Aug 26 2011

Class Warfare: Fact Checking Pages 351 to 400

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pages 1 to 100
pages 101 to 200
pages 201 to 300
pages 301 to 350
pages 351 to 400
pages 401 to 437
Note: This is a continuation of the last post, so be sure to read that one first.

Page 351:  A school administrator said about Weingarten’s criticism of TFA “she’d be glad to get as many of its recruits as she could.”  I have a friend who is a TFA alum and a principal and over the years he took fewer and fewer TFA members.  It seems like two new ones a year was the magic number since even if they do a good job, schools need a stable teaching staff.

Page 355:  In the footnote he mentions that at Harlem Success Academy there were some new TFA teachers “but at Harlem Success they would be assistant teachers who would not run a classroom.  Harlem Success allows only teachers with teaching experience, which could include one year as an assistant teacher at HSA, to be lead teachers in a classroom.”  Whoa.  I was already angry about how many TFA teachers are placed in charter schools.  Now I’m learning that the $40,000 or so dollars it cost to train and support a TFAer is being spent so they can have a year of being an assistant teacher at a charter and then get to teach at that charter for their second (and maybe last — er, first?) year?  Even I’m shocked by this.  It’s as bad as the story this year where a new TFAer was assigned to be a KIPP phys ed teacher.

I guess I shouldn’t be that upset.  With the poor quality of the training, this is probably the place where the under-trained TFAer can do the least damage.  But I’d prefer they fix the training and send them to a place where they can ‘make a difference.’

Page 357:  ‘Teach Like A Champion” is mentioned.  It is quite a good book, though this TFA corps member rated it as only the third best book for new teachers. I wonder what was #1?

Page 360:  New York is not revealing that they didn’t really meet the requirements to apply for RTTT, but are continuing anyway.

Page 362:  The LA times publishes the ratings of all their 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers.  He describes this as “what would rank in any era as one of its most important pieces of enterprise reporting.”

Page 365:  He explains about value-added, but he already explained the concept of value-added earlier in the book, when he implied that Klein invented it, though it had been around since at least 1996 with Sanders in Tennessee.

Page 367:  L.A. Times article explained “Although teachers are paid more for experience, education and training, none of this had much bearing on whether they improved students’ performance.”  How can experience and training not help make a teacher better?

Page 369:  One of the ‘highly effective’ teachers in the L.A. Times ranking said her favorite movie was ‘Stand And Deliver.’  Jaime Escalante’s story, though, is wildly exaggerated in the movie.  In reality, he team taught and the class was not a bunch of misfits but the top students that came through the school.  Wendy Kopp likes to talk about that movie also since it was new around the time she was devising TFA.

Page 370:  “Making performance scores public might embarrass some teachers or even UNFAIRLY stigmatize them because SOME OF THE RATINGS MAY BE INACCURATE.  But those negatives are outweighed by the benefit to the children and their parents of getting a read on how their teachers are performing and holding teachers accountable.”  (Emphases added.)

Page 370:  “By 2010, TFA had poured so much effort into recovering from its early lapses in training and supporting its corps members that it had perhaps the best data system anywhere measuring its teachers’ performance.”  He had already said that the training was terrible in 2004 earlier in the book.  And it hasn’t changed much since then.  Also, as far as their data system being the best, I know that is untrue.  They have a system where the corps members self-report pretest and posttest results, sometimes on tests that they created themselves.  They then declare that a large percent of the new teachers get ‘significant gains’ (which is 1.5 years of progress in one year.) See the comments after this blog post of mine for confessions from actual corps members about how bogus their stats are.

Page 372:  New York wins RTTT despite not being compliant.  This section from 371 to 378 is the craziest in the book so far.  Basically the judges of RTTT have no idea what they’re doing.  States that should have been disqualified win, while states that should have won, like Colorado, lost.  The RTTT scoring is almost as inaccurate as the value-added scoring for teachers.

Page 384:  Says that under Rhee “The schools were clearly doing better.  Test scores and graduation rates were up, and Rhee had built a national following as someone who might be taking no prisoners but was getting the job done.”  This article suggests otherwise.

page 384:  Rhee fired 226 teachers, or 5% of them.  Brill doesn’t mention that she eventually has to rehire 75 of them.

Page 385: Rhee says “We were so sure that what w were doing was right, ad we could see the numbers that proved it.” She resigns after Mayor Fenty lost, but new mayor picks Kaya Henderson to replace her and she seems to be continuing the same failed strategies.
Page 393: On Waiting For Superman, Tilson says “Waiting For Superman is focused on schools that PROVE, beyond any doubt, that demography is NOT destiny and that schools CAN change the life trajectories of kids, even the most disadvantaged ones.” (emphases was Tilson’s) Actually they exclude the ‘most disadvantaged ones’ who don’t apply for the lottery, or who win the lottery and are counseled out before starting, or are counseled out after starting. (There are probably some non-corrupt charters out there, but many are corrupt in that way.)
And what does ‘demography is not destiny’ really mean? Is there anyone who thinks that poor kids — none of them — are not capable of learning. They are saying, though, that they’ve figured out how to get large percentages of poor kids getting incredible gains in short periods of times with no games with statistics. If they have, why not share their secrets with the rest of us?

Page 399: “Klein’s impending departure in December 2010 triggered multiple retrospectives on his tenure, almost all positive.” Not this one.

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pages 1 to 100
pages 101 to 200
pages 201 to 300
pages 301 to 350
pages 351 to 400
pages 401 to 437

9 Responses

  1. Rob

    I find your article intriguing Mr. Rubinstein, especially as a potential candidate for TFA. Your genuine commitment to this subject is admirable. You seem to have a critical view of the TFA causing me to contemplate my commitment to continue through the application process. Was this your objective? I guess I am looking for some guidance here teach. I am a business student with many potential career paths, but I was most excited about the opportunity to help children through education instead of continuing my career in the corporate world. In my view the brilliance of TFA is that it gives people in my situation the option to get involved in education reform that would otherwise not have existed. I believe you would agree that this is an advantage of TFA, but you feel that the organization is potentially harming the reform due to misrepresentation of the facts. I hear what your saying, but are you suggesting that education reform would be better off if TFA was not an important player? Sorry to steer this article in this direction, I think you did a fine job of exposing the holes in Brill’s argument. Hope to hear back from you.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Hi Rob,

      Thanks for the comment and question. Today yours and another comment are the first two times that anyone ever asked me if they should avoid applying for TFA, partly due to what they’ve heard about it through my blog.

      It’s a great question with a complicated answer.

      It sound like you want to join TFA for the same reasons that I joined TFA 20 years ago — you want to do something good for kids while also learning a lot about life yourself in the process. That’s why I did it, and at that time, that’s what I accomplished. At the time there were teacher shortages all over so I was only hired somewhere as a very last resort since if they could get anyone more qualified than me, they would have.

      I wasn’t too successful my first year, but, like finishing a marathon, finishing does matter — even to the kids I taught. My second year I really did a great job and am very proud of that. I did continue teaching, but even if I didn’t I think my second year might have done more good for kids than my first year did harm to kids. And I’m sure that my participation did no harm to any teachers (I didn’t take away anyone’s job), any school (my failures in the first year didn’t get my school shut down and my successes my second year didn’t get some other school shut down), or even the country itself.

      TFA, unfortunately, does not represent those same values anymore. There are programs that do, but they often require longer commitments. I really like the Mississippi Teacher Corps as an alternative too.

      This does not mean, though, that I’m saying you should not apply for TFA. You see, even though TFA, the organization, has, in my mind ‘sold its soul’ to the corporate reform movement, I find that the corps members themselves go into TFA with the same values that I did 20 years ago. They have no idea that they are being used as pawns in a game of chess that could just end in disaster.

      So, here’s what I would say: Apply to TFA and see if you get in. If you get in, tell them that you will only accept if you can go to a site that is not suffering teacher layoffs and you would like to go to either a public school or a charter school that is struggling (i.e. not cheating). Going to a high-performing charter or to a city that is laying off teachers unfairly to make room for you is becoming part of the problem, not the solution.

      Then assuming they don’t kick you out for not being flexible enough, you can learn about teaching from my blog and anywhere else you can to supplement their insufficient training.

      Here’s a post about how TFA has strayed that I’m particularly proud of:
      http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2011/05/21/what-happened-to-my-tfa/

      Gary

  2. CY

    Gary,
    I don’t understand the point of this “fact check:” “Page 369: One of the ‘highly effective’ teachers in the L.A. Times ranking said her favorite movie was ‘Stand And Deliver.’ Jaime Escalante’s story, though, is wildly exaggerated in the movie…. Wendy Kopp likes to talk about that movie also since it was new around the time she was devising TFA.”
    I haven’t read the book, so I’m not sure what that teacher said about S&D, but how does the story’s accuracy matter at all? It’s just a teacher’s favorite movie. She’s not calling it her bible and saying it’s her number 1 teaching guide (unless, of course, she does and you didn’t include that in your critique.)

    • Gary Rubinstein

      CY,

      I’ll admit that this isn’t my most vital point. I guess I’m using these posts as a way to point out the various lies / exaggerations that are common in the ed reform discussion. Since Wendy still talks a lot about this movie which was the major teacher-as-superhero movie of the 80s I thought I’d just make an observation. If I were to ever get these posts published in a magazine where it would have to be edited down, this would probably be the first section to go.

      Gary

  3. yoteach

    Hi Gary,

    Just a little fact checking the fact-checker:

    “Page 357: ‘Teach Like A Champion” is mentioned. It is quite a good book, though this TFA corps member rated it as only the third best book for new teachers. I wonder what was #1?”

    While I’m sure your book is great, (it must be to beat out two other wonderful books) self-promotion is not fact-checking.

    On another note, I will be posting a bit more here because
    a. your blog intrigues me
    b. I am currently one of many 2011 corps members not yet placed in a school. How common an occurrence is this, and what are your thoughts?

    Max

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Hi Max,

      Most of the fact checking isn’t really. It was supposed to be that, but became more of a commentary, and the self-promotion was something I thought would be funny / maybe lead to a book sale or two.

      Sorry to hear you haven’t been placed yet. TFA should not place people in sites that are not suffering teacher shortages, which doesn’t leave a lot of places nowadays. What happens when you don’t get placed? Does TFA pay you still? They should, if they don’t. Hang in there — there will be a lot of TFAers who quit and you can replace them.

      Gary

  4. yoteach

    Hey Gary,

    Thanks for the response, just poking some fun (and I’ll probably be one of those buyers in the near future). I know Brill’s book yielded a pretty heated/politicized response. I assume you’ve seen his interview turned dogfight with Diane Ravitch? (link at the end). It made me frustrated with the kinds of discussions we are having on education reform (on all sides!): straw-manning, ad hominem attacks, and cherry-picking studies instead of logical discussions that are meant to come to some higher understanding.

    TFA does pay us 90% of an “avg” salary for the first 40 days. After that, if we are still unplaced, we either get transferred or emergency released. I assumed Detroit was a freak case, but apparently Memphis still has 15 unplaced corps members and they are seven weeks into the school year. I’ve heard nothing about “placement rates” but it would certainly be an interesting thing to get figures on.

    Max

  5. yoteach

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

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