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Jun 26 2012

Join me live on Spreecast this Wednesday 6/27

It has been a while, but I’m going to attempt another live internet video chat show on Spreecast. If you want to watch or participate, go to this Wednesday June 27th at 10:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. I’ll be talking about some of the latest developments in education reform news, including the new TFA…

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Jun 25 2012

The power of negative thinking

Reading the great blog posts by new corps members give me a real insight into what they are, and are not, being taught at institute.  I really appreciate that these new TFAers are willing to write about their thoughts and failures, and I hope that my re-posting some of their comments does not discourage any…

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Jun 24 2012

Same problems, different year

Looking over some of the new corps members blog entries, I’m struck by their enthusiasm despite their revelation that my biggest critique of TFA over the past few years is still valid in 2012. Student teaching classes are ridiculously small.  In Mississippi I read a post here where they have just 11 students, and one…

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Jun 22 2012

Has TFA attrition improved since the first corps?

Going through some old stuff I located a copy of an article from the New York Times on June 26, 1991, just after I arrived at the Los Angeles TFA institute to begin my training. The headline was ‘For Freshman Teacher Corps, a Sobering Year’ and I located it on the New York Times archive…

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Jun 22 2012

TFA: The paradox of ed reform

When you hear proponents of the current style of ed ‘reform’ speak about their mission, it is all about getting ‘great teachers.’  LIFO causes us to fire great teachers.  Three great teachers in a row can close the achievement gap.  Effective teachers teach three times as much as ineffective teachers.  Despite all the research that…

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A few weeks ago I did my first ever radio interview.  I have to admit that I was a bit nervous.  Writing a blog is a lot easier since you can stop and think about what you want to write, but you just can’t do that on the radio.  Some of the editing I wasn’t…

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Jun 18 2012

What charters teach us

Charter schools were conceived as places for innovation so the lessons learned from these experiments can be shared with all schools to help them improve. After twenty years of such experimentation, there is finally one very clear strategy charters have cultivated to narrow the achievement gap for their students.  The strategy, unfortunately, is not very…

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Jun 18 2012

The Don’ts and Don’ts of Teaching

I’ll take a break from my relentless critique of TFA to offer some teaching advice to the new corps members.  Having written two books of teaching advice, I was invited, a few months ago, to write a short article for Educational Leadership Magazine with the best advice I’d give to new teachers. I decided to…

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Jun 17 2012


A TFA blogger called yoteach on this site recently wrote a post revealing a juicy secret about me that I have been trying to conceal, evidently, for years. I could deny that this secret is true, but there is too much evidence, so let me come clean right here: I am not still teaching at…

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Jun 16 2012


I got my start as a writer with my monthly submissions to the Teach For America Houston newsletter during my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years of teaching (1992-1995).  As the columns were supposed to be light and funny, I avoided certain topics that would be tough to make humorous. The way I write a first…

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Jun 14 2012

Teach For Un-America

America is supposed to be ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’  And our bravery is really just an offshoot of our freedom — we can feel brave to say and write what we want because we know we have the freedom to do so.  This is something that makes our…

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Jun 13 2012

Wendy at Dartmouth: Builders vs. Haters

A few days ago, June 10th, Wendy Kopp, founder of TFA delivered the commencement address at Dartmouth (read it or see it here).  Aside from the appropriate motivational stories that make a commencement speech inspirational and relevant, Wendy also dedicated a fairly significant portion of her speech to the TFA critics. Now I’ve been criticizing…

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Jun 12 2012

It takes a village

Probably the worst part about being an opponent of bad education reform is when I have to ‘debunk’ a potential ‘miracle school.’  A ‘miracle’ school is one that gets extremely high test scores despite having the same types of students as the nearby failing school.  The miracle school, if it exists, would prove that poverty…

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Jun 09 2012

Confessions of a recovering value-adder

In general, the ‘better’ I teach, the better my students do on my bi-weekly exams.  A big part of teaching is trying to accurately monitor assessment during the lessons and trying to ensure that by the time that the teacher-made test is administered, the students will do well.  There are exceptions.  I’ve taught units with…

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Jun 09 2012


A new blogger called bottlecap on this site called ‘Insert Witty Title Here’ has written an interesting post about the experience so far at induction.  It seems that TFA is going heavy with the ‘ice breakers’ and getting people in touch with their feelings.  Already, new CMs are starting to get a little nervous about…

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I do not deny that some teachers are more talented than others.  My first year I was a very ineffective teacher who spent half of each class trying to maintain order.  My second through fifteenth years, I was much better.  But even within the very small sample size of myself, there is variation.  Some days…

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Jun 07 2012

Evil geniuses or good simpletons?

When arguing against the corporate reform movement, it is natural to try to figure out what their motivation is.  They SAY that they are doing it for ‘the children,’ but sometimes it is hard to believe.  If they really cared about the children, why would they insist on implementing reforms that have never worked, even…

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In 2002, a TFA alum made an 11 minute documentary about what a typical day for a New York 2002 corps member was during the summer training.  It aired on PBS along with a bunch of other shorts. Since I have a small cameo in this — the corps member attended the workshop on classroom…

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

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