Jul 13 2012

Her Royal Majesty

There was an amazing development yesterday in the continuing saga of the incredible, and incredibly surprising, speech Dr. Camika Royal delivered to incoming 2012 corps members at the Philadelphia institute.

For those who have not been following this, I discovered the video on YouTube, blogged about how I agreed with the message, then the video was taken down, and then I wrote another post speculating why and even writing a parody letter from TFA explaining the situation.

But yesterday Dr. Royal stunned everyone by writing an article on The Huffington Post and re-posting the video of the speech.  In her article, she described how, as I figured, her speech was not ‘approved’ by TFA.  Though TFA generally does want to see, and edit, what is said publicly, it is pretty lame to trust someone enough to make a speech, but not enough to write one.  In this case, they did not make her get approval.

She wrote that she wasn’t pleased with being called an ‘anti-reformer,’ which I can understand.  That term is so loaded, but when I use it, I just mean opposed to destructive policies that have zero chance of working despite being called ‘reform.’  She does, however, say “I realize this view is contrary to those espoused by many neo-liberal education reformers, some of whom are also TFA alumni,” which is really what I was getting at, but didn’t have (and still don’t truly understand) the ‘neo-liberal’ qualifier.  I encourage everyone to read the article as Dr. Royal can aptly speak for herself to describe all the nuance of what went into her decision to temporarily pull the video and to give more context for people to understand what her point was.

Before she posts the text of the speech, she concludes with the powerful “I said it. I meant it. And I’m not taking it back.”

This woman is truly one of my heroes now.

I have no doubt that her post caused some kind of emergency meeting at TFA headquarters.  Dr. Royal had ‘gone rogue’ and, for the first time in many years, had broken the bizarrely untrue characterization by TFA that despite some minor disagreements, that alumni are generally all on the same page when it comes to ‘reform.’  Maybe TFA hasn’t said this explicitly, but based on who they choose to feature at different events, like panel discussions, and who they choose to shut out, it is clear that they would prefer if there was not dissent within the ranks.

TFA had two options:  1)  They could try to ignore and dismiss her comments (as they generally do with my criticism) or 2) They could act like they are thrilled about her comments.

Wisely, TFA went with option 2.  When I say they could ‘act like,’ I don’t mean that they are angry about what she said.  I think that TFA has probably felt like they wish they could acknowledge some of the alternative points of view by many of the alumni.  But this event really forced TFA to take a stance, which they did.

On Twitter they tweeted

Then Heather Harding, who argued on NPR that my similar concerns about TFA were “about ten years old” tweeted

Then Dr. Royal even did something that TFA can’t be thrilled with.  She re-tweeted Diane Ravitch’s announcement.  As Dr. Royal is also an education historian, she surely understands that Ravitch has very sophisticated views on the issues, contrary to the characterization by her critics.

Rather than allowing me to celebrate that I had started something that really will enable productive discussions to happen more easily, I started to get criticized on Twitter and through comments on my blog for being ‘wrong’ when I suspected that TFA was involved in the decision to pull the video.  Yes, I was wrong about that, but remember that if TFA had its way and had a chance to screen the speech, they likely wouldn’t have even let it happen, so TFA isn’t fully off the hook.  Well one TFA recruiter wrote me a nasty tweet and then Dr. Royal herself, responded with five words that really mean a lot to me.

Thanks, Camika.  And I’ll continue being nice to the people I disagree with just as I always have.

109 Responses

  1. Neoliberalism supports market pressure and choice (charter schools, recovery districts, etc.) to improve/liberalize institutions. Its general thrust is shock doctrinesque: it’s all utterly destroyed and horrendous, so we should blow it up and replace it with a brand spanking new privately-managed version.

    Ultimately, I think that neoliberal ideology – whether it’s subconscious or intended – is why we have the particular debate about public education that we do. Reformers see (or portray) it as entirely broken and corrupt and therefore in need of total replacement. That frames the discussion. They also tend to assume that anyone who disagrees is arguing the opposite (that public education is just fine the way it is), which is rarely the case. It makes for nice, clean pro and anti positions that allow reformers to avoid other factors (institutional racism/classism, poverty, etc.).

    • CAT

      I strongly agree. I feel like the debate is very black and white. One thing you said really peaked my interest, namely that the neoliberal left is the reformist camp that wants to replace the public system with privately-managed ones. It’s intriguing because such an ideal seems to fit more into a conservative paradigm, i.e. lessening the power of the government in one area and creating collections of microcosms of education. Could someone speak further on this pro-privitization liberal reform?

      • English teacher

        I can’t take it anymore; I’ve seen this once too many times to keep quiet: the word is PIQUED, not “peaked” or “peeked.” I would think educated people would know this.

  2. Michael Fiorillo

    Pro- privatization liberal reform has many sources: the weakening (purposeful, and occurring over many years, under Democratic and Republican administrations) of Labor as counterweight to the power of Capital, a thirty-year propaganda drumbeat about ” failing” public schools (starting with “A Nation at Risk” under Reagan), the takeover of the Democratic Party by neoliberal elements (iinstitutionalized under Clinton and continued under Obama), and full license to profit with impunity at the expense of the public good.

    Don’t confuse the neoliberals of the past thirty years with the mid-twentieth century understanding of the term, which acknowledged the necessity of having unions in order to temper the savage appetites of the market economy. Today’s neoliberals – who are quick to brag about their “social liberalism” which either costs them nothing or in case of legal abortion, aids workplace productivity – will reflexively say things like, “We needed unions in the bad old days, but they’ve outlived their usefulness because we don’t oppress workers here anymore.”

    That’s a hot one, isn’t it?

    Needless to say, so-called education reformers say things like this while they are busy monetizing the schools and the kids, which entails vicious attacks on teachers, since teachers and their unions are the only real institutional force standing in their way. Thus, the endless scapegoating.

    TFA is integral to ths process on many levels: manipulating the idealism of young people while having them become replacement workers (see it’s role in post-Katrina New Orleans, and their presumptive lurking in the background while the destruction of the Philadelphia public schools is occurring right now); helping teaching to become temporary, at-will employment; identifying, training and grooming leadership cadre for further school district takeovers (a la Michelle Rhee, John White Cami Anderson and Mark Sternberg, and something that Wendy Kopp has said is probably more important to her than anything her recruits do in the classroom); and finally by providing a feel-good narrative of well-meaning white missionaries (with some strategically placed black faces) whose fervor will redeem the poor, while going to any lengths to keep economic iniquities and democratic oversight from intruding on the education reform narrative.

    Most deceptive and insidious of all, they wrap themselves (with insipid condescension and patronization) in the mantle of the Civil Rights Movement while doing it.

    • UrbanLad

      Bravo! Touche!. I’ve used the missionaries analogy also. We know how well that worked in different parts of the world. That will most likely be the case here as well. Sadly it will take a few more years for this to pan out.
      Most laughable about TFA is the “Civil Rights Movement” mantle. Obviously poor scholars. Their version of civil rights is the exact opposite of what civil rights are. The people denied and oppressed are the same they are trying to “save” not ‘serve’.

      • efavorite

        good points, Urban Lad – no TFAers here have gone after the missionary analogy the way they went after the Watergate and Catholic church analogies (while strangely not mentioning Gary’s reference to Hitler). Perhaps they see missionaries are being positive or at least inoffensive.

        As for the “Civil rights issue of our day” – let’s remember that whites and blacks marched together against government oppressors. Current and former TFA members will deserve that mantle, in my opinion, only when they break ranks with the big bucks privatizers and join ranks with rank-and-file educators against harmful government programs like NCLB and RttT and cheating scandals overseen by prominent TFA alums.

  3. Tuvuu

    Just want to clarify that this is meant as an honest question and not an attempt to be snarky or get in arguments. I am legitimately interested in people’s responses.

    In following debates within education, the dividing line I often hear from critics of reform is that the individuals who support teachers unions and want them strengthened are the progressives and that those who have any critiques of teachers unions or local district contracts (and who are therefore attracted to work at non-unionized charters, for example) are neo-liberal (regardless of their own political identification).

    My question is that, isn’t this dichotomy inaccurate in the context of the history of 20th century progressivism? Put differently, isn’t there a tradition of progressives who strongly believe in private sector unions (as a balancing force to the profit motive) but who have varying critiques of public sector unions? Obviously FDR and Laguardia are the most commonly cited examples here- it has been pointed out that FDR’S opinion on public sector unions wasn’t that different from Scott Walker’s.

    I think of a progressive as people who believe that society should be arranged to maximize equality, that strong govt is the best means to do so (at least in the forseeable future) and in particular provide justice and equality possible to the most marginalized in society (I’m sure we can quibble w/ the def but you get the point). Given that, there’s a reason why there have been two sides to what self-identified progressives have believed about public sector unions- those who (like Michael, I’m inferring from his comment) believe that they’re necessary because the needs and rights of government workers need to be ensured so that they can do great work and those who’d argue that the fundamental question of great government should be, “how do we provide the absolute best for individuals in need,” which is often but not always in line every time with “what will be most desirable to govt employees in bargaining.”

    I know that Scandinavian countries are often cited as examples of places where strong public sector unions have been enablers of higher quality government services and in many ways that’s a compelling point. Looking at the history of those countries though you find a very unique approach to unionism in the early days of social democracy in particular– unions worked closely with business leaders and the government and had to compromise quite a bit. For instance public sector workers were ensured high wages but with the compromise of agreeing not to strike and not micro-defining other bargaining principals. It was a different model of unionism that was focused very extrinsically on what is good for everybody in society whether they were union members or not.

    Obviously, a counterpoint to that is that model of unionism is impossible without very different compromises from government and business.

    I hope I’m being as objective as possible in not trying to say that one analysis is right or wrong but just want to ask– isn’t it possible to have misgivings about how progressive public service unions are (either in theory or practice).

    I don’t work in a charter myself but i have a lot of friends who do who consider themselves very progressive but worked at the charter because they found that their local union wasn’t acting in a way that they thought would ensure great things for poor kids. Again, you can critique whether their choice was right or not, but I think there’d at the very least be a robust debate to be had amongst folks who have a lot more in common politically than they don’t.

    • I hope I’m being as objective as possible in not trying to say that one analysis is right or wrong but just want to ask– isn’t it possible to have misgivings about how progressive public service unions are (either in theory or practice).

      Sure it is. That’s why there are progressive/radical caucuses within teachers’ unions.

      The reason I am not terribly interested in debating with people who leave real public schools because of the terrible unions is that I find their stance exceptionally reductive: the union is failing children. Not poverty. Not racism. Not the district. Not the government. The union.

      And in turning to charter schools, I don’t really think they can argue they’re doing better by children. They’ve certainly selected a neoliberal solution for their perceived education crisis, too, which makes me wonder about the depth of their progressive beliefs.

    • Michael Fiorillo

      Tuvuu,
      I don’t see your comment as snarky, though I disagree with many of the premises behind what you say, and think honest argument is a perfectly fine thing. Part of my problem with TFA is that they act and argue dishonestly, and manipulate the idealism of the majority of young people who are drawn to it (excepting, of course, the Michelle Rhee-type sociopaths who should be kept away from children, either directly in the classroom or through policy-making).

      First off, you are wrong to say that only supporters of so-called education reform are critical of unions. While I have been an active opponent of privatization and charter schools for years – I (futilely) warned Randi Weingarten about the dangers of charters when the NYS charter law was signed in 1998 – I have also been an open opponent of my union’s leadership. If you look at teacher opposition to the hostile takeover of the public schools, you will find a disproportionate number of opponents of the AFT and NEA leadership, people whose criticism goes well beyond the leadership’s collaboration with those who would destroy our unions and our schools.

      Second, what is it about the union contracts that is so offesnive to your progressive friends, and makes them seemingly accept the ed deformer line that the contract is opposed to the interests of children, while presumably accepting the preposterous fallacy that those who’ve overseen and benefitted from the increasing economic inequality of the past 35 years have the best interests of children at heart? How do your friends reconcile that? While budgets for charter schools increase, the public schools suffer round after round of austerity and cutbacks: don’t they see a problem with that?

      Do you and your friends really accept the ed reform line that teachers and their unions are the cause of the inequality that is overtaking the country? If so, however well-educated they may be, they are fooling themselves.

      As for your friends’ indignance over the union contract, what is it? Is it the contract’s class size limits, which in NYC are the only thing that prevents Michael Bloomberg from putting 60 students in a class, as is happening in Detroit in September (where is Wendy Kopp’s outrage over that, or is she working on a contract to have TFA recruits replace Detroit teachers, all of whom were laid off in June?)?

      Is it tenure (aka due process), which allows teachers to advocate for their students without fear of immediate dismissal (and what about those teacher firing and attrition rates in charter schools: how does that help poor children?), and which protects academic freedom?

      Is it pension (which the overwhelming majority of charters don’t offer to their purposefully temporary workforce) and health benefits, and limits on what can easily become a 24 hour workday (sorry, but I think teachers have a right to an outside life, and reject the false TFA/ ed deformer trope that we must be martyrs who are the only hope for poor children)? Ask your friends why, among people who otherwise celebrate Social Darwinism and uncontrolled self interest, teachers are the only ones expected to sacrifice themselves and passively accept abuse and slander?

      And before you respond by asking about the unions protecting “bad” teachers, three questions: first what would you otherwise do about teachers unjustly attacked by vindictive supervisors (it happens all the time)? Second, where is the discussion of management responsibility and ineptitude in all this, since a probationary teacher can be fired for any reason or no reason at all? Third, why is the debate about competence and abuse restricted only to teachers? Why not cops (who are given guns and license to use them)? Why not health insurance administrators, who are give life and death decision-making power? Why only teachers? Could it be because public school teachers work in virtually the last field to not yet be monetized down to the last $25.00 Tylenol pill dispensed in a hospital?

      Do your progressive friends really think the Walton Family Foundation has the best interests of poor and minority children at heart, and supports vouchers and charters for that reason? If they do, please have them contact me: I have a bridge I’d like to sell them, and some fantastic opportunities selling dietary supplements I’d like to offer them.

      As for Roosevelt’s ambivalence – which is what it was – and LaGuardia’s opposition to public employee unions, you are repeating a false right wing talking point that was most recently used in the struggles over collective bargaining in Wisconsin, and has been trumpeted by the right wing/libertarian echo chamber of the Heritage Foundation, Federalist Society, Manhattan Institute, et. al.

      In fact, Roosevelt’s purported opposition to collective bargaining is based on the misrepresentation of one letter FDR wrote in 1937, in which he voiced opposition to strikes by public workers. A takedown of the Right’s false statements about this letter can be found at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/21/948033/wisconsin-GOP-lying...

      While it’s impossible to know what FDR might think of public employee unions today, it’s not unfair to ask if his opinions might be influenced by the wholesale attacks against unions and working people over the past thirty years.

      In LaGuardia’s case, he was also opposed to public employee strikes, believing civil service protections adequate to protect the interests of public employees. Needless to say, those quickest to point out this opposition are also doing their utmost to destroy civil service protections as well, though they won’t mention it in the same misleading articles.

      According to Joseph E. Slater in “Public Workers: Government Employees, Unions, the Law and the State, 1900-1962,” LaGuardia “… insisted that good government came from the ‘merit system’ of civil service, and did not want unions interfering with his authority… Beyond ideology, LaGuardia may simply have been less sympathetic to unions of ‘his’ workers.” (p. 134). Perhaps, as mayor, LaGuardia just gave in to his Inner Boss.

      Finally, without calling into question your friends good intentions for their students or their need to eat, I suggest they look a little more critically at what charter schools actually do, on a structural and institutional level, versus what they claim: creaming students and worsening pre-existing segregation and unfair school funding, diverting funds from public schools to private entities (which is what charter schools are), collaborating with the destruction of democratic governance and oversight of the schools, destroying the neighborhood public school (and Parochial schools, for that matter), busting unions and thus worsening the future economic prospects of the students they claim to want to help, especially those who might be so foolish as to contemplate a teaching career.

      It’s one thing to criticize the (many) shortcomings of teacher unions and the public schools, but it’s a different order of magnitude to work for and uncritically accept the premises of private entities that seek their destruction. Charter schools are objectively reactionary, and while it’s one thing to work for one out of financial necessity, it’s quite another to drink their Kool-Aid and deceive yourself into thinking they are a progressive force.

      • Fantastic conversation happening here. Thank you both. Here is my personal story about why I fight TFA, charters, and neoliberal education reform: http://mskatiesramblings.blogspot.com/2012/07/i-started-this-post-with-something-much.html As you can see, I know personally why unions, tenure, and worker rights matter. I also think that Chicago’s example of a progressive teacher caucus (CORE) winning leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union shows how unions can work well for the best interest of kids. In Chicago, the CTU is fighting the good fight against corporate interests trying to destroy our public schools. And I am proud to stand with them.

  4. Cal

    “Neoliberal” is a kind of weird term, when you think of it. It’s a play on “neoconservatives”, or “new conservatives”. These, originally, were liberals who were very tough on communism and then, over time, tough on social policy and eventually became conservatives (Podhoretz, Kirkpatrick, Scoop Jackson).

    So you would think neoliberal would be people who were conservative and moved liberal, but it’s not.

    It is a way of talking about liberals who have adopted typically conservative views but still consider themselves liberals. Very odd, how the name came about–and even odder, I knew exactly what the reference meant when I first heard it.

    The only “neoliberal” position, at this point in time, is in education–anti-teacher, anti-union, pro-charter.

    • Michael Fiorillo

      It’s not the New Deal liberalism many of us grew up with or that Rush Limbaugh foams about; it’s liberalism in the classic eighteenth century economics sense: laissez faire, minimal restraints on trade (which was the basis for the US Supreme Court ruling unions to be a conspiracy to restrict trade before the passage of the Wagner Act, and why federal judges were thus able to order the military to put down strikes in the 19th and early 20th century), property and contract rights, and privatization (back then under the Enclosure Acts in England,, today meaning the privatization of public land, schools and infrastructure) of the common wealth of society.

  5. Jack

    TFA apparently does far more damage outside the
    classroom than it does inside. Next time, anyone
    anywhere says that Teach for America is a well-intentioned organization that is “just trying to close the achievement gap,” re-read, or at least remember what follows in this post.

    What follows is a chilling tale about how not all recent TFA alumni head to Wall Street, law school, M.B.A. school, etc. (though most do). The TFA folks brag about those CM’s who “remain in education”.

    NOTE: they don’t say, “remain in the classroom”.

    Here is some info about what those who don’t “remain in the classroom” are actually doing.

    TFA has an arm called “Leadership for Education
    Equity” (LEE). After two years of slumming
    and (often, but not always) amateurish teaching, some TFA alums head to Portland to work at the (recently-co-opted) astroturf organization “STAND FOR CHILDREN”, a union-busting, privatizing, corporate sham.

    (SEE the video of STAND FOR CHILDREN leader Jonah Edelman’s gleeful performance at last summer’s ASPEN education conference… he looked, acted, and sounded like Heydrich at the Wannasee Conference… Kenneth Branagh played Heydrich in the WANNASSEE CONFERENCE movie. See it. It’s great.)

    There, they are trained to work in ALEC as
    “Education Task Force Directors”, where they help
    write and lobby for ALEC’s legislation—designed to smash unions, impose merit pay, evaluation based on standardized testing, raise class size sky-high, expand charter schools, convert public schools into privatized charter schoos.

    They are also trained and placed in other positions of power in both the federal and state goverments.

    BELOW is a post form Daily Kos at:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/08/1089724/-The-ALEC-Teach-for-America-Connection

    The blogger, with citations, connects the dots:

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

    annie emFollowRSS
    Daily Kos member

    Profile
    Diaries (list)
    Stream

    Tue May 08, 2012 at 08:56 AM PDT
    The ALEC — Teach for America Connection
    by annie emFollow
    Share925
    permalink 13 Comments

    “It’s no secret that ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council, has an education agenda. The templates for policy can be accessed at ALEC EXPOSED.

    “However, transforming a template to policy doesn’t happen instantaneously. How does the ideology translate into law?

    “Could it be with a little help from Teach for America?

    “Bear with me while I connect the dots.

    “Originally posted at Great Schools for America

    “Last summer, quite by accident, I met a group of about six young adults on the MAX here in Portland who were traveling from the airport to train for their new jobs. They were talking about having
    just finished their TFA teaching jobs and how happy they were to be done with it.

    “Being an unemployed teacher myself, I listened for a while and then struck up a conversation. They identified themselves as Teach for America corps members who had just completed their obligatory
    two year stints in the classroom. They were headed to the Stand for Children offices to be trained in writing education policy. Most had been hired to work as legislative assistants in state houses around the country.

    “I asked a few probing questions about their education expertise, especially in policy. Turns out none of them had any education credentials. Some had worked on their masters degrees during teaching, but none had studied education or education policy.

    “They really didn’t get my point.

    “The arrogance was palpable.

    “I finally asked one of them point blank, “Don’t you think you should have some education and experience before writing education policy?”

    “They assured me that over the next two weeks (I think, anyway, short time) they would be trained to do it.

    “I hadn’t thought about that encounter much since.

    “But when I read Diane Ravitch’s latest article in the Answer Sheet, Ravitch: A Primer on the Group Driving School Reform, it occurred to me that Stand for Children is now the conduit to the uniformity in education legislation using Teach for America
    “leaders” as the delivery system.

    “Last summer ALEC was barely a blip on my radar so I hadn’t make a connection back then.

    “Could Stand for Children be training former Teach for America corps members to write ALEC policy for state legislatures?

    “I know Oregon legislators aren’t savvy enough to develop language and coordinate ideas that mesh with those in other states, but their Teach for America, Stand for Children trained assistants may well be.

    “With a little help from a persistent friend, this is what I found out.

    ” ‘Leadership for Education Equity (LEE) is the political leg of Teach for America.

    ” ‘Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) is a 501(c) (4) nonprofit organization that was launched in 2007 to inspire, train and support Teach For America alumni and corps members to pursue public leadership by providing or connecting them to high impact volunteer and career opportunities in politics, policy, advocacy, and elected office. ‘

    ” ‘Over the years, Teach For America alumni and corps members expressed a growing desire to engage more with the policy and political contexts that so impacted what they saw happening at the school and classroom level.

    ” ‘Recognizing that Teach For America’s ability to engage in or to support advocacy and political
    work is quite limited as a traditional 501(c)(3) organization, LEE was born.”

    “Translation: Legally, Teach for America can’t write or influence education policy, but by creating a faux nonprofit, it can.

    “On the LEE home page, a job posting for ALEC is listed — lower right.

    ‘ Featured Job
    ‘ Education Task Force Director

    ‘ Company: American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

    ‘ Type of Position: Full-time; Non-Profit

    ‘ Location: Washington, DC ‘

    “After an exhaustive search no financial records for this organization were found.

    “Funding sources are also scarce. Teach for America’s influence reaches far beyond the damage its recruits do in the classroom. It produces ‘leaders’ whose mission is to privatize public education under the guise of astroturf organizations like LEE and many others that only give lip service to education equity.

    “Through this seemingly innocuous network, TFA has been able to infiltrate every facet of education by placing former corps members in positions of
    power.

    “With an infrastructure like that, it’s no that wonder ALEC has been so successful in moving its education agenda forward.”

  6. Michael Fiorillo

    “You aren’t bringing light and hope. The hope is here. Walk in it.”

    Wow, maybe I was wrong: perhaps TFA isn’t a cat’s paw in the hostile takeover of the public schools.

    Perhaps it’s really the Scientology of Education!

  7. efavorite

    Thank you, Dr. Royal for speaking for yourself and for speaking out for children, teachers and the school district.

    Perhaps now other TFAers who share your opinions will have the courage to speak out too and really do something worthwhile for society.

  8. Hmm, I was wrong and right. TFA didn’t know the content of her speech after all. But I correctly guessed that she had temporarily taken the video private of her own accord due to the unexpected publicity it was receiving. I would have done the same.

    This incident has really highlighted for me how quick people are to jump to conclusions based on their preconceived notions. It doesn’t make for very constructive conversation.

    • meghank

      Yes, you are right. It was wrong of you to jump to the conclusion that TFA had reviewed her speech.

      • In my defense, TFA /did/ review my speech at its Southern New England Summit, and the speeches of an alum and a community member who spoke as well. Maybe it’s standard practice not to review speeches of speakers who have already spoken at prior TFA events, I don’t know. In any case, it’s to TFA’s credit that they didn’t know the content of the speech a priori and still had no role in taking it private.

        • efavorite

          No need to defend yourself — your experience was simply different from hers.

          And I don’t see how TFA deserves any credit (or any blame) for anything in this situation. TFA as an entity has been completely absent from this discussion.

    • “This incident has really highlighted for me how quick people are to jump to conclusions based on their preconceived notions. It doesn’t make for very constructive conversation.”

      …YES. We are so anxious to assume and respond and be definite. Part of me likes the internet as a forum for this, with screenshots and immediacy and urgency, even with a “delete” and “edit” button, because it is now almost as authentic as real life. The mistakes you claim become permanent even when you try to take them back. It allows for missteps and accidents.

      I don’t like, though, that when the new information comes out it is impossible to entirely overlap the old– so if that false assumption is put out there once, no one can say how deep the damage goes. Every time I read one of these extremist anti-TFA comments I wince for the number of people that read that and little else, and walk away with a self-righteous pessimistic attitude about TFA. It’s easy to rip something down; it’s hard to admit to complexities and gray.

      • meghank

        I don’t think you should worry about the people who read such comments and little else, and come away with a bad impression of TFA for that reason. If they are reading blogs such as this one, they are more than likely doing a lot of other reading and reaching an informed viewpoint about these issues.

        It’s the people who read nothing but the numerous headlines attacking teachers and public schools you should worry about. Those headlines are much more prominent than these blog posts.

        You’re exactly right about the more recent news not entirely replacing the old. One excellent example: Michelle Rhee’s reputation as a savior of public schools despite the news of widespread cheating caused by her reforms in D.C.

        • Teacher too

          Or the fact that she is presently being sued by a teacher whistleblower who she fired.

          http://www.rheefirst.com/whistleblower-sues-rhee-alleges-erasuregate-cover-up

          http://www.rheefirst.com/second_amended_complaint.pdf

          I’m sure her AstroTurf supporters, Gates and Murdoch, will front her the legal feels to find a way to slither from the lawsuit.

        • efavorite

          Things are getting better on the Rhee front. Last year it seemed I was the only one criticizing her — with an boatload of documented facts.

          Now whenever I see an article about Rhee, there are many negative, accurate comments about her and more often than not, the article is accurately negative as well.

          Her influence is waning, but it’s still too strong. I suspect she is being propped up by the corporate reform movement until she loses so much credibility that she’s of no use to them anymore.

          • Teacher too

            If you haven’t, check out http://www.rheefirst.com. They usually update daily. Lots of information there. She will be around for a while…she has millions to go….and mostly for herself.

            There are so many fraudulent reforms now …they are actually tripping all over each other. They may eventually turn on each other. That would be interesting to watch. Vultures attacking vultures.

  9. efavorite

    It seems to me that any comments about Dr. Royal’s motivations were speculative until she spoke for herself about it, which she eventually did.

    I don’t see that it was not constructive to discuss it in the absence of direct information.

    this whole discussion continues to be very interesting to me in terms of speculating about how some TFAers interact with each other and outsiders on issues relating to the organization.

    • edlharris

      Like this:
      Eva Colen ‏@evacolen
      @garyrubinstein Hopefully you share the belief that no voice in this discussion should be silenced.

      Gary Rubinstein
      ‏@garyrubinstein

      @evacolen Until now, only people with oppositional views were silenced. I don’t think that ‘reformers’ should be silenced either.

  10. edlharris

    Outside the speech itself, these lines of hers are the most important:
    I started getting messages that it had been viewed and was being blogged about by TFA critics as fodder for their fury. My speech was characterized as ‘anti-education reform,’ which is inaccurate and inflammatory.

    I wonder what these “messages” were?
    What does she or (probably) the message senders mean by “fury.”
    Who characterized her speech as “anti-education reform”?

    I have this feeling that we are seeing that some wish to stick to labels and name calling without an attempt at discussion.

    It’s good to see that Dr. Royal doesn’t go there.

  11. efavorite

    Ed – I guess (but don’t know – how could I?) that the messages were emails from TFAers telling her about the discussion on this Blog and Diane Ravitch’s blog.

    The “anti-reformer” label is one that Gary uses, as he has said elsewhere, is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, to characterize people like him who don’t support reformers like Rhee, Kopp, etc.

  12. Michael Fiorillo

    It needs to be said that all of this discussion about Gary’s take on the Camika Royal/YouTube question is a red herring, diverting the discussion from where it should be: the nature and behavior of Teach For America, and what it’s role should be.

    On that score, I’d like to direct something to Caroline: you say TFA critics such as myself don’t see the ” complexities” concerning the organization and what it does. Please elaborate on what you think we’ve overlooked, and please feel free to refute what we’ve said.

    • edlharris

      Very true. Thanks for keeping focus where it belongs.

    • I think something y’all do and I can’t is look at TFA from a very national, big picture, political perspective where major players represent the whole and little people (like me, a third year, rural Arkansan teacher) are entirely overlooked. The big ideas are powerful and interesting and valid, but are (seemingly) far removed from THIS teacher in THIS classroom doing THIS thing with THIS student. The specificity and thousands of minor impacts are overlooked by focusing on the major flaws. And I’m wondering if either could ever over-rule the other. Once an organization is this big it’s pretty hard to say that as a whole it’s doing ANYTHING because there are so many moving parts and so many simultaneous movements within the movement. Wendy Kopp has an agenda, Michelle Rhee has an agenda… but is that what is impacting classrooms the most on a daily level? The answer might be yes, I wouldn’t know. I entirely believe I could be a pawn in something way, way to big for me to understand…

      BUT a part of me believes that despite all the political agendas and critical views there are masses of mini-movements, like the “ELA Pilot” in the Delta, where ELA teachers have been working for two years to teach English in an entirely new way– with way more support for teachers and critical thinking for kids– instead of with a 5-step lesson plan. Or the after school programs, local gardens, sports programs, art initiatives, talent shows, and new discipline systems (all of which I’ve seen CMs provoke and partner with schools to make happen effectively) that have sprung up with CMs. I’m not saying they wouldn’t have happened without TFA, but I’m not saying they would’ve.

      When I support and am proud of being an alum, it’s because of the little pictures I’ve seen in my time in the Delta. This perspective is part of what I mean by “complexities”– that not every part of TFA is about celebrity reformers.

      I can agree with a lot of what the critics say (which is why I continue to read them), but I want to hear more about what we can feasibly DO to reconcile, instead of trying to have a show down. Operative word being feasible.

      • And before it’s called out, by “entirely new way” I mean in regards specifically to how TFA has looked at English instruction. Everything is taken from what has been done in successful English classrooms, based on research, etc etc; we’re just taking what’s successful and attempting to ensure that ELA teachers are using what’s genuinely best for their kids.

  13. 2010 CM

    @Michael Enough with the notion of manipulating the idealism of corps members. Corps members are adults and individuals- and whether or not their idealism is intact when they finish those two tough years, they are independent decision-makers. Pro TFA or against, let’s keep the discussion on the organizational level and put responsibility in the hands of the corps members. We should expect them to be well informed participants capable of processing information about ed reform and its critics.

    And as a quick note, your wild generalizations about all CMOs are not helpful to the discussion. Not all charters are doing it right- but some truly are serving the community without being choosy about the population they serve.

    Bay Area 2010 CM

    • Michael Fiorillo

      “Some” charter schools are truly serving their communities? And my generalizations are wild? On the contrary, charter schools have been shown to not represent the demographics of the communities where they are placed, enrolling fewer students receiving free lunch, ELLs, special education and homeless children than the public schools they are draining resources from.

      That’s not a wild accusation, it’s a fact.

      So, “some” charters don’t cream students. Even granting it, it’s weak because does that vague and highly disputed non-number justify the destruction of public schools that it entails? And don’t kid yourself or others: the public schools are being systematically assaulted, and charters are a vehicle for that, organizationally speaking.

      And on that note, when I mention TFA’s manipulations, I’m referring to just that, and what it says about them as an institution. It goes without saying that corps members will make their own minds. I think it also goes without saying that the organization probably has a more detailed profile of what it’s looking for in recruits, aside from them being the “best and the brightest,” and that has some influence on the worldview and habits of mind of the people who come out of the organization.

  14. Meg

    For those looking for further evidence of TFA CMs/Alums who are not afraid to criticize the organization:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-billings-teach-for-america-20120710,0,4076933.story

    • efavorite

      THanks for posting this. It’s a start.

      It’s pretty mild, however, and I see the writer is an intern at a reform organization.

  15. Jack

    Gary,

    I know that what follows is long, but it needs to be read in its entirety. It’s from a credentialed teacher who formerly worked at public school, and currently works at a psychiatric hospital in a high-crime, high-poverty area of Chicago.

    Her previous blog post compared the practices and mindset and TFA to that of a cult. The TFA folks blogged hate emails which didn’t address any of her evidence or arguments.

    This is what she fired back: (IMO, it’s an instant classic that nails all that’s wrong with TFA):

    http://mskatiesramblings.blogspot.com/2012/07/i-started-this-post-with-something-much.html

    What the hell… here’s the text: (you should also go back to the original, as it’s full of hyperlinks that back up what she is saying… part of the way in, she employs the “2nd Person” style of autobiography… “you”):

    - – - – - –

    “Ms. Katie’s Ramblings

    “Sunday, July 15, 2012

    “Seeing Teach for America Through Different Eyes
    I started this post with something much different in mind, but it veered into a very personal story of why it matters to me what happens in Teach for America and other corporate education reforms. It’s long, but please read to the end and give me your feedback.

    “My last post was admittedly controversial. I mused about TFA’s rather unsettling similarities to a cult, acknowledging that it was an imperfect analogy. But the conversation that followed really got me thinking. As expected, some supporters of TFA responded with personal attacks and calling me ‘ignorant’. Others insisted that we ‘all need to work together’ insinuating that my post was just ‘mean’.

    “It seems my message didn’t get through….

    “So let’s step into each others’ shoes for a moment. I imagine myself as a TFA recruit. If I had joined right out of college, the 22-year old me would have been extremely moved by the TFA rhetoric of educational equality and closing the achievement gap. I imagine myself immersed in the TFA culture, eating up every word at Institute, working my butt off in whatever placement I was in, and making life-long connections and friends through the people I met along the way. I see myself, naive with little experience outside my affluent upper-middle class world, getting culture shock in a place very unlike the one in which I grew up.

    “In college, I was heavily involved in a campus christian group and I feel like TFA would have been a similar experience of camaraderie, sacrifice, risk, and life-changing emotional moments only centered around the mission of educational equity instead of religion. And I get how attached I would feel to the work I did and the close friends I made. I get why my posts on TFA would cause people to feel defensive and upset.

    “But let’s turn to the other side and pretend to be one of those TFA critics for a moment. I invite you all to imagine you are me. Imagine you had lived abroad teaching English in Japan for many years after college and understood all too well the amount of expertise it takes to be an effective teacher. You learned so much from watching your highly-respected Japanese colleagues, but also acknowledge that you have a long way yet to go to improve your practice. So you return to America, enroll in a Dual Certification (Special and Elementary Education) Masters Degree Program at a Chicago university with a focus on urban education.

    “You put yourself through grad school by working as a mental health counselor on a child/adolescent psychiatric unit at a local children’s hospital. You work nights, weekends and do whatever it takes stay afloat financially. Through this job, you begin to learn about the enormous barriers that prevent too many children from reaching their potential.

    “You meet kids who are abused, homeless, neglected, traumatized, aggressive, suffer from debilitating mental health conditions like depression or even psychosis, or have cognitive disabilities. You begin to see the system-wide societal failures affecting these kids’ lives.

    “Thanks to your degree program, you are able to observe in many inner-city schools, in many classrooms of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. You meet hard-working teachers across the city sharing the same stories over and over about terrible working conditions and little support.

    “You go into classrooms full of gang members and then go to work that night to meet kids from that very same class in the hospital. You even meet one boy who had newspapered his windows over and refused to leave his house because he was terrified of the violence. Every day, you meet kids with stories of violence and abuse, things we as a society should have protected the kids from. Those years in grad school were tough, you lived in a shoebox and went deep into debt, but you believe your future students are worth that.

    “Once you finally get your degree (with honors), you get yourself hired into an elementary school on Chicago’s highly-segregated southside, 99% low-income and 100% African-American. You work as a special education teacher but you find yourself under a cruel, vindictive principal who you later learn has targeted the veteran teachers and smashed countless careers. You and your colleagues work 16 hour days, give up all your free time, your social life, your money, all for your students because there just aren’t enough staff or resources to get it done if you didn’t.

    “You administer test after test to your special education students and think, ‘this is wrong, this is cruel.’ You watch powerful, amazing experienced educators perform their craft, but it is never enough. You whisper with colleagues in corners out of fear that the administration is listening, and quietly plan amazing unscripted units which you give to your students in secret. But still your kids struggle, and you feel the shame of failure in a broken system.

    “You learn firsthand about the need for tenure when you, a first year teacher, speak out about the unacceptable, unjust conditions for special education students in the school. And you feel the wrath that a principal can inflict on his staff as he comes into your classroom and escorts you from the building with a letter saying you must report the next day for psychiatric evaluation. You are forced to jump through hoop after hoop all because an evil man wanted to get even.

    “You come back to the school after all has been cleared, but you never speak directly to your principal again. You continue to work hard, day in and day out, for your students. But you end the year beaten, abused, and demoralized.

    “Still, teaching is your calling. So you pick yourself up, and find a position outside the school system as a teacher at a psychiatric hospital. And you start to hear murmurs from friends and colleagues still in the schools about a fight taking place to make the schools better. You learn the truth that your school struggled so grotesquely because it was located in a part of the city which had been targeted for gentrification.

    “You finally understand that your school was starved of resources ON PURPOSE long before you ever got there. Schools are not “failing”, they are being sabotaged. You learn that many nearby schools had already succumbed to closure and had been callously handed over to private management like charters or turnarounds.

    “You see that the district had discovered a much faster way to rid schools of those dreaded veteran teachers–who had been your lifeline at your school–by firing the whole staff in one, quick chop. You watch in horror a video of a brutal beating and murder of a boy at a Chicago school which was directly connected to these school actions. You look around and see your district decide to ONLY invest in those new schools and openly admits it won’t put money in a school which may close down in a few years. And you learn that there are many who stand to profit from these policies.

    “In your new job at the hospital, you meet students who had known the young man who died, and hear other multiple examples of how the violence directly impacts these kids’ lives. You hear how school closures and the charters that replaced them created chaos at many schools as children from all parts of the city were forced to cross gang boundaries and attend schools together causing the massive spikes in youth violence.

    “You hear countless tales from your colleagues in the neighborhood schools of 60+ students in a class, old, tattered textbooks, leaky roofs, and an increase in police presence in the schools. Your students at the hospital confirm all these stories with new horror stories of their own. They tell you how sad and angry they are. They say things like “there weren’t even enough desks or books, why would I stay?” when you ask why they dropped out of school after 8th grade. They tell you about the violence on the streets, ‘it was too hard to concentrate in class.’

    “One young woman in the hospital for aggressive behavior tells you that ‘the kids that fight’ were all removed after a school turnaround and that ‘I’m probably next.’ You see the hopelessness in the eyes of the young people in your classroom who clearly understand our society’s message to these amazing kids is that ‘you don’t matter.’

    “Meanwhile, your profession gets an onslaught in the media like never before. You see WAITING FOR SUPERMAN, and want to cry because they got it so ridiculously wrong. They blame all the problems on ‘bad teachers’ with ‘low expectations’ and their unions who ‘protect them’, when you have seen directly that that rhetoric is bald-faced lie.

    “In fact, the fighting union in your city is one of the greatest engines of social justice demanding the types of reforms your students need. The airwaves are filled with people with no knowledge of what actually happens in our schools. And you finally understand that a large part of what is happening to education is intentional–that there are influential powerful people who want public schools to fail.

    “And so you join organizations that fight the racist, unequal policies undermining whole communities. You see the connections to the labor movement, the fight for strong unions and a strong middle class, that could pull people of struggling communities out of the poverty which cripples them. You start to fight on multiple fronts going to rallies, marches, and talks about inequalities in the prison system, about police brutality, about unfair housing practices.

    “It is all the same fight. You fight alongside union brothers and sisters, even though you had never once thought about the need for unions before entering teaching. You connect the dots, and no matter what nonsense politicians or education reformers say, you understand on a deep, basic level that poverty, inequality, and straight-out racism are at the heart of your fight.

    ————

    “And then–somewhere in all this–you notice Teach for America. You always knew it was there, but had never paid it much attention. But then you start to realize that many of the powers that be, which you are fighting tooth and nail, had beginnings in this organization. Members of Stand for Children, Congressional aides, charter school leaders, state/district superintendents, and of course the big names like Rhee, White, and Andersen all hail from TFA. And so you begin to research this puzzling program.

    “You wonder how they make claims like ‘poverty is not destiny’ as you look over at the kids you work with everyday. And you think, ‘most of my students wouldn’t be sick and in the hospital if it weren’t for poverty and its effects. How dare they!’ Then you remember how much your little criminally under-resourced school struggled and how they received far less money for a population of kids which required far more. Poverty will always be destiny if we don’t put in a vast amount of resources to counter it.

    “You cannot comprehend how TFA justifies putting these untrained workers in our nation’s most struggling schools in the name of ‘educational equality’. One of the greatest inequalities in education IS the disporportionate numbers of uncertified, untrained, and inexperienced teachers in low-income schools.

    “Another is the amount of churn in schools, the high teacher turnover rate, which contributes to a poor, uneven school culture with little social capital built up over the years. TFA does little more than exacerbate an already existing problem in the inequity of our schools.

    “You shake your head as you hear TFA’s claim that their untrained workforce is better than the veteran teachers you know have been sacrificing their very souls for their kids. You read blog posts which say things like “how can these kids’ teachers sleep at night knowing how they’ve failed the kids”. You hear people who don’t even know enough about your city to know where it is safe to walk at night, claim they are there to make “transformational change”.

    “You look through that binder they get at Institute and are shocked by how regimented and testing-oriented the training is. And you can’t believe that’s all they get. Your friends in summer school programs who have had TFA trainees thrown into their class tell you horror stories of ignorance and arrogance. ‘Why do they get to use my summer school students as guinea pigs?’ one teacher laments.

    “You already know that the struggles our kids experience have nothing to do with “expectations” or “believing”. No, it never was the “soft bigotry of low expectations”, but rather the hard bigotry of racism and inequality. Who do these people think they are? They say they never bash teachers, and yet every claim they make belittles the hard work you put into your preparation and all you and your colleagues do in your classrooms.

    “But TFAers hide behind empty words like “I never bashed teachers” when their very presence in a school is a slap in the face to every experienced educator there. Veteran teachers give up their time and energy, often unpaid, in order to help these poor, struggling teachers year after year.

    “Then TFA turns around and says, “look at the success of our teachers!”–success built off the hard work of the educators who have dedicated their lives to their profession. You know that TFA’s “success” is all a huge marketing lie.

    “You continue your research and see the strong connection of TFA with the charter school movement. You listen to person after person in TFA rave about how wonderful charters are–and how their teachers are “closing the achievement gap”–all the while thinking that your school was being strangled in order to make room for more of them.

    “And in your job on the psych unit, it was ridiculous how many kids you’d met who had been kicked out of those schools. Any child with significant behavioral problems or mental health issues was being thrown to the curb by the charters. How can they claim success while wounding so many kids? And part of your job was to pick those kids up and remind them they were worth something.

    “Did these charter school teachers really not know the impact of their schools on the surrounding schools? Did they not care that their brand-new fancy charter, with glossy advertising campaigns, and catchy names like”Chicago Bulls Charter” were of course going to entice students away from the withering neighborhood school down the street?

    “Do they not see how the district stacks the deck in favor of charters? How can they not see that non-unionized charters are being used to weaken and ultimately destroy teachers unions everywhere? Do they really claim they don’t push kids out despite the obvious facts which show they do? Do they not understand how pushing kids out hurts? It is not miraculous to work with an easier population of kids with more resources. And when those “better” learning environments come at the expense of other children’s educational opportunity, then it is not only not a success, but a resounding failure in equity.

    “And you cannot believe how TFA can claim they are not taking jobs from veteran teachers. In your city, you see the dozens of schools being closed or turned around each year. You meet a number of veteran teachers displaced from closures or turnarounds who say they will retire early, because who would ever hire someone their age?

    “You see reports which show Chicago’s teaching force is becoming overwhelmingly younger (and whiter.) Your district stopped even holding open jobs fairs and only opens fairs to the hundreds of displaced teachers. But even at those fairs, TFA novices get hiring priority over the experienced quality educators looking for work. Meanwhile, new charters are going up left and right, and TFA is helping staff them.

    “When you hear TFA say, “principals like TFA”, you shake your head thinking, “I’m sure they do.” You are sure your principal thought he was hiring an ignorant newbie in you. But because you had worked for years with children with disabilities and learned the legal requirements for students with IEPs in your degree program, you knew exactly what types of services they were entitled to by law.

    “And tenure be damned, you were not going to stand there and contribute to the injustices. You can be sure your principal wished he’d hired someone who would work hard and never knew to question him.

    “And then the TFA folks boast about that hard-work, never understanding that their willingness to be exploited, short-term labor is part of why every teacher today struggles like never before. All those hard-won rights from labor struggles past are being eroded by these naive young people. If the system worked, no one would HAVE to work 16 hour days. Instead, the district would hire more staff and get more resources to share the workload.

    “But what does that matter for anyone in TFA? For a majority of the TFA folks, those 2-3 years of intense labor give them the reward of boomeranging them to a prestigious administrative, policy-making, or other professional career. And they can feel good about their “volunteer” service to the poor, without ever having to invest in the communities or their long-term struggles for justice.

    “Meanwhile, all the career teachers are left with the expectation to also work 16 hours days–a feat impossible to do long-term, especially if they have families–with no boomerang in sight. You cry for your colleagues as they are being forced to do more with less–with larger class sizes, more paperwork, less support than ever before all with the shadow of new “accountability” requirements and evaluations tied to test scores.

    “Teachers’ marriages are failing, their health is suffering, and many are throwing in the towel and leaving their beloved profession. Many are feeling as demoralized and tired as you did. And this is terrible for kids who already are being denied so much.

    “Lastly, you look at your own journey of enlightenment, coming to understand the complex history, politics, and legacies of racism and injustice as well as the long history of struggle and activism in the affected communities. And you wonder, “why can’t the people in TFA see what I do?

    “Don’t they see the people in the communities where they work taking to the streets to fight these educational policies? Don’t they notice the massive battle against the corporate interests taking place from Wall Street, to Oakland, to Egypt, Greece, and beyond?” But still TFA partners with Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Bank of America with no acknowledgement of the massive contradictions of joining a “social justice” program with the 1%.

    “And they continue to push the neoliberal, Milton Friedman-style free-market ideologies, which are playing out in cities across the country and the world.

    “Now imagine all those TFA people attacking you, calling you names, chiding your tone, saying you are ridiculous when you push back on an organization you believe is doing so much harm. You shake your head one last time and whisper, “hubris”.

    ———–

    “I cannot fathom how TFA can continue to justify what it does. And the only explanation I have is that something must happen in the TFA training process which blinds people to the real struggle.

    “And then it makes sense to me that so many from TFA join the education reform movement. Then in that context, I understand why I have yet to meet even one person from TFA fighting out there with me on the streets.

    “Why they are much more likely to be the ones I fight against in groups like Stand for Children or Democrats for Education Reform. Then the robotic arguments TFAers makes over and over again which minimize the effects of poverty and glorify the effects of individual teachers and leaders start to make sense. I think to myself, it must be some sort of brainwashing because those conclusions do not even come close to what I experienced out there in the schools and working with the kids.

    “I would rather believe that most TFA people just didn’t know any better rather than the more nefarious alternative that they understand all too well the negative impact of corporate reform and just don’t care.

    “I wish you all could see TFA, charters, and education reform through my eyes. Maybe the education debate would look much different if you did.

    “Posted by KatieO at 3:21 PM”

    • Meg

      I’m sorry, but I read both her blog and the comments and failed to see any hate comments, or a single person (TFA or not) or criticisms that ignored her argument. There were people that disagreed, but that’s not the same thing.

      • efavorite

        Meg – do you have any comment about the substance of her post?

        • Meg

          Sure. I think a number of her points have a lot more to do with being a first year teacher in a high poverty school than they do TFA (see: long hours, high stress, minimal free time), and a lot of the others were obvious stretches: CMs being told to dress professionally (don’t all teachers?), people being cut off from their family and friends or people not being allowed to dissent.

          Here is my main issue with both this post and the one that followed, though. Most of Katie’s points are completely anecdotal – hearing that CMs usually live together, a blog post from an incoming CM, an experience a friend had with a corps member – but are used to generalize to all of TFA and the people affiliated with the organization. Any time a CM or Alum speaks out and said they had a different experience, she claims that experience is anecdotal and not reflective of TFA in general. To put it more succinctly: There is no one TFA narrative. Both horror stories of underprepared/egotistical CMs and honest, hard-working, dedicated CMs can and DO exist. It’s unfair and unrepresentative to dismiss the experiences of a large group of people because they don’t fit in with your preconceived notions, and it comes across as blind hatred rather than a rational, well-thought-out critique.

          • Linda

            It doesn’t mean because her experiences are different than yours that they are not true, they did not happen and children are being harmed. TFA does NOT help. They exacerbate the problem but are too arrogant to admit culpability. I am sure any stories you would share about your first year of teaching are also anecdotal to the reader. TFA has been around for twenty years and the inequity is worse than ever. How have they helped other than raking in the $$$?

          • Meg

            Her experiences are absolutely true. The point I’m making, though, as that her experiences are not the ONLY true ones. Just as I disagree with Katie generalizing her experiences to all of TFA, I understand that my experiences are my own and would also not generalize them to everyone. What I’m saying, though, is that in this instance you have numerous CMs/Alums coming out and saying that they have NOT experienced what she’s saying, and that they do NOT fit into this mold of the TFA CM. I don’t think that voice should be ignored because its different, just as I don’t think CMs should ignore the perspective of critics like Katie who have had different teaching experiences.

          • My point from the post (the one entitled “Seeing Teach for America Through Different Eyes”) was more that my experiences were being directly influenced by TFA and corporate reforms. If Chicago wasn’t starving and closing schools, firing staff, and exploiting their teachers and other staff like never before, my experiences and the experiences of my students would have been different.

            TFA’s presence is license to exploit the work force. The “hard-working, dedicated” CM does damage to education too. CMs are taught to offer themselves up as martyrs which impacts all teachers everywhere. And the very fact that you all accept TFA’s model of five weeks of training and jump into the bullpen right away–meaning most do not reject it and quit– absolutely undermines all the hard work and sacrifice I put into becoming properly credentialed. We are all interconnected in this web of education reform. When a charter excels it’s too often because some other school is struggling or closing–like mine. When TFA offers up their short-term unsustainable labor, it changes the landscape of teaching, and not for the better. Schools and districts may now exploit their young teachers instead of hiring more people to do the ridiculous amounts of work. Many charters are built on this model of labor: work ‘em hard, burn ‘em out, get new ones to replace ‘em.

            Reform must happen with equity, patience, and wisdom. If any reform helps some select kids/teachers but harms others then it is not reform. If any reform is done in the name of “well it’s better than nothing” then it is experimentation and not reform. We know reforms that could work, but because they aren’t “quick fixes” we don’t do them. And this is insanity.

            And it actually doesn’t matter what your experiences are because that’s not the point. You organization changes expectations for teachers, how labor is treated, and the professionalism of teaching. TFA contributes to making teaching a crappy, short-term job. My story just puts a face to those abstract ideas.

            And since you are referencing that older post about cults, again, that post is about the organization in general. TFA does “break” you guys at Institute–working you hard, giving you little rest, separating you from all things familiar, having these intense sessions, planning, living together. That is not anecdotal, it is their training model. And it’s weird!! Think about it, there is no comparison to that type of hard-core, intense indoctrination anywhere else in education. Ed programs are just classes and then individual student teaching experiences. Unions don’t fly new teachers across the country to teach them about their organization.

            TFA is bad. Bad for kids, bad for teachers, bad for everyone but TFA.

          • Linda

            I do not believe TFA even values their teachers. It is a minor league to scout for future Stepford reformers who will promote their methods: destroy unions, create a cheap workforce of at will employees, maximize profits for their 1% cronies and laugh all the way to the bank.

            Teachers are peons and kids are cattle. You are all being used for their greedy purposes. The Kopp/Barth venture is quite lucrative for one family.

            If or when the economy improves and the elite college graduate can get the job they really want right after graduation, you will no longer need them and they will have to adjust their definition of the best and brightest while simultaneously creating a new scam.

        • Linda

          Of course not, that would require reflection and the realization that TFA is a fraudulent organization that lines the pockets of those at the top while exploiting poor children…all while feigning concern for an equal education for all (minus sped., ELL, poor test takers and any student or family who will not abide by the militaristic code of behavior management designed specially for minority children).

          TFA recruits who take the jobs of laid off teachers are nothing more than scabs. One of the best lines: the hard bigotry of racism and inequality.

  16. I find it interesting that as debate revs up in spaces like this, TFA comes out with a new blog site on their webpage: http://www.teachforamerica.org/blog/welcome-pass-chalk I couldn’t help but notice that there are no comment sections on the blogs. But at least they have lots of inspirational pictures from Institute and Kopp’s assurance that “This won’t be the place to hear the ‘official TFA line.’” Sigh…

    • Linda

      If you can’t leave a comment what is the point? Just another way to dole out TFA propaganda. She is a spinmeister. She must think she will lure people away from Gary’s blog to worship her nonsense. Hey, Wendy, you’re our of touch. Can a lowly unionized teacher play with you?

      • efavorite

        It also suggests they see this Gary’s blog as a threat and know there would be an uproar if they took down the comments section of this blog (which they could do, right? This is a TFA sponsored effort).

        So it looks like they’re doing what they can without sparking more controversy — offering differing commentary with no direct avenue for response.

        • Teach For Us is an independent non-profit that exists purely as a community for current and former corps members to express their thoughts and experiences. The worst that TFA could do would be to follow up with an individual blogger directly, if they happened to know his/her real identity based on the content of the blog. Please do some fact-checking before making accusations and spouting hypotheticals.

          For what it’s worth, I have not met a single person affiliated with TFA who is both familiar with Gary’s blog (as in, they’ve read more than one post) and doesn’t welcome the informed, reasoned perspective that he brings, even if they don’t necessarily agree with everything he says.

          • parus

            I’ve personally been contacted by a TFA employee about a TFU post via the email account I provided at TFU registration, even though it’s not the email address publicly listed on my blog here. While TFU may be independent of TFA, it does seem that there is some interaction there.

          • Linda

            And may I ask what the wanted to know or the reason for the contact?

          • KatieO

            Right, Teach for Us is fine. So why develop a new blog site on Teach for America’s website when already have this space?

          • parus

            I’d rather not get into it here. I might write a post about it later.

            I suppose it’s possible the TFA employee looked through alumni records and deduced who I was based on the two pieces of identifying information about myself that TFA would likely have on record and I’ve posted in the blog, which is that I live in Alaska and was initially assigned secondary English. It seems like a stretch, though, even if AK does have a comparatively small population, given how many alumni there are total and how common my subject area was. I think that would actually be weirder if they played detective like that than if they got my real name from TFU. Also, when I contacted TFU to ask about it, I never got any reply. But if by some chance it is the case, then I am sorry for impugning you, TFU organizers :D

          • Linda

            Because she wants to give off the vibe that she cares and she is promoting healthy discussions and she is inviting in “critical friends”. It is all an after the fact CYA tactic…like they won’t delete comments IF you can even leave one. She is self serving and she taught Queen Rhee.

            Maybe they should give out a TFA dictionary for the non-elite so we can decipher their conversations.

          • efavorite

            to Mr. K — really? even speculation isn’t allowed without without fact-checking? and where’s the accusation? I don’t see it.

            Here’s more speculation — some TFAers seem awfully touchy about critical comments about TFA made by outsiders.

            Gary makes a comparison to Hitler and there’s not a peep, while an outsider’s comments about Watergate and the Catholic church are harshly disputed.

            And more speculation: TFAers would put more energy into bashing TFA critics than into decrying a cheating scandal presided over by prominent TFA alums.

            I would love to be proven wrong about this.

          • Linda

            To Parus,

            If you do make it into a post, leave a link here. It all sounds quite fishy. Looks like TFA is going to need their own separate spy agency to troll blogs, report naysayers and send out the TFA police, but that will cut into Wendy’s profits so maybe it will just be a new division of TFA recruits to do her dirtywork while working on their resumes for their real career.

          • parus

            Linda, it wasn’t that momentous a contact, and the person was perfectly respectful.

            It was just a wake-up call for me about how illusory online anonymity is, and of the impossibility of controlling what organizations do with your personal data. It’s something that other posters here who wish to remain anonymous might want to keep in mind.

          • Linda

            Yes, very true…it will be interesting to see how they control their new blog…pass the chalk…Katie linked it here or on another thread. Looks like there isn’t a way to leave comments yet.

          • efavorite: I believe that speculation is only useful when grounded in facts and data. Otherwise, it’s just a free-for-all of one person’s opinion versus another’s. And the accusation was that TFA started their own blog because they didn’t want to deal with the backlash of shutting down comments on this site, which you thought they had control over. Feel free to correct me if this is a misinterpretation.

            Also, here’s a thought: TFAers may be touchy about criticism from outsiders, but is this any different from sports fans, college students, business executives, members of faith communities, and even some traditionally trained teachers? I think the ideal is to recognize our tendency to become defensive when it comes to our own affiliations/causes and strive to have constructive conversations regardless of differences in opinion.

    • efavorite

      Rhee’s Studentsfirst site had a comments section at first, but took it down when most of the comments were from critics.

      • Linda

        I wouldn’t dare go to her site. Just clicking makes you a member, which is how she gets her “grassroots” members. That and her fake change.org petitions. Once you sign on that you want teachers to be paid well or you want all kids to go to school or you love puppies and kittens, it brings you to her site and PRESTO, you are now a grassroots member of Rheeject First.

        She is a sleazy, self-promoting, lying fraud. She will go down as the Bernie Madoff of school deform.

      • efavorite

        Mister K — I see speculation as something done when one doesn’t know the facts, doesn’t have access to all the facts or when the facts aren’t in.

        Regarding my comments about TFA starting its own blog, please note that I started the sentence with “So it looks like….” That’s because I was speculating. It would have been stupid to state that I knew what TFA was doing. How could I know?

        As for people just expressing opinions — yes – it can get messy – but I don’t see that as a reason for not allowing the free expression of opinion — as long as opinions are not presented as facts. Are you really against the “free-for-all” of people expressing opinions?

        As for touchiness about criticism, I’d like to you consider that it’s different from what you mention; that it’s an attempt to quash a point of view to avoid seeing your affiliation in an unpleasant, but realistic light.

        That’s what I speculate.

  17. Linda

    What the kids would say if anyone asked:

    Can We Please, Just Once, Have A Real Teacher?
    BY BRANDON MENDEZ, JAMES MILLER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENT

    You’ve got to be kidding me. How does this keep happening? I realize that as a fourth-grader I probably don’t have the best handle on the financial situation of my school district, but dealing with a new fresh-faced college graduate who doesn’t know what he or she is doing year after year is growing just a little bit tiresome. Seriously, can we get an actual teacher in here sometime in the next decade, please? That would be terrific.

    Just once, it would be nice to walk into a classroom and see a teacher who has a real, honest-to-God degree in education and not a twentysomething English graduate trying to bolster a middling GPA and a sparse law school application. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a qualified educator who has experience standing up in front of a classroom and isn’t desperately trying to prove to herself that she’s a good person.

    I’m not some sort of stepping stone to a larger career, okay? I’m an actual child with a single working mother, and I need to be educated by someone who actually wants to be a teacher, actually comprehends the mechanics of teaching, and won’t get completely eaten alive by a classroom full of 10-year-olds within the first two months on the job.

    How about a person who can actually teach me math for a change? Boy, wouldn’t that be a novel concept!

    I fully understand that our nation is currently facing an extreme shortage of teachers and that we all have to make do with what we can get. But does that really mean we have to be stuck with some privileged college grad who completed a five-week training program and now wants to document every single moment of her life-changing year on a Tumblr?

    For crying out loud, we’re not adopted puppies you can show off to your friends.

    Look, we all get it. Underprivileged children occasionally say some really sad things that open your eyes and make you feel as though you’ve grown as a person, but this is my actual education we’re talking about here. Graduating high school is the only way for me to get out of the malignant cycle of poverty endemic to my neighborhood and to many other impoverished neighborhoods throughout the United States. I can’t afford to spend these vital few years of my cognitive development becoming a small thread in someone’s inspirational narrative.

    But hey, how much can I really know, anyway? I haven’t had an actual teacher in three years.

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/my-year-volunteering-as-a-teacher-helped-educate-a,28803/

    • Meg

      This is an absolutely ridiculous and offensive generalization. And I’m sorry, but having an education degree doesn’t necessarily make someone a better teacher. Many studies have shown that TFA CMs are just as effective as traditionally-trained first year teachers. This is why people tune out criticisms such as this – it’s high on insults and assumptions and low on fact.

      • Linda

        Many studies? Peer reviewed studies or the ones posted on the TFA site? Maybe you tune them out, but many of us do not.

        And if there is no difference, as claimed by the TFA studies, why choose a TFAer when you have to pay the $2,000-$3,000 fee plus the first year salary. The traditional teacher is cheaper and there isn’t a head hunter or exploitation fee. And that is a fact!

        But you keep reading the TFA propgaganda or log
        onto pass the chalk.

        Here are some more facts for you:

        http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/24_03/24_03_TFA.shtml

        • Meg

          In Tennessee, actually, there is a significant difference.

          http://www.tn.gov/sbe/Teacher%20Report%20Card%202010/Report%20Summary.pdf

          And you’re right, the district does pay TFA for hiring its corps members (money that’s used for training, but I’m sure you think that’s a conspiracy) so obviously they like what they’re getting if they’re willing to pay the extra money.

          And as an aside, just because a study is posted on the TFA website doesn’t mean it was conducted by TFA, or that it is invalid. Obviously TFA is going to publicize studies that find their teachers to be effective.

          • Linda

            Tennessee. …the commissioner is Huffman, ex of Rhee, former TFA….him? That state?

            He is decimating teachers and public education.

            Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaha!

            Thanks..I needed a good laugh.

          • Meg

            I’m sorry, are you actually claiming that the commissioner is falsifying TCAP scores to make TFA look better? Talk about a conspiracy. Do you wear a tinfoil hat too?

          • Meg

            Nevermind that the study was published four months before Huffman was appointed, that’s an inconvenient fact so it can probably just be ignored…

          • Linda

            They are all in the pipeline way before they are appointed. New Jersey has an acting commissioner for over a a year now. He is another one salivating at the privatization movement and guess what, he hasn’t been officially appointed yet. Check out this blog:

            http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/

            And the only indicator they use for effective vs. more effective is test scores, usually just math and reading. So one could also assume, if the study is valid, that TFA is better at test prep. Wow! What an accomplishment.

            I have children and I do NOT want a drill and kill Steford drone for my kids, so I will pass on the TFA temp.

          • Linda

            No to the hat, but can I borrow yours or is it TFA issued only?

          • Meg

            Linda are you even a teacher?

          • Linda

            Yes, Meg! Do you need my certification and NEA card?

          • meghank

            I thought you were in Memphis. You are, right? I am too, pleased to meet you.

            Those studies show that test scores are better for TFA teachers. Test scores are not an accurate measurement of academic progress. It’s quite possible that TFA teachers’ test scores are better simply because TFA teachers are more likely to “teach to the test” (you don’t endorse teaching to the test, do you?). Secondly, those studies compare first and second year teachers only. Those studies do not account for the fact that few TFAers stay in Tennessee after their second year and that most non-TFAers do and get much better.

          • Meg

            To address your first point, I absolutely do not think that test scores are the only way to evaluate a teacher, but it is unfortunately one of the few concrete measures available. I do not endorse teaching to the test, and while it is possible that TFA teachers are better at teaching to the test, its also equally possible that they’re just teaching better and that is leading to increased test scores.

            To your second point, I know that the study only references first and second year teachers, but I don’t think it would make sense to compare a first year CM with a veteran teacher, obviously the CM wouldn’t stack up. I can’t speak to TFA retention in Nashville, but the number of CMs that remain here in Memphis is higher than you might think. 50% of the 2010 corps is staying in Memphis (which is about 50 teachers). Could it be higher? Absolutely, but it’s not no one.

            Also, the percentages were a bit off in the study because their retention percent didn’t include alums who were teaching in charter schools. Again, definitely wouldn’t be 100%, but based on the number of alums I personally know in Memphis charter schools, it would be significantly higher than listed.

          • Teacher too

            “while it is possible that TFA teachers are better at teaching to the test, its also equally possible that they’re just teaching better and that is leading to increased test scores.”

            TFA’s are “teaching better” as compared to which teachers?

            You seem to value test scores as an indicator of “good teaching”…..worrisome.

            I predict, if you do stay in teaching, that you may look back at these comments and realize your naïveté…I don’t think that is possible for you now and this is not an insult. You’re just not there yet.

          • Meg

            I work in a middle school actually, not an elementary school. TFA actually places very few teachers in elementary school here in Memphis – around 20% of its corps, and a number of them are in either charters or ASD schools, so while I don’t have an exact number for you for CMs in city schools, its pretty low. Unless elementary school works differently than middle/high school (which it might) surplus teachers need to be hired before external hires take place.

        • Meg

          Compared to first and second year teachers from MTR, MTF, NTF, and the state’s undergraduate education programs, according to the Tennessee Department of Education. And while I do not think that test scores are the only way to measure a teacher’s effectiveness, I do think they should be used in conjunction with other measures. I think standardized tests are helpful for seeing how a school performances compared to other schools/systems in the state, and can also be useful in looking at student growth. You can call it naivete, but I think it’s more of a difference of opinion.

          • edlharris

            According to Tenn.;’s report of their new evaluation system (where teachers of non tested subjects get to select what test they want to be used for their evaulation)
            “ Most teachers in Tennessee are performing at a high level as measured by their impact on student achievement. The majority of teachers in the state are not simply adequate, but exceed expectations against high standards.”

            Consider “most” teachers in TN are not from TFA.

      • A REAL teacher

        Linda: what a great piece.

        Meg: “There is none so blind as he who will not see.” It doesn’t seem anyone is tuning anything out except you. The idea that a TFAer is “just as effective as traditionally-trained first year teacher” may or not be true, but the difference is that a traditionally-trained first-year teacher eventually becomes a five-year teacher, a ten-year teacher, etc. What percentage of the TFA corps can say that? And it may be all right with you to “learn on other people’s children,” but I’m guessing you don’t have children of your own and if you do, or will, you’ll probably want them taught by teachers who have the job down pat.

        • Meg

          I know plenty of alums that are going on 5, 10, or more years in the classroom – something I plan on doing as well. I won’t dispute that the majority of TFA alums eventually leave the classroom (and many before they’ve gotten great), but its unfair to generalize to all of us. And you’re right, if I had a choice I’d prefer my children have master teachers every year from K-12. Unfortunately, in the district I work in, the majority of parents do not have that choice. And no, it’s not because TFA came in and stole jobs from master teachers, its because there aren’t enough master teachers to go around.

          And I’m certified, so I’m a “real teacher” too.

          • Teacher too

            If TFA keeps taking the jobs and most leave, there will not be any master teachers at all.

            What was the original purpose of TFA?

            It appears to be in cahoots with the philanthrocapitalistic vultures to destroy it at this point.

          • meghank

            If you are in Memphis, as I suspect you are, I am shocked that you would say there are not enough master teachers to go around. Unless you define master teacher as achieving high test scores (a very inaccurate and harmful definition). I am a third year teacher and have depended heavily on the master teachers in my school and district, of which there are enough to go around. I hope you have also benefited from the many master teachers to be found in our district (that is, if you teach in Memphis).

          • Meg

            Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t mean to imply that there aren’t a number of outstanding veteran/master teachers in Memphis (and yes that is where I teach). I teach at a school with a number of veterans who were invaluable to me throughout my first year, and I know will continue to be in the years to come. Every friend I have in Memphis also has wonderful veteran teachers at their school. My school, like many others, also has a number of first year teachers – from TFA, MTR/MTF, or other programs. Speaking with both my own principal and others in the district, the number of first year teachers is not a result of the schools preferring to hire first years over veterans, but because there are not enough veteran teachers applying to work in these schools to fill all open positions.

          • meghank

            In elementary schools, at least, there is a large pool of surplussed, veteran teachers. Teach Memphis commented on this on their Facebook page.

            “Teach Memphis ‎Carolyn Magee Dillard That’s because our pool of elementary surplus teachers is pretty large this year due to the implementation of the Innovation Zone, charter co-management/takeovers, and the state-run Achievement School District campuses that are former MCS schools.
            July 11 at 7:48pm · Like”

            I think I remember that you are an elementary teacher. Is that correct?

          • meghank

            I see. Well, if I don’t talk to you again before the school year starts, I hope you have a great school year!

          • As one of those veterans in a school that doesn’t have many, I need to observe (yet again) that the constant pressure of teacher churn makes it harder for us veterans to stay. If we want professional development, we have to seek it out and pay for it, since site development focuses on the needs of the newbies. It has to. And we have to help those new teachers with their practice, because the whole school depends on us lending that support. It’s time-consuming and takes away from our own classrooms. Moreover, itinerant teachers make it more difficult for us to build community with our families.

            So my issue with your comment is that TFA isn’t helping place or retain master teachers: it’s making our jobs more difficult and less sustainable. Sure, high-needs schools have high turnover, TFA or not, but TFA turnover is higher than that of traditionally-educated teachers.

      • Go to the link and read the whole thing if you haven’t already. You will see that it is not satirizing the entire TFA population- merely those who are in the “Look at what I’M doing for those kids! This is such a life-changing event for ME. I feel like I’M making such a difference!” subset.

        Also, keep in mind that this is from The Onion.

        • Teacher too

          I know it is the onion…anyone can figure that out. If Megan R. is a real person, that would be pretty embarrassing and that is the mantra I have heard from many TFAers, not all, but many believe they are the saviors we have all been waiting for. The rest of the teachers are old, tired, lazy good for nothing union slobs.

        • Meg

          No I have, but I think Linda’s intent is very different from the intent of The Onion. I don’t think she was satirizing, especially because she started her post with “what the kids would say if anyone asked”.

          • Iteach

            Just wondering, has anyone ever asked them? I would prefer my children have experienced, dedicated, life long teachers…just saying.

          • Teacher too

            I wonder if anyone has ever asked the kids. I would prefer my kids have an experienced, dedicated, life long teacher…just saying.

          • Here’s what one student in Chicago had to say about short-term teachers (implication is TFA): http://www.wbez.org/story/hallelujah-saviors-are-here-97183 Very powerful spoken word piece, which when I saw performed live brought tears to my eyes. The kids know when they are being short-changed. They know that TFA novices are not yet the educators they deserve.

            “It’s time we rebuke these self-proclaimed saviors, and put our faith in the true educators–the ones who expect Masters Degrees and double majors. And not the ones just trying to do the Black community a couple favors.”

          • Teacher too

            Katie,

            Is it possible to get a copy of her poem, beyond he audio?

          • Teacher too

            Sorry typo..the audio.

          • @Teach Too Not to my knowledge. I transcribed that myself. She’s pretty amazing, isn’t she? Louder Than a Bomb is a fantastic event, check out the other pieces by students. The kids knocked it out of the ballpark!

          • Teacher too

            Yes, Katie..I loved it. I listened to it twice and I will listen to the others. What a great event!

            The kids know….they can sense fear and frauds.

      • Teacher too

        By the way, you aren’t the Megan on the Onion piece, are you? That would be embarrassing. Well maybe the whole piece is a spoof. Pretty funny though.

        • Meg

          Haha no, I’m not. I’m pretty sure she’s not a real person, but regardless I’m nowhere near arrogant enough to think that I’m changing all my kids lives, or naive enough to think that I’m some sort of savior.

      • Jack

        I’m gonna let ‘THE ONION’, in it’s Swiftian brilliance, put you in your place:

        http://www.theonion.com/articles/my-year-volunteering-as-a-teacher-helped-educate-a,28803/?ref=auto

        It’s a fictional parody of a student’s letter complaining about getting TFA (or TFA-ish) teachers for the last three years in a row:

        - – - – - – - –

        “Counterpoint

        “Can We Please, Just Once, Have A Real Teacher?

        “By Brandon Mendez, James Miller Elementary School Student

        “You’ve got to be kidding me. How does this keep happening? I realize that as a fourth-grader I probably don’t have the best handle on the financial situation of my school district, but dealing with a new fresh-faced college graduate who doesn’t know what he or she is doing year after year is growing just a little bit tiresome.

        “Seriously, can we get an actual teacher in here sometime in the next decade, please? That would be terrific.

        “Just once, it would be nice to walk into a classroom and see a teacher who has a real, honest-to-God degree in education and not a twenty-something English graduate trying to bolster a middling GPA and a sparse law school application.

        “I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a qualified educator who has experience standing up in front of a classroom and isn’t desperately trying to prove to herself that she’s a good person.

        “I’m not some sort of stepping stone to a larger career, okay? I’m an actual child with a single working mother, and I need to be educated by someone who actually wants to be a teacher, actually comprehends the mechanics of teaching, and won’t get completely eaten alive by a classroom full of 10-year-olds within the first two months on the job.

        “How about a person who can actually teach me math for a change? Boy, wouldn’t that be a novel concept!

        “I fully understand that our nation is currently facing an extreme shortage of teachers and that we all have to make do with what we can get. But does that really mean we have to be stuck with some privileged college grad who completed a five-week training program and now wants to document every single moment of her life-changing year on a Tumblr?

        “For crying out loud, we’re not adopted puppies you can show off to your friends.

        “Look, we all get it. Underprivileged children occasionally say some really sad things that open your eyes and make you feel as though you’ve grown as a person, but this is my actual education we’re talking about here. Graduating high school is the only way for me to get out of the malignant cycle of poverty endemic to my neighborhood and to many other impoverished neighborhoods throughout the United States.

        “I can’t afford to spend these vital few years of my cognitive development becoming a small thread in someone’s inspirational narrative.

        “But hey, how much can I really know, anyway? I haven’t had an actual teacher in three years.”

      • MV

        For the sake of argument, let’s assume that TFA CM’s are just as effective as first year traditional teachers. Why, exactly, is this seen as a benefit of TFA and not a negative?

        First, a CM will be replaced every other year. In effect, you’ve guaranteed that students will experience a first year teacher on a regular basis. On the other hand, a regular teacher will progress in experience. In theory, they have started teaching with the intention of remaining in the classroom. Yes, there is attrition but it is far less relative to a CM and you actually get more experienced teachers as a result.

        Second, CM’s are replacing experienced teachers. This is not normal. As a new teacher it is unlikely for me to replace an experienced teacher. If you are concerned about student learning, you don’t get rid of effective (or even mediocre) teachers.

      • Megan H

        It’d be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

        Meg, are you really offended?
        (It’s The Onion, seriously).

        I don’t think the point is that an education degree “makes” someone a better teacher — I think the idea is that experience and commitment makes someone better at anything, teaching included.

        There is something to be said for actually getting into the classroom and seeing if you are cut out to be a teacher (not everyone is). That is why I chose to join TFA; I always knew I wanted to teach but when I took Intro to Education my freshman year of college it was horrendously boring. I figured, I’ll study politics during college and then TFA will fast-track me into the classroom.

        There is something to be said for NOT cutting corners. Let’s just say, I have my regrets. However, believe it or not, joining TFA is not one of them; but that did take a few years of recovery first ;-)

        Now I am going back to school to get a REAL masters degree (opted out of the watered-down degree option TFA offered) and the student teaching experience I realized is completely NECESSARY to becoming an excellent educator.

        Most first year teachers are not very good. Most second year teachers are not much better. The problem is, MOST (and I know how you feel about generalizations, but c’mon now — you know this is true) TFA CMs do not stay in the CLASSROOM (note: I’m not saying do not stay in “education” or however TFA spins it) for more than two years.

        At least we know the person who spent four to six years learning about teaching and practicing teaching is committed to the job.

        But, seriously, you are offended?

  18. Linda

    To mv. Sorry for typos. iPhone. I would say it is more about money and their prestigious rep. At this point. Whatever their original purpose was I think they have lost their way and they are more in cahoots with the privatization/bash teachers/ break the union deform movement. They may change the narrative slightly but $$$ is the motivator not the poor brown kids…. Teachers are disposable and kids are cattle.

  19. Terry

    Engineer For America

    The Problem
    The Association for American Civil Engineers estimated we will need $2.2 trillion over the next five years to repair our infrastructure. The engineers who design our roads and bridges are key to the infrastructure that supports our country. Unfortunately, we are falling behind the rest of the world. As you can see here, the Chinese and the Europeans have built scores of high speed rails as we struggle to keep our bridges safe.

    Engineer for America believes that providing safe roads and bridges for all is the most effective means of ensuring equal opportunities for everyone. Everyone in this country deserves the chance to reach their full potential. Opportunities should not be determined by your family’s income or the neighborhood in which you live.

    Who Can Join?
    Some corps members were engineers prior to joining, but many do not have any prior experience in the engineering field. 

    How Are Engineers Prepared?
    Our summer institutes are a five-week intensive training program designed to set corps members up for success. 

    Although some critics point out that engineering is a profession that requires years of training and experience, reformers and legislators feel otherwise. Both believe five weeks of intense training is all that is necessary to teach future engineers how to safely design roads and bridges.

    http://finedchat.blogspot.com/2012/07/engineer-for-america.html?m=1

    • LJ

      Ooo, ooo, I’d love to do this. I never did well in math or science, but I love to hammer stuff. I’m sure they could teach me all I need to know in a five-week, fifty-hour training program. Can’t wait!

  20. a teacher

    Will you continue to be the kind of relentless self-promoter that characterizes the worst element of TFA? Bet you will. Mr. Rubenstein, you are what you deplore. When you link to a speech about humility, you would do well to also read it and take it to heart.

    • At least Mr. RubInstein isn’t afraid to use his real name. I think it is TFA that is afraid of him and the growing opposition to their broken mission. And so they feel the need to slander instead of just change course from the destructive corporate education reform path they’ve chosen. Sigh…

Post a comment

About this Blog

By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

Region
Houston
Grade
High School
Subject
Math

Subscribe to this blog (feed)


Subscribe via RSS

”subscribe

Reluctant Disciplinarian on Amazon

Beyond Survival On Amazon

RSS Feed

Subscribe