Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Great Debate on Teach for America

...over in the comments section at The Chancellor's New Clothes (click here) where TFA's and critics duke it out.

TFA focuses on the narrow educational issues ignoring the other issues such as health and poverty that come into play. Maybe there's a sense that touching on them becomes an excuse. Klein says that all the time. Certainly they never raise the class size issue and the kind of political battle it would take to have an impact. But TFA's supporters are anti-class size reduction as a union ploy to get more members.

This ties into the social justice theme that some TFA's who stay in the system are beginning to take a look at. Fighting the bigger fight while doing your best to address educational needs (believe me, just a focus on this narrow aspect will never be enough) is the next logical step. If TFA truly believed in closing the achievement gap, they would also encourage their people to work to close all the other gaps. But when you are being used as part of a campaign to privatize the schools, while also undermining the concept of teacher unions (think: don't they undermine your individualism) the social justice aspect will never be part of a TFA program.

TFA Rose makes some good points:
I agree that the issues of inadequate nutrition and health care should be addressed, and that resources ought to be spent in finding those answers. However, as an individual and a professional I am not at all qualified to do any of those things. I am not a politician, a doctor, or a social worker. Instead I have chosen to take the path of a teacher to help show my students the opportunities they need to find their way out of poverty.

That Rose considers herself not qualified in other areas but somehow qualified after 5 weeks, is puzzling.

A Voice in the Wilderness responds:
In the years since TFA started, with all of the teachers who have been sent in to schools, has it not occurred to anyone to say to Wendy Kopp-”Look at the conditions of the low income neighborhoods. Look at the conditions of the low income schools. Something needs to be done to improve these conditions?”

If something were done, maybe the conditions that Kopp likes to cite over and over again as being an “injustice” would not be there.

I find it hard to believe that such conversations have not occurred given the amount of intelligent people who are recruited by TFA.

Another aspect of this debate are the traditionally trained teachers vs. the TFA's, who make the point that if they weren't there even for 2 years, classrooms may remain empty.

TFA Sarah has the line down pretty well:
If teaching is to be a respected profession, as so many educators implore it to be, then why shouldn’t teachers be held to similarly high standards as every other profession? In the real world outside of the gripping union contracts, if a person is not adequately performing their job function, she is removed from that position. Why should it be any different for teachers? Who made teaching the one profession where it’s virtually impossible to get fired? And who thought that was a good idea for the students? At least in corporate America, someone sucking at their job isn’t usually affecting dozens of children’s lives.

Anti-progressive teachers: if you want your work to be respected and valued, be willing to hold yourself to high professional standards - and that means showing quantitatively AND qualitatively that your students are learning! If you can’t or won’t do that, then find another job. Our kids don’t need warm bodies collecting a paycheck at the front of their classroom.

Deborah responds:
This is exactly the kind of clueless rhetoric I expected to hear. How miserably disappointing. If you think for one splint second that lousy employees and cronyism doesn’t occur in the private sector, that you truly have lots to learn.

Head over and chime in with a few comments of your own.


  1. Went there, read it.

    I only take issue with your calling it a Great Debate, a term I'd reserve for good minds going up against each other. What's going on in that discussion is people responding to propaganda.

  2. All of the TFA's I know, and I know many, have no children at home. They are very young and have the time to plan for school 24/7. They are afraid to "stand up" to idiot administrators and will often allow these administrators to break every article in the contract. Many of them complain to me in tears, but when I hand them a grievance form they are fearful of putting their words into action. Talk about affecting dozens of children's lives , they leave after two years. In my building dozens of TFA leave after two years. I am not saying that these teachers are not hard workers , but if it were up to the administrators all teachers would be TFA. Teachers would work all day without a prep or a lunch. We would have no summer vacation, no holidays and be expected ( as we are now) to go home and log onto ACUITY and ARIS and check out the data. We would have to hold in our pee-pee till the end of the day. Our classes would go way beyond class caps as per contract. The turn -over of TFA is great for the schools budget because then principals won't have to pay "steep" salaries, and can spend more money on test prep!!

  3. We ARE being encouraged to work on the other gaps - poverty, health care, etc. That's exactly what TFA alums are out to do when they leave to work in other sectors. The whole point of the organization is for young minds to take this experience and use it to attack all issues of poverty and educational inequity. And yet, when we leave to do that, we are ridiculed for not staying in the classroom. Which one do you want?

  4. If you want to work on issues of poverty or health care, then go to graduate school in Urban Planning or Economics or work in a clinic or hospital. Do not waste the time of others - teachers who are dedicated to a lifetime of teaching, and, more importantly, the students who are not your social experiment.

  5. I and a bunch of colleagues did both. I taught for 30 years in a poverty area of Brooklyn - it was that daily work with kids that informed my struggles. I wouldn't leave the classroom and that is why so many of us who remained - and I came from a non-ed background - look askance at people who jump away from the kids they supposedly want to help.

    Your "experience" is barely that. I think of how little I knew after 2 years. I kept learning most of my career.

    The classroom is the point of attack. Stay in the battle and work in your kids' communities to get them better health care and fight for jobs for their parents. Not glamorous work but if all TFA's did it you could make a real difference.

    It seems that you have little intention to stay. Why not?

  6. That's an easy one. I want grad student teacher trainees to learn how to teach in the humblest way they can and grad student economist and sociologist trainees to build both their resumes and their networks outside of agencies promulgating neo-liberal agendas.

  7. My last comment posted at the same time as some others. I was answering the question at 3:26, "Which one do you want?" It seems 3:44 was on the same wavelength.

  8. The teaching fellows are, for the most part, annoying sychophants. Why would anyone - teacher, student, parent - want someone who is too timid to exercise their contractual rights to even file a grievance to then enter the endless war on poverty or tackle the disintegration of our health care system? The teaching fellows program should be abolished. I have had many of them confide in me that their programs are not rigorous, they do not receive help in classroom management and that they know it is not a real master's degree. I say let the teachers who have spent three years in a classroom who decide to stay then be given the opportunity to have a master's degree paid for by the D.O.E. Oh yeah, and a real degree in a content area, not a phony bore the shoelaces off of your students education degree.

  9. One more issue - where are the statistics to back up "emerald irises" assertion that teaching fellows work on poverty or health care after their teaching stints? How many jump ship and enter management? What about the equally egregious Leadership Academy? Simon sez . . . go to school for a little while, pretend you know what you are doing, enter a school, leave a school, work for the mayor -- teaching fellows or Leadership Academy?

  10. I'm leaving after my two years for every reason that you despise. In fact, I'm applying to grad schools right now to start a JD/MBA in the fall of 2009. But does this choice make me a bad teacher? No. Does your choice to stay in for 30 years make you a bad teacher? No.

    I'm furthering my education in law and business/management so that I can use my strengths - leadership, organizational restructuring, and investment in people - to continue large-scale change in the educational system.

    And here's what I really mean by large-scale change: there should never, ever be a teacher in a classroom that puts on a Disney movie just because he/she doesn't feel like executing a lesson plan. There also shouldn't be a single teacher in America that doesn't value every single minute we have of instructional time. And there *really* shouldn't be any teachers that just sit back and hand out busywork every day.

    THOSE are the teachers that we need to replace. Not the ones that obviously care, like the writers of these blogs.

    I'm just saying that if a teacher has been teaching for 5+ years and still isn't cutting it, they need to be retrained into another profession.

  11. You did not understand the last two entries or the motivation behind them. What is particularly telling about your last comment is that after teaching for only two years, you have specific issues that you want to remediate in others, yet your examples illustrate why you are not qualified to pass such judgments. What if a high school English teacher has 34 students who start in September reading on 3rd or 4th grade levels, then finds a way to excite them at age 16 about literature so that they start to read independently of the teacher? What if they then read on a 7th grade level by June? What if the teacher uses literature, vocabulary lists, SAT games, a movie, computers, art, music, etc., etc., to make this happen? You have not been in the classroom long enough to make policies for those who have. For you to believe that it is the teachers who are the problem, and not class size, standarized testing that tests the prep of "busywork," stupid and/or egotistical principals, indicates your lack of understanding of why so many students are still not graduating from high school in New York City. This last comment is professional, not personal. Whoever you are, I hope that you do not believe that you have taught long enough to even begin to shape, never mind enforce educational policy.

  12. "But does this choice make me a bad teacher?"

    Not a bad teacher but a novice teacher who if you remained could become a good teacher who can really serve the kids. Right now you are a teacher in training and no matter how hard you work that is still not serving the kids the way you could in your 3rd, 4th, 5th years and beyond.

    Now as to all your criteria about putting on Disney movies, etc.

    I will bet my pension that when you become a lawyer you will not be all that concerned about rooting out all the lousy lawyers that litter that profession. We hear how hard it is to get rid of teachers, but a lawyer must commit a crime and many still get away with it.

    How about doctors - they do worse than a Disney movie - they actually kill people and believe me - I know people in the medical field - and it is impossible to get rid of doctors- unless that one who was caught on video letting a woman die at the hospital in Brooklyn - and I bet hs still has his license.

    So all the concern about teachers who "can't cut it" while there is silence about all the other vital professions is why we think there is another agenda out there.

  13. Again, other people posted responses before this one, but nevertheless, emerald, if what you're saying boils down to this: ". . . if a teacher has been teaching for 5+ years and still isn't cutting it, they need to be retrained into another profession", don't bother defending TFA. That's the page everyone was on before TFA was a twinkle in Kopp's eye.

    Face it: you used the program to your own ends. Along the way, you learned something about the nature of teaching in public schools, but you never became a full teacher.

    The fact that you haven't yet seen the difference is disturbing.

  14. What subject did you teach "emerald irises"? What grade level? Did you teach a course or a grade ending in a standarized test?

  15. I personally, think that we should be gateful that some of these individuals do not stay in the teaching field.

  16. I'm beginning to feel sorry for emerald, maybe we should back off for a while. I do get the feeling she's a real person, and not just a pseudonym.

  17. Hey listen. I think she is real and probably a very hard working person. That is why I am trying to convince her to stay in the Oakland school system as a teacher or come to join us (and other emerging TFA's) in the struggle for a progressive public school system in NYC. And she will find our struggles in the UFT are the most fun.

  18. Why, yes, I am actually a person and not a conspiracy! I teach 6th grade math and science in California.

    Anon: I'm not sure what your end point was when you described the 34 kids that went from 3rd to 7th grade reading levels... because if you mean to say that it can't happen with that many students, then I will happily show you the classrooms that have achieved just that.

    EdNotes (Norm): Thank you for your encouragement to stay in the teaching profession. Approximately 2/3 of TFA alumni (8,000 people currently) do stay directly in education. However, while I'm good at it, I can do more on the policy/organizational side. I will most likely not practice law for long (if at all), but will instead use the knowledge from both degrees for consulting.

    And comments about lawyers/doctors/etc are generally beside the point; I'm not going to address them because my knowledge is limited. Let's stick to what we're here for: the kids.

  19. Who's in it for the kids — you? I thought you said you're applying to grad schools.

    That's the other truth about teaching. Everyone makes choices in life for his own personal needs. When you're good at this job, what you happen to "need" in life has particularly good ramifications for others.

  20. Sure, I'm applying, but I'm also unit planning for the fall.

    What you don't understand, woodlass, is that just because I'm leaving doesn't mean that I'm not here for the kids or that I won't make a difference. It also doesn't mean that my career after TFA won't be about the kids.

    And that's why I don't like sparring with you - because you say things that don't make sense and assume the worst about me and everything TFA related.

  21. Look, emerald, I'm only going by what you said:

    I didn't announce you're a short-term teacher, you did. Nor did I say you won't make a difference for kids down line. The fact is, none of us really know what you will do down the line, since you are still so young yourself and bound to end up where your particular desires take you — not those of the kids you've been teaching this past year, or those you'll get in Sept., or those you may or may not work with in the future.

    I don't assume "the worst" about you: those are again your words, not mine. The only assumption I made is that you joined TFA like anyone else going into a teacher training program, TFA or not, to get you further down your own career path.

    I don't assume the worst about "everything TFA" either — pretty much only what I already know about it: the hype and glossy PR, the "better than thou" and Peace Corps mentalities, a director who can't answer simple, repeated questions about her program coming on the Charlie Rose program, attempts to pass off newly minted ed terminology (like "scaffolding") as innovative, and oh yes, corporate ventures in general that undermine labor unions and public education. I'm also not too crazy about TFA's failed audit, nor the use of public money going unequally to certain classes of applicants.

    Other than these, I have no problem with TFA.

    I don't know what about any of this doesn't make sense to you, but hopefully, once you've brushed shoulders enough with the hoi polloi, you' ll come around.

  22. "And comments about lawyers/doctors/etc are generally beside the point; I'm not going to address them because my knowledge is limited. Let's stick to what we're here for: the kids."

    But that is the point. I don't see you holding doctors accountable for patients who don't get well. Or lawyers for cases they lose. We all do know that people with more money get better health care. So where's the same level of outrage?

    Or people end up on death row due to lousy legal representation. Are people calling for the lawyers that are not up to snuff to be disbarred?

    So why teachers? Because the attacks on them is part of a political assault on public schools. And TFA is one of the building blocks of that attack.

    Now, what about that teacher in your schools who shows Disney movies - I assume it is your school or someone you know. What is the response of administration? Teachers have a plan book and I assume it is ok with admin. So where's your call for lousy administrators who allow Disney movies? Your complaint is about the teachers.

    And by the way, what percentage of tenured teachers in your school do you think should be fired? Is there tenure? Is there tenure and if not why are there any lousy teachers allowed?

    and when you leave, there is a good chance your replacement may well be not as capable as you and even incompetent. Don't feel guilty.

  23. Why teachers and not doctors/lawyers? Because this is where we see things differently - I don't see this "assault" on teachers that are actually good, only on those like Ms. Disney movie. And since I don't recognize the basis of the argument - that teachers are under assault - I have no reason to comment on doctors and lawyers because they are out-of-scope.

    As for Ms. Disney movie: approximately 30% of the teachers are my school would fall into this category. And with a staff of 40, that's about 12 teachers. Scary. The administration sees it occasionally, but we're short 2 principals, so they rarely get a chance to see what is going on in the classrooms. They have a cursory knowledge of it, but have no power to actually do anything about since the teachers have tenure.

    And a sidenote - I don't love my admins, but they're better than some horror stories I've heard. They are mainly just completely overworked since our school is so understaffed.

  24. "our school is so understaffed."

    Now we're getting to the nitty gritty. So your school is underfunded. Schools will always be underfunded and even if you could dump those 12 teachers tomorrow there will always be a certain number of people like that because in an underfunded school that may be what you get.

    It seems the big fight is for funding schools adequately and the major supporters of TFA don't want to go there, thus leaving people like you out there without full support. But they seemed to have convinced you that all you have to do is get rid of those 12 and all will be ok.

    The admins are overworked and can't get to watching those 12 - you say they are all tenured. I wonder if any untenured are incompetent and what happens to them or are the admins so overworked they let people slip by? So who is really to blame for teachers slipping through the tenure trap? Overworked admins is always a good excuse.

    Now let's look at your thesis that we want to remove those 12 incompetents but the admins don't really know they are or are helpless to go after them.

    Why not start with the worst and work from there? By the way, I assume since you are outcome oriented that Ms. Disney's scores are not as good as yours?
    I also assume that the stats you mention elsewhere for TFA success also applies to you and your fellow teachers - do you mean the results of the 70% capable teachers still are not as good as your results?

    By the way, from what I hear 70% capable is not a bad number for almost any enterprise out there. Wait till you see your fellow lawyers. Come back and give us those numbers some day. First, incompetent teachers fail to close the achievement gap and then a bum lawyer lands the kids on death row. If they're not killed by an incompetent doctor before then.

  25. Truthfully, I think that you are wasting your time in trying to reason with someone who is so rigid in their thinking.
    People have limits, and Emerald Irises has hers. She cannot see beyond the information that is presented to her. Her view of the world is set, and you are not going to change it.
    Perhaps in time, she may grow to develop a view of the world that goes beyond that which she has been told, but until then, I wouldn't really bother trying.
    It takes a lot to shake some people from their perceptions. For now, let her continue to think that TFA is all about helping children and that politicians really mean well, and that corporations are not dying to take over education - as they have taken over almost every other institution in this country.
    Reality is often far too painful for some people to face.

  26. I found the line "Anti-progressive teachers" particularly funny. What do you think the percentage is of TFA members who hold conservative beliefs and/or fundamentalist attitudes.
    Have you ever read some of the blogs from TFA members that are tied into religion?

  27. Dear Emerald Irises:

    The comment about 34 sixteen year olds improving from a 3rd or 4th grade reading level to a 7th grade reading level in one academic year relates to the variety of texts that a high school teacher might utilize in order to achieve such an improvement. Please provide statistically the numbers of high school teachers that you know who have achieved this. Understand that I was illustrating the demographics of several 9th grade English classes within the New York City system where the onus of developing the reading levels of entering 16 and 17 year olds who have been left back two or three times in elementary and/or middle schools is placed directly on their last teacher. 34 is too many. I also disagree with the other anonymous blogger who says that I am wasting my time in trying to persuade you to view the development of teachers from another perspective. Would you be willing to be a union representative? Two years as a chapter leader would open your eyes as to the horrific abuses that administrators commit, often in one on one situations.

  28. As for the Fellow comment and their anti-union mentality: There are a number of exceptionally effective CLs out there that are former Fellows. Stop believing the stereotyping. It's old, stale, and highly anecdotal.

    Many of us were thrown into the classroom without adequate support. The truth is, however, that is the responsibility of the university (per NYS DOE Transitional B rules) contracted by the DOE to provide such services.

    Funny. I've never really seen the UFT give much of a damn about the Fellows either. Given that 25% of all licensed mathematics teacher, and 20% of all special education teachers, are Fellows (or former Fellows), one would think that a union so "pro-teacher" would actually spend some more of their dues to actually support new teachers (Fellow and non-Fellow alike).

    Hmmm. Perhaps we should just revert back to the time when the BOE set up "recruiting centers." All it took was a BA and a dream, and you were in the classroom with NO preparation. So easy to forget that part of BOE history, isn't it?

  29. I have a serious criticisms about alternative certification programs,
    but I have to agree a bit about the Fellows. Once I began working closely with them, I realized that it kind of stinks to be a Fellow.
    They are thrown into classrooms with almost no training, and get little support from the program. I've met some of their "advisers". They're better off being advised by a tree stump in some cases.
    I've also seen a very different approach towards them by our admins.
    There is definitely a belief in my school that since they are only going to be in the school for a short period of time, they are going to get every ounce of blood out of them.
    I was definitely guided and "brought along" when I started, but the fellows are expected to perform from day one.
    They get lots and lots of unsatisfactory ratings.
    Many fellows, unlike TFA's actually want to become teachers and are, in my opinion, a bit more committed to the struggle.
    There is definitely an elitism with some fellows, but it melts away pretty quickly once they have been in the school for a while.

    There is actually a lawsuit on behalf of the Fellows I believe against the DOE.
    Weirdly enough, the man who started it died, so I don't know where the suit has gone.

  30. Dear Emerald,

    Please ignore them. They are the left-wing equivalent of the NRA nuts who are holed up in a compound building a militia in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They are cut from the same cloth, and their conspiracy theories just as wild-eyed. Their arguments quickly fall short, so they revert to ad hominem attacks, which is what they long ago decided was their only course of action against your well-reasoned arguments. If strong or original arguments are what you seek, you would be better served going to the pet store and engaging in debate with the parakeets.

  31. I was a TFA teacher (and my school's union representative) in California. In my five years I was not the best teacher in my school; however, my students thrived and my administration & fellow teachers commented frequently how much they appreciated their school's relationship with TFA. Needless to say, I owe much to the veteran teachers who allowed me to observe their classes and shared many of their best practices. I tried to do what TFA taught me -- work hard, remain humble, and build deep relationships with my student's families.

    To be clear, I believe that given their experience those who commented in this discussion (woodlass, anonymous, etc.) are almost certainly better educators than I was. However, I believe that all too often the alternative to a TFA teachers in not a veteran teacher with a strong quantative and qualitative track record of student achievement. Typically in my district, instead of a TFA teacher, a classroom would be led by series of long-term substitute teachers. I (like most TFA teachers) eagerly anticipate the day when TFA is no longer necessary and there are many more folks like Woodlass who are lining up to teach. Until then, I believe TFA is much better than the alternative.

    Finally, kudos to Emerald to sticking up for TFA in a education blog. Lord knows from "This Week in Education" (which I read religiously) on down it's a thankless task. And I believe Emerald is completely correct in the number of TFA alums who leading efforts to change the systemic inequities in health care, nutrition, and economic opportunities that deprive our students on a daily basis. I can't cite statistics, I saw many examples firsthand (perhaps 50 in the Bay Area alone?). Although this may be dismissed as propaganda, I encourage those reading this exchange with an open mind to check out:

    Thanks for a great discussion!

  32. Dear Anonymous 8:15p.m. and Emerald Irises:

    Emerald Irises will not fall for your blatantly antagonistic and false encouragement. Why don't you just admit that this discussion disturbs you Anonymous 8:15 p.m.?

    To Emerald Irises and the other anonymous blogger: I do not think that I am a better teacher than you or Emerald Irises. What I am promoting is an honest look at the teaching fellows program because I am a teacher and a union representative. My experience with those that I represent is that the teaching fellows program is a sham. I have sat on interview committees and have never excluded a teaching fellow. Be assured, however, that too many principals in NYC want the fellows because they view them not as new teachers, but as puppets. I hope you continue this dialogue Emerald Irises because Anonymous 8:15p.m. is full of himself.

  33. I appreciate your comments Robert.
    In 1967 I was part of a nascent teaching fellow like program to fill slots in elementary schools - we got draft deferments, so I understand the concept of alternative programs and you are right - they may not have been able to fill those positions. With the economy as it is today, I am not so sure anymore. I think we all agree that a fully trained teacher - and even they should have some kind of internship - is better that a 5 week program.

    I think many TFA's and TF's who stay in the system for any length of time will be part of a progressive movement to truly change the schools for the better. They do need a few years beyond 2 to begin to understand what will be necessary to make this happen.

    The fight for not only full funding but for control of the funding at the school level and not by the bureaucracy or a dictatorial mayor of chancellor will be part of the struggle.

    That does not mean we don't try to create the best learning environment we can at the school level while fighting for the bigger issues. Early on, TFA's focus totally on their own class - that seems to be the mantra of TFA. But if your school sucks and there are battles to wage at that level, how can you stay away? Sadly, many do.

    While I respect Robert, Emerald and Rose who commented on CNC, anon 8:15 is the same old pretender known as Socrates (IP's never lie) who pretended to be a NYC 10 or 30 year teacher while blogging from various locations all day at times he was supposed to be teaching. Now he is reappearing as anonymous with the same old platitudes. He has no credibility with us as you real teachers do.

  34. How funny, that suddenly Teach for America gets some negative publicity and they are heroes for "sticking up for themselves."
    Are you kidding me?
    Try being an inner city, public school teacher who works under horrible conditions, with students with enormous academic and behavioral problems , for a pitifully low salary, only to be constantly vilified in the media.
    One cannot open a newspaper without hearing about how awful those inner city teachers are.
    Then, to add insult to injury, we are bombarded by mainstream media stories about a program called Teach For America which recruits qualified people to provide inner city children with the teachers they deserve - as if to imply that those of us who have been throwing our life's blood into this fight haven't been trying.
    Suddenly, that very organization receives some negative publicity, and the poor members are congratulated on sticking to their guns?
    Grow up!
    If you want to make a difference, throw your hat in with those of us who are on the front lines.
    Maybe then, you'll get some respect.

  35. Really interesting thread.
    Thanks for posting this and providing this forum.

  36. Mickey Mouse is a lot older and more realistic than some holier than thou TFA's.

  37. Mickey Mouse is a lot older and more realistic than some holier than thou TFA's.

  38. TFA teachers DO throw their hat in with the rest of us on the front lines. And many of them DO stay in teaching. And many of "us" (non-TFA urban teachers) don't.

    All this anti-TFA nonsense is precisely why real change happens so infrequently in education. Current teachers who are not part of a reform movement feel threatened and even belittled by people who point out that things need to change. Once the reform movement moves from a drop in the bucket to truly capable of long-term change, the perceived threat to current conditions is elevated, and as such, the attacks on that threat get stronger.

    To put it more simply, folks like Woodlass and AVIW only get nasty and personal like this because TFA is working. For years, nobody really paid any attention to TFA, because it was too small to be of any consequence. Now that it threatens the status quo and is in danger of really changing things in education, those who benefit from the status quo - lousy teachers - are coming out of the woodwork to defend their territory. We shouldn't be surprised.

  39. Hey aonon 6:48, better known as socrates, schmucrates, mockrates, pretend NYC teacher, etc - what happened to your blog? Can't get anyone to read it? The main point is that you are a shill who has suddenly become "anonymous" to give the impression that there may be more than one person out there with your phony credentials.

    You are not on the front lines except as someone who is being paid to troll the blogs and put up comments. You can be differentiated in a second from a real TFA teacher who is at least honest.

  40. I'm pretty sure he started this whole thing. He got sick of being ignored and stirred the proverbial pot.
    He's frustrated that he keeps getting blocked from commenting on different sites, because of his bigotry and nastiness.
    If he is getting paid, then they should probably fire him because his attempts are transparent and constantly explode in his face.
    He's Wyle E Coyote.

  41. Just out of my curiosity, how many non-TFA teachers commenting on these blogs have actually spent serious time in TFA corps member classrooms and looked at their student achievement data? And how many of them actually track student data to inform their own teaching progress and identify student strengths and weaknesses? I ask this because every current corps member should have a tracking system to show student mastery or non-mastery of each individual objective and standard.

    Now, I know how little weight y'all put in high-stakes test scores, but I'm definitely a firm believer in rigorous, teacher-created assessments to judge where my students are at. That said, I don't have the CST scores from my classes yet. However, it is worth pointing out this anecdote about TFA at my school: Ms. G and Ms. B were our school's only first year TFA in 2006-2007. Out of 40 teachers, their classes had the highest average point gains of the entire school. Ms. G's students averaged 20 points higher and Ms. B's 17 point higher. Comparatively, the next highest at our school was 10 points, and most teachers had no gains or their students actually went backwards.

  42. And thus, the ugliness of merit pay rears its head. My numbers are better than your numbers. I don't care what students you had compared to mine. Why should Ms. Q, the music teacher, get anything? She didn't raise any test scores! Look at us, look at us, me, me, me.

  43. Pretty sure I didn't say a word about merit pay... I'm simply talking about effectiveness vs. experience. Do they actually go hand-in-hand? Or can a first year teacher maybe, just maybe, be effective too?

    I wrote a lot more about testing on my blog, feel free to share your thoughts. Maybe we'll spark Great Debate #2!

  44. Effectiveness is not always measured by performance on an exam.
    Some children are terrible test takers. Some tests are inherently flawed.
    The true proof of a teacher's effectiveness is his or her ability to create long term change in the life of a child-not their ability to get kids to pass a test.

  45. Norm, see why you can't be a social worker to young adults like Emerald?

    Pogue's comment goes right over her head, and she's still so wet behind the ears that she thinks he didn't get what she meant.

    Then she goes and invites people to participate in another one of these Bringing-Up-Baby debates.

  46. I understood exactly what Pogue meant... since I was asking about test data, then obviously I want to discuss merit pay as well.

    I don't.


    Because merit pay is about teachers getting what they think they "deserve", and I simply want to discuss students and what THEY deserve... teachers that willing to follow their progress and ensure that they succeed at tests that are stacked against them.

  47. Emerald does seem to understand some basic stuff. Like "test are stacked against them." So I agree we have to help them succeed if we can on these tests. I did the same thing. My goal was to get them promoted. But I didn't fool myself - at least after my 3rd year when more and more began to become clear - and that is what I think people are trying to say - though I don't condone the nasty tone with which they are saying it as it does little good to promote a dialogue.

    I also understood that this process would not necessarily make kids better readers or close the achievement gap in the long-term. The way to do that is to make them love to read and then you wouldn't need to do test prep. That is the struggle and the high stakes testign environment does the opposite.

    What people who stay in the same school find is that there are so many forces against them - and we see that as we follow some of them over the years -- like the same kids who are on grade level in 4th grade slip back by 8th - that we come to see the process as damaging.

    I suggest you try tracking some of your kids over the next 5 years and see if you feel you truly made much of a difference. It gets pretty sobering after a while.

    Consider the reasons why teachers with superb credentials and with 20 years in the system or more are so upset by some of the attitudes expressed by TFA teachers with no long-term commitment to the system.

    Can a first year teacher get better results on a narrow measure than other teachers in a school? There are lots of factors, including the kids themselves but for now let's concede the point that in your school the 2 beginning TFA's, all things being equal, might have done better.

  48. Emerald: Pogue can speak for himself, but I don't think he meant that you "want to discuss merit pay as well" -- at least not here in this discussion.

    I took his description of pitting of one teacher's "worth" against another's on the basis of test scores to be relative to any number of other topics in addition to merit pay. Teacher ratings, terminations, union busting, seniority preferences, excessing, which electives to offer, and school closings come to mind almost immediately. You know this is all one big political football these days, don't you?

  49. I have to admit that I have never been really in favor of groups like the Fellows or Teach for America, but reading some of the comments from the Emerald person is putting them in a really bad light.
    I had some sympathy before, but now, I'm kind of turned off.
    Hopefully, not all of the teachers from Teach for America are as condescending and self righteous.
    I really hope that they are not.

  50. Dear Emerald:

    You stated that your admins are overworked. Do you have what we in NYC would refer to as Assistant Principals who teach a partial program and supervise teachers in their subject area? Who do you believe has the tougher job: the teacher with a full program or the admins?

    Although I am vehemently against the teaching fellows program (exasperating discontent expressed to me by NYC fellows has cemented this for me and nothing on this thread has changed that), I honestly hope that you do not leave the classroom. What type of consulting do you believe you will do after obtaining a law degree? The most obnoxious people in the D.O.E. of NYC are the consultants who could not wait to leave the classroom, yet waste large chunks of school budgets with their intrusions. Wouldn't you be part of a larger movement if you stayed in teaching for 20 years? I am assuming that you are around 23 or 24. When you are 44, wouldn't you be a great candidate for law school with the intention of leading change? Although proofoflife is ironic, I do not agree with the personal attacks of the other bloggers. Teach your heart out for another 18 years!

  51. Amen to anon. 8:24.

    I entered my 2nd year with absolutely no intention of staying. I was about to complete my MA and was headed for a college career teaching history.

    I was an ATR without my own class (intentional since I dreaded the responsability) in an elementary school and it just didn't make sense to stay. Besides, the principal had told me to find a new job - "you don't seem to care" he said at the end of that year. That stung (I really respected him) since I felt I tried. But hey, I had only 6 weeks training and knew shit.

    Boy was he surprised, as I was, to find myself assigned back to the school in Sept. Again I was an ATR (a full-time sub in the same school.)

    My 2nd year started off with the famous 3 month 1968 strike (the union had also struck for 2 weeks in my first year and I had little union consciousness but staid out both times because it seemed like the right thing to do.)

    About mid-year the teacher of a tough class who was also a Columbia grad lawyer also beating the draft, got a good draft number and said he was leaving. He really didn't care and the class (4-8 - the rock bottom) was a mess.

    By that time we had a new principal and since I felt I had finally gotten this discipline thing down as an ATR decided to ask the new guy for the class for the rest of the year just to see what it would be like before I left teaching.

    After a rough first week, the AP who really disliked me, sugggested I give it up. I asked for one more week. During that week things clicked with the kids.

    I had the most incredible and intensive 5 months. Even that AP became a fan.

    I was captured for life and became a teaching addict.

    Darn it, I could a had the easy life of a college prof.
    I have never regretted it for one minute.

    Who know? Maybe Emerald will be captured the way I was by the kids and won't want to leave.

  52. Lucy,

    Please realize that Emerald and other TFA folks here are operating from a defensive posture - first, from getting beaten up by anti-TFA teachers at school, and also now on all these websites that are inter-linking each other. I'm not signing onto everything that's been said by every TFA teacher around here, but these aren't exactly the most broad, open-minded forums in which to have this debate - for either side.


  53. PS: Allow me to be a tad clearer: there's things being said poorly on all sides. Let's all try and give one another the benefit of doubt.

  54. Tom
    When you say "getting beaten up by anti-TFA teachers at school" that is an important aspect since new teachers usually get informal mentoring from experienced teachers.

    Are non TFA new teachers treated differently and get more support? Is it just the TFA label? Do they walk in with signs? Lables? I mean, how do people necessarily differentiate?

    Wouldn't a better long-term solution be for TFA to look at some kind of student teaching experience? Maybe a 3rd year?

    We are exploring creating some bridging the gap sessions here in NYC. But that only makes sense with TFA's and teaching fellows who go beyond the 2 years and want to make a career of it.

    From what I can see, when they hit the 4th year they have different attitudes than they did in the first 2. But that is generalizing from not a lot of samples.

  55. Emerald:
    As a new teacher, do you really feel qualified to judge not only your colleagues, but teachers in general?
    Do you believe that you have the ability to make sweeping gestures about who should and should not be fired?

  56. Lucy,

    I don't think being a new teacher necessarily has anything to do with it. In some cases, it can be pretty obvious to anyone (parent, colleague, etc) that a teacher does not belong in front of a classroom. I'm simply pointing out that just because someone managed to get a credential, pass all the tests, etc, he/she should be able to remain a teacher forever. Again, this is not very common, but there are enough to make a difference.

    I also understand that there are some undesirable administrators out there that target teachers they don't like. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that bosses like that exist all over the place.

    What if other teachers were somehow involved with making hiring/firing decisions? From simply providing input to forming a panel for decision making... what do you think?

  57. one more thing...

    I do also believe in providing job training for alternative careers, so that displaced teachers are not left out in the cold.

    And I say this with only the students in mind, because they are who we are here to serve. As teachers, we need to constantly be thinking about what is best for the students, and focus less on our own interests. There are other fields in which we can very rightfully do that.

  58. Emerald:
    When you ask what makes a good teacher - can you measure the qualities? - I pretty much come up with "you know one when you see one."

    But as to whether teachers should be involved in judging others - this gets tricky. I always thought we would be much rougher on each other than administrators, who often have axes to grind. The UFT has a peer review program and they do counsel people out of the profession. Peer review is also part of the AFT agenda.

    However, it teachers also chose their administrators, starting with the principal - they elect them in parts of Europe - I believe we might get fairer judgements because the teacher/parent committee would have to approve dismisals. You might not eliminate the most incompetent but the lazy, Disney movie types might just put a little more effort into the job.

  59. Parents should never sit on a panel to evaluate individual teachers! Students rarely tell their parents the whole truth when complaining about a teacher, "He doesn't like me!" without divulging that they are late to class 76 days in row because they are hanging out with their boyfriend/girlfriend every morning in the oark! Teachers can get fired for breaking confidentiality - teenagers will often tell a teacher about a pregnancy. Even the reporting of suspected abuse, which is the law, can put the teacher's license at risk. Parental input should be part of any school's culture, but in firing!

    Teachers, however, should always be a part of a hiring committee so that principals do not intentionally stack a staff with those who will never question authority. It happens all too often in NYC.

    I still hope that you stay in teaching Emerald. Have you ever publicly challenged your principal? What does he/she say about your understaffing?

  60. That last entry was supposed to say "not" in firing!!

  61. I keep seeing this reference to the "lazy-Disney types" meaning teachers who throw on movies and sit back to do nothing.

    Interesting enough, as a part of Joel Klein's "recovery credit program" many teachers were told to do just that. Sit the kids in a room for a couple of days and throw on a movie. At the end, write a few sentences.
    Then viola - 2 high school credits.
    I think that it is very short sighted to discuss quality teaching or teacher impact, when the leaders of school districts, like Joel Klein, are fostering an environment of low expectations.
    How can you expect teachers to have high expectations of children, when they are told to pass just about everyone to bring the numbers up?

  62. Nowadays, "lazy Disney types" are only following the "differentiated learning" processes of BloomKlein's credit recovery. Oh, and by the way, older Disney classic cartoons = 2 high school credits
    SpongeBob Squarepants = 1 high school credit.

  63. Well, of course Spongebob is only one credit. We have standards in NYC!

  64. Good points! How is summer school going these days? Are the students learning anything in the shortened programs?

    Dear Ednotes:

    What is the longest thread in the history of ednotes!! 63 comments on teaching fellows -- not bad!


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.