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.
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.