Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Teaching Fellows in The Village Voice

A great read in The Voice this article reveals many of the fault lines in the Teaching Fellows program. The answer to the problem - paying them as interns and using them as assistant teachers in the classroom for a year - will not be forthcoming. Tweed finds it perfectly acceptable to have this turnover rate even when when in the words of the Fellows themselves the kids are severely shortchanged in the first year and possibly 2nd year of teaching. It is always interesting for the "No Excuse" administration at Tweed to always make excuses instead of taking a problem and solving it.

There's a lot more to say since I entered teaching out of a similar program in many ways in the late 60's, a program I am sure Joel Klein also came out of, something you never hear him talk about. Know why? Because it was hell - he got out in about 6 months and seems to have banished the memory.

Look for an update to this post later. The full article is posted at Norms Notes.


  1. Yup! The first two years were extremely difficult as a Fellow (I am now beginning my fourth year). What I find interesting in the article is that it states the retention rates for Fellows but fails to mention the retention rate of new teachers hired via traditional route. Hmmm.

    Likewise, Fellow only comprise 10% of all NYC DOE new hires each year. There's a lot of talk about how new Fellows bombard the system each year, but in reality, 90% of all new NYC teachers are entering traditional route.

    True, the training lacks. There is only so much that can be done in 7-9 weeks. Other programs, like the Boston Teacher Residency, mandates a full year with a master teacher.

    But for all of its faults, and the many war stories that it generates, there are Fellows that have successfully come through the program and remain in the NYC system. I admit that I took advantage of the program. I thought I would be out of the city system the moment I got my degree. But I stayed on (yes, I work in a terribly high needs school), as I have come to love my students and my job.

    Given that 25% of all math teachers are Fellows indicates that the program has shown success in placing individuals with content backgrounds in difficult to staff disciplines (although definitely lacking significant pedagogical background) in the classroom.

    Think about it. How many teachers (Fellow or traditional) can truly handle the many horrors of the DOE? Few.

    As for leaving after the program, that is their right. They only signed up for a two year commitment. Does this result in an endless round of young teachers? Well, with only 10% of new hires being Fellows, retention seems to be a rather large problem with traditional route teachers as well.

    It would be interesting to learn of the experiences of the other 90% of new hires. Or the foreign teachers recruited from the Philippines and other countries (Oh! Now there's a story worth investigating!).

    Anyhow, being a Fellow is a difficult process. Not everyone succeeds in the program, but many do. I'm just one. Would I recommend the program to others? Only with sincerest hesitancy and a full disclosure of the difficult path ahead.

  2. Excellent post. Interesting that the DOE data munchers are so selective and don't bother with data along the lines you raise.

    I will write more about the program I was in in the late 60's because it had a lot of similarities but no Masters and we didn't have to go to school (which I did anyway- a big distraction.)

  3. Micromanagement.
    Rubber Room abuses.
    Inadequacies of teacher preparation.

    All serious problems.

    But let's not get side tracked by dwelling on these things.

    The current federal and city administrations are clearly not in favor of public education. Even the UFT not a stuanch champion of public education.

    We need to address this in order to begin addressing all the other problems we have.

  4. Agree on the privatization aspect - that is part of a national battle - check Susan Ohanian web site and educator roundtable and Substance in Chicago.

    The reason I have put my efforts into reforming the UFT - totally unsuccessfully as you can see -- is that it is the only place where I feel I can have some effect. Imagine if the UFT were a force in the battle against the corporatization of the schools instead of an ally of the BloomKleins, Broads, Gates, etc?

    So though it may seem limited, if a movement for reform can be started to force the UFT into doing the things a teacher union should do, we would be on the way in the struggle against privatization.

  5. Seriously, does ICE even serve a real purpose other than to drive a wedge within our union? Has ICE ever accomplished anything worthy of mention? And no, a sham presidential candidate in the last election, shoddy quality YouTube films, and heckling during the Delegate Assembly doesn't count.

    -Son Of Unity, the next generation
    I'll be back!

  6. I am not a member of ICE or Unity, but in ICE's defense...who gets all the dues? Who is exceedingly well funded???

    Our union dues keep going up and Randi and company keep screwing the membership, especially us senior members.

    What ICE is doing is at least pointing out what is going on.

    WHAT IS UNITY DOING other than selling us down the river???

    I may be an ATR soon because the school I teach in is closing...and I am a senior teacher on top salary. I am a great teacher, but worth two new teachers who don't know their rights....

    RANDI AND COMPANY have totally screwed me and all other senior teachers.

    So, Son of Unity--go back to your patronage job at the union (you probably have one....) and try to restore seniority rights.....

    It is not okay to become an ATR after 22 + successful years in the classroom.....and this situation is all UNITY's fault and especialy Randi's fault....

    And, if Randi were such a brave leader, wouldn't she come out of the closet

  7. What kills me is the only reason the complaints of these young teachers are taken seriously is because they are "fellows". The complaints of experienced teachers are never taken seriously by the NYC community at larger or by UNITY because are viewed as pariahs, parts-of-the-problem. It took me five years to "become" a teacher and I had a great many unofficial mentors, one very patient principal, and I worked in less volatile situations than most.
    I've got tons of of colleagues who are ATRS with upwards of 15 years of experience. The school which replaces mine (Brooklyn Comprehensive Night) is being staffed by novices throughout and the guidance staff had the nerve to ask to meet with us for assistance. We told them we would get back to them on that.

  8. "We told them we would get back to them on that."

    Yeah, team! We're standing right behind you.

  9. I don't know what to say because, if it wasn't for the Fellows, I would have had such a hard time becoming a teacher. I'll write more on that sometime later. This is a good post, though.


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