A Few Words from Diane Ravitch on Education Reform

What I Learned in New Orleans

by Diane Ravitch

Posted on November 9, 2010 on Bridging Differences.

Dear Deborah,

The elections brought a barrage of bad news for supporters of public education. A number of governors and legislators were elected who support the corporate reform model. They will promote vouchers, charters, merit pay, more testing, tougher accountability, evaluating teachers by test scores, and anything else that is guaranteed to cause dissension and demoralization among the men and women who work in our nation’s public schools. It’s sad for teachers and administrators and will be catastrophic for the quality of education. The new superintendent of schools in Oklahoma was the founder of two charter schools; in her campaign, she pledged to defend the rights of homeschooling parents and opposed additional funding for public schools. No nation in the world, at least none that we wish to emulate, is engaged in doing what our “leaders” are doing. I can’t say where all this is going, but it doesn’t look promising for those who care about our nation’s children and the quality of education that we provide them.

As you know, I have been traveling constantly this fall, speaking to teachers, administrators, school board members, parents, and researchers. Wherever I go, I try to learn something new and not just hear myself talk.

In New Orleans, I spoke at Dillard University, an HBCU (or historically black college or university). There, I heard from angry African-American parents and educators who felt disenfranchised by the charterizing of their public schools. The mainstream media may think that the chartering of New Orleans was a wonderful thing, but the audience that night did not. When a young woman (who was white) from the Cowen Institute at Tulane University defended the success of the charters in getting more students to pass AP exams, several people in the audience demanded to know why their non-charter schools were no longer allowed to offer AP courses. The young woman had no answer. Several people that night said: “They stole our public schools, and they stole our democracy while we were out of town.”

Also in New Orleans, I spoke at the Grantmakers in Education conference, where I shared a panel with Ted Mitchell (the president of the California state board of education, the president of the NewSchools Venture Fund, and a board member of Green Dot charters and New Leaders for New Schools, etc.) and John Jackson, the president and chief executive officer of the Schott Foundation for Public Education. Mitchell spoke enthusiastically about the Obama-Duncan agenda, especially the Race to the Top, which promotes so many of the ideas in which he believes. John Jackson was brilliant in criticizing that agenda for “thinking small,” dropping $50 million on KIPP to double the number of its charters from 99 to perhaps 200, and endowing Teach for America with $50 million when they add fewer than 10,000 teachers each year—teachers who agree to stay on the job for only two years in a profession that must add at least 300,000 teachers every single year. Jackson wondered why the administration was not planning a dramatic expansion of pre-K to all those who need it (a goal on which there is strong, positive research) or devoting resources to building a strong profession.

My favorite line from that day occurred when Jackson said he had recently visited some very high-performing nations. At each stop, he asked authorities: “What do you do about bad teachers?” They consistently replied: “We help them.” He then asked: “What do you do when they don’t improve?” They answered unhesitatingly: “We help them more.”

Diane

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Testimony Regarding Teach for America

This is testimony that I gave at a school board meeting last week about an item on the board’s agenda regarding signing a contract with Teach for America, Inc.

I will provide details of that meeting later today because it is important for Seattle to see just how limited “community engagement” goes with our superintendent and the school board and how  little of the democratic process is seen in terms of the action of our superintend and the school board.

To follow was my testimony:

There were five full time openings for teachers as advertised on the SPS web page this morning.

We have four colleges of education here in Seattle between Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University and the  University of Washington and a remaining pool of rifed teachers in our district.

Why are you now considering hiring TFA, Inc. recruits at an additional $4,000 per recruit per year to staff our schools?

The Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University in conjunction with the School of Education at the University of Colorado recently published a study looking at the performance of TFA, Inc. recruits with that of their certified counterparts. They found that “the students of novice TFA teachers performed significantly less well in reading and mathematics than those of credentialed beginning teachers”.  And in a large-scale Houston study headed by Stanford University, in which the researchers controlled for experience and teachers’ certification status, standard certified teachers consistently outperformed uncertified TFA, Inc. teachers of comparable experience levels in similar settings.

Links to these studies are provided in an e-mail that I sent to you today.

Another relevant piece of information is that a federal appeals panel in California agreed recently with low-income students and community organizations that teachers still in training are not “highly qualified” under federal education law. The effect of that decision is that teachers in training must be fairly spread across classrooms, and parents notified when their student has one of these teachers.

Hiring teachers, particularly for schools in low-income communities can destabilize a community even more. Students bond with their teachers and expect to see them at their school everyday. It provides a sense of continuity and stability that some students might not otherwise have. To bring in young recruits, fresh out of college, provide them with five weeks of “training” and then place them in the most low-performing schools defies logic. Then after two years, when their contract is up, most of these recruits move on, leaving the students and the community behind. This is called churn and is unfair to struggling students who develop bonds with their teachers just to see them leave after two years.

Director Patu, if you are concerned about the quality of teachers in the schools that you represent, then I would suggest that you have the district actively recruit the best and the brightest from our local four colleges of education who are more than willing to make a commitment to those communities over the long haul.

I would also suggest that you consider hiring older professionals such as myself who have the experience not only in terms of what we do professionally but who have also mentored and taught on a volunteer basis. There is a large pool of professionals in the fields of science, engineering and the arts who are semi-retired, unemployed or lightly employed who would love nothing better than to work full-time as teachers, providing additional wisdom, experience and knowledge in the fields of math, science, history and the arts. I am not suggesting displacing any qualified teachers, far from it, but if you are looking at alternative certification, then think farther than Teach for America, Inc. which has simply become an employment agency for charter schools.

Bill Gates Is At It Again In Seattle

For anyone out there who still doesn’t believe that Bill Gates is not pulling the strings in Seattle to get his way with charter schools, check out his latest donations.

Amount: $40,000 given to the League of Education Voters “to support a series of education-related speakers in Seattle”.

And who were those speakers? Kevin Johnson who spoke about how wonderful charter schools are, Richard Barth with KIPP Schools, a charter franchise, Steve Barr, founder of Green Dot Charter Schools and of course, Adam Porsch from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who moderated the discussion. Was that rigged or what?

Amount: $105,000 given to the League of Education Voters in October, 2010 “to support raising awareness of educational attainment issues in King County”.

Like…Teach for America and charter schools.

Check out their blog. It is an advertisement for all things ed reform and all things that Bill Gates thinks is best for the rest of us.

And now for the icing on the cake.

Amount: $235,000 given to Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession in October, 2010 “to develop a network of teachers in Seattle Public Schools who are informed about and actively supportive of district education reform”.
…like Teach for America, good luck with that, and charter schools that do not hire unionized teachers.
So now he is trying to buy the teachers on something that for them is self-destructive, de-professionalizing the field of teaching.

Of course now the League of Education Voters (LEV) is touting Teach for America but I’ll get back to that in another post. The irony of this is that part of the “community engagement” that Teach for America did was to meet with the League of Education Voters! Teach for America, by the way, received $1,000,000 from the Gates Foundation in 2009. So much for “community engagement” that’s required.

Now I begin to wonder what certain board members like Michael DeBell, President of the Seattle School Board, and other members of the Executive Committee are getting out of this to ram through Teach for America without going to the community, meaning the parents and students, the real stakeholders, to get their buy-in.

More to follow on that.

By the way, the Seattle Foundation was another organization that Teach for America did “community outreach” with. What a joke!
And what is the Seattle Foundation doing these days?  Having an event with Geoffrey Canada who is President and Chief Executive Officer for Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) another charter school. This school is different in the sense where all of the social services of a child are addressed. This takes a lot of money but many hedge-fund millionaires pledge their millions everyday to keep this school open.
Is this sustainable or scalable? No, but it is an example of how a child can succeed, given all of the wrap-around services necessary. It will be touted as a successful charter school but the lesson here is how a public school is expected to address all of the problems that ail our society. Unfortunately, there are never enough funds for all schools to do that successfully for our children.

For now, just know that Bill Gates is trying to buy us. He wants charter schools in our state, he wants to pull the strings and control how our children are educated. It doesn’t matter if we agree with his vision or not, he doesn’t care. He is bound and determined to get his way and will pay any price to get it.

Dora

Controversial “Teach for America” Back on the Agenda for Seattle’s Schools

Teach for America, Inc. was back on the agenda at last night’s Seattle Public School Board meeting.

The district already has an undated (draft? final?) contract between TFA, Inc. and Seattle Public Schools ready to be signed by TFA, Inc.’s Managing Director Janis Ortega and Seattle School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson.

Community input? Zero.

Public demand for short-term new college grads with only five weeks of training to teach in the district’s public schools? Zero.

Seattle Public Schools have laid off teachers two years in a row. There is no shortage of qualified teachers already here in Seattle.

So why is Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson pushing to bring a cadre of uncredentialed “recruits” to our schools?

What do parents think about this? There are some lively discussions about TFA, Inc. going on at the Seattle Public Schools Community blog that are worth checking out.

Since I last posted about this (reposted below) there have been some new developments. For starters, there’s a contract now and it’s quite revealing. According to the contract, the TFA-ers will only be placed in certain low-income schools.

iii. In order to be considered an appropriate school (a “Partner School”) for placement of a Teacher, (i) the school’s student population must be considered high poverty relative to the student population elsewhere in the district. To the extent reasonably practicable, Seattle Public Schools will employ two or more Teachers per individual Partner School.

There are a couple of problems with this. First off,  why put the least experienced and least qualified “teachers” in the most demanding schools?  Secondly, only 34 percent of TFA recruits stick around to teach for a third year, so they will be gone before they even become solid teachers. So how “effective” can they possibly be? Also, this will create unnecessary churn in the lives of kids who often already have a disproportionate amount of churn in their lives.

Is Seattle headed into another legal battle over race?

Next, a recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision in California determined that TFA and their ilk do not make the grade as “highly qualified” teachers and therefore do not meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind that highly qualified teachers be placed in Title I (low-income) schools. Furthermore, critics argue that assigning underqualified teachers exclusively to low-income minority children amounts to discrimination.

“Closing the achievement gap” was indeed the mantra of the parade of ex-TFA, Inc. corps members who spoke before the school board last night. That’s their specialty, apparently, along with teaching Special Ed and English Language Learners. I find this troubling or at least downright naive. Do they mean to imply that all other teachers aren’t interested or are incapable of helping low-income, Special Ed or  ELL kids? There was a veiled arrogance, I thought, to some of the testimonies last night. And all the references by TFA, Inc. supporters that these mostly Ivy League grads represent “the best and the brightest” only adds to the aura of self-righteousness that haunts this enterprise.

I also found it troubling that all the TFA-ers who spoke last night (that I saw) were white. I would like to know the percentage of non-white TFA-ers in the field. Dora was there last night and can fill in a lot more of the details, but she mentioned that when a representative from TFA was asked about its diversity (or lack thereof) that person claimed that this is because of the achievement gap (handy-dandy reason for everything apparently).  You see, she said, because of the gap, there aren’t enough college grads of color to apply for TFA. So there you have it, the gospel according to TFA, Inc.

What message is TFA, Inc. — and SPS, if it goes ahead with this dubious venture — sending to poor minority kids in our community? This does indeed smack of Kipling. Elsewhere in the nation, African American teachers have been laid off by reformers like Michelle Rhee in D.C. and replaced with young, white TFA-ers. Is this what we want for Seattle?

Cash-strapped SPS would get to pay more money for less experience! TFA, Inc. demands an extra $4,000 per year from Seattle Public Schools for each TFA-er

Another interesting item: TFA-ers are not free. They aren’t even a bargain. In fact, they cost more than fully trained teachers. In addition to paying them the starting salary of a regularly credentialed teacher ( I wonder how regular teachers will feel about TFA’s special treatment) , the district must pony up another $4,000 per TFAer  per year for the honor of harboring these short-term fast-tracked grads. Where is the economy of that when we already have a pool of qualified teachers here in Seattle looking for work who don’t cost an extra $4,000 a year?

From the proposal:

ii. With respect to each Teacher whose employment by Seattle Public Schools is to commence in the 2011-2012 academic year, Seattle Public Schools shall pay Teach For America an annual amount of $4,000 for each year in which such Teacher is employed by Seattle Public Schools, up to two years [from the date such employment is to commence]; and
iii. With respect to each Teacher whose employment by Seattle Public Schools is to commence in the 2012-2013 academic year, Seattle Public Schools shall pay Teach For America an annual amount of $4,000 for each year in which such Teacher is employed by Seattle Public Schools, up to two years [from the date such employment is to commence].

iv. With respect to each Teacher whose employment by Seattle Public Schools is to commence in the 2013-2014 academic year, Seattle Public Schools shall pay Teach For America an annual amount of $4,000 for each year in which such Teacher is employed by Seattle Public Schools, up to two years [from the date such employment is to commence].

(Not to worry, though, we’re being told by the district: the Gates Foundation will pay for it. Good old Bill — always ready to foot the bill for his reformite friends, thus avoiding a possibly uncomfortable public discussion about the cost and value of bringing another reformite agenda item to town. What a nuisance is that thing called democracy!)

What’s more — No refunds!

That’s right, unlike late-night TV gadgets, this product comes with no guarantees and no refunds. Note the extreme language here:
B. Non-refund. Teach For America shall have no obligation to refund to Seattle Public Schools any amount paid by Seattle Public Schools in respect of any Teacher for any reason whatsoever.

“For any reason whatsoever”?! This sounds like a terrible deal for SPS, with TFA utterly exonerated of any liability or obligation to our district whatsoever. Who negotiated this deal? Is this the best contract Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson could broker for SPS?

But wait — there’s more! Here’s another provision of the proposed contract that leaps out at me:

Caveat emptor! TFA recruits come with “No Warranty”

G. No Warranty. Seattle Public Schools hereby agrees and acknowledges that Teach For America does not make and has not made any representation and warranty as to the fitness of any Teacher presented or provided by Teach For America and Seattle Public Schools shall indemnify and hold harmless the TFA Indemnities from and against any Losses resulting from any claim related to the services provided by Teach For America, including, but not limited to, claims that any Teacher presented or provided by Teach For America was unfit for the position for which he or she was hired by Seattle Public Schools.

So now, wait a minute. TFA, Inc. will not vouch for the fitness for the job of any of its allegedly carefully selected and trained recruits?! Then what in sam hill is the district paying extra for? Or is this merely a big old loophole saying, ‘Don’t blame us if our 5 weeks of training didn’t do the job!’

How convenient for TFA, Inc. How problematic for SPS.

(I also find it odd that TFA uses the term “warranty” — normally reserved for inanimate objects like hair dryers or refrigerators — in reference to its “teachers.” Perhaps it does consider them products. Again, the corporate mindset at work.)

Teach for America — aka “Teach for Awhile”

(Apparently this is an inside joke, according to a former TFA-er I know.) The contract indeed demonstrates that these TFA recruits are only committed to stick around for 2-3 years. Again, the issue of churn comes up. Rightly or wrongly, it also creates a sense that TFA, Inc. is merely using our  public school kids as training fodder for TFA-ers, and does not make a commitment to these kids in the long term.

D. Term. The term of this Agreement shall be for a period of three years and shall cover the 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-2014 academic years. This Agreement will expire on August 31, 2014 but may be renewed at the end of the term on the same or substantially similar terms by mutual agreement of the parties.

If I were an SPS teacher who had followed all the Washington State rules and processes of becoming a legitimately credentialed teacher, which includes a significant amount of time doing actual in-class student teaching before going out on my own, I would not be happy to find TFA-ers applying for the same jobs and same salary with only five weeks of summer school training under their belt. How is that fair?

As a parent, the choice between an experienced teacher who plans to dedicate her/his life to the field and a TFA-er whose only commitment is two years, is easy. Give me the experienced, dedicated teacher any day.

Here comes another lawsuit: Student privacy at risk? TFA wants the right to hand over student info to third parties. TFA contract violates FERPA

Another detail that raises red flags for those of us who are already unhappy with how our kids’ private info is shared by the district: according to the proposal posted by the district, if hired, TFA teachers are then given access to private student data which it will be allowed to share with third parties. (Can you say “FERPA violation”?)

That is definitely not OK.

From the proposal:

ii. Pursuant to its obligations under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), Seattle Public Schools hereby acknowledges that in the course of providing on-going professional development services for the purposes of improving instruction, Seattle Public Schools may disclose to Teach For America student identifiable data from individual Teachers, pursuant to 34 CFR §99.31(a)(6)(i)(c).
iii. Teach For America shall use and maintain such data as provided in 34 CFR §99.31(a)(6). In accordance with 34 C.F.R. § 99.33(b), Teach For America may re-disclose student identifiable information on behalf of Seattle Public Schools as part of Teach For America’s service to Seattle Public Schools of providing on-going professional development services.
iv. In accordance with 34 CFR §99.31(a)(6), Teach For America may also disclose student identifiable information on behalf of Seattle Public Schools to additional parties, provided that Teach For America, in advance, provide to Seattle Public Schools the names of such parties and a brief description of such parties’ legitimate interest in receiving such information.

Why should we hand over our children’s private information to a politically connected multimillion-dollar enterprise to share with whomever it wants? That is utter madness.

What does Teach for America, Inc. do with all its money?

Teach for America, Inc. is a multimillion dollar enterprise. It collects tens of millions of dollars from the Gates and Broad foundations and various others (see below).  For some reason the Obama administration recently determined that TFA, Inc. needed another infusion of $50 million. So why is TFA, Inc. also demanding another $4,000 per year from  cash-strapped school districts like ours? How much can five weeks of training possibly cost?

What the heck is in it for us and our kids?

Why government/taxpayer money in such amounts should be funneled to private companies like TFA, Inc. is another questionable matter. I would argue that this is just another version of the government funding “faith-based initiatives” since so many of the ed reform concepts that President Obama’s Dept. of Education is funding are failing the tests of research and reality, making their value based entirely on faith.

I would also argue that most of the ed reform initiatives directly feed one religion in particular: Capitalism. But I digress. (Sort of…)

Is TFA another conflict of interest for Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson?

The fact that Seattle Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson recently left the board of directors of the Broad Foundation doesn’t change the fact that she is connected to Teach for America, Inc. CEO Wendy Kopp and her husband Richard Barth of KIPP charters, via their mutual associations with the Broad Foundation.

Is this another case of Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson brokering a business deal for her associates at Seattle Public Schools’ expense?

She already had to resign from the board of directors of the Northwest Evaluation Association whose product, the MAP test, the district purchased and on which has since spent over $4.3 million.  Curiously enough,  at the time the board voted to approve the (no-bid) contract with NWEA, Goodloe-Johnson failed to disclose her connection to the business.

Finally, here is some interesting reading: Teach for America, Inc.’s Annual Report for 2009. It reads like a corporate growth report with a strategy for expanding its market share. Or a military strategy: “As we marshaled our resources to fuel our growth our corps members worked relentlessly in the classroom…”

(“We shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!”)

Though the report talks about “meeting its goals” and student “achievement” missing from all its verbiage is the kids.

— sue p.

Here’s a re-post from a few weeks ago:

Why the Sudden Pom-Poms for Teach for America in Seattle?

“Did you ever work at a job where, when you got enough skill to get a raise in pay, you were fired, and a new man put in?” – Jim from “In Dubious Battle,” John Steinbeck

“The teaching profession in Seattle should be opened up to attract additional talent, including programs such as Teach for America.” – “Our Schools Coalition” “petition.”

An agenda item was quietly slipped into tonight’s Seattle School Board meeting: an “Agreement with Teach for America” apparently to bring TFA recruits to the Puget Sound area as “teachers.” There has been no public discussion of this notion. Indeed, it’s doubtful that many people in the community even know what TFA, Inc. is.

Just as quietly, the item has been crossed off the agenda:

Agreement with Teach For America – Approval of this item will allow TFA candidates to apply for open positions during the Phase III hiring process – This item is a placeholder. Documents should be posted by close of business Tuesday.

Why and why? Why was it introduced and why was it removed?

Is it a coincidence that the Seattle Times recently published an op-ed by the Dean of the School of Education at U.W. Seattle, who also happens to be a TFA corps member, and happens to mention TFA?

Is it a coincidence that our local state Representative Reuven Carlyle suddenly announced on his blog that “It’s time for Teach for America”?

There is an item in the Senate Bill 6696 that passed earlier this year, Olympia’s (failed) effort to qualify our state for the dubious “Race to the Top” money that also mentions allowing alternatively credentialed teachers to work in our state.

Clearly a concerted push is on from some powers that be to place short-term, under-qualified “teachers” in our schools and I, and many others, would like to know why.

Why, when we have many truly qualified teachers here in Seattle looking for work.

Why, when the school district has laid off teachers for two years in a row.

Who asked for TFA, Inc. recruits?

Well, from what I can gather, none of us did. But because it is part of the corporate ed reform agenda to weaken or demonize the teacher’s union (as displayed in “Waiting for Superman”), hand over our public schools to privately run charter franchises which then employ cheaper, non-union teaching force, because Seattle’s School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s agenda for our school district coincidentally closely aligns with the goals of the Broad Foundation on whose board she sits, alongside Wendy Kopp, the CEO of Teach for America, Inc., and Richard Barth, CEO of KIPP charters, it would seem that Goodloe-Johnson and others are apparently hell-bent on forcing this agenda on our district, schools and kids, whether any of us parents want it — or even know about it — or not.

Memo to Supt. Goodloe-Johnson: Your colleague and fellow-Broad board member Michelle Rhee also pushed this agenda in this manner on the D.C. school district, and it cost the mayor his job and probably hers too.

None of us asked for TFA, which is why, I am surmising, that the corporate ed reformers got some of their point people to “introduce” the idea of Teach for America, Inc. to Seattle in their op-eds and blog posts, as if the thought spontaneously and organically occurred to them.

Which is why, I am guessing, my local State Representative Reuven Carlyle out of the blue recently declared in his blog that Washington should bring Teach for America “teachers” here. At a time when experienced professional teachers are being RIFed, why would he suggest that?

I think it was also no coincidence that the so-called “Our Schools Coalition,” an Astro-turf entity fabricated by Strategies 360/DMA Marketing a political marketing firm hired by the Alliance for Education, also tacked on a question about TFA, Inc. in their push-poll survey earlier this year, with no explanation of what TFA, Inc. is. The Alliance and the superintendent like to refer to this survey and claim it demonstrated that a majority of the SPS community supports these ideas. That is dishonest and untrue, to put it nicely. I wonder how many respondents even knew what the question meant?

At best this is a misguided notion about what it takes to teach, especially the most challenging kids — TFA, Inc. places its recruits in the most challenging schools.

At worst, it is an arrogant dismissal of teacher professionalism, another example of applying a business mindset to schools (get the cheapest labor you can), and possibly a dog whistle to a union-busting mentality. If that sounds harsh perhaps I am still reacting to some of the techniques the corporate ed reformers have been so willing to practice – like baseless mass firings of teachers (by D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee and others) and applauded by President Obama himself, or the firing of perfectly decent principals because “No Child Left Behind”  declares their schools a failure, or McCarthyism disguised as journalism at the L.A. Times — shockingly applauded by Education Secretary Arne Duncan — and which may have driven at least one teacher to suicide.

Apparently Rep. Carlyle has received a number of negative responses to his blog post, as well as some positive ones from TFA-ers who say they are still teaching somewhere.

I know at least one TFA veteran. He stayed in the profession and is absolutely dedicated to kids and public education. He is thoughtful, eloquent and I’d love for my kids to have him as a teacher. But he is a statistical minority. Most TFA teachers don’t stay the course. Only 34 percent stay on past the required second year.

Why, at a time when the corporate ed reformers have turned the national Klieg lights on the humblest of professional teachers and declared them failures and demanded they perform miracles, are these same enterprises (Broad, Gates, Goodloe-Johnson, Carlyle et al) out of the other side of their mouths pushing for uncredentialed, inexperienced “teachers” to take on our most challenging schools?

It makes no sense. (But I’ll bet it makes dollars for somebody.)

—Unless you truly believe that short-term youthful energy and enthusiasm trump every other trait in teaching. Or unless you just want a young, inexperienced, cheap and malleable labor force.

TFA is the darling of the media and corporate ed reformers. Its founder Wendy Kopp is featured often in the media. TFA, Inc. is billed as an altruistic nonprofit and the teaching equivalent of the Peace Corps. But is this accurate?

I did some research and was surprised to discover that Teach for America, Incorporated is actually a multimillion-dollar enterprise. It is funded by all the usual suspects and then some: Gates, Broad, the (WalMart) Waltons, Dells, (the Gap) Fishers. Its founder sits on the board of directors of the Broad Foundation (alongside Seattle’s Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson), one of the unelected, unqualified but main drivers of education policy in America right now.

Info about TFA funders can be found in their Annual Report.

Here are a few excerpts:

National Growth Fund Investors (2006-10) The following funders generously supported our significant growth between 2006 – 2010.

$10 Million

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
Rainwater Charitable Funds

National Growth Fund Investors (2009-13) The following funders generously committed to support our significant growth between 2009 – 2013.

$10 Million

Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
Martha and Bruce Karsh
Robertson Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation

$6 Million

Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

Why does TFA, Inc. need so much money to give college kids only five weeks of training? This “nonprofit” sure has a lot of money coursing through its corridors.

I have a lot of questions about all this.

So I asked my representative, Reuven Carlyle, why this idea suddenly sprung into his head. Here’s what I wrote:

Sept. 21, 2010

Dear Representative Carlyle,

I am Seattle public schools parent, resident and voter in your district, and I would like to know: Why do you want to bring Teach for America recruits to Seattle? (http://reuvencarlyle36.com/2010/09/20/time-for-teach-for-america/)

What’s wrong with the teachers we already have in Seattle, either in the public schools or hoping to find work there?

Do you know how long Teach for America “recruits” are trained? Just five weeks.

Do you know how long they are required to commit to their role as teachers? Just two years.

Do you know how many actually stay in teaching? Only 34 percent stay on for another year.

You have advanced degrees related to your field and apparently value higher education and expertise, why do you support bringing people to Seattle to work in an important and difficult field in which they have no degree or credentials?

Do you think that’s enough experience or enough of a commitment to our kids? If so, why? How?

Did you know that Teach for America, Inc. is a multimillion-dollar enterprise?

Research shows that a good teacher doesn’t reach his/her stride until about the fifth year of teaching. Why do you support bringing “teachers” to Seattle who will come and leave before they have even matured yet as professionals?

At a time when Seattle Public Schools has RIFed teachers for two years in a row, if you help bring Teach for America recruits to Seattle, you may be helping other local teachers lose their jobs, or make it harder for new teachers to find a job. Are you okay with that?

I understand that Teach for America recruits are non-union and not paid as much as regular union teachers, so by supporting TFA recruits, aren’t you effectively supporting lower pay for teachers?

Kids in public schools, especially in the less privileged communities, already suffer disproportionately from instability in their lives and schools. Why would you support adding more churn to their lives by bringing in short-term, unqualified “teachers” that will have no long-term commitment to them?

Why don’t you instead support fully funding our schools, fully hiring all the teachers we need, reducing class sizes and supporting teachers to continue their education and experience so they can commit to our children and the noble profession of teaching for the long term?

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Sue Peters

SPS parent, voter and co-editor of
Seattle Education 2010
https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/

I am still waiting for his response.

— sue p.

Watch Diane Ravitch, Wayne Au, Jesse Hagopian and Dora Taylor in “Race to Where?” a Seattle Ed 2010 forum on the misdirection of ed reform, now online!

Here is the footage of our Oct. 5 forum on ed reform: “Race to Where?” featuring Dr. Diane Ravitch (Skyped in from her home in New York), Wayne Au of Rethinking Schools, Jesse Hagopian, teacher and founder of Social Equality Educators (SEE), and Seattle Ed’s own Dora Taylor.  Seattle University’s Dr. Jodi Kelly introduces the event, while I moderate. The panel discussion is followed by a Q&A with the audience.

The footage of the 90-minute forum, held  at Seattle University’s Pigott Auditorium, is divided into 7 parts of roughly 14 minutes each.

It was a terrific event that attracted over 350 parents, teachers and administrators for an engaging, if sometimes troubling, discussion about the current efforts by the forces of privatization to take over our public schools.

A big thank you to all who helped us sponsor the event: Dr. Kelly and the Matteo Ricci College and the College of Education at Seattle University, Social Equality Educators (SEE), and Parents Across America- Seattle. And, of course, a tremendous thank you to Dr. Ravitch and the rest of our panelists for sharing their wisdom and insights with us all.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Some background info about the forum:

WHY SEATTLE? Is Seattle the next battleground in the debate over ed reform? Seattle Public Schools, under its current Broad Foundation-trained superintendent, has fast-tracked a series of reforms in the school district these past three years, without much parent or community input. Seattle is also the headquarters to one of the biggest players in ed reform, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports “Race to the Top” — merit pay, publicly funded but privately operated charter schools and high-stakes testing. Yet Washington has failed to qualify for RTTT funding and state voters have repeatedly opposed charter schools. An increasing number of Seattle parents and teachers are asking: Why should we adopt reforms that research shows are detrimental to our schools and kids? Ravitch, who once supported these reforms as a member of the Bush I administration, agrees and now opposes them and warns against them.

OUR PANELISTS: Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and an education historian. She is the author of 10 books, including “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education” (2010). She shares a blog, Bridging Differences, with Deborah Meier, hosted by Education Week and also blogs for Politico.com/arena and the Huffington Post. Her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. From 1991-93, she was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H. W. Bush. From 1997- 2004, she was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program. (adapted from: http://www.dianeravitch.com/vita.html)

Wayne Au – is a former public high school teacher, and Assistant Professor of Secondary Social Studies Education at the University of Washington, Bothell, and an editor of Rethinking Schools, a journal devoted to social justice education.  He is also the author of Unequal by Design: High-Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality (Routledge, 2009).

Jesse Hagopian – is a Seattle teacher, a graduate of Seattle Public Schools, and a founding member of the progressive union caucus Social Equality Educators within the Seattle Education Association.  Hagopian’s writings in defense of public education have appeared in The Progressive, Common Dreams, SocialistWorker.org, Real Change News, Truthout.org, the Seattle PI, and the Seattle Times.

Dora Taylor and Sue Peters are the co-editors of the Seattle Education 2010 blog, and founding members of the new grassroots public education advocacy organization, Parents Across America (PAA).

Seattle Education 2010 – is a blog of news and commentary created in 2009 by two Seattle parents in response to the reforms imposed on their children’s schools and district.

Parents Across America (PAA) – is a national grassroots organization of public school parents who oppose the current direction of education reform (“No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top”) and believe parents’ voices are missing from the national conversation about public education.

Social Equality Educators (SEE) – is a new progressive union caucus within the Seattle Education Association (SEA).

Diane Ravitch on “Race to the Top”

(excerpted from: “The Conversation” with Ross Reynolds, KUOW 94.9 FM, Aug. 2, 2010)

“I think ‘Race to the Top’ is a terrible program and I congratulate Washington for not advancing. I hope that you don’t win the money because winning the money means you agree to do things that are very harmful to public education.

“First off all, it means that you are expected to have charter schools and for states that have a limit on charter schools you are expected to have more charters schools. These are privatized schools that research has shown repeatedly do not perform better than public schools. So there is no reason to privatize low-performing public schools, we should help those schools get better, do whatever it takes to improve them, but not turn them over to private entrepreneurs.

“The second thing, ‘Race to the Top’ expects states to do is to evaluate teachers by test scores. And there are so many reasons why this is a bad idea. It leads to teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum, dropping the arts and science and history and all those things, and it’s just a terrible thing to do to teachers because there many reasons kids get high or low scores and it’s not all about teachers.

“And the third thing that ‘Race to the Top’ does is that it commits states to they call “transform” low-performing schools. What they really mean by that is to close them down, fire the principal, fire the staff, fire half the staff, fire all the staff — these are very punitive measures and they are built right squarely on the foundation on George W. Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ program. So I think it’s sad that President Obama and  Secretary Duncan have tied themselves to a law that has proven to be very unsuccessful.

“I commend the states that didn’t apply and I commend the states that didn’t get the money because you’re better off.”

(…)

“I was seven years on the national testing board – President Clinton put me there. When you get close to the testing process, you realize this is a social construction, this is not a scientific instrument.  There are many flaws in the test, they’re frequently not valid, not reliable, loaded with measurement error, random error and we’re now going to hang teachers’ evaluation on these test scores. It just isn’t right.”

–sue p.

The Stepford Wives of Race to the Top: Our PTA

My Day with the PTA

This is going to be one of those long ones, so get yourself a cup of coffee or hot tea and get comfortable.

Because of my interest in education and legislation, I volunteered to be the PTA Legislative chair at my daughter’s school. That was almost two years ago. I followed what was going on and reported back to the membership. That was easy. I do remember that the Seattle Council Legislative VP, Heidi Bennett, seemed a tad bit over the top about Race to the Top but at the time I thought that was her personal view. She did seem to be pushing it a bit too much after a while but again, I couldn’t imagine that this had anything to do with the PTA but possibly another organization that she might have been a part of like the Alliance for Education or the imaginary Our Schools’ Coalition. I had no idea that she was following an edict by way of the PTA, not until Friday, October 8, 2010 when I participated in the statewide PTA Legislative Assembly. Being a legislative chair for our school, I attended this meeting.

I got to the Marriott at SeaTac on Friday just in time to sit in on the “Issue Education Session” described as Issue 3: New Model for Teacher Compensation. Below is a description of the issue as provided by the PTA. It says:

Issue Statement:

The Washington State PTA shall initiate and/or support legislation or policies that lead to a new research-based state teacher compensation model that emphasizes rewarding teacher effectiveness in improving student learning.

Before I go on, let me give you a little background about one of my motivations for going. I wanted to be able to speak to the issue of performance pay and seniority, two issues that were on the PTA agenda. I had sat in on a couple of Seattle Council PTSA meetings, these are the citywide meetings, and said my piece about how the PTA shouldn’t get involved in backing the edicts of the Race to the Top agenda. The SCPTSA President said that there was a time and opportunity to make a difference at the Legislative Assembly so I was looking forward to having the opportunity to have a real debate on the issues and maybe make a difference.

The meeting started and a person who I assumed was the leader for this session, was in the front and the first thing she said was “Did anyone here see Superman!?” Uh oh, this was not starting out well. She started to gush that the movie was so “heart wrenching” and that it brought tears to her eyes. Then she held up what I imagined was going to be our required reading for the day. “Has anyone seen this?” and she waved a Time magazine with a school bus on it, Well, at least it wasn’t the one with Michelle Rhee on the cover with her broom stick. For that I was relieved, but only momentarily. On the cover it said “What Makes A School Great?” And below  that, “It all starts with the teachers” and the last line, “Why is it so hard to find good ones”. And the cover story? “Waiting for Superman: A Call to Action for Our Schools”

At this point I knew it was going to be a rather long day.

There were two parents in the front and I assumed that they were going to provide both sides of the issue (Right? This was to be a day of sharing, debate and exchanging ideas.) But boy was I wrong. It was all about how “old” teachers had seniority and there were all these new young teachers who didn’t have seniority and they were so good but they might be fired unless …unless we drop “tenure”, a word that they erroneously used interchangeably with the term “seniority” over the course of the day. And then one of the parents said that they had all the reports and data on everything that they were talking about right here. The parent kept raising her notebook and pointing to it. I assumed that’s where the data was.

Then the leader, the one with all of the data, said that education doesn’t matter when it comes to a teacher’s “effectiveness”. She went on to say that having a masters’ degree didn’t mean anything and most of the time, when a teacher gets additional training or a degree, it’s in something else that has nothing to do with the subject that they are teaching. I couldn’t believe what this woman was saying. I would say that all of us in that room thought that education was important, but not for teachers?

I had to raise my hand at that point and ask just that question. How can you say that getting additional education is not important to developing as a professional when you seem to value education, at least for your child?

Well, it’s not that. It’s the kind of education that our teachers are getting. They take classes in subjects that don’t have anything to do with the subject that they are teaching. So what’s wrong with having a well-rounded education? I asked.  Well, not if it’s in basket weaving. I kid you not, that’s what one of the other parents said, one of the parents who was to be monitoring the meeting piped in and said that. OK, now I knew that this was going to be a very long day.

Then they got to teacher compensation. They actually called it merit pay.

The first question that the leader with the notebook asked was, “Why is it that we can’t retain our good teachers?” I thought, I haven’t seen them leaving in droves recently although at this point I wouldn’t blame them for finding the closest exit. Then she went on, “We still don’t see scores going up.” That was true. “We need to send a message to our legislature”, OK “We have to raise the bar of rigor…we have to reward” the teachers I assume.

My hand went up again because I knew where this was going. “If you are referring to merit pay, there are studies and reports, two in particular, that show that merit pay doesn’t affect student performance.” I named the EPI report and the Vanderbilt study. I went on to say that in Texas, where they had merit pay for three years, it was not effective in raising test scores so they abandoned the idea. I also brought up Chicago where Arne Duncan was CEO for four years before becoming secretary of education. Test scores hadn’t budged there or in New York where they had actually plummeted and all things RTTT were in effect in both of those cities.

Another parent who is part of the Seattle Council PTSA said that where she works and in fact in many corporations, there is merit pay.

I answered with the question, but is the corporate model appropriate in terms of education? Aren’t both of these institutions different? People were getting a little flustered with me at this point. I was asking too many questions and challenging what for them had become the acceptable way of thinking. It was apparent that they were not ready for this line of questioning and had not expected this to happen. We were just supposed to drink our coffee, sit and listen. Apparently there was not much room or time for debate.

We were not here to question. We were here to vote for a platform that had been previously decided on and that was that.

I began to wonder where these platforms came from. They were right out of the RTTT play book. These folks didn’t come up with this on their own.

The time for conversation in our session was limited and the two leaders had to come up with a resolution of some sort at the end of the session. Why? I don’t know.

They were running out of time and so the other parent standing at the front said, “Do we all agree that things need to be improved?” Some people nodded their heads, “That things need to change?” Another nodding of heads, “Then voting for this is voting for change!” Wow, end of story. Just like that. We want change so vote for this. Well, that’s one way of doing it.

So, the real reason for these “Education Sessions” was to provide reasons to vote for their platform, basically market it. No questions were expected, no opposing sides represented. There was not to be any debate but only a presentation. I had just spent an hour listening to an infomercial for RTTT.

I was truly let down.

Out of curiosity, I went up to the leader with the notebook, the one with all of the data in it, and asked her what studies she was referring to. She showed me a copy of an NCTQ report, (see: The Lines of Influence), a report done by CRPE and a paper titled The Caldwell Report. The NCTQ report, bought and paid for by Bill Gates and a report done by CRPE, the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a foundation funded by Bill Gates to provide all with the NCTQ Report and all things charter schools . And the Caldwell Report? I had never heard of it. I called on my best data gatherers by cell and asked them if they had come across the report and both said “No”.

I goggled it later and came up with all sorts of entries but nothing pertaining to teachers, teaching or merit pay. If someone else can find a report relevant to teaching or education referred to as the Caldwell Report, please let me know.

And where were all of the teachers in this “Education Session”? This was the PTA, the Parents and Teachers Association. Had we thrown them out with the bathwater too? There was someone in the “Education Session” who said she was a teacher. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from her about student testing and merit pay and how it was all such a great idea. She was young so I was giving her the benefit of the doubt. As it came up later during the general assembly, she was a Teach for America teacher and during her two minutes said “Rhee did some good things while she was in DC”, like fire 271 teachers and replace them with Teach for America recruits? A ringer? Possibly.

After the “Education Session” was a presentation in the ballroom to be given by the senior Bill Gates. You just can’t seem to get away from those folks these days. I decided to take a break and not hear about how we should all vote for Bill 1098 basically to pay for all of this ed reform that they are pushing. Bill Gates, Sr. wants to make sure that the Gates Foundation doesn’t have to keep forking over the dollars to maintain their idea of education.

Then, finally, an Education Session with someone who made sense. A wonderful woman, Adie Simmons, Director of the Education Ombudsman, spoke to us about the Achievement Gap, which she referred to as the “Opportunity Gap”. What was interesting about this Education Session is that for all of the hoopla and hand wringing about test scores and the achievement gap that I was hearing about in the building that day, this room was fairly quiet and empty. Oh well, everyone else had it all figured out anyway. All it would take is merit pay and no seniority for teachers.

The Ombudsman Office had real data or as I like to call it, information, about how our students are doing now in the state of Washington. She showed that test scores over the last ten years have trended downwards. She asked us why we thought that was. This wasn’t a lead in to another infomercial, she was really trying to come up with some answers herself. No one else said anything so I mentioned less class time with teachers due to budget cuts over the years, more parents working and not being able to spend enough time to help with homework. Larger homework loads because the teachers do not have the time to cover all of the information in class making it the responsibility of the students to teach themselves and the pressure by the schools to meet graduation rate quotas therefore pushing students along without being prepared for the next grade. Nothing was ever mentioned about “teacher quality   or “teacher effectiveness”. How refreshing, an entire hour without hearing those two phrases.

Ms.  Simmons told us of the services that the office provides. She referred to the Ombudsman as a “third party”. She said “We help resolve problems, conflict and disputes between parents and schools that affect student learning”. This can range from language barriers to transportation. She said that they were an advocate for the child. Ms. Simmons also stated that many of students they advocated for  were in special education programs and there was an increasing amount of bullying that was happening particularly towards students who were ELL or in special education. She said that there was a lack of civility these days and that was reflected in the behavior of young people. Indeed.

The Ombudsman Office also contracts with Language Line which is an amazing service. You just call, tell them your language and there is instant availability to someone who can speak to you.

The most amazing part is that there are only five people in the office of the Ombudsman and they successfully handle cases throughout the state of Washington every day. Bravo to them!

Unfortunately that hour was over too quickly. It was time for lunch and then  the general assembly meeting.

The General Assembly Meeting

In the ballroom where the meeting was to take place, I found my spot with my region, the Seattle area. I settled in and started looking around.

Mostly women, a few men. There were two African Americans in our Seattle group and I was one of them. So much for diversity. In the general population, I saw maybe 3 or 4 African-Americans out of an audience of about 300. Not exactly a crowd that was representative of our state.

This meeting started at 8:00 AM on a Friday morning and went to about 10:00 PM that night so that eliminated a lot of parents who were either working, needed to be with their children or couldn’t afford childcare for that length of time. It was a vacation day for the Seattle public schools.

The meeting began and there was some mention made about the Common Core State Standards, you know, the standards that Bill Gates is paying  four states so far to apply for at the tune of $1M.

The state president of the PTA, Scott Allen, spoke about how we had so much to be proud of like Bill 2271 that will fund education reform. That was a “big win” for us according to our president. Mr. Allen went on to say that we did that by networking not only with the legislators but with other policy makers like our city council members. He said that the PTA is considered a “trusted source” in our state, that the PTA is a go-to source for policy makers. Is that why Vicki Phillips, the Director of Education with the Gates Foundation thinks that our national president, Byron Garrett, is the cat’s meow? Because we are tooting their horn for them?

In her speech to the National PTA, Ms. Philips stated, “I hope you’re as proud to call Byron your leader as we at the Gates Foundation are to call him a partner”. Later in her speech she says “So we know master’s degrees have almost no value. We know certifications don’t make a difference. We know that after three years, seniority doesn’t really matter.” Wow, that’s what I had been hearing all day.

It was all starting to fall into place. So much for the PTA being an advocate for my child, they had become advocates for the Gates and the Broads and the hedge fund millionaires. They had sold our children out for a few shekels, high stakes testing, merit pay, union busting, and charter schools. That was all part of the package. Gates had provided the PTA with all of the “research” material that they would need to sell their ideas. The deed was done and the troops, or rather the Stepford Wives, would be marching forward into the offices of the state legislators and other policy makers waving their notebooks filled with data.

Oh yeah, about that data. After our last Education Session, we were to go to our groups in terms of the issues that we wanted to support. Unlike past years’ legislative assemblies, there would be “debate” between those who supported each issue and those who didn’t. That sounded great! Finally, I could present another side of the issue.

I sat in the room where the supporters of Issue number 3, “New Models for Teacher Compensation” were gathering. I wasn’t sure if I was to be there or not but decided to stay and just be quiet because this was their time to get organized.

First thing from the leader with the notebook? “We’re not looking at studies or data” I am paraphrasing here, “This doesn’t have anything to do with data, anyone can show data one way or another.” Well, that was a change of tune from the morning session. Without going into the details, they got their list of items done and then it was my turn to see if anyone besides myself was interested in giving an opposing viewpoint.

Two other parents showed up and we worked out what we were going to say. We only had ten minutes total, I thought, for each viewpoint, two minutes each. I would start, then the other two parents would do their two minutes and then I would do a conclusion. Great! During dinner I put my thoughts together.

They were basically:

  • Basing a teacher’s performance on test scores causes many teachers to begin to teach to the test. The curriculum becomes dumbed down and the focus narrowed to what will be on the test and nothing more.
  • We need to first even the playing field for the teachers by addressing the other issues that are up for consideration during this session such as increasing literacy instruction, math and science education and ensuring that there is physical education in the schools as well as health programs, good breakfast and lunch programs, wrap-around services for the students in need  and smaller class sizes.
  • We need to get our teachers on board with whatever we recommend otherwise we will begin to pit the PTA against the teachers and we really don’t want that.
  • Let’s focus on putting our resources into other areas that directly support our students and teachers and not on trying to create a corporate model out of our public schools.

Well, that was the plan. There was more that I wanted to say but six minutes isn’t much time.

It was finally our big moment in the general assembly.

I went to the microphone, gave my two minutes, then another parent and the third parent, then I was back at the microphone to give the final four minutes, but wait! I wasn’t being called on. What was going on?! They kept calling on the other side because they had more people and as I found out standing there, I wouldn’t have a chance to speak again because I had already spoken. So even though we had time left over it went to the other side because they had more people who hadn’t spoken! So basically, the side with the most people gets the most time. That’s not a debate!!!

Needless to say, even though their arguments were pre-packaged ala NCTQ and some not even relevant, that platform got the vote by an overwhelming majority. So did the seniority plank, Issue 4: “Teacher Reduction in Force Policies”. Heidi Bennett, the Legislative Vice President of the Seattle Council PTSA said that the teacher’s contract should be “seniority free”.

Issue 1, which was “Following Up on Education Reform Efforts”, regarding the Race to the Top Bill 6696 and similar bills got the majority of votes. Afterwards I wondered how some of those parents from the small towns and rural areas of the state of Washington would be able to justify how they voted to approve closing a school, firing half of their schools staff or firing a principal if test scores do not meet a specified standard. Where would they be if that were to happen? Without a school? With Race to the Top funding worked out on the last go-round as about $71 per student that would certainly not be enough to pay for “turning a school around”. And what about finding new teachers to staff a school in a rural area or a small town? I suppose they could get Teach for America recruits with five weeks of training and little else to teach their children for at least two years before those recruits move on to their chosen professions.

Issue 2 “Fund Education First” got the majority vote. That’s the idea that education funding should come before anything including social or health services. Please explain the logic of that one to me. It doesn’t matter if a child has a place to live or food to eat or is sick, as long as there is a classroom for that child to be in, that‘s all that matters. And you want teachers to perform well and be “effective”? You have to give them and the child the support that they need first to succeed.

Literacy Instruction passed although one woman said that there was concern by her teacher that this would become standardized curriculum with no room allowed for the teacher to do what they think would work best for their students. Her concern is about “curriculum alignment”. Teachers will have to go “by the book” based on “Common Core Standards”, leaving little to no room to apply what might work for their class or for an individual student. And why is following a pre-packaged curriculum so important? Because the test given has to match the curriculum, right? It all has to line up so that we can get our test scores. This all comes down to that test score, that number that will determine a teacher’s livelihood, whether a school is closed or half of the staff fired, whether a school keeps its’ principal or not, it all comes down to that.

After the last vote I saw where it was all going. Everyone was in step, well, almost everyone. They were in step with our national president who was in step with our benefactor, Bill Gates.

Now on to Olympia, notebooks in hand.

Dora

Update October 14, 2010

Someone sent me a link to this article in the Seattle Times,

National PTA gets $1 million from Gates Foundation

The $1M is going to North Carolina, New Jersey, Florida and Georgia.

Well there you go! And Washington State is doing it for free.

 

 

Why the sudden pom-poms in Seattle for Teach for America, Inc.?

“Did you ever work at a job where, when you got enough skill to get a raise in pay, you were fired, and a new man put in?” – Jim from “In Dubious Battle,” John Steinbeck

“The teaching profession in Seattle should be opened up to attract additional talent, including programs such as Teach for America.” – “Our Schools Coalition” “petition.”

An agenda item was quietly slipped into tonight’s Seattle School Board meeting: an “Agreement with Teach for America” apparently to bring TFA recruits to the Puget Sound area as “teachers.” There has been no public discussion of this notion. Indeed, it’s doubtful that many people in the community even know what TFA, Inc. is.

Just as quietly, the item has been crossed off the agenda:


Agreement with Teach For America – Approval of this item will allow TFA candidates to apply for open positions during the Phase III hiring process – This item is a placeholder. Documents should be posted by close of business Tuesday.

Why and why? Why was it introduced and why was it removed?

Is it a coincidence that the Seattle Times recently published an op-ed by the Dean of the School of Education at U.W. Seattle, who also happens to be a TFA corps member, and happens to mention TFA?

Is it a coincidence that our local state Representative Reuven Carlyle suddenly announced on his blog that “It’s time for Teach for America”?

There is an item in the Senate Bill 6696 that passed earlier this year, Olympia’s (failed) effort to qualify our state for the dubious “Race to the Top” money that also mentions allowing alternatively credentialed teachers to work in our state.

Clearly a concerted push is on from some powers that be to place short-term, under-qualified “teachers” in our schools and I, and many others, would like to know why.

Why, when we have many truly qualified teachers here in Seattle looking for work.

Why, when the school district has laid off teachers for two years in a row.

Who asked for TFA, Inc. recruits?

Well, from what I can gather, none of us did. But because it is part of the corporate ed reform agenda to weaken or demonize the teacher’s union (as displayed in “Waiting for Superman”), hand over our public schools to privately run charter franchises which then employ cheaper, non-union teaching force, because Seattle’s School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s agenda for our school district coincidentally closely aligns with the goals of the Broad Foundation on whose board she sits, alongside Wendy Kopp, the CEO of Teach for America, Inc., and Richard Barth, CEO of KIPP charters, it would seem that Goodloe-Johnson and others are apparently hell-bent on forcing this agenda on our district, schools and kids, whether any of us parents want it — or even know about it — or not.

Memo to Supt. Goodloe-Johnson: Your colleague and fellow-Broad board member Michelle Rhee also pushed this agenda in this manner on the D.C. school district, and it cost the mayor his job and probably hers too.

None of us asked for TFA, which is why, I am surmising, that the corporate ed reformers got some of their point people to “introduce” the idea of Teach for America, Inc. to Seattle in their op-eds and blog posts, as if the thought spontaneously and organically occurred to them.

Which is why, I am guessing, my local State Representative Reuven Carlyle out of the blue recently declared in his blog that Washington should bring Teach for America “teachers” here. At a time when experienced professional teachers are being RIFed, why would he suggest that?

I think it was also no coincidence that the so-called “Our Schools Coalition,” an Astro-turf entity fabricated by Strategies 360/DMA Marketing a political marketing firm hired by the Alliance for Education, also tacked on a question about TFA, Inc. in their push-poll survey earlier this year, with no explanation of what TFA, Inc. is. The Alliance and the superintendent like to refer to this survey and claim it demonstrated that a majority of the SPS community supports these ideas. That is dishonest and untrue, to put it nicely. I wonder how many respondents even knew what the question meant?

At best this is a misguided notion about what it takes to teach, especially the most challenging kids — TFA, Inc. places its recruits in the most challenging schools.

At worst, it is an arrogant dismissal of teacher professionalism, another example of applying a business mindset to schools (get the cheapest labor you can), and possibly a dog whistle to a union-busting mentality. If that sounds harsh perhaps I am still reacting to some of the techniques the corporate ed reformers have been so willing to practice – like baseless mass firings of teachers (by D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee and others) and applauded by President Obama himself, or the firing of perfectly decent principals because “No Child Left Behind”  declares their schools a failure, or McCarthyism disguised as journalism at the L.A. Times — shockingly applauded by Education Secretary Arne Duncan — and which may have driven at least one teacher to suicide.

Apparently Rep. Carlyle has received a number of negative responses to his blog post, as well as some positive ones from TFA-ers who say they are still teaching somewhere.

I know at least one TFA veteran. He stayed in the profession and is absolutely dedicated to kids and public education. He is thoughtful, eloquent and I’d love for my kids to have him as a teacher. But he is a statistical minority. Most TFA teachers don’t stay the course. Only 34 percent stay on past the required second year.

Why, at a time when the corporate ed reformers have turned the national Klieg lights on the humblest of professional teachers and declared them failures and demanded they perform miracles, are these same enterprises (Broad, Gates, Goodloe-Johnson, Carlyle et al) out of the other side of their mouths pushing for uncredentialed, inexperienced “teachers” to take on our most challenging schools?

It makes no sense. (But I’ll bet it makes dollars for somebody.)

—Unless you truly believe that short-term youthful energy and enthusiasm trump every other trait in teaching. Or unless you just want a young, inexperienced, cheap and malleable labor force.

TFA is the darling of the media and corporate ed reformers. Its founder Wendy Kopp is featured often in the media. TFA, Inc. is billed as an altruistic nonprofit and the teaching equivalent of the Peace Corps. But is this accurate?

I did some research and was surprised to discover that Teach for America, Incorporated is actually a multimillion-dollar enterprise. It is funded by all the usual suspects and then some: Gates, Broad, the (WalMart) Waltons, Dells, (the Gap) Fishers. Its founder sits on the board of directors of the Broad Foundation (alongside Seattle’s Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson), one of the unelected, unqualified but main drivers of education policy in America right now.

Info about TFA funders can be found in their Annual Report.

Here are a few excerpts:

National Growth Fund Investors (2006-10) The following funders generously supported our significant growth between 2006 – 2010.

$10 Million

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
Rainwater Charitable Funds

National Growth Fund Investors (2009-13) The following funders generously committed to support our significant growth between 2009 – 2013.

$10 Million

Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
Martha and Bruce Karsh
Robertson Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation

$6 Million

Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

Why does TFA, Inc. need so much money to give college kids only five weeks of training? This “nonprofit” sure has a lot of money coursing through its corridors.

I have a lot of questions about all this.

So I asked my representative, Reuven Carlyle, why this idea suddenly sprung into his head. Here’s what I wrote:

Sept. 21, 2010

Dear Representative Carlyle,

I am Seattle public schools parent, resident and voter in your district, and I would like to know: Why do you want to bring Teach for America recruits to Seattle? (http://reuvencarlyle36.com/2010/09/20/time-for-teach-for-america/)

What’s wrong with the teachers we already have in Seattle, either in the public schools or hoping to find work there?

Do you know how long Teach for America “recruits” are trained? Just five weeks.

Do you know how long they are required to commit to their role as teachers? Just two years.

Do you know how many actually stay in teaching? Only 34 percent stay on for another year.

You have advanced degrees related to your field and apparently value higher education and expertise, why do you support bringing people to Seattle to work in an important and difficult field in which they have no degree or credentials?

Do you think that’s enough experience or enough of a commitment to our kids? If so, why? How?

Did you know that Teach for America, Inc. is a multimillion-dollar enterprise?

Research shows that a good teacher doesn’t reach his/her stride until about the fifth year of teaching. Why do you support bringing “teachers” to Seattle who will come and leave before they have even matured yet as professionals?

At a time when Seattle Public Schools has RIFed teachers for two years in a row, if you help bring Teach for America recruits to Seattle, you may be helping other local teachers lose their jobs, or make it harder for new teachers to find a job. Are you okay with that?

I understand that Teach for America recruits are non-union and not paid as much as regular union teachers, so by supporting TFA recruits, aren’t you effectively supporting lower pay for teachers?

Kids in public schools, especially in the less privileged communities, already suffer disproportionately from instability in their lives and schools. Why would you support adding more churn to their lives by bringing in short-term, unqualified “teachers” that will have no long-term commitment to them?

Why don’t you instead support fully funding our schools, fully hiring all the teachers we need, reducing class sizes and supporting teachers to continue their education and experience so they can commit to our children and the noble profession of teaching for the long term?

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Sue Peters

SPS parent, voter and co-editor of
Seattle Education 2010
https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/

I am still waiting for his response.

— sue p.

Teach for America on the School Board Agenda

Update October 4, 2010 at 4:45 PM.

I was notified that discussion regarding the agreement with Teach for America is being removed from the meeting agenda for October 6th.

Hmmm.

News Flash October 4, 2010, 7:30ish AM.

The superintendent here in Seattle is trying to quietly submit an item on the agenda for this week’s school board meeting regarding hiring Teach for America, Inc. recruits.

Oh, well, so much for that subterfuge. The word is out now.

There’s a placeholder item about Teach for America, Inc. and it won’t be available to view until the end of Tuesday.

Someone found it anyway. It states:

“Agreement with Teach For America – Approval of this item will allow TFA candidates to apply for open positions during the Phase III hiring process – This item is a placeholder. Documents should be posted by close of business Tuesday.”

The board meeting is Wednesday evening and sign up to speak in front of the board is this morning, Monday morning.

This news was first announced on the Save Seattle Schools’ blog yesterday.

My response to the news as posted on the SSS blog was as follows:

TFA was mentioned in SERVE in the small print. I spoke about that in a previous board meeting.

There was a clause, and I don’t know if it’s in the new contract with the teachers’ union, that if TFA is brought in, the contract with the teacher’s union is to be renegotiated.

Any teachers out there know if it made it into your contract?

This is the testimony I gave in August:

“Much in SERVE has to do with tying the performance of a student on the MAP test to the evaluation of a teacher. Salaries can be based on a student’s performance, but worse than that, SERVE goes on to propose that when there is a rif, the superintendent can then fire teachers based on their evaluations. This is referred to as high stakes testing.

Do I want my daughter’s teacher to be that concerned about how she does on a single test or do I want them to teach the whole child a broader view of the subject, helping her to develop her creative and critical thinking skills?

It would be human nature that a person who is concerned about their livelihood and career would want to focus on ensuring that their students know the correct answers to a multiple choice test, drill and kill as some people call it. Make sure the student knows simple answers to simple questions and kill any desire on the part of the student to want to learn more, subverting any sense of curiosity or wonderment about the world around them. Teach to the test and nothing more.

And who cares about seniority and knowledge of teaching gained from years of experience when you can hire Teach for America recruits on the cheap, another item on the SERVE agenda.

Hiring Teach for America recruits straight out of college and placing them in the classrooms for a stint of two years is the latest rage among ed –reformers, particularly with for-profit charter schools that can hire TFA recruits, keep their cost down and make a profit. Remember, charter schools do not hire union teachers.

Hiring Teach for America recruits works well for charter franchises but not for the students. These recruits, who are planning to go into other fields once the economy picks up, commit two years to teaching, receive six weeks of training, go into the classroom, do their thing and then move on to their chosen fields. Most do not continue on into education. That creates a high rate of churn, as well as a lack of stability with the students, the school and the community.

There is no long-term commitment on the part of the teacher to the school or the community and leaves students who have developed bonds with these teachers with nothing at the end but the broken promise that the teacher would be there for them forever.

These elements of SERVE would not work for our students or our community and should not be accepted by the teachers. And teachers, even though you are being bombarded by messages brought to you by Broad-backed and Gates funded faux roots organizations, such as the Alliance, Our Schools’ Coalition and Stand for Children, know that we as parents support you during these negotiations and consider you a precious resource in the development of our children.”

The supe was placed here by the Broad to do their bidding. That is her intention and she is following through beautifully.

This has been well-orchestrated by a few with a lot of money and therefore some power. Power is taken, not given though. We can let a few take the power from us of determining how our children are educated in Seattle or we can let them take it from us.

We do have the power still in our hands to push back and keep this sort of thing out of Seattle.

It’s up to everyone reading these words to do something about it. It really is up to all of us at this point.

Call your board members, council persons, particularly Burgess who has now stepped into the debate with his lame editorial,go to the board meeting and speak or just sit there and applaud for those who do, bring signs to the board meeting, just generally make it clear, painfully, obviously clear, that this is not what we want for our children.

BREAKING NEWS: Proposal to bring Teach for America, Inc. to Seattle to be introduced at school board meeting THIS WEDS 10/6

THIS JUST IN FROM THE SAVE SEATTLE SCHOOLS BLOG

It sounds like Seattle School Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson may have already, unilaterally, negotiated something with TFA — the multimillion-dollar enterprise that recruits young college grads and declares them “teachers” after only 5 weeks’ of training and only requires them to stay on the job for 2 years. Only 34 % of them stay for a third year. They are non-union, btw, and paid accordingly.

Yet another shady backroom deal by the corporate ed reformers, pushing THEIR agenda on our schools, our kids, without any input from us.

Apparently the Seattle Foundation and League of Education Voters are pushing it too.

Check out the SSS blog for more info: https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=28765366&postID=7649857220168985806

Here are some highlights:

seattle citizen said…

Wowzers, here’s an Introduction item on the agenda that should raise some eyebrows:

“Agreement with Teach For America – Approval of this item will allow TFA candidates to apply for open positions during the Phase III hiring process – This item is a placeholder. Documents should be posted by close of business Tuesday.”

Um, hello? Documents should be posted on Tuesday 5:00pm?

Why? Because they don’t want anyone talking about it?

Just say “no” to TFA. Write your board directors and ask them to laugh this one out of the boardroom.

Aren’t there enough qualified teachers wanting jobs? Like maybe the ones we’ve been laying off? Do we really need teachers with five weeks training and no desire to teach beyond two years applying for jobs in Seattle?

Just say no.

Blogger seattle citizen said…

It’s not the Seattle Foundation, it’s SF and the League of Education Voters who want to bring TFA to Seattle. SF is working with/for LEV.Here’s all the info from the SF website on this:

” OVERVIEW: Teacher quality has a greater effect on student achievement than any other factor. Yet, as a nation and as a region, we have not found a way to ensure that our strongest teachers are working with the students who need them the most. Only 34 percent of low-income 6th graders in the Puget Sound region are achieving at grade level in math (compared to 70 percent of non-low-income students). Sixty-one percent of low-income 6th graders are reading at grade level, compared to 84 percent of their more affluent peers.

“Teach For America (TFA) is a national leader in the movement to end educational inequity by enlisting the country’s most promising future leaders in teaching, leading and advocating for schools that serve high numbers of low-income students. TFA recruits and trains top college graduates who commit to teaching in urban and rural public schools, and who ultimately become lifelong advocates of high-quality education for all students. Since 1990, TFA has grown to include more than 24,000 corps members (teachers) and alumni who have taught more than 3 million students across 35 regions nationwide.

“Until now, political and regulatory barriers have prevented TFA from establishing a presence in Washington State. Recent K-12 education reforms adopted by the state legislature, coupled with heightened community interest and support, have opened the door to TFA’s launch of a Puget Sound program. [SB6696? — sue p.]

“There are a number of donors and funders who are supporting this effort, including the following:: The Seattle Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Raikes Foundation, The Bezos Family Foundation, Intelius Inc.

“ACTIVITIES AND RESULTS: TFA plans to bring 150 Teach for America teachers to the Puget Sound over three years, beginning in Fall 2011. In order to do so, TAF must achieve three key milestones by August 1, 2010:
Secure partnerships (and commitments totaling $1 million over 3 years) with 3-5 school districts

Develop an agreement with a partner—most typically a local university—to certify TFA teachers
Secure $5.2 million in private sector funding
“RECENT GRANTS: In order to bring TFA to the Puget Sound region, TFA must secure $5.2 million in private funds. The Seattle Foundation will dedicate $250,000 to this effort, and is committed to raising an additional $250,000 from TSF donors and contributors (for a total of $500,000).
“GET INVOLVED: Make a contribution: Help us bring the important work of Teach for America to the Puget Sound region by making a contribution to this important initiative. Give online or call (206) 622-2294. Learn more: Become involved with the League of Education Voters and support their work to bring Teach For America to Puget Sound area schools. Contact Caroline Maillard, Education Element Lead at The Seattle Foundation, at (206) 622-2294 or c.maillard [at] seattlefoundation.org to learn more about Teach For America and other efforts to support high quality public schools and give children the skills they need to succeed in school and life.”

10/3/10 7:27 PM

— sp.