The ‘Cosmo’ magazine for middle aged women is called ‘More.’ My mother-in-law just gave me her copy of the December 2010 issue since it had this lengthy article about Wendy Kopp.
My opinion about Wendy has fluctuated throughout the years. She’s only a year older than me, so when I first saw her in 1991 when she was about 23, the thing I noticed about her was that she wore a lot of pink.
In 1996, when I was working at the institute as a CMA, I was riding the elevator in Moody Towers when she got on. TFA was still pretty small, relatively speaking (there was only one institute) so I wasn’t overly intimidated, though I was a little. I asked her if I could have permission to print and sell to the CMs a self-published collection of essays that I wrote as a corps member myself and had printed in the Houston TFA newsletter (some of those essays are re-printed on this blog). She said that I could, and with that I had a boost to my writing career. When those essays eventually grew into my first book (I used the self-published thing I made my pitch to actual publishers), I included Wendy in the acknowledgments.
I sent her a copy of ‘Reluctant Disciplinarian’ when it came out in 1999 and she wrote back a nice hand written note, saying that she really liked it. A few years later I attended a book signing party for her book ‘One Day’ and I was pleased that she knew who I was still, and wrote something along the lines of ‘Thanks for your humor,’ which I really appreciated.
But starting about 5 years ago, I got concerned that Wendy had gotten overly charmed with charter schools. I went to a TFA fundraiser (I get a fellowship from a program called ‘Math For America’ (no relation) which buys a table each year, and I get to go since I’m part of both programs) and that’s all she talked about. Charter this, charter that. It didn’t seem like she had a good sense that Charters (even the good ones) won’t be the way to ensure that ‘ALL CHILDREN’ will one day have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.
I was also concerned, based on the horrible ‘Teaching As Leadership’ book, that Wendy had given her advisors too much power. She had put too much trust into the author of that book in revealing to the public what TFA had learned about teacher training after two decades of tinkering. My nine part review of that book is, in my opinion, the best blogging I’ve ever done, though the amount of effort I put into it probably reveals a bit more about myself than I probably should.
But this past year at that same fundraiser, Wendy had a different tone. She wasn’t mentioning charter schools at all, she was praising ‘traditional schools.’ Wendy was coming around — evolving.
Now, with this new article, which I encourage you to read (those of you who do not already subscribe to ‘More.’), I have even more respect for her. According to the article, Wendy actually gave some negative feedback to ‘Waiting For Superman’ to an audience of Charter School Executives. She even said that some charter school leaders “should very possibly be put in jail.”
Another thing I was pleased to see is that Wendy feels (like me) that the training aspect of TFA, despite its obvious importance, is the weakness of the organization. I’ve been saying this for almost 20 years, myself. I think that the flaws of the training model, which are so clear to me, are invisible to some of the people making the decisions of what needs to be improved and how to do that. I hope that improving the training is considered a priority by TFA and that they are willing to explore many options for how to get teachers ready to teach in just five weeks. When they’re ready to hear what they should do, they know where to find me.