own talent pool of teachers; the Emotional Behavioral Disorder (EBD) Program for special education teaching aides, created with K-12 colleagues across several districts; and the Dual Language and Immersion licensure program for elementary teachers across multiple school districts are the most promising routes to preparing and retaining diverse, high-quality teachers.
If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us (Deborah Dillon at dillon@umn.edu).
Sincerely,
Jean K. Quam, CEHD Dean

Deborah R. Dillon, CEHD Associate Dean

College of Education and Human Development

University of Minnesota

104 Burton Hall

Minneapolis, MN. 55455

612 626-9252

PAC tied to Teach For America spends big on a local Indiana election, but no one quite knows why

Here we go again. Teach for America, working through its little-known but well-funded political arm, called Leadership for Educational Equity, is dumping a load of money into a school board race in a small district outside of Indianapolis. It wants to place a charter school teacher on the school board of Washington Township, a district of 11,000 students.

The TFA candidate, Deitric Hall, is a newcomer to Indiana. He moved there from California three years ago. LEE has given him $32,000 to run for school board.

LEE has been active in funding candidates for key state and local positions in other states, on school boards and in legislatures.

Their candidates will of course support TFA, charter schools, and privatization.

Chalkbeat Indiana writes:

It’s a small-scale version of a phenomenon that has played out in urban districts around the country as outside campaign contributions have increasingly influenced pivotal school board races. In Indianapolis Public Schools, outside contributions helped radically reshape the board in 2012 and 2014, when out-of-state funders backed a victory for charter-school supporters.

But unlike in IPS, Washington Township isn’t facing a pivotal election — and Hall’s opponent had raised barely any money until this month. That has raised eyebrows in the area, where locals wonder why LEE, even given Hall’s connection to TFA, would spend so heavily on the race.

A native of California, Hall moved to Indianapolis three years ago for a teaching position through TFA, a national nonprofit that recruits new teachers for school districts with high-needs students.

He landed a position at KIPP Indy Unite Elementary, where he now works with students with special needs. Hall, who doesn’t have children, says his background as an educator will offer valuable insight to the board, and despite being new to the community, he is dedicated to improving the schools.

LEE’s spokesman is Erik Guckian, who previously served as top education advisor the Tea Party Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina. Under McGrory’s leadership, and presumably with Guckian’s advice, the state shut down its successful career teacher preparation program (North Carolina Teaching Fellows) and shifted its $6 million to TFA.

Three of the five school board seats are up for election in Washington Township. Hall is facing off against one opponent, John Fencl, for an at-large seat representing the entire district.

Fencl has deep roots in the community: He is a parent of two middle schoolers in Washington Township where he also grew up and went to school. Fencl, an accountant, has volunteered as a math tutor and coach in the district. He said his work mentoring middle school boys has given him particular insight into the schools.

“I’m focused on the district, involved in the district,” he said. “I understand what Washington Township schools are about.”

When Fencl filed a fundraising report with the county earlier this month, he had raised just $750, which he said was because he wasn’t sure how competitive the race would be. But when he saw how much money Hall had raised, he shifted into high gear. In just a couple of weeks, Fencl boosted his fundraising to close to $7,500, he said. About $5,000 of that came from a single donor, Washington Township attorney Charles Rubright.

Since it became clear how much money Hall raised, other community members, including parents and even high school students, have become active in the race. They say they are motivated by concern over the role out-of-state funding is playing in Hall’s campaign.

Kristina Frey is a Washington Township parent who leads the Parent Council Network, a longstanding political group that endorsed Fencl. When she learned that Hall had joined the race, she set up a meeting to hear about his plan for the district and she came away uncertain why he was even running, she said.

“My suspicion is that folks in the education reform movement are looking at how they can potentially expand outside of IPS boundaries,” Frey said. “I would not be surprised to see them come back again with more money and try to gain a majority as they did in IPS.”

Will Washington Township vote in a TFA representative with big money behind him or will they elect a parent who is active in the community? We will see in a few days.

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.