Saturday, February 12, 2011

UPDATED: Live Blogging from Teach for America 20th Anniversary Summit, Part 4 With Closing Plenary

NOTE: See below for 4:45 added update
"6:05 PM It’s after 6. Drink tickets are now valid. Hoping to see Kaya Henderson at the bar"

Also NOTE: Another former TFA teacher video on negative aspects of TFA

On Saturday, Feb. 12, a Real Reformer member of the Grassroots Education Movement went down to DC for the TFA 20th Anniversary Summit. The blogs came through all day with extensive coverage from the perspective of someone who is not a true believer. Let me say that Summit Blogger is still teaching a self-contained elementary school class years after most TFA's have gone on to other things. Here are links to each segment.

Part 1: Live Blogging from Teach for America 20th Anniversary Summit
Part 2: Live Blogging from Teach for America 20th Anniversary Summit - Randi Weingarten
Part 3: Live Blogging from Teach for America 20th Anniversary Summit, - Afternoon Session
Part 4: Live Blogging from Teach for America 20th Anniversary Summit, With Closing Plenary
The audience is eating this up. It sounds tough. But do our schools and children need this sort of toughness? Education is not a business, but this panel believes it is. It is unbelievable how one-sided this summit is. 

Diane, are you reading this? We need you here pronto. I’ll pay your travel expenses and help you storm the stage. 

Kaya Henderson, DC schools:
Where is the Pepto? I can’t stand this woman. She has the potential to be a more frightening monster than Rhee. (She spoke this morning in the opening brainwashing session.)

She is touting the success of D.C.’s 126 charter schools: “We have a robust charter school movement.” She claims these schools are so successful because they have the autonomy they need.

I’ll take some of that autonomy. Sign my public school and me up. Oh, I guess she isn’t offering that.  

3:10 Just arriving to session entitled, The Future of Schools Systems:

How to get through this session? Is smells like the destruction of public education in here. Check out the panel:

1. Richard Barth: President, CEO KIPP
2. Kaya Henderson, Interim Chancellor DC Schools
3. Rebecca Nieves Huffman, VP of the Fund for Authorizing Excellence, National Association of Charter School Authorizers
4. Paul Pastorek, State Superintendent of Education, Louisiana Department of Education

Moderated by Ted Mitchell, President and CEO, New Ventures Fund

Paul Pastorek begins. Says we need to “Break up the monopolies.” Why? “Because we have to define what will be a truly great school. We need the flexibility to innovate. We need the city to get out of the way.” He discusses Louisiana’s effort to decentralize the school system and how he is relying mainly on charter schools to provide the innovation LA needs.  32% children who are not on grade level, and he says charter schools are the only hope.

Yuck. How can all these people sit here and listen to this? I know there are public school teachers here, as I’ve seen their name tags. Are they not outraged? I am, but you knew that already.

Pastorek then asserts the keys to his success: “We seed, feed and weed in Louisiana.”
              Seed: Bring new schools in.
Feed: Provide support if they want it, but don’t push it.
Weed: Remove schools that do not meant the standards.
Pastorek closes with “We need to engender competition.”

The audience is eating this up. It sounds tough. But do our schools and children need this sort of toughness? Education is not a business, but this panel believes it is. It is unbelievable how one-sided this summit is. Diane, are you reading this? We need you here pronto. I’ll pay your travel expenses and help you storm the stage.

After a day of this, I’ll be lucky if I can still think for myself. It feels a bit like the Fox News studio here. So much propaganda…


Rebecca Nieves Huffman: Continues the “charter school silver bullet” mantra. But does offer a little criticism charters are not educating as many ELLs and special education students. She wants to increase accountability to ensure that charter schools serve these students, but offers no plan.

Kaya Henderson, DC schools:
Where is the Pepto? I can’t stand this woman. She has the potential to be a more frightening monster than Rhee. (She spoke this morning in the opening brainwashing session.)

She is touting the success of D.C.’s 126 charter schools: “We have a robust charter school movement.” She claims these schools are so successful because they have the autonomy they need.

I’ll take some of that autonomy. Sign my public school and me up. Oh, I guess she isn’t offering that.

She says, “We need to storm the Bastille and take over the school district.” To France we go! She is really plugging for a complete charter takeover of D.C. schools.

Richard Barth, KIPP:
“We are working to ensure every KIPPster can leave the world better than they way found it.” Nothing like creating inequity to better the world, Mr. Barth.

I’ll have to try to get up there at the end and ask him about KIPP’s attrition.

Barth asserts KIPP asks itself some important questions to guide their work:
1. Are we serving those who need us most?
2. Do they students stay?
3. Are they making progress?
4. Are they going to college and graduating?
5. Is the school sustainable from a people’s perspective?
6. Is the school sustainable from financial perspective?

He stresses the importance of the freedom his schools have.

Why can’t we give public schools this freedom?

He closes by saying that there are good and bad charters. “We shouldn’t defend things that aren’t good for kids.”

Can’t wait to try to catch his ear at the end of this charade.

Rebecca Nieves Huffman
Quotes and praises Michelle Rhee. Talks about her “doing whatever it takes even if it means breaking rules” speech.
Does Rebecca not read the newspapers? Rhee was found to have improperly fired teachers in D.C. Rhee lied about the test scores of her students. Rhee taped her students mouths shut. Is Rebecca saying these are the behaviors we should encourage?

Kaya Henderson, D.C. schools:
I did not find any Pepto, but I am clutching my free drink tickets. Can I redeem them now?

“No one thought DC could win Race to the Top and now people are acting like it is ‘this whole new thing.’”

 What is she talking about?

Now she says “We can’t do this if our game is weak.”

Paul Pastorek
Hungry to please the crowd, he claims that Teach for America teachers in Louisiana are better than other veteran teachers in Louisiana. He doesn’t mention any data, but he swears it is fact. Everyone is applauding. There’s nothing like applauding an outright insult to teachers who have dedicated their lives to educating children in Louisiana. The arrogance of this man is shocking.

“Charters are one of the solutions we have discussed today. ”

Uh, no, it’s the only one my friend.

“Charters are seen as privatizing education. Really quick reflections panel: how can we bring charters into the public dialogue?”

Diane, are you out there. I can’t do this alone anymore. Charters are “seen” as privatizing education? They are shaping privatization as an illegitimate concern!
*A few responses follow, mainly more of what we’ve already heard, but then,
Kaya Henderson, is back on the mic.

“I was out drinking last night.” Audience laughs. “I need a nap…What you gotta do is not be comfortable where you are. I didn’t want to be a superintendent.” She goes on and on, the audience is laughing.

The Moderator is now leading a “Kaya, Kaya, Kaya, Kaya!” chant. I do not want a school system leader who brags about her drinking habits. This is who TFA wants leading the schools here?!

He announces the D.C.’s mayor is here and that we are ending our session early so everyone can get to the closing session of the day. No time for Q and A. Not time for any one to think for themselves.

4:30 I scramble to hand out some “Truth About Charters Brochures” but can’t really accomplish much. I want to talk to people before handing this to them, but they are all rushing out, and they all work for charter schools (as their name badges claim). I need to find, somehow, the people who might be thinking the questions I so desperately want to ask, but how?

Off to the finale of the day, Duncan is alleged to be there!


4:45 Closing Plenary
I find my friends, who have been at different sessions, and feel relief. One mentions that she was in a session about Segregation in our Schools and that one panel member, Pedro Noguera (Education Professor from NYU), offered some sharp criticisms of TFA and was well received by the 1,000 + audience members. I will report more on this session later. Seems like that would have been a better place for me to find people who might be receptive to my literature. Ah, an opportunity missed. But, I’m relieved to here that some sort of an alternative perspective was discussed today.

4:55 PM
Closing Plenary begins:

Opens with a KIPP school’s orchestra, and then, wait for it… a message from President Obama:

“Wendy believed it was possible to harness the desire of young people to make a difference.” He compliments the TFA teachers for their work and TFA is now 28,000 strong. He then steps away from talking about TFA, and simply talks about teaching.

He echoes his state of the union address. “Anyone who is a teacher deserves our respect and support…We want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the next years…I am encouraging young people to become teachers. I want to thank those who have stayed beyond 2 year commitment…Thank you for showing us the difference a great teacher can make.”

Generally, a pleasant message. No mention of charter schools. No mention of closing “bad schools.” No mention of “bad teachers.” A good change of pace from what I’ve listened today.

Vincent Gray, D.C. mayor:
Boasts: “40% of D.C. kids are in charter schools.” Then goes on to say, “This creates an environment in which we are motivated to improve our schools.”
He promotes mayoral control and its ability to strip away the layers that used to hold back education. I think he is referring to the community’s voice—yes, Gray, that has been stripped away.

He claims he has a strong team working with him in D.C. and sites his self-admittedly hung over interim schools chancellor. The crowd goes nuts again.

Arne Duncan, keynote:
Standing ovation, 98%. Starts his speech with a MLK story. “Everyone here is here today because at some point along the way, we had the great fortune of having a great teacher, a great education.”

“What Wendy Kopp did 20 years ago, and what you have done, is extraordinary.”

“Poverty is not destiny…Education can be a respected profession.”

“I know how hard your work is…You may not get the support you need. You may not have the resources you need…”

He then launches into a story about how a “failing” Chicago public school was failing, but when it was replaced with a charter school it became to show results: “Same children, same community, same poverty, same violence…Different adults, difference sense of expectations…that made all the difference in the world.”

He closes.
Standing ovation repeats. 99.8% now. My friends and I may be the only ones sitting down.

5:20 PM John Legend is now performing with the KIPP orchestra. He is now on the Board of Teach for America.

5:25 PM Video Clip
Principal, parents and students from BRICK Academy in Newark, NJ are on screen speaking joyfully about their school. A teacher there says, “A child deserves a proper education. One day, every child will have that.”

The video ends with “What role will you play?”

5:30 PM What Role Will You Play? Testimonials:
A series of speeches by TFA alum about the “roles” they now play.

1. Dominique Lee, BRICK Academy principal is on stage telling her story.

2. Miguel Solis, March Middle School, Dallas, Texas. Our first Public School educator, “To see I teach is an understatement.” He’s advocating for people to stay in the classroom longer, “There is no way that two years can be enough.”
He talks about a desire to promote educational equity. The first speaker who has said absolutely nothing that offends me.

3. Amy Spicer, Stand for Children, Colorado Policy Director. Promotes teacher evaluations based on observations and student achievement data. Many in the crowd clap.

4. Evan Stone, Co-Founder, Educators for Excellence. Tells the story about when he learned about he could possibly be laid off due to budget cuts. He was disgusted that he, a “good teacher” could be laid off simply because of when he was hired. He claims this was the impetus to create E4E, which has launched a serious campaign to end “Last in, first out.”

5. John Legend, “proud TFA board member.” Promotes his new album with the Roots called, “Wake Up.” He needs to wake up. He plugs, “Waiting for Superman.”

6. Mike Feinburg, KIPP, Co-founder KIPP, Superintendent KIPP Houston I need a nap.

7. Camika Royal, Ph.D. Candidate, Temple University

8. Mike Johnston, Colordo State Senate and Bill Ferguson, Maryland State Senate

I’m reminded of my institute training. They used to parade people like this in front of us every week. Got to motivate the troops.

6:02 PM John Legend Performs again. Motivating continues.

6:05 PM It’s after 6. Drink tickets are now valid. Hoping to see Kaya Henderson at the bar.


  1. Wow. Not sure why you came to the Summit. Seems like you had no idea what this conference was going to be about. Bottom line, we all want the state of America's educational system to drastically improve. Why is your negativity necessary? Go home and complain to yourself.

  2. Anonymous,
    Seems like you don't know the difference between negativity and speaking the truth. This alum is right where she needs to be, informing the public about the corporate education reform's insane o world.

  3. Wow. Dissenting views are "negativity." Let's move ahead with untested programs that don't work, impose them on absolutely everyone, and refuse to listen to or tolerate anyone that disagrees with us.

    After all, Mubarak got away with it for 30 years.

  4. Norm, suggest this as the Word of the Day in Teach For America classrooms around the country. The word is "patronize" and when used as a verb it means to "treat with an apparent kindness that betrays a feeling of superiority." It is a word that describes TFA perfectly and they're so self-involved they won't even catch the irony.

    Teach For America is a profoundly racist organization, a cult actually like the Moonies or Scientologists that lurks around college dorms and student lounges. It recruits white youth with a predisposition for missionary work. As described to them, they will become heroic figures, their prime mission to attack the "achievement gap". They are deployed with a prayer on their lips. I'm sure you've heard it Norm but some of your readers may not.

    The TFAers Prayer: "Oh Lord, why can't those inner-city dwelling children score as high on test as we did in private and prep schools on our way to the Ivy League? It can't be the effects of poverty and racism, your prophet Wendy Kopp told us those are just excuses. Well we may not succeed but we must try, try to save the children of color. God willing, they will be like us. But Lord, let's get this done in two years, I've got a career in investment banking that can't be put off forever."

    Paul A. Moore

  5. So many things to respond to, but I can't help but point out the brazen dishonesty of people who've accepted millions upon millions of dollars from Bill Gates harping about public school "monopolies."

    Many of them appear well-educated, but unable to reason or think for themselves (there's the cult-like element), while others are straight -out shameless opportunists (there's the looters and privateers).

    Kudos to our intrepid reporter, who was able to withstand that torrent of deception without getting physically ill, and who maintained their critical faculties despite TFA's attempted brainwashing earlier in their career.

  6. I certainly think that it's good to reflect on where the state of education is, and to also figure out what one's place might be in a challenging, ever-changing landscape.

    I, someone who is also an alum (2001), can certainly appreciate not embracing every nuance of the messages given over the course of the summit, but I must agree with the initial poster--it seems like you were overly predetermined to find only the negative aspects of the summit--to seek out and promote the ideas that you think are disagreeable.

    I often wonder if people are really listening to themselves when they refer to TFA as "brainwashing"--to what, exactly? Charter schools? Well, TFA places teachers in both charter schools and district schools as is proportional to their contextual regions.

    Teacher accountability? Well, I don't hardly think TFA leads the charge on that argument anymore than a number of other districts, education leaders and such.

    I found the event to be positive and solutions-oriented, and much like Kopp's latest book, didn't attempt "solve" the achievement gap issue with things as simple as "more charter schools", as evidenced by panel discussions that ranged from how to be become district leaders, to conversations with Randi Weingarten, to sustaining your career in the classroom, to how to effectively support turnaround schools and more.

    And the charges that the organization is racist? Utterly, utterly, utterly silly. I'm willing to indulge in debate about these issues with intelligent people--when this blog finds them, please alert me.

    Why did you attend the summit?

  7. Why do I have to agree with TFA to attend this summit? Yours is the 3rd question like this. Is dissent that hard for you to stomach? It's nice the summit was such a pleasant experience for you. It's nice that you felt inspired. It's nice that you felt it was "solutions-oriented." But, how many sessions did you attend where people were actually involved in a meaningful debate? How many sessions did you attend where a charter school employee or promoter was not on the panel? I see a few in the guidebook, but a great deal of energy was spent at this summit promoting the privatization of public education.

  8. I don't think that you have to agree with TFA in order to attend the Summit; it just seems like a better use of time to attend an event that you'd might get more out of instead of mere antagonistic feelings. In regards to your questions:

    1. I attended "Getting things done in a politically charged environment", which I found to have a fairly spirited and insightful debate. I also attended the chat that was done with Randi Weingarten where her and the moderator also engaged in dueling (but respectful) repartee about the various factors inside the teaching profession

    2. I attended the pathways to district leadership panel didn't have a charter operator/employee on it, and there wasn't any actual discussion about promoting (or removing, mimimizing, etc) charters. Ditto for the Weingarten one. I actually didn't attend any other sessions due to time constraints (I spent a lot of time talking with old friends and people I know)

    In regards to your closing comments, I'd say that it was less about "promoting" the charter agenda, and more about reflecting the times that we're in; you can have your head in the sand about the existence of charters due to vehment disagreement to their existence (that's what I'm gleaning from your commentary at least), but it's also foolish to act as though they haven't, for good or ill, become a viable part of the education conversation. I myself have a middle-of-the-road opinion of charter schools; I ultimately lump them with traditional schools, thinking that these conversations are better spent identifying what's working in good schools period--whether that you feel that to mean some charters, some traditional, etc.

    I can't say, so I will not try to defend or refute, the idea that the Summit had more charter presence than others--but I will say that anyone worth their salt would agree that those that promote charters are promoting the ones that they feel are working, just as they would also challenge the existence of ones that aren't performing well as it dilutes not only from the charter movement, but from delivering quality education to children.

    I must say, that I find diatribes like this blog post--which, while intelligently constructed, seems rather shallow and dogmatic--to often be accusatory and churlish without being meditative and forward-thinking.

    I get that you found the Summit's offerings wanting; I'll have to respectfully disagree but respect your differing opinion, but I'd be curious to hear about what sessions you attended then, and what you may have learned from any of those that you found insightful or at least worthwhile to share with peers to better ourselves.

    Otherwise, this just comes across as internet sniping....

  9. I also attended the Randi Weingarten session, but hardly felt there was a meaningful debate. I wrote about this on the blog.

    I do not have my "head in the sand" about the existence of charters. I am well aware that they are all the rave right now in many circles. You say that is OK to be promoting the charters that are "working", but it seems like you are not truly thinking about what is at stake here.

    Which charters do you believe are working? KIPP? Harlem Children Zone? The Standford Study from 2009 asserts only 1 out of 5 charters is successful. Did you look at the charts I posted at the beginning of the day? These charters and many others are not keeping their students. Attrition is high and it is common knowledge that many charter schools counsel out their most struggling students. Their numbers might look good now, but any one can get the results they want if they weed out the most needy. This is not reform.

    We cannot support a reform that isn't aimed at providing for all children. Charter schools, even those at the summit, do not educate equal numbers of ELLs, special education students or students with free lunch plans. We cannot support reform that seeks to privatize one of our last public institutions. With privatization comes the destruction of community, parent and teacher voice and power.

    I believe by posting what I have that I am helping people to "better themselves." My goal was to report on what I saw at the summit and hopefully start a conversation that encourages people to think twice about what they believe.

    I hope you will read my posts again and think more deeply about the arguments I am making.

  10. I think in some respects we're actually in agreement--I left a prior popsition with a charter school where I live for just that reason--it wasn't serving ALL the students. Like you, I'm critical of the success of some charters, too--I think some of them, SOME, have built their success based on skewed populations/results.

    I agree with you that the content of that session--I was too hasty to add that one to the list, but then I'm not sure why you might feel that that's TFA's fault for not having "meaningful dialogue"--it's been my experience that very few panel discussions hosted by ANYONE is able to make that into meaningful conversation.

    Do I realize what's at stake? Certainly. As an African-American male from an urban city, a teacher for 3 years (in two very differnt traditional public schools, a youth/adolescent coordinator in urban cities, a development and an admissions director at two different charter schools, and an engaged alum since doing TFA in 2001, I do indeed have a sense of what's at stake personally and professionally. Plus, I continue to have members of my own family, both immediate and removed, who either have children or are children participating in a system that doesn't service their educational needs fully, so yeah, I think I have a sense of what's at stake.

    And so, amongst the things that I've learned is that people's lives and futures are at stake--people from the very communities, both ethnically and geographically, that I have much kinship with--and that at the end of the day, much of our conversations about ideologies, conspiracies and the like ring hollow for families and children that want what many of us in this country take for granted: good schools and good teachers.

    I think it's also important to note, certainly with the experiences that I've had and others that I know of too, that even our traditional schools, while TAKING every child, have varying degrees of EQUITABLY SERVING every child--so in that sense, I don't think charters are a culprit anymore than a lot of brick and mortar schools. With tracking, crowded classrooms, wild variability in teacher quality, low- to little- resources, there are many things hampering our ability to educate children--and I say "our" because I feel it's an obligation that we all share as educators, and is yet another reason why I don't subscribe to the idea of villainizes charters anymore than traditional public schools, or superintendents, or boards--there's plenty of responsibility and blame to go around, and pointing fingers rarely gets anything constructive done.

    I think there's about a 1,000 different ways to make quality education happen for families that need them: pure, open-admission charters; quality traditional neighborhood schools; principal (as opposed to centralized) selection; student-centered curriculum; better teacher preparation--I mean, I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the idea--a lot.

    So let's change focus here instead then--what DID you like about the Summit? Was there any session that you DID learn something interesting/worthwhile from? Or did you at least have any conversations with folks that were enlightening, interesting or challenging?

  11. To Anon 10:47

    We appreciate the time you took to leave such a thoughtful comment.

    I don't want to zoom in on just one point but this struck me:

    I just want to zoom in on this piece:
    "I think there's about a 1,000 different ways to make quality education happen for families that need them: pure, open-admission charters; quality traditional neighborhood schools"

    What we are seeing here in NYC and probably across the nation is that the charter movement results in the wiping out of traditional neighborhood schools. Summit blogger and I are part of the Real Reform movement that is willing to engage the very parents you talk about in a battle to make every neighborhood school a place where your family would be comfortable place to send their children. We see charters as undermining this battle - they offer the parents who are most engaged - and I was in the system for 35 years and saw vast differences in engagement in my own school and my own classes - the option to opt out of the public schools and leave a deteriorating hulk in their place.

    Please watch the video I put up of the New Orleans school system - new orleans nightmare by clicking on that link on my sidebar.


  12. Norm,

    I appreciate the time and tone of your reply in response to my previous posting--though I'm equally embarrassed to see that I had so many typos too (such is the risk you run commenting on the sly when you're supposed to be working).

    While I applaud the work that you're doing in terms of engaging the parents of these communities, doing so with the bent of "charters are ruining our system" is just the sort of line-drawing that I think does more harm than good.

    I also take offense with well-trotted out notion that charters are places that "engaged parents" take their kids to; I can speak, as someone who has worked in two charter schools, and has friends in over a dozen here at home, that that sort of generalization is wildly untrue.

    Are there some parents that are more engaged than others? Sure.

    Does that capture the entire charter populace? Certainly not; I can show you droves of kids whose parents are virtually absent or ignorant of what's going on with their kids.

    I think teacher and community galvanization is vital to ed reform, and is largely a part that, I think, is going to really help steer where we're going as a nation.

    Unfortunately, from the sounds of things, your organization/group seems more interested in keeping kids/families in situations than universally advocating for better schools. If people are voting with their feet, shouldn't you perhaps aggressively go about understanding WHY?

    A Pew study came out not too long ago that cited safety as one of the primary reasons that parents were in favor of charters vs traditional schools. I think taking into account what matters to the community and not what matters to us (educators) is a helpful way of having a more productive conversation about what reform needs to be.

    Until then, it just seems like your group is into casting stones.

    You say, "the Real Reform movement that is willing to engage the very parents you talk about in a battle to make every neighborhood school a place where your family would be comfortable place to send their children".

    Please share with me--what are you doing?

  13. To Anonymous:
    I believe our public schools do need serious attention and reform and I am aware that there are serious issues of equity within our public schools. The problem with this charter school movement is that so many see it as a panacea. I am not seeking simply to point out blame, but rather, to help others to engage in a critical examination of what these charter schools represent. As Norm wrote, we are seeing public education become undermined and ignored as charter schools take public space and students. Our public schools do face serious challenges and they need serious attention. But, in New York, what we are seeing is all of that attention (from the mayor, his chancellor and his board of education)put into charter schools. Issues of safety in the public schools are not addressed. Our lack of resources is not being addressed. The public school parents, teachers and students are being ignored and pushed to the side as those in power work to privatize New York's education system. Why not take the energy that is being put into charter schools and redirect to our public schools? Allow them to innovate. Fund them properly. Lower class size. I'm sure we can agree this list could go on, too. Can you see the destructive nature of this charter school movement?

    As to your question about what I did like at the summit...I mentioned a few things in my posts about comments I appreciated. The session about early childhood education offered some good discussion about what that kind of education should look like. However, no public school representation on that panel either. I also enjoyed my conversation with one of the KIPP leaders--this is also in my post.

  14. Anomymous,

    You state,"I think there are 1,000 different ways to make quality education happen for families..."
    You may believe that, but does Wendy Kopp, her husband, (a KIPP Board member, and former executive at the for-profit Edison Schools), TFA board members and funders (who overlap in a dense web of interlocking administrative positions and/or Board memberships) feel the same way and act upon it?

    Hardly. Observe their actions versus their throwaway sound bites: in practice, TFA is disproportionately represented in charter expansion and privatization nationwide, and where it has members in the public schools they often operate as a divisive force (Educators4Excellence in NYC as a prime example) among teachers, pushing pro-management policies in the guise of "helping kids."

    You bring up "safety," as an issue, but that's a red herring, as charters, like Catholic schools, have far more say over the composition of their student bodies. Allow the public schools to turn away disproportionate numbers of needy kids, and security is bound to be a less of an issue there, too.

    You say that we are casting stones, again with that persistent "you're so negative" response. But the reality is that we are dissenting from what is in fact anti-social behavior, on a institutional and policy-making level: actual schools and communities are having their facilities, resources and voting rights taken away from them by private interests, interests that TFA is deeply interlocked with.

    We're not casting stones, we're defending our children, our students, our professional working conditions and public education as an institution (flawed and in need of reform as it is).

    You ask us what we are "doing." We're teaching, every day, just as we have been for years and hope to continue to, unlike the overwhelming majority of TFAers who parade their passion, their excellence, their commitment to children and then...stop...teaching.

    But after all, TFA is not really about teaching is it? No, as Wendy Kopp herself says, it's about "leadership." In other words, it's really about identifying, training and grooming cadre and leaders for developing policy, managing the schools, and instituting the business model of its funders, which is by its nature anti-democratic.

    At the moment, charter schools are the preferred vehicle for this transformation, but that can change, as it certainly will for the small, community-based, mom-and-pop charters after they've outlived their usefulness and been closed or merged with the chains, for whom the logic of the market compels them to scale up.

    We're not discussing the personal morality of individuals or the success of particular schools, but rather TFA's institutional involvement with private policy-making, private control of schools and private takeovers of public facilities. That's what the business model of education is in practice, with destructive results for the majority.

    To me, that's negative, and hostile.

  15. hey Anon, I appreciate the issues you raise. I find it interesting that you buy the "people leaving with their feet" line when in NYC we often see that as manufactured with charters having enormous budgets for advertising to create phony demand while public schools have to struggle to tell their stories.

    Just a week ago we saw an elem charter voted into a high school building and constricting the space of a small high school that has a thousand person waiting list. Public schools applying to be allowed to grow are told "no" while every charter request at the expense of public schools is OKayed.

    The Real Reformers through our Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) has been working with parents and students to organize a political movement. Many of the teachers involved are NYC public school classroom teachers like Summit blogger - most of your generation - they are outraged at having to see their special ed kids get services on staircases while charter schools gobble up their space often for specious reasons (they lie about their enrollment.)

    I was in a public school in Harlem the other day - a school co-located with a charter. The teachers in the public school are overwhelmingly black and older while the charter school teachers are almost all white and young. The charter will push out the public school eventually and the public school teachers will be vilified. what message does that send to the children and parents of color in Harlem?

  16. It's nice that you felt it was "solutions-oriented." But, how many sessions did you attend where people were actually involved in a meaningful debate? How many sessions did you attend where a charter school employee or promoter was not on the panel?

  17. Thank you for your thoughts! I wish you would have found me at the summit- I am thinking the questions you so desperately wanted to ask! Actually, I was at the summit to see friends who came in from all over the county, but didn't attend the events. I knew what I would hear-the same one opinion that TFA has come to support and engender over the years, and I knew that there wouldn't be any real debate. Any meaningful throwing around of ideas. Of the real, complex challenges of education. Of the multifaceted nature of reform.
    Your blog confirms what I thought.
    And I applaud you for going and listening.

    I am a 2005 corps member and currently teach at a charter school in NYC. Luckily, it's a wonderful school. But I applied because of the hiring freeze in the DOE, not because of a belief in charter schools as the panacea to educational inequities.

    What I will not do is see this issue as black and white. As either/or. And right now this is where our public and policy conversations around education are. I know that many of the speakers you listed and the TFA alums and corps members at the summit have the deepest respect for their children. That they truly want to make education better for them. It is unfortunate that "better" and "reform" has become synonymous only with measured accountability, charter schools, TFA, and teacher bashing. The true status quo is this social efficiency mindset that we have about running our schools. I believe reform would be when our mindset about schools moved away from social efficiency. What if test scores weren't heralded as the way to measure intelligence or growth? What if collaboration was valued over individual work? What if we admitted that schools weren't businesses and didn't need to run like them? What if we listened to the voices of children and their families? What if...?

  18. Having just spent time reading through your blog and comments, I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts. I'm interested in learning more about your organization...I'm not familiar and find the concept interesting.

    Points have been raised throughout this discussion, some of which I whole-heartedly agree with and some of which I vehemently oppose; however, I want to raise two points that I feel are not yet fully represented in this dialogue:

    First, there is a great deal of discussion here around the credibility of teachers who stay in the classroom, thereby undermining the impact/credibility of TFA teachers, or other teachers who spend a shorter amount of time in the classroom. I am concerned about the absence of discussion around effectiveness of these teachers. Teachers who stay in the classroom for many years and who are highly effective for the entirety of that time are indeed worthy of admiration and are great for the field; however, if asked to choose between a highly effective teacher who only teaches for 2 years and a less effective teacher who's been there for 30, I'll take the effective teacher every time, regardless of how they choose to make their impact in the future. Furthermore, I'm deeply disturbed by your assertion that the only way to impact students is to remain a classroom teacher. This is not only short-sighted, but demonstrably untrue. The research suggesting that student outcomes, teacher effectiveness, and school success are hugely impacted by school and district leaders, teacher support, and yes, even policy makers is overwhelming. Please continue to teach if that is where you feel your skills are best utilized and your impact most profound, but please don't minimize the impact of those that make a different decision.

    Second, several comments have referred to your "negativity," which you have countered with an argument that you are simply a "dissenting voice." As I mentioned above, I truly appreciate your voice and respect your dissention, but I do believe your writing to be primarily deficit-based. Based on this blog, I interpret you and possibly your organization to be interested only in pointing out flaws and what should not happen or be done. As an undergraduate education major and TFA alum, I also struggle with the "privatization" of our country's education system; however, I think we can all agree that our public education system is failing an unacceptable number of children. Both some charter schools and TFA have seen some (not uniform, not perfect, but still substantial) success in changing outcomes for kids. We have yet to see these types of school- or system-wide models in the traditional public system (at least to my knowledge), but I think all would agree that it is absolutely critical that we work to create these models and proof points. More importantly, both TFA and many charter networks spend their time and energy focused on DOING something. I hear you saying things like "focus on school safety and lack of resources," but I'm unclear on what you or your organization are actually proposing. What will it look like to "allow public schools to innovate," for example? Bottom line: there's absolutely no reason that all of us can't be on the same team...charters, traditional, TFA, unions, traditional schools of ed, and anyone else who has a stake in making sure kids get a great education. My perception of your reflections on the summit and on education in general is that you're creating divisions rather than recognizing that achieving excellence in education will take great teaching, great leadership, great policy, great innovation etc. We can all be on the same team here...extremes in any context tend to be destructive, so let's stop polarizing ourselves into "camps," let's stop pretending that there's any "silver bullets," and instead, let's focus on balanced solutions.

  19. See the latest update today from summit blogger:


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.