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Teach for America in Seattle: Tracing the big push from a UW dean

Emails show the UW's Dean of Education Tom Stritikus moved quickly and diligently to bring Teach for America to Seattle Public Schools. But should an area with plenty of fully trained teachers (including UW graduates) be reaching for barely trained college graduates?

Wendy Kopp, founder and chief executive officer of Teach for America (2008).

Wendy Kopp, founder and chief executive officer of Teach for America (2008). Energetic Communications/Wikimedia Commons

In public education today, there are enduring mysteries like how to narrow the achievement gap, and there are newer mysteries like the enthusiasm for education reform.

There is so much momentum behind education reform that the movement sometimes seems like a train barreling through the country. Teach for America is one of the many cars on that train.   

Teach for America (TFA) screens thousands of recent grads from the best colleges and universities, and trains the ones it has selected for about five weeks in the summer. The recruits are then assigned a K-12 classroom, usually in a struggling school. This was TFA’s original mission: to find the best and the brightest for hard-to-fill teaching positions.

This is a two-year commitment and the recruits are paid by their districts a regular teacher’s salary (except that they come with extra expenses like a finder's fee paid to TFA and the costs of having a mentor teacher available, especially for TFA recruits teaching special education students). These recruits are not interns; each is the teacher of record in a classroom. 

TFA recruits come in with a conditional teaching certificate and must complete a certification program during their two-year stint. TFA’s head, Wendy Kopp, has written about being "baffled" as to why teachers need campus-based graduate programs akin to medical or law school.

TFA, armed with $50 million from the feds, is now spreading more rapidly throughout the country, placing TFA recruits in districts with no shortage of qualified teachers. Some districts are protecting TFA jobs even as they lay off veteran teachers.  

Into the TFA fray comes Tom Stritikus, the dean of the University of Washington's College of Education and a former TFAer himself, with the creation of a partnership between the college and TFA for the recruits to earn their teaching certificate.

A timeline is helpful to tell the UW-TFA story, which has been assembled in part from emails that were received in response to a public documents request as well as from attendance at recent College of Education meetings with students:

Aug. 18, 2010: Not waiting for the official UW announcement that he is to be made dean, Stritikus sends an e-mail to TFA founder and Chief Executive Officer Kopp telling her the news. He says that he would like to create a national on-line endorsement program for TFA at UW, and asks if she would be willing to do press for his deanship announcement. 

She replies, "Let’s absolutely see what we can cook up in terms of ways of working together."

Aug. 19: Stritikus presses forward on the TFA press release, writing that "the quote could address that I am first TFA alum to be a Dean of a COE [college of education], what this means for TFA and that she is eager to watch my innovative progress to move the College forward as a leader in innovation."

During the month of September, the UW announces Stritikus as the dean of the College of Education. The Gates Foundation also announces a grant for $2.5 million to establish a TFA Puget Sound office. 

Sept. 13: Stritikus emails TFA again about the certification program and says by the end of the month he will have things organized.

Sept. 30: The Seattle Times publishes an op-ed by Stritikus advocating for charters schools and TFA teachers. 

Viewing the emails and his op-ed, it seems like, at this point, job one for the new dean was to figure out how to help TFA come to Seattle. But was TFA even coming to Seattle? TFA had already signed a contract with Federal Way but it wasn't a big enough cohort for TFA to place recruits.

Oct. 15: Stritikus lets TFA head Kopp know that Teach for America had been placed on the Seattle School Board agenda in November.

Oct. 26: He sends an email to the regional TFA director, Janis Ortega, and says, "Great work on securing the SPS [Seattle Public Schools] vote."


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 9:30 a.m. Inappropriate

I see an even bigger problem than the "lack of a teacher shortage" in the UW CoE Dean pushing this TfA program.
==> The motivation behind bringing in TfA is to close achievement gaps in low income schools...... and yet UW CoE programs and NSF programs for professional development directed but UW correlate with declining math skills for low income students and many ethnic minority students. I am talking about huge drops that the UW CoE and the Seattle Schools' Board and Central Administration refuse to even acknowledge.

Dean Stritikus should be working on an enormous problem involving student math skills as well as social justice .... instead he is playing politics.

He needs to be solving problems ... with TfA he is creating more problems. To close the achievement gaps in mathematics in Seattle and in some other districts the answer is to END what the UW is doing to several districts .... UW practices that masquerade as effective professional development.

Here is a link to some of the data showing the correlation between UW damaging practices and plummeting test scores ....

http://mathunderground.blogspot.com/2010/09/uw-professional-development-gone-bad.html

The UW College of Education's (MEP) Math Education Project should be ended or revised immediately ... UW MEP is a major factor in increasing the achievement gaps in mathematics. Advocating for ridiculous instructional instructional practices under the guise of social justice needs to stop. Dean Stritikus please do your job correctly or leave. The object is to increase student learning ... not just rake in grant dollars for the UW.

TfA hucksterism and the other UW CoE damaging crap needs to STOP and the focus needs to be on increasing student achievement.

"To improve a system requires the INTELLIGENT APPLICATION of RELEVANT DATA." -- W. Edwards Deming
.... {Dean Stritikus should try it .. same for Susan Enfield .. and the Seattle School Board}

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 9:32 a.m. Inappropriate

Typo above...

and yet UW CoE programs and NSF programs for professional development directed (but) by UW correlate with declining math skills for low income students and many ethnic minority students.

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 9:37 a.m. Inappropriate

When asked why Seattle Public Schools should even consider hiring un-certified teachers (Teach for America corps members), the Board members who approved the motion said it was to expand the pool of candidates for hiring. There are already over a hundred qualified, certificated teacher applicants, many with experience, for every teaching job in Seattle. There is no need to expand that pool of candidates.

Teach for America is a noble cause, and their corps members are desperately needed in areas of the country where there are not enough certificated teachers. But that's not the case here in Seattle. This is like sending a CARE package to Bel-Air. Bel-Air doesn't need the charity, the items in the CARE package aren't as good as what they already have, and it deprives a really needy community of the resource.

Teach for America trades exclusively on this mythical belief that their corps members are "the best and the brightest" and they have some contagious excellence that will somehow rub off onto the students. In truth, Teach for America corps members get no better results than novice teachers who actually went to university, learned to be teachers, and got a degree in education. They are not as effective as experienced teachers.

Up until recently, the District and education reform advocates said that they wanted our under-performing schools in low-income neighborhoods to get more experienced teachers and wanted those teachers to stay longer. They said that these schools and students were poorly served by novice teachers and high teacher turnover. So why in the world would we want to recruit a bunch of novice teachers who will leave after two years to work in these schools? It goes directly against what everyone said the students needed.

coolpapa

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 9:39 a.m. Inappropriate

The sort of cronyism reflected in Dean Stritikus' actions is repugnant.

coolpapa

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 9:53 a.m. Inappropriate

Not only is Mr. Stritikus a snake oil salesman, but there is a conflict laid out here between his role as Dean, his role as a TfA alum, and his part in the of selling TfA to the U.W. As an alum of TfA, he bent over backwards to accommodate the needs of TfA over the needs of current students in the U.W. Masters in Teaching Program. Mr. Stritikus’ actions on behalf of TfA caused a great deal of controversy in his own department. His own students took him to task. Good for them.

In his own piece published yesterday, he tried justify those actions. He implied that this will open a door for a conversation regarding effective teacher training. Sorry, Mr. Stritikus but that discussion needed to happen prior to entering into an agreement with TfA

Thank you, Ms. Westbrook for methodically taking the reader through the details of the partnership between TfA and the U.W. and the Dean’s role in it. It smells bad really bad. And now we hear that TfA’ers may benefit from a tuition reduction at the same time that undergrads may be saddled with a 20% increase in tuition? Shame on Stritikus and the U.W. if this happens.

It is time for the Dean to resign.

Margie

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 9:54 a.m. Inappropriate

"This is like sending a CARE package to Bel-Air. Bel-Air doesn't need the charity, the items in the CARE package aren't as good as what they already have, and it deprives a really needy community of the resource."

Wow, that's the whole situation in a nutshell.

The Seattle Public Schools receive no benefit from TFA, so I don't see how the School Board can justify spending public money on this program.

Mannix

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 9:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Isn't it as plain as day that this is all about the Benjamins? Wendy Kopp is cutting a fat hog off TFA, and when public pressure forces Stritikus to resign for the embarrassment he has caused UW (soon, please, and take Goldhaber with you), he will only go from there to a higher-paid executive position with TFA, paid for by (you guessed it) Gates and Broad.

I do not doubt for a minute that plenty of TFA teachers are effective and highly motivated, and that they can have a positive effect in areas where they are needed -- where there is a teacher shortage.

But not only are they NOT needed in Seattle, because there IS no teacher shortage, they have been railroaded through to this point with almost no public input, which the situation called for. Here was a case in which we really NEEDED the "Seattle process."

I expect groups such as Stand For Children and the League of Education Voters to advocate for TFA. They are wholly owned subsidiaries of Gates/Broad, and their credibility is nil.

But unless the PTSAs have been totally co-opted by now, I would hope that TFA becomes an issue in every school building in the district, and that parents would organize to tell their principals that if they allow even one of these five-week wonders in front of their kids, there will be bloody hell to pay.

After all, what does anybody think the whole sorry Martin Floe episode was all about at Ingraham? It was a warning message to all principals: If we tell you to take TFA people in your school, you had better do it. And if we can fire Floe and make it stick, we can fire you if you don't do what we tell you.

Fortunately, the parents, students, and friends of Ingraham made the district back down. But that was just the first skirmish of what promises to be a building-by-building war of attrition.

ivan

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 10:17 a.m. Inappropriate

I want Dean Stritikus to either resign or get busy fixing problems rather than creating them. A great place to start is ending the TfA proposed fiasco right now.

Clearly another shameless politician masquerading as an educator is not needed. The Dean needs to fish or cut bait ... not bait us with pointless proposals and continuing projects that fail and fail again.

Take a look at UW MEP project partner Bellevue School District and how well the MEP social justice math agenda is doing with math skills in Bellevue.
-----------
The Data:

Get ready for a small suburban surprise....
OSPI Math test results contrasting Bellevue's BSD and Seattle's SPS students.

Bellevue schools. Data.

For BSD's Black students results at the end of 8th grade in 2010 were:
31.8% of kids passing the Math MSP and 36.4% of kids unable to score above level 1.

For BSD's Black students those numbers at the end of 10th grade were:
19.2% of kids passing the Math HSPE and 57.7% of kids unable to score above level 1.

Note the BSD pass rate at grade 10 for Black students is only 60% of the 8th grade pass rate.
19.2 / 31.8 = 0.60

For BSD White students the pass rate at grade 10 is 90% of the 8th grade rate.
68.3 / 75.6 = 0.90

For Seattle we find:
the SPS pass rate at grade 10 for Black students is only 41% of the 8th grade rate.
12.5 / 30.5 = 0.41

SPS White students the pass rate at grade 10 is 91% of the 8th grade rate.
68.1 / 74.6 = 0.91

============================
Grade 4 Black Student MSP math comparison Seattle and Bellevue in Spring 2010.

BSD's Black students at grade 4:
28.9% of kids passing the Math MSP and 44.4% of kids unable to score above level 1.

Seattle's Black students at grade 4:
28.2% of kids passing the Math MSP and 51.6% of kids unable to score above level 1.

-------------------
------------------

Low Income Students:

Grade 4 Low Income MSP math comparison Seattle and Bellevue in Spring 2010.

BSD's Low Income students at grade 4:
36.6% of kids passing the Math MSP and 37.4% of kids unable to score above level 1.

Seattle's Low Income students at grade 4:
39.9% of kids passing the Math MSP and 38.7% of kids unable to score above level 1.

WA State Low Income students at grade 4:
38.8% of kids passing the Math MSP and 37.2% of kids unable to score above level 1.

================

Keep in mind that Bellevue and Seattle are both UW College of Education partners in the Math Education Project of UW CoE.

Here are the Goals of MEP =>

http://depts.washington.edu/matheduc/#Goals

Results are needed not Fake Goals that are never analyzed in terms of results.

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 10:37 a.m. Inappropriate

Students, get organized! Your numbers are legion! Why isn't the UW Daily writing about this? SPS families can't fight this battle.

Documents are posted at www.scribd.com/spsleaks

StopTFA

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 12:38 p.m. Inappropriate

I am guessing that “diligently” is not Westbrook’s word for TFA alum Tom Stritikus’ behind the scenes maneuvers to get TFA Inc. into Seattle. “Obsessively” is a more apt description; at the very least, “controversially.”

In fact, as the documents that the genuinely diligent Westbrook and another parent obtained reveal, Stritikus was so singularly focused on facilitating TFA’s move into Seattle’s school district – even before he was officially made dean at UW’s College of Education -- that it seriously calls into question his allegiance to U.W.’s COE and its existing teaching students. His loyalty and priority appears to be TFA first and foremost, and not the public university that hired him nor the current students he is supposed to support.

These documents strongly imply that he planned from the start to use his prestigious position as dean of UW’s COE to help TFA, Inc. get its foothold here. This is clearly a conflict of interest, and in some realms, would be grounds for firing.

Whatever anyone may think of the value of TFA, Inc., the basic facts are:

1. We have no teacher shortage in Seattle; TFA is not needed here.

2. Stritikus’ maneuvers have been hugely divisive within the College of Education. Existing students are demoralized by his disloyalty to them and his inconsistent attitude toward the integrity of their education, and his staff are divided on whether to support TFA.

In other words, Stritikus’ first move as dean of UW’s COE has been very destructive and has hurt the very institution and students he was hired to lead.

More reading here:

Seattle’s Education Reform Hypocrisy
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sue-peters/plan-to-host-teach-for-am_b_865642.html

CRPE report casts doubt on using Teach for America novices in our neediest schools
http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/crpe-report-casts-doubt-on-using-teach-for-america-novices-in-our-neediest-schools/

Teach for America’s “Best and Brightest” only need a C average to qualify
https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/teach-for-americas-best-and-brightest-only-need-a-c-average-to-qualify/

suep

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 2:18 p.m. Inappropriate

If you would like to comment on the UW's proposed discriminatory Alternative Certification program, send the PESB Board a message:

http://www.pesb.wa.gov/contactboard

StopTFA

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 2:23 p.m. Inappropriate

I am glad the board voted to add TFA to the pool. My school has positions open-- and for one not a single person has applied. Would we love a passionate TFA member? Maybe so-- we'd at least like an opportunity to interview them and decide. I have to think that many schools are in the same boat, that the many "qualified applicants" spoken of above have places they'd rather work than a highly challenged high-need school like so many of our Seattle Schools. Any gifted teacher will still get a job; but if you are marginal, maybe a TFA person will outshine you in an interview (or be willing to do work you wouldn't). Adding TFA just gives us more options. In fact I'll send them a check I'm so glad to see the pool opened up.

AltEd

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 3:32 p.m. Inappropriate

AltEd, could you please tell us which Seattle school has open positions without any applicants? My understanding is that every SPS opening draws a large number of certified applicants, many of whom have many years of experience.

I'm sure there are many wonderful TFA members and I'm glad they are willing to work in districts where teachers are scarce. But, as a mother, I would never choose a minimally trained, inexperienced teacher over one with demonstrated skills and a comittment to the profession.

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 3:35 p.m. Inappropriate

What school AltEd? What jobs?

The two most highly challenged, high needs schools in Seattle, West Seattle Elementary and Hawthorne, had hundreds of applicants each when they advertised for teachers last year.

So what school has multiple openings and isn't getting any applicants at all?

There are currently 12 teaching jobs on the Seattle Public Schools Job Opportunity web page. Five of them are part-time. The seven full time teaching jobs available are:

1. CTE Project Lead the Way teacher at STEM
2. BioMed teacher at STEM
3. Biology teacher at STEM
4. Kindergarden teacher at West Seattle
5. Special Education teacher at Hawthorne
6. 3rd Grade teacher at Maple
7. Spanish Language Immersion teacher at Hamilton

The District is scheduled to stop accepting applications for these jobs next week.

Your school must be STEM, it is the only one looking for multiple teachers. If not, I think I know why your school isn't getting applicants.

No Teach for America applicant can take the CTE job - that requires industry experience.

So STEM is looking for a biology and a biomed teacher. Hope you find 'em. We'll see how many certificated applicants come before the application deadline of 6/17.

coolpapa

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 3:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Dear AltEd,

My son just received his Masters in Teaching today. Please name your school. If he meets the qualifications for the position, he will be looking to apply ASAP.

Thanks,

Dan

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 3:42 p.m. Inappropriate

AltEd -interesting as SPS has only posted 5 or so openings for classroom teachers and a couple are only 1 yr. contracts. If the positions are not yet posted then they are not open. There are many passionate grads of the UW MiT program. They come trained and certificated and are anxious to work in high needs schools as well. Stritikus chose to throw students from that program (his students!)under the bus in favor of supporting TfA. You are free to give to what ever organization you so choose.

I prefer a direct donation to my local PTSA -at least I know where the money is going.

Margie

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 4:06 p.m. Inappropriate

How 'bout it, Alt Ed? Which school has positions (plural) open that haven't been filled? Please name it so the newly certified teachers that have just completed their Masters of Education programs can apply.

You want them to come apply, right? They've got way more knowledge about teaching now than any TFA five-weeker. So what school is it? If you want the best new educator for your school, you'll tell us.

If there is no such school with two openings, if you just made that up, I guess you won't tell us, eh?

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 4:29 p.m. Inappropriate

Teach for America is but one of many alternative path programs supported by the Republican Party and other groups who wish to limit opportunities to the upper middle class or higher.

Looking into the future, I can see a time when all colleges of education are closed, and one can get an Associate of Arts degree in a subject area, then a 5-week training course offered in the summer, and begin teaching in the fall.

There is already a political movement afoot to persuade people that only individuals majoring in math, science, and technology need attend a four-year college. From those people we will draw our mathematicians, scientists, physicians, architects, and technology engineers. The rest of us can get by with two years of training in whatever field our interests lie.

In the very near future, at the University of Washington each department must be able to support itself through the combination of student tuition and research grants from the government or private foundations. If a department can't support itself, it will be discontinued. Perhaps this is one reason Dean Stritikus pushed so diligently for the TFA contract.

What is really important here is that we are moving into a new era of education, one in which our choices will be severely limited; a time in which our society will be divided rather than united by education; a time in which one's future profession will be determined at the age of 18. If we fall asleep at the wheel now and allow our public schools to be funneled in a direction in which only the select few can attend a four year college or university, the private schools will be the ones who are turning out the students who will be reliably populating our colleges and universities.

Once you begin cutting standards, they are very rarely raised again. In opening the door to TFA, in opening the door to ANY program that will allow people to teach after only five weeks of teacher training in the summer, we are intentionally lowering the standards teachers must reach to be certificated. The lack of respect with which we treat our teachers is magnified by programs like TFA -- especially when one looks at the studies that show that by the end of the fourth year, fully 75% of TFA teachers have left the classroom.

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 5:20 p.m. Inappropriate

You nailed it, StarfishMom. In addition, this process is doing away (or severly minimizing) with any education in civics, history, social studies, art...These are evidently not important to the purely vocational education envisioned by these corporate-backed "reformers."

You are so right: A high value is ONLY being placed on "STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) type programs. These are held out as the carrot to our children (and their parents/guardians): We MUST be competitive in these fields! Only these fields will produce a viable job for the child!" (As if we will have millions and millions of STEM jobs available to the students sold this fantasy.)

Meanwhile, the only tests that matter are Reading and Math (see Seattle's MAP test in....Reading and Math.) THESE are the remnants of a once deep and rich education. If a student passes these two tests, they will be qualified, evidently, to become a worker, requiring only the five more weeks of training you describe to get a low-paid job in the corporate structure. Unable to perform as a citizen, unable to take in the nuance of art and literature and the beautifully diverse range of human experience and history, these workers will (when given the soma-like entrancement of the fourth wall of their telescreens, the narcotics of the malls, the pablum fed by the corporations' media mouths...) be ever so docile, ever so incapable of realizing the meagerness of their lives and the control they under in a standardized, digitized, homegenized world created by "reform."

The standards have already been cut, StarfishMom, to the basics of these ridiculous tests (and the racist categorization of children which the tests support, in order to come up with reform-selling "achievement gaps" and "failing schools," both ridiculous concepts that ignore generational poverty, lives lived in the ghettoes, and other issues that face the majority of Americans.)

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 7:37 p.m. Inappropriate

StarfishMom, regarding this —

There is already a political movement afoot to persuade people that only individuals majoring in math, science, and technology need attend a four-year college. From those people we will draw our mathematicians, scientists, physicians, architects, and technology engineers. The rest of us can get by with two years of training in whatever field our interests lie. In the very near future, at the University of Washington each department must be able to support itself through the combination of student tuition and research grants from the government or private foundations. If a department can't support itself, it will be discontinued. Perhaps this is one reason Dean Stritikus pushed so diligently for the TFA contract.

— not that I don't believe there are people out there who would like to see just this happen, but are there actual movements you can point to and actual plans like this at the UW? Or is this just the way you feel the winds are blowing? If the former, links would be very much appreciated.

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 8:16 p.m. Inappropriate

Benjamin,
STEM overhype + gen ed dumbing down = what StarfishMom suggests is happening. For evidence of the first, look just about anywhere, or do a search for STEM and see how it has become the catchword of choice in the last ten or so years. For evidence of the second, look no further than Seattle's MAP test.
It hardly needs documentation; it's all around us. Open a paper to the education section. But if you must see some discussion on such things, go to the save seattle schools blog and do some reading.

Posted Fri, Jun 10, 10 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't have much of a piece on this at the moment. One clarification that will help establish the facts is that the TFA corp members are certified through alternative certification processes in each state before they are allowed to take a classroom

joannac

Posted Sat, Jun 11, 5 a.m. Inappropriate

@Wilbur: Teachers acquire certification through training and degrees in education because the payoff to students and school communities does not come in the first or second year of teaching, but afterward, just as it is in any line of work.

Teachers have told me -- with hardly any disagreement -- that all the training in the world was no substitute for actual classroom experience. They said they learned as much from the kids in their classes as the kids learned from them. They also have told me that a good percentage of teachers wash out in the first three years, or are "counseled out" of the profession by their peers and by the more competent administrators.

The training from the colleges of education begins to pay off after the first 2-3 years, when teachers can integrate what they have learned with their own personal hands-on experience.

When I was a kid in school, in a city four times the size of Seattle, it was not uncommon to have teachers who had taught our older siblings, and even our parents. Never, ever underestimate the effect on a rowdy 10-year-old boy on "You better not mess with Mrs. So-And-So. She didn't take any shit from us, and you better not give her any."

This is why TFA is such a fraud. It's designed for "two years and you're out." It's not an investment in teaching. It's not an investment in students who might benefit from continuity and stability in their school's teacher communities. It's an investment in Wendy Kopp and Tom Stritikus and their cronies, cutting a fat hog off our tax dollars.

It's tough for people, in this era of instant gratification and flip-a-switch mentality, to understand such a long-term benefit. Kopp and her toady Stritikus understand it very well. Stability and tenure in the teacher population, and experienced teachers who know more than the bootlickers who "supervise" them, and who are savvy in organizing, are a threat to their profit potential.

So they will try to snow us with their cooked-up data, from their crony Goldhaber, another pig at the trough, that "proves" that seniority hurts student performance, when in reality, the benefits of a stable, job-secure teacher corps are intangible, and don't really lend themselves to "data-driven" analysis. How do we "measure" an adult's gratitude, looking back 20-30 years at a teacher who cared, and who made a positive difference in a kid's life?

ivan

Posted Sat, Jun 11, 6:58 a.m. Inappropriate

The reason that there are not many applicants for the teaching jobs at AltEd's school is that the jobs have not yet been opened up to outside applicants.

When the job is made available to outside applicants, there will be dozens of them.

coolpapa

Posted Sat, Jun 11, 9:29 a.m. Inappropriate

"One clarification that will help establish the facts is that the TFA corp members are certified through alternative certification processes in each state before they are allowed to take a classroom"

joannec, that is not correct. The TFA trainee will have a conditional certificate, requested by the district in which they were hired (or placed in this instance). The school board must attest (or lie) that no fully certificated, qualified individual was available for the job. Then, after five weeks of training, they are allowed into the classroom as teacher of record.

In order to obtain their residency certification through Alt Route 4, the TFAer will have to meet entrance requirements for an Alt 4 program, namely:

1. A baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education. The individual's grade point average may be considered as a selection factor;

2. Successful completion of the WEST-E subject matter assessment required by RCW 28A.410.220 (3);

3. External validation of qualifications, including demonstrated successful experience with students or children, such as reference letters and letters of support from previous employers;

4. Meeting the age, good moral character, and personal fitness requirements adopted by rule for teachers; and

5. Successful passage of the WEST-B statewide basic skills exam

Certainly, the TFA trainees will be hard-pressed to pass the West-E for special education before a) admittance to Dean Tom's academy and b) getting placed in a classroom with children who need someone with real skills.

StopTFA

Posted Sat, Jun 11, 2:44 p.m. Inappropriate

Wilbur, you suggest that "it is an open question whether teachers are better trained by taking a lot of classes in education first and then going into the classroom or by going into the classroom immediately after getting their disciplinary degree and then getting training as the progress."

I don't think it's an open question at all. There are many aspects of teaching that NEED some classwork to learn. I'll start with Special Ed: There are laws, and these need to be learned because a teacher will at LEAST be working with an IEP teacher and needs to know what is expected of a gen-ed teacher in the classroom when working with Special Ed studentds.
Then there's adolescent development: Isn't it HELPFUL to know a little bit about how kids' minds work before planning curriculum for them? Classroom management: What are some tools for planning transitions, working with students who aren't, uh, focused, scheduling grading (in your spare time) etc. How 'bout different pedagogies, so one might learn what style works best?

Yes, I suppose one COULD learn a bare-bones sketch of all this in five weeks, jump into the classroom, and have a go of it, but doesn't it just make sense that we train our teachers a little more deeply before putting them into the classroom? We don't hand lawyer wannabes US and state code and say, "good luck!" as we put them in the courtroom, why would expect anything less of our teacher preparation programs?

YOur "open question" is exactly the sort of question the "reformers" want out there, because then maybe they can get people thinking, hey, teaching is merely a job, like data entry, and we should not expect our teachers to be professionals but merely workers to be trained. The Reformistas WANT you to believe that you can hand any ol' body a packet of lessons and sic em on the students, no worries. They WANT you to believe that teachers are interchangeable, just need five more weeks to get another warm body in there...But many of us believe that teaching is a serious profession, like law and medicine, and that teachers should have a deep and lengthy exposure to some of the details before they start teaching. Oh, and after that deep and lenghty exposure to the details, OUR teachers student teach. TFA jumps right into the student teaching but there is no mentor teacher in the classroom, no teacher of record. TFA are, then, merely student teachers without the background and sans teacher of record. How can that be good when teachers are the professionals and they're not there with the TFAers?

Posted Sat, Jun 11, 5:27 p.m. Inappropriate

@ Wilbur
The piece listed at the end of my comment is quite informative about the overall effectiveness of TfA compared to traditionally trained teachers. The attrition rate of TfA recruits is higher than college prepared teachers.

TfA corps members leave teaching at rates of 50% after two years and 80% after 3 years. This comes with a very high price tag for public schools that enter into agreements with the organization. That price tag can be as high as $50,000 per recruit($70,000 if one includes the 5 week training provided by TfA.) When one factors in the reduced cost of tuition at the U.W.for TfA recruits(read taxpayer subsidy,)the cost will exceed $50,000 per candidate in Seattle.

It seems that Stritikus was on a mission to accommodate TfA anyway possible. That included putting the needs of TfA above those of his own students at the U.W. He needs to resign.

http://www.greatlakescenter.org/docs/Policy_Briefs/Heilig_TeachForAmerica.pdf

Margie

Posted Sat, Jun 11, 10:23 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm one of those students the original article mentioned who got, as one of the commenters put it, "thrown under the bus" by my CoE's dean. However, I also have TEFL experience thanks to a program which in certain ways could be accurately compared to TfA (and shall remain nameless in order to protect my privacy), so I like to think I can see both sides of the issue. That said, I do have to agree with the major points already presented, primarily how:

1) Seattle doesn't need TfA given the number of willing and able certificated teachers we have, from my cohort alone, not to mention from those of past cohorts and others graduating from other programs.

2) I cannot see how the dean in good conscience fails to acknowledge his blatant conflict of interest in his present role. I, for one, would not grieve were he to resign. He has personally undermined the program, MY program, for which I have been paying top dollar (and will for years to come thanks to my student loans). I initially had looked into alternative routes to certification before deciding upon UW; had I known it would have been that simple (and cheaper!) to wait and get in via the TfA backdoor, well, boy howdy. I hope UW's CoE will at least have the decency to remember this bit of history and never come begging for donations of time/money from me and my cohort after this.

Given his own actions, the dean has no place from which to speak to me or any of my cohort about having any "moral obligation" whatsoever to help out TfA scabs.

A point I've yet to see mentioned is as follows. In playing the "follow the money" game let's also look at how, immediately and short-term, TfA candidates ARE more desirable than someone out of UW's Teacher Education Program: WE will hold Masters Degrees, which, aside from proving US committed professional educators, also makes us more expensive in terms of salary. TfAers? Not so much; do the math. I have to wonder how much of an effect the state budget situation helps justify the districts' looking at teacher "cost" when determining whether or not to hire TfAers over us.

Eventually the results will be at the hands of the parents/voters. Will they pay more for better quality and committment, or is the next generation of citizen's education not worth it?

JadedDawg

Posted Sat, Jun 11, 10:49 p.m. Inappropriate

@Wilbur - You do make several legitimate points and I found myself oftentimes agreeing with your sentiment, but I have to take issue with some of your wording. Some of your assertions in particular are somewhat incorrect (or perhaps simply uninformed), though perhaps I may have misinterpreted what you were trying to state.

For example, you'd written, "Why is society paying for specialized training for the 'good percentage of teachers' who when they get into the classroom find they have no aptitude or long term passion for it? Would not a system that immersed them in the classroom earlier before all these resources were wasted on specialized education be better."

Last I checked, my student loans are mine to repay and not the amorphous "society's". Furthermore, a situation I've eyed suspiciously within my own program is that of the lack of courses or even open discussion on the political savvy side that "good teachers" also need to desperately cultivate in order to survive. (Though given the actions of my dean, I can't say in hindsight that I'm all that surprised.) Honestly, in terms of being a "qualified teacher", I think knowing how to effectively work within the system (once we get there) is just as, if not moreso, important than being an expert in one's curriculum and knowing how to reach students. Many teachers with whom I've spoken burn out from a combination of impossible external expectations, lack of sufficient support from parents/voters and administrators, and bureaucracy - NOT because they do not know how to teach nor their lack of passion for the actual task of teaching.

I also daresay UW's MiT program, as it stands, is very good at not only pre-screening but also at weeding out those who aren't up to the task of actual teaching. We have a rigorous program which includes almost an entire year of student-teaching at "high needs" partner schools, working closely with mentor teachers, other faculty and staff, and even parents as part of the greater school community at large. This is in large part why I find the dean's moves so atrocious - he already has one of the nation's best teacher education programs in place, yet effectively has gone behind our backs in undermining it.

JadedDawg

Posted Sun, Jun 12, 10:18 a.m. Inappropriate

I am very close to one of the UW MIT program students. She has a degree in liberal arts with a major in education and a double minor in sociology and psychology. When she decided she wanted to be an educator, she studied today's education system and carefully considered her options. She realized very quickly that, for whatever reason, society has decided to approach all its problems as early as possible. That means the school system. While a teacher does not have to be qualified to treat psychological illness or perform the duties of a social worker, he/she does have to know the signs of mental illness, physical or sexual abuse, severe poverty, and many other problems that should be addressed by psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers. The teacher has to report signs of abuse to the appropriate authorities and also has to development classroom management techniques to deal with the specific needs of troubled or special needs children.

She decided to get a Master's degree to further enhance not simply her education major, but also her sociology and psychology minors. She volunteered three days at week at an urban school long before her student teaching began just so she would have a feel for the students she wanted to serve before she had to go into the classroom officially to be observed and evaluated. She has a real commitment to teaching, to arming students with the one thing that, once they get it, can never be taken from them -- education.

TFA requires its teachers to pursue a Master's degree. Unfortunately, none of the degrees they have to choose from have anything to do with teaching. Their choices are: Curriculum & Instruction, Special Education, Leadership & Policy Studies or Educational Psychology. Except for the field of Special Education, Teach for America does not have a commitment training teachers. They are training what they call "leaders." They are training people to reach a position in which they will be able to control the direction in which individual schools and entire school systems go. They are training people to develop and thus control curriculum and instruction. They are training people to develop and influence public policy on education at the state and federal levels. This is the political agenda they have so completely covered up with their boastful claims of providing the "best and the brightest" teachers for our children. Teach for America is fostering the training of the people who will control our education system in the future.

One group of people who are of special interest to Teach for America are those who have an undergraduate degree in Business and/or Economics. Those are the people who will be most likely to push for the privatization of schools. Those are the people who will be the future leaders who will claim that a 5-week program to become a classroom teacher is adequate. Those are the people who will begin paring down the requirements for the amount of education needed to teach grades K-12 until they get it down to 2 years and that 5-week program in the summer.

TFA is turning out teachers who think classroom teaching is the least important part of education. What really matters, in their opinion, will be how schools can be run at the lowest cost and the highest efficiency. And these people will be beholden to TFA.

Starfish Mom

Posted Sun, Jun 12, 4:34 p.m. Inappropriate

@Starfish Mom - Thanks for posting the above. I second everything that you posted. Someone very close to me is also a MiT student. The trajectory is similiar to what you described but grad school was deferred to do two year stint in Americorps. The work assignment was in a rural area of high poverty in WA state. She herself lived in poverty for those two years but at the end of her commitment received a $5000 educational award. Not only are TfA recruits paid a teacher's salary with benefits (for which they are not qualified to receive) but they also get a whopping $10,000 award from Americorps at the end of their two years. So much for a level playing field. 16% of TfA recruits remain in teaching after their commitment and for that they are rewarded handsomely. Those encumbered with the most student loan debt are those with the highest level of commitment to teaching. It is just wrong.

Margie

Posted Mon, Jun 13, 10:11 a.m. Inappropriate

The low retention for TFA teachers is a big problem for me. My son attended kindergarten in a class with a first -year teacher who could not have been sweeter but had serious trouble maintaining order in the classroom. If we are going to load up SPS with lots of novice teachers who are just doing this for a few years until they go to grad school, that's shortchanging our kids.

Also, what happens when the anonymous donor stops paying those fees? I suspect we taxpayers will be asked to foot the bill. This seems like the teaser rate on a credit card, it looks like a good deal initially but it just stores up trouble for later.

EDIT: Great job, Melissa! Score one for citizen journalism! I hope the Times picks up on this.

DannyK

Posted Wed, Jun 15, 2:40 a.m. Inappropriate

Wow! Now we see the UW CoE application and we see the lies it tells pretending that there is a teacher shortage. This is not honest.

coolpapa

Posted Thu, Jun 16, 5:39 p.m. Inappropriate

I testified before the board that out of every 200 classes taught in the Seattle schools only 1 is taught by a teacher that is not Highly Qualified. This ratio is the same at low income schools and non-low income schools.

The UW CoE is apparently a fountain of misinformation..... the CoE application makes reference to a "Chronic teacher Shortage" .... it seems there is a "Chronic Honesty Shortage"

Posted Thu, Jun 16, 6:31 p.m. Inappropriate

Since the Teacher shortage is non-existent and the ratio of classes taught by Highly Qualified teachers is (99.5%) and that ratio is the same in both low income schools and non-low income schools ....

Why are only certain low income schools targeted with TfA 5 week wonders?

Why is it likely that Rainier Beach get these TfA folks and not Roosevelt?

Side note: the OSPI annual Test performance of low income students and Black students is lousy at most all schools in the District. This is NOT a teacher problem ... this is an instructional materials and instructional practices problem ..... but that is never mentioned by the UW or the SPS.

The Administratively directed Top Down fiascos continue.

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