The article below highlights concerns with Teach For America (TFA) and speaks to many of the concerns regarding Teach First NZ:
“Have you ever found yourself trapped in the insufferable position of having to tolerate a Teach For America true believer relentlessly bombarding you with justifications for Teach For America’s placement atop the corporate org chart of educational excellence?
Teach For America is a $300 million “non-profit” organization that executes a highly sophisticated integrated marketing communications strategy that includes traditional and digital advertising, a wide range of experiential and special event initiatives, and plenty of public and media relations.
With millions spent on corporate communications, it’s to be expected that Teach For America has crafted a concise list of focus-group tested talking points. With discipline matched only by GOP pundits, Teach For America’s “brand evangelists” (from the corporate communications team all the way down to the on-campus recruitment interns) stay “on message” by relentlessly repeating the same lines. The only problem? Many are deceptive at best, while others are downright false.
Here are some suggested replies for eight of Teach For America’s most tried arguments.
1. When a Teach For America supporter says: ”Teach For America might not be the answer, but it’s a part of the solution.”
This is how you might respond: To overcome the challenges associated with educational inequity, Teach For America’s standard of training would require it to be vastly superior to any school of education or alternative route – not less. Corps members would need the ability to deconstruct their own privilege, fully understand their own role in historically oppressed communities, and develop strong relationships with true veteran teachers (not Teach For America corps members who only taught 2 or 3 years). Unfortunately, with only a few weeks of training, and often zero student-teaching hours within the placement community or assigned grade, Teach For America corps members receive nothing close to the unparalleled training that would be required to systemically reduce educational inequity. In all likelihood, by providing the least prepared teachers to the students with the greatest needs, Teach For America corps members may be doing more harm than good.
2. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Teach For America corps members are more effective teachers. The Mathematica study shows that Teach For America corps members produce gains equal to 2.6 extra months of learning.”
This is how you might respond: This is how you might respond: First, there is no such thing as a test that measures months of learning. That would mean all students learn at the same pace. As any parent or teacher knows, that’s not true. In fact, the “gain” was just .07 standard deviations (miniscule in statistics). By comparison, reducing class size can increase learning by .20 standard deviations (3x more effective). Second, the study only included Teach For America secondary math teachers (136 of them), but claims that this is true for all Teach For America corps members regardless of whether they teach secondary math or not. In most communities, the majority of Teach For America corps members teach elementary, not secondary. Therefore, the miniscule test score gains in this study do not apply to the vast majority of Teach For America corps members. Using the Mathematica study to imply that all Teach For America corps members are more effective than other teachers is patently deceptive. (This entry was edited on 3/19/2014 to make a correction in response to a critiqued levied by Teach For America)
For more information on the Mathematica study check out:
This is how you might respond: School districts run by politicians who are pushing for the corporate takeover of public education sign contracts with Teach For America to hire Teach For America corps members each year regardless of whether there is a qualified teacher shortage in the region or not. Chicago is a perfect example. In 2013, after closing 49 schools and laying off 850 teachers and staff because of “budget concerns”, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s hand-picked school board authorized an increase of 325 new Teach For America corps members at a cost to Chicago taxpayers of $1.6 million in addition to the salaries that the schools will pay Teach For America corps members. Teach For America corps members are now in direct competition with displaced teachers for available jobs at district schools and charter schools. Similar situations have occurred across the country includingBoston, New Orleans, and Newark.
4. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Teach For America doesn’t take jobs from other teachers. Teach For America just provides teachers for subject areas that have teacher shortages.”
This is how you might respond: Teach For America’s school district contracts make clear that Teach For America teachers are to be considered for all open teaching positions in a district, not just hard to staff subject areas. Teach For America’s contract with Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Public School System explicitly states, “Teach For America Teachers will be hired by School District for vacancies across the full range of grades and subject matters and not restricted or limited to so-called ‘critical’ or ‘shortage’ subjects or grade level vacancies.”
5. When a Teach For America supporter says: “One third (33%) of Teach For America corps member alumni are still teaching.”
This is how you might respond: Teach For America’s data comes from their annual alumni survey. Unfortunately, Teach For America won’t provide that survey data to outside researchers to verify their claims. However, peer-reviewed research studies show that roughly only 20% of Teach For America corps members are still teaching anywhere after five years (the national average is approximately 50%).
6. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Two-thirds of Teach For America alumni remain in education”
This is how you might respond: Teach For America’s data comes from their annual alumni survey. Unfortunately, Teach For America won’t provide that survey data to outside researchers to verify their claims. However, it is widely accepted that many Teach For America alumni, including those who only taught for two or three years, go on to become principals at privately managed charter schools and run school districts. This begs the question, “Are novice teachers with 2-3 years experience really qualified to be running schools and districts?”
This is how you might respond: In districts across the country, pro-business politicians are closing down public schools and replacing them with privately managed charter schools. Many recent court decisions have concluded that charter schools are not public schools even though they receive public money. A public entity is accountable to the public. A private enterprise is accountable to its board of directors and shareholders. Therefore, as public schools are closed and replaced by privately managed charter schools, the public school system is becoming privatized.
Teach For America’s role in this privatization agenda is by providing corps members to teach at the newly opened charter schools for wages that are often well below the first-year salary of local public school teachers. Recent documents revealed that many charter school management organizations are so dependent on Teach For America to provide them cheap labor that charter managers are reluctant to open new schools without Teach For America.
For more information on Teach For America’s connections to other agents in the privatization and corporate takeover of public education, read the report Mapping the Terrain: Teach For America, Charter School Reform, and Corporate Sponsorship by Teach For America alums, Kerry Ketchmar and Beth Sondel.
8. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Teach For America corps members will now have one year of training.”
This is how you might respond: This is a step in the right direction, but no details have emerged. Furthermore, it is being launched as a pilot program and will most likely not include all corps members. Therefore, Teach For America will still send thousands of the least prepared teachers into classrooms with children who have the greatest needs.
For all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on Teach For America click here.
If you are still unclear why we are fighting against charter (partnership) schools, below is yet another good example of where the madness leads when public education is privatised: Virtual schools.
Sounds great, doesn’t it – all sci-fi and up-to-the-minute. I am quite addicted to my computer and to technology, so you’d think I’d be all over this. But I’m not. I’m extremely unconvinced that the pros outweigh the cons.
But before I share with you what it’s like to work (and study?) in a virtual school, let’s just recap the non virtual foreign-owned charter hopefuls wooing New Zealand:
Mike Feinberg of theUS-based KIPP charter school chain was over like a shot in 2013, as soon as charter/partnership schools were mooted. He met with Hekia Parata and co., and then embarked on a publicity tour of NZ to prime investors and the gullible, ready for their foray over here as soon as they can get away with it.
Of course Feinberg was very, very keen to “warn[ed] against giving contracts to businesses or groups which do not have a long, robust track record in education,” (in other words, only give contracts to companies like his), but was more than happy to support the use of “unqualified teachers in its proposed Partnership Schools.”
Because. let’s face it, cheaper staff = more profit.
It doesn’t save the tax payer a red cent, but it does move the money into the businessman’s bank account rather than a teachers. Nice for the investor.
But do KIPP do a good job?
Well, KIPP are always keen to say they have a huge percentage of students that graduate and go to university. What they don’t say is that the drop out rate is phenomenal, and when they say over 90% graduate, they mean of those that made it to the end of the year.
KIPP is well known to lose large numbers of students throughout the school year, sending the weaker ones back into the public system and keeping on only those that will reflect well on the KIPP brand. The high attrition rates are discussed here and here and indeed here – or do a Google search and read any of the thousands of reports you find.
(Note – if you find a report singing KIPP’s praises, be sure to check who funded the research and how the numbers were crunched. There are often cunning tactics the researchers and statisticians use to make the ‘facts’ seem rosier.)
So tey keep the best and throw the weaker students back at the public schools, then boast that they do better than public schools! Huh?! Surely we are meant to help all students do well, no just the easy-to-teach ones?
For other illuminating snippets on how charters fudge the facts, you might want to take a peek at the handily compiled 10 Things Charter Schools Won’t Tell You … it’s quite enlightening.
But if, after all that, you need yet more convincing, read this and then tell me, do you still think charter schools are all about the kids?
“In late August, 2012, I took a job in a school that is part of the largest virtual charter school chain in the nation. While I had misgivings about the nature of the school, I thought perhaps if I were diligent, I could serve my students well. In November 2013 I decided I could no longer continue as a teacher. This is my story.
Some Background on K12 Inc.
K12 Inc., the virtual-education company, was founded in 1999 by the one-time “junk bond king” Michael Milken and the hedge fund banker Ronald Packard. The company’s original board chairman was William J. Bennett, who had been the U.S. Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan. (Bennett resigned from his position with K12 Inc. in 2005 after sparking controversy by stating that the U.S. crime rate would go down if more African-American babies were aborted.)
As a private company founded by financiers, K12 Inc. is highly profit-driven. Though its stock price has apparently taken a hit recently, there is little doubt that K12 Inc. has been quite successful in bringing in revenue–even as regular public schools have faced dire financial straits. According to the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, Packard, who is the current CEO, earned $19 million in compensation from 2009-2013. In 2013 alone, as Chicago closed 50 of its public schools and Philadelphia closed 23 more, K12 Inc. brought in a whopping $730.8 million in taxpayer dollars from its managed public schools, and its top executives saw their compensation skyrocket by 96 percent.
My Life as a Virtual Teacher
I became a teacher because I am an advocate for youth and social justice. However, this purpose was hard to fulfill working in a K12 Inc. school. With the kind of technology, systems and process management needed to keep the enrollment machine running (and the machine is priority), there is never much time to actually teach. In my former school, each class met for 30 minutes in an interactive-blackboard setting one day each week. Fewer than 10 percent of students actually attended these “classes.” Other than that time and any one-on-one sessions a teacher and student might set up (which, in my experience, almost never happened), there is no room for direct instruction.
Given the extensive needs of the students, this set up does not serve them well. Most of my contact with students was by email, through which I answered questions about everything from login issues and technology glitches to clarifying of assignments, and even that communication was only accessed by a very small percentage of students.
In addition, because students continuously enroll, no one was on the same assignment at the same time. I taught high school English. In a given day in mid-November I would grade introductory assignments, diagnostic essays and end-of-semester projects, and everything in between, for each course (this month I had 30 separate courses). I found it to be impossible to meet the learning needs of my students in that situation.
For most of last year I was Lead Teacher at the school, which required me to attend national staff meetings each week. At first the marketing focus of the conversations turned my stomach, and then it made me furious. In my experience, the conversation was never about how our students were struggling, how we could support those who were trying to learn the English Language, how we could support those who were homeless or how we could support those with special needs.
It was never about how we could support our teachers.
And there was marketing: how to get more children enrolled, how to reach more families, how to be sure they were pre-registered for next year, how to get Facebook pages and other marketing information “pushed out” to students.” Read the rest of the piece here – it is well worth reading it to the end.
So, does that sound like quality education to you?
Is that tax $$$ well spent?
I would say that the evidence is mounting by the day that charter (partnership) schools leave us much to worry about.
What do you think?
So yesterday, June 4th 2013, the Education Amendment Act 2012 was passed and charter schools became legal in New Zealand. Nice work.
It was a good move to get your pal Catherine Isaac to chair the panel so they could ignore all advice and submissions and push them through. Clever.
And a big high five for getting The Maori Party to fall for it. Hahahaha, I did have a good titter at that one.
So funny that they forgot that you said quite proudly on TV that “If we continue the bankrupt response of just paying young Polynesian, young Maori men in South Auckland the dole to sit in front of TV, smoke marijuana, watch pornography and plan more drug offending and more burglaries, then we’re going to have them coming through our windows regardless of whether we live in Epsom or anywhere else in greater Auckland.”
Pfffst, it’s not your fault if they forget stuff like that.
Anyway, I’ve heard that every Maori or Polynesian man in South Auckland is stoked to hear you are so keen to save them, so let’s get cracking and set up this school.
The John Banks School for Errant Maori and Polynesian South Auckland Lads (Ltd)
Now I know what you’re thinking, John. You’re worrying that you don’t have any background in education. But it’s okay – you don’t have to been trained in education to run or work in charter schools. No, nothing at all. You just have to convince the panel to say yes to your plan, and seeing as we’ve got Catherine and Hekia in our pockets, we’re in!
Lucky that, eh John?
You can make up your own curriculum, your own school day and term times, hire some warm bodies to pretend to be teachers, and make a killing!
I’m thinking we could just print some lesson plans off the internet and get nice looking people to teach those. That should be quite cheap.
The poor South Auckland lads will never notice, anyway – far too drugged up. No it’s true, I heard a prominent politician say so on TV.
Oh yes, John, there really is!
We get a nice handout from the government of hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up the premises – and we don’t have to return a red cent of it if we close the school. Bonza.
I think we should maybe choose one of those well kitted out schools in Christchurch that are about to become available. I’ve heard one of them has a $1 million plus upgrade just 2 years ago, and I bet we can get it mega cheap. We can always say we don’t want them just sitting there like those schools in Invercargill, eh?
What else? Well the students will be funded as decile 3, and the funding for things like special needs and ICT won’t have to be spent on those things so we can with that whatever we like! We don’t need to bother with those pesky tricky things Dyslexia or Autism or speaking Te Reo or Samoan or anything. Yeah, nah, just filter out anyone hard to teach like lots of the US charters do, and we can keep the cheaper kids. The public system can get the more difficult ones back – that’ll be a hoot. Take that trained teachers. Hahaha.
Oh lord, I just thought, what if we get hungry kids? Can you get your staff to whip up some eggs bene for them to share? No? Oh man, well best get that Weetbix lined up, then. But still send the eggs – we claim that on expenses. I doubt we would we have to declare it, eh?
Ooooh I’ve had another great idea… We could hire ABBA to teach the kids. Oh, no, sorry I got a bit off track there.
This is what I was really thinking. Maybe we could call this principal in the UK who used school money to hire her mates, claimed expenses more than once from different organisations, gave contracts to businesses she was close to, and used funds to pay for taxis costing well over $6000. She’d be able to give us tips for making the most of those tax dollars!
It’s okay, we can do all that and everyone will still think we are fabulous. I mean to say, that teacher was named head teacher of the year at the 2007 Teaching Awards and appointed CBE, so all good, I’ll get our people to talk to her people.
If she’s unavailable, we could call the Charter Schools guys who conned US$17 million of taxes from Oregon. They were even more cunning because they pretended their schools were not for-profit (aww bless their faux charitable socks) and “ran a chain of taxpayer-funded charter schools under the guise of a nonprofit named EdChoices, “submitted false, incomplete and misleading records about how many students were enrolled in the schools and how they were spending the state’s money.” ” Cunning.
What if we’re rumbled?
No, don’t worry about what to do if we’re caught out. When charter school fraudsters are investigated they don’t hang about. Once the cash cow is rumbled we can just close the school like these guys. It’ll leave students and teachers with nowhere to go, but overheads gone! Easy!
We would be investigated, but you could nudge the police not to investigate this one, either. You seem to be good at that.
Try not to be like these guys, who get caught AND prosecuted, though…
Man alive! Google threw me 2.8 million hits for “charter school fraud” so we’d have to be careful in case anyone is onto this scam.
But no, no, don’t think about that – if anyone tries to get the facts out we can just say it’s all daft leftie mudslinging and get our mate Seal Meat to bash them on his blog.
It’ll be fine – just think of the money!
So what do you think, Banksy? Shall we do it? You and me?
The John Banks School for Errant Maori and Polynesian South Auckland Lads (Ltd) ?
It’s all the more interesting then, to read that “One of Sweden’s largest free school operators has announced it will shut down, leaving hundreds of students stranded“.
19 schools will be sold, three closed**, leaving hundreds of students having to find new schools in the most important education years of their lives.
Why are they closing?
Because “Danish private equity group Axcel, which bought the chain in 2008, decided it could no longer continue to cover the company’s losses.”
This is what happens when you allow for-profit schools – if they can’t make enough moolah, they bail out.
Tough luck to the students.
Because they are not in it for education, they are in it to make money.
Compare that to Christchurch public schools who fought to carry on through quake after quake, caring for their students and communities no matter what. Staff who lost their homes, still turning up to work.
Compare that to Novopay. Staff not being paid correctly, some not paid at all – not a single cent. Some unpaid for months. And yet on they went.
Why? Because they became teachers to educate children, and they care about their students. Simple as that.
Kiwis should take note of the warning from Sweden to the UK “not to slavishly adopt the Swedish model, where private companies can set up profit-making free schools, paid for by the state but with little government oversight.”
Because this is where it can lead: students without schools.
* for more on why Swedish schools are not the bee’s knees, read these…
** Update – possibly four closed. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/may/31/free-schools-education
We give them our tax dollars.
They spend it wherever they want.
And, well, that’s it.
They do not have to account for where the money goes
– no public accounts
– no Board of Trustees
– and they do not have to be answerable under the Official Information Act.
With that in mind, it doesn’t take a PhD to work out why they are so appealing to some sectors, but just in case this is all new to you, let me make it plain…
PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT PROFIT
You might be thinking that charter schools do better for kids, and that the money is well spent and the secrecy and skimming off of money as profit is all worthwhile if it gets kids a better education.
As Prof Peter O’Connor said “Charter schools are part of an international Right-wing attack on progressive and humanist traditions of education… The attack is not driven by a genuine desire to remedy the ills of the education system, but by the desire to create a cheaper teaching force, one that is shackled by narrow-minded, test-based accountability measures, and one that has less union power to fight back.” Source.
Oh I could go on all night (and in my head, I do), but you get the drift: Undervalued teachers, dollar signs flashing left, right and centre, and the kids caught in the middle.
Do you truly think handing schools over to money-makers and marginalising educators will help our students learn?
Does this really and truly sound like the answer to you?