Weekend Reading

Changing belief systems.

43 Responses to “Weekend Reading”

  1. Joseph Kaye Says:

    I tend to think there’s quite a bit to the power of transformational educators. I was reading an article on the founder of Jump Math the other day, and he said something to the effect of “our belief in hierarchies is producing hierarchies,” and I think to some extent, that’s what’s happening when community colleges choose to opt out of their communities.

  2. Cal Says:

    Middle School 301 is a very low achieving school, still. Are we supposed to believe that having “college night” for kids who can’t read at anything approaching grade level is somehow inspiring? Seriously?

    And now, we are supposed to be further inspired because she, like the usual TFA promotional employee”, jobhopped for a while, didn’t teach much, and is now “coaching” other TFAers in failing districts?

    What belief system is supposed to be changed, exactly? Because I believe that well-meaning do-gooders who flit around from job to job making no difference in actual achievement shouldn’t be celebrated, but ignored. I believe that reformers who do the promoting out of some absurd belief that these people are making a difference are mildly deluded. And you’re not doing much to change that belief system.

  3. Chris Smyr Says:

    Cal:

    Because of course, nothing can possibly be considered inspiring about middle school students at underperforming schools showing an interest in college. Right.

    You also seem peeved that the author didn’t write at length about the teacher’s experience and examples of her effectiveness, even when, if you actually read the article, you’d notice it wasn’t specifically about this teacher’s background. Of course that all obviously suggests that she has none. Right.

    It’s also interesting (for lack of a better word) that you imply that TFA “well-meaning do-gooders” make no difference in actual achievement. Maybe after you read the article linked here, you could read some of the research about the impact that TFA makes? Or maybe you can take a look at what the many TFA alums are up to in the field of education?

    Or how about save the snark for when you have something more informed to say?

  4. notownedbyabillionaire Says:

    I think the idea of college night is excellent. Even though the article doesn’t give us real evidence of Brown’s effectiveness lets assume she was incredible. I think there is another issue here. Kopp believes, I think correctly, that school districts should be “recruiting, training, empowering and supporting transformational teachers like Brown.”

    The big issue here is that Brown is no longer teaching. How do we retain teachers like Brown in the classroom where the achievement gains are being made?

    Chris, You are well versed on TFA stats. I admittedly am not. How does TFA do with teacher retention vs. other preparation pathways?

  5. notownedbyabillionaire Says:

    Still interested in TFA teacher retention vs. other preparation pathways. Kopp preaches about the importance of having the best teachers in every classroom, but it doesn’t seem like she is able to keep her recruits in the classroom long enough for them to become highly effective. The story about Brown a highly effective teacher who LEFT THE CLASSROOM seems to be an all too common story for TFA recruits. You only taught for two years as well, right Chris?

    The best data I could find was that 15 percent of TFA teachers stay in their initial placement for four years or longer and 36 percent of TFA teachers remain in teaching for four years or longer. This seems low, but I don’t have conclusive evidence.

    http://assets.aarp.org/www.aarp.org_/articles/NRTA/Harvard_report.pdf

  6. Cal Says:

    “Because of course, nothing can possibly be considered inspiring about middle school students at underperforming schools showing an interest in college. Right.”

    That is correct. Nothing about it is inspiring. There is nothing inspiring about kids who are, in all likelihood, functionally illiterate in middle school getting all worked up about college. You don’t see “college night” in suburban middle schools, where the kids can read and write. No, this is the kind of feel good nonsense they only do in areas where the kids are years and years behind.

    The problem is–the very serious problem is–that TFAers think it’s exciting. They think “Wow, I got 12 year old kids who can’t read past the second grade level to make college posters!” and that, rather than actual achievement, is what they stick on their resume when they’re done with their two years. Whoo and hoo.

    So yes, you’re right. There is absolutely nothing inspiring about pretending to have made a difference with a feel good exercise in nothingness when you haven’t done a thing.

    As for TFA achievement, some teachers make a difference. But that wasn’t the point of the article, which was about faux college night and two more career jumps.

  7. Chris Smyr Says:

    Billions and billions:

    1) The stats are not that hard to find. You should start with the TFA website as they’ve linked to some of the research, both good and bad. We’ve discussed TFA retention a few times here before, so you can also find those threads (they’re linked on my blog, as well). In short, retention is roughly similar for comparable schools, meaning it’s not high.

    2) TFA does not explicitly hold teacher retention as a goal for the organization (AFAIK), and there are likely several reasons for that. With that said, it’s uninformed to say that TFA isn’t making a large impact on education (both in and out of the classroom) because they aren’t pushing for this goal.

    3) I like that you want to discuss this topic, but I really am perplexed by your continued eagerness to use that handle. If you want to continue implying that those you disagree with are in it for the money, it makes me less willing to engage you knowing, before even reading your comment, that you dabble in nonsense.

    *****

    Cal:

    You can’t be serious. There’s nothing to be gained from these students taking an interest in their futures? We shouldn’t desire teachers like this who, in response to colleges ignoring the kids at their school, come up with creative solutions to get their kids motivated about learning? That’s nuts.

    ***”You don’t see “college night” in suburban middle schools, where the kids can read and write.”

    So you’re familiar with every single suburban middle school? Interesting.

    Well, we had a career day at my high school and we made efforts to get all our 9th graders involved. How silly to think that perhaps something similar would be useful for 6th-8th graders, too.

    ***”The problem is–the very serious problem is–that TFAers think it’s exciting.”

    As do the students and their families… but that surely doesn’t mean anything, either.

    ***”They think “Wow, I got 12 year old kids who can’t read past the second grade level to make college posters!” and that, rather than actual achievement, is what they stick on their resume when they’re done with their two years. Whoo and hoo.”

    And here you assume that you know what all TFAers write on their resumes. And that they aren’t interested in “actual achievement”. Do you read this stuff before you click submit?

    ***”As for TFA achievement, some teachers make a difference. But that wasn’t the point of the article”

    Oh no you don’t. You’re the one that claimed that TFAers “flit around from job to job making no difference in actual achievement”. Don’t put that on me for you bringing it up. As I wrote earlier, you took this article and amazingly were only able to read your own biases.

  8. Cal Says:

    “There’s nothing to be gained from these students taking an interest in their futures? ”

    What makes you think they aren’t interested in their futures? You have no idea what they were interested in before. Maybe it was college, maybe it wasn’t. But there’s no reason to think they were uninterested. Of course, if it’s *not* college, then you won’t care about what they are interested in vis a vis their futures.

    But assume, arguendo, that they had zero interest in their future prior to this fabulous college conference. So what if they are interested? What proof do you have that this interest has any impact at all on academic achievement? Find me some cites that demonstrate a causal link between active interest in academic future and test results. No correlation allowed.

    This is one of those areas where people make huge leaps so they can pat themselves on the back, and it’s tedious.

    “Well, we had a career day at my high school and we made efforts to get all our 9th graders involved. How silly to think that perhaps something similar would be useful for 6th-8th graders, too.”

    Even high school “career day” is something cooked up by do-gooders to get low achievers motivated (with the same faulty reasoning as above). And yes, it is silly to think that something similar is appropriate for kids 2-3 years younger–particularly when we only think it’s appropriate for kids who have few skills and terrible achievement.

    Moreover, all these “career night” things do is emphasize *presence* in school, not academic ability. If people like you were honest with kids, the purpose of career night would be to show them exactly how far away they are from these careers–and that a distressingly high number of them, barring enormous amounts of work, will never have the academic skills for these careers, even if they stay in school. But heavens, honesty would not be the point of this. It’s all about feel good garbage and resume boosting for the organizers.

    “As do the students and their families… but that surely doesn’t mean anything, either.”

    Actually, there’s no evidence that they do “feel good” about it. Perhaps the kids do it to please their teachers. But as I said above, you’re right–even assuming the students and families “feel good” about it, there’s zilch evidence that making a 12 year old “feel good” about college night does a single thing to improve his reading skills. There’s plenty of evidence, in continuing low test scores, that it made no difference to the majority of kids.

    “And here you assume that you know what all TFAers write on their resumes.”

    I made no such assumption. It’s well-established that the majority of TFAers choose this as a career option. Nothing wrong with that. And of the article, four paragraphs are spent on Brown’s resume. That’s hardly a coincidence.

    “ou’re the one that claimed that TFAers “flit around from job to job making no difference in actual achievement””

    Look again. I said that well-intentioned do-gooders WHO FLIT AROUND FROM JOB TO JOB MAKING NO DIFFERENCE TO ACTUAL ACHIEVEMENT should not be celebrated, but ignored. First, no mention of TFAers. Second, if you’re familiar with Venn diagrams, you’ll note that I described a subset, not the whole.

    I was speaking specifically of this TFAer, saying that anyone who job jumps like that should be ignored, not celebrated. I was then talking of people like you and this blogger, who jump on the bandwagon to celebrate the job jumping resume building do-gooder, in the misguided (nay, deluded) belief that “changing belief systems” of these kids has a) been affected in any small way and b) actually makes a difference in achievement. Finally, I was mocking the blogger’s obvious point (changing the kids’ belief systems) by pointing out that his post and the idiotic article was doing nothing to change *my* belief system.

    Got it now? Hint: not everything’s about TFA. You read my post and, amazingly (well, maybe not), were only able to find a nail that you had a hammer for.

  9. tom Says:

    “So what if they are interested? What proof do you have that this interest has any impact at all on academic achievement? Find me some cites that demonstrate a causal link between active interest in academic future and test results. No correlation allowed.”

    So I guess that means a student’s motivation doesn’t influence their performance? I take it you also don’t believe that KIPP or other high performing charter schools only succeed because they get highly motivated students? I happen to agree. Let’s close down the districts and replace em’ with KIPP schools.

    Where’s John T. when you need him?

  10. Chris Smyr Says:

    Cal:

    ***”What makes you think they aren’t interested in their futures?”

    Who said they weren’t interested before? I’m suggesting that an event designed to get them actively looking into colleges may increase whatever interest they had before, especially if they’re not yet motivated about these opportunities.

    And stop with this tripe about how I “won’t care about what they are interested in”.

    *** “So what if they are interested [in their futures]? [...] Find me some cites that demonstrate a causal link between active interest in academic future and test results. No correlation allowed.”

    That you’re serious when you ask that is the telling part.

    You’ve put your foot down and declared that only certain experimental evidence will persuade you. Perpetually moving the goalposts is a pastime of several commenters on this blog, and here you’re aspiring to just as much.

    Here are some relevant passages suggesting why this all is important:

    “Research has identified a number of achievement-related patterns that are “set in motion” by different motivational goals. Much of this research indicates that students show the most positive achievement patterns when they are focused on mastery goals. With this goal focus, students persist at difficult tasks, report high levels of task involvement, report high levels of effort and persistence, and use learning strategies that enhance conceptual understanding and recall of information. Mastery goals are also associated with positive perceptions of academic ability and self-efficacy. The positive relations of mastery goals to both achievement behaviors and ability perceptions are found across grade levels and subject areas.

    [...]

    Classroom goal structures are generally viewed as precursors of students’ personal goal orientations, which are thought to have a more proximal influence on motivation and achievement patterns. [...] Students’ personal goal orientations correspond with their perceptions of the classroom goal structure, and these relations are found even when differences in student characteristics are controlled. [...] Consistent with earlier research, students’ personal goals in turn are related in the expected manner to various motivation, strategy use, and performance measures. Thus, several studies indicate that classroom goal structures influence student behavior and learning by shaping the type of personal goals that students adopt.”

    (J.L. Meece et al. Annual Review of Psychology, 2006)

    “Experimental studies have shown that teaching low-achieving students to set proximal goals for themselves enhances their sense of cognitive efficacy, their academic achievement, and their intrinsic interest in the subject matter. Numerous studies have shown that students with a high sense of academic efficacy display greater
    persistence, effort, and intrinsic interest in their academic learning and performance. Finally, a growing body of correlational research indicates that self-regulated learners make greater use of learning
    strategies and achieve better than do learners who make little use of self-directed learning strategies.

    [...]

    The present results indicate that student self-beliefs of efficacy to strategically regulate learning play an important role in academic self-motivation. A significant causal path was found between efficacy for self-regulated learning, efficacy for academic achievement, and academic attainment. Students who perceived themselves as capable of regulating their own activities strategically are more confident about mastering academic subjects and attain higher academic performance.

    In conclusion, perceived efficacy to achieve motivates academic attainment both directly and indirectly by influencing personal goal setting. Self-efficacy and goals in combination contribute to subsequent academic attainments.”

    (Zimmerman et al. AERJ, 1992)

    ***”And yes, it is silly to think that something similar is appropriate for kids 2-3 years younger–particularly when we only think it’s appropriate for kids who have few skills and terrible achievement.”

    Why is it silly? 8th graders shouldn’t be thinking about college? Methinks you’ve somehow forgotten how important student motivation is for academic success.

    And who said it’s only “appropriate for kids who have few skills and terrible achievement”? Are you still responding to me?

    ***”Moreover, all these “career night” things do is emphasize *presence* in school, not academic ability.”

    I see you’ve never attended one, or have only seen badly planned ones.

    ***”If people like you were honest with kids, the purpose of career night would be to show them exactly how far away they are from these careers–and that a distressingly high number of them, barring enormous amounts of work, will never have the academic skills for these careers, even if they stay in school.”

    Yes, showing them that there are rewarding careers out there that may/will require a LOT of effort to obtain is kind of a goal for career day.

    ***”Actually, there’s no evidence that they do “feel good” about [Brown's college night].”

    Actually there is, three pieces in fact:

    1) Parents participated, most likely voluntarily

    2) “Students in her homeroom at Middle School 301 began lobbying for a similar event”

    2) “‘The thing is, I didn’t do that much for College Night,’ Brown told me Wednesday afternoon. ‘It was the students who made it happen.’”

    Kind of all suggests it was valued as more than just an assignment, yeah?

    ***”I made no such assumption [about what all TFAers write on their resumes]. ”

    This is false. You wrote, “[TFAers] think “Wow, I got 12 year old kids who can’t read past the second grade level to make college posters!” and that, rather than actual achievement, is what they stick on their resume”

    You don’t know what TFA teachers write on their resumes. Stop pretending you do.

    ***”It’s well-established that the majority of TFAers choose this as a career option. Nothing wrong with that.”

    You are retroactively changing your past argument here. This is not what you were criticizing before. You specifically were criticizing the incorrect notion that they focus on something *other than* actual achievement on their resumes, and implied this strange notion that the latter isn’t important to some TFA teachers.

    ***”I said that well-intentioned do-gooders WHO FLIT AROUND FROM JOB TO JOB MAKING NO DIFFERENCE TO ACTUAL ACHIEVEMENT should not be celebrated, but ignored. First, no mention of TFAers. Second, if you’re familiar with Venn diagrams, you’ll note that I described a subset, not the whole.”

    First, you’re not going to out-wiseass me, so don’t even try.

    Second, try qualifying your outrageous claims a little. In response to an article about a TFA teacher’s class event, you have already thrown in a few jabs at TFA teachers. In fact, the paragraph immediately preceding your CAPS-LOCKED quote above was a jab at how Brown was “like the usual TFA promotional employee”. It’s not that difficult to see you were implying further insults toward TFA with the quote above.

    Third, you asserted before that TFAers focus their resumes on stuff other than actual achievement. Not that much of a leap to see what you were implying with the quote above.

    Fourth, your subset includes teachers who both “job jump” and “make no difference to actual achievement”. The former condition includes many TFA teachers (as well as many teachers in general), and you have no idea if the latter condition includes Brown. Thus, your Venn diagram defense is worthless since you haven’t defined a subset that is pertinent to this discussion. Probably best to drop this and just admit you were taking another jab at TFA.

    ***”I was then talking of people like you and this blogger, who jump on the bandwagon to celebrate the job jumping resume building do-gooder”

    Ohhhh, the job-jumping resume-building do-gooders? Yes, actually the “celebration” here is pointed at educators like Brown who put extra effort into getting their kids motivated to learn and to set future goals for themselves to work toward. Effectiveness is obviously a big thing to “celebrate” but here it’s not specifically referenced in the article’s example.

    ***”Finally, I was mocking the blogger’s obvious point (changing the kids’ belief systems) by pointing out that his post and the idiotic article was doing nothing to change *my* belief system.”

    Thankfully, no one cares if you have deluded beliefs.

  11. Cal Says:

    No one cares? You’re joking. You just pontificated several hundred, if not a thousand, words in response to my post. Clearly, you care.

    And I don’t have to “try” anything. It appears all I have to do is post and you’ll spew reams of ideological pap.

    You’re a TFA shill. Got it. Me, I’m not what you think I am, which means all your yammering is for naught.

  12. Chris Smyr Says:

    Great non-response.

    Realize that I’m responding to show that you’re wrong. Walk away with whatever beliefs you’d like.

  13. Cal Says:

    But Chris, why would you expend so much energy to show that I’m wrong if no one cared that I have deluded beliefs?

    Because, of course, lots of people do care–and lots of people agree with me. You think I’m wrong, but it matters to you that other people might read what I said and agree with it, so you write reams purporting to rebut me.

    But on one point, at least–”no one cares if [I] have deluded beliefs”–your own actions demonstrate that you’re wrong. You care, clearly. And you’re worried that other people will care, and that I’ll convince them. Hence your efforts–puny as they are.

    Dude, I work with TFA teachers. They’re fine. I have no truck with them. Most of them do quit after two years, and I’m fine with that, too. Believe this or not, but what I said was actually the case: I’m tired of well-meaning reformers bleating praise over feel-good garbage like someone who organized a college night for middle schoolers and then went on to some other job–despite only having taught for two years. In fact, I know a TFAer who taught for two years and is now in a competitive job hunt to train other TFAers. After two years. Despite the fact that she quit because she couldn’t bear how draining the work is. No doubt, some day I’ll be reading the eduwonk linking into a heartwarming story about what she did during her brief stint as a teacher and how she’s now district leader somewhere.

    The stereotype hurts because it’s accurate. That’s why you spend so much effort on my posts, despite your wholly inaccurate assertion that “no one cares”.

  14. Chris Smyr Says:

    Cal:

    Whether or not you choose to further engage this debate does not imply I chose to engage this debate on your behalf. I’d really like it if people like you generally would finish the debates they start, especially when they lead off with an attitude and wear their biases on their sleeves. Barring that ideal, I’m fine with simply pointing out what is incorrect about said arguments. It follows, again, that I couldn’t care less if you refuse to change your mind; you’re not the reason I responded.

    I mean, really. You’re suggesting I’m wrong because I wrote a lot (no other responses have been given), as some strange appeal to laziness. I do understand the ideal won’t be reached here.

    You return that you “work with TFA teachers”, but that is moot to the fact that your previous claims were deriding to TFA teachers. You earlier claimed that you were referencing only a subset of teachers in your initial arguments– a subset which paradoxically doesn’t include Brown– immediately after you chided Brown for being a “TFA promotional employee”.

    The newest iteration of your subset is defined simply as teachers who “went on to some other job– despite only having taught for two years.” At least now you’ve stopped implying that she doesn’t care about academic achievement, so that’s an improvement.

    Still, this latest definition also doesn’t rule out academic success. The article gave one example of Brown’s commitment to her students, and it likely had an impact. That she didn’t continue as a teacher for the rest of her career in no way takes away from that success (or any other unmentioned successes). That she’s now coaching new teachers in no way implies she’s unqualified to do so.

    Finally, I find it obnoxious that you end a long comment chiding me for “spending so much effort on my posts” with an anecdote about a teacher you know, and how it proves your point. It doesn’t.

  15. Cal Says:

    Sigh. You really can’t read.

    I didn’t say an anecdote proves my point. Since you don’t understand my point, though, you’ve got a long way to go until you figure that out.

    “That she didn’t continue as a teacher for the rest of her career in no way takes away from that success (or any other unmentioned successes). That she’s now coaching new teachers in no way implies she’s unqualified to do so.”

    A teacher with minimal experience should not be coaching other new teachers, and yes, her lack of experience not only implies, but shouts out to the mountaintops that she’s unqualified.

    “You’re suggesting I’m wrong because I wrote a lot (no other responses have been given)”

    And there he jumps again. I haven’t bothered to disagree with you on more than one or two points. Most of your errors are blatant misreadings and long, painfully boring recitations of nonsense that no one cares about and aren’t on point. I don’t know that I’ve ever said you were wrong about anything other than your interpretation. But to the extent I have bothered to point out your errors, at no point–pay attention–at no point did I imply a causal connection between your tedious posting length and your errors. (You do understand what that means, right? Just checking).

    “that is moot to the fact that your previous claims were deriding to TFA teachers.”

    Focus hard. Move your lips while you read. Find a five year old to help you understand this: I am not deriding TFA teachers. I am 1) mocking idiots who find inspiration in non-achievements (regardless of who “achieved” them); 2) pointing out the non-value of the “achievement” and 3) observing that even if we are to genuflect before her “achievement”, she moved out of teaching so quickly that she couldn’t have achieved much more.

    You have marginally addressed point 2, but since your point is nothing more than “Is too! is too!” I politely ignored it. You blathered endlessly on about TFA for the rest of it, which is irrelevant. To the extent that you did manage to figure out my point, I made the only necessary rebuttal: the stereotypical TFA’ers are indisputably attracted to the resume value of their sinecure, and move quickly from job to job. You may not like that stereotype, but enough of the data fits it that you’re just out of luck.

    You haven’t addressed point 1 at all, which was the gravamen of my charge, such as it was.

    But really, you have no idea what my point is, and you are so banal that you aren’t worth doing anything other than upsetting, which I’m doing nicely. I don’t have an agenda. You do. Go ahead and post another wounded whiner post. If I have time, I’ll mock you, which appears to be what you want.

  16. Chris Smyr Says:

    Cal:

    ***”I didn’t say an anecdote proves my point.”

    If you didn’t mean to imply you were correct when you were claiming “the stereotype hurts because it’s accurate”, then why bother posting it? It’s a useless addition to a rather worthless reply.

    ***”A teacher with minimal experience should not be coaching other new teachers”

    Unless, of course, said teacher did an amazing job and learned enough to help coach others. You’re implying there ought to be an arbitrary cut-off level of experience so that such teachers who “job jump” can do so effectively, but there’s no need for such a limit. Each teacher ought to be evaluated on how well they perform and how effective they could be as a mentor to other new teachers.

    ***”Most of your errors are blatant misreadings and long, painfully boring recitations of nonsense that no one cares about and aren’t on point. ”

    Says the annoying commenter who refused to respond to nearly any of it. It’s not just wrong because you say it is. You have to SHOW why you think it’s wrong. That’s kind of how a debate works. If you’re unwilling to do this, why do you bother gracing us with your presence?

    ***”I am not deriding TFA teachers. ”

    I’ve pointed out SEVERAL examples of where you did just that. You refused to respond.

    ***”I am 1) mocking idiots who find inspiration in non-achievements(regardless of who “achieved” them)”

    And I responded showing why Brown’s college night likely was both inspirational and effective at getting kids motivated. You didn’t respond to that, either.

    ****”2) pointing out the non-value of the “achievement”

    Here I even directed you to some of the research suggesting why this is incorrect. No response.

    ***”3) observing that even if we are to genuflect before her “achievement”, she moved out of teaching so quickly that she couldn’t have achieved much more. ”

    And if she truly were effective, it’s great that she’s still inspired to work in the field of education helping others become effective.

    ***”the stereotypical TFA’ers are indisputably attracted to the resume value of their sinecure, and move quickly from job to job”

    No, you’re not insulting TFA teachers at all, not one bit.

    ***”But really, you have no idea what my point is”

    I think the problem here is that it’s you who has no idea what point you’re trying to make. If you did, you would understand that in the last few of my replies, I’ve thoroughly eviscerated all of the poor arguments/insults you’ve proffered here.

    Here’s a tip: the reason I wrote so much before is because you were *really* wrong. You acted offended that someone would write at length to correct you. Don’t take it personally.

  17. phillipmarlowe Says:

    Cal Says:
    April 27th, 2011 at 11:12 pm
    Sigh. You really can’t read.

    No, he can’t.

  18. Cal Says:

    Well, he must not be a TFAer. I hear they all come from the best schools.

  19. phillipmarlowe Says:

    He was.
    He did his 2 years at Willow Glen High School in California.
    Unlike Michelle Rhee, he did not take his biology students from the 13th percentile to 90% of them (63 in number) scoring at the 90th percentile.

  20. Cal Says:

    (My last post was intended as mild sarcasm)

    I would infer nothing about Chris’s abilities based on his results (or lack thereof).

    However, if Chris is no longer teaching, it would explain his exhaustive pontificating on defense against the resume building charge.

    Let me be very clear, since Chris can’t read and clearly spends thousands of words basically lying to fill in the blanks he can’t comprehend:

    1) I am not against TFA. I work with several excellent TFAers.

    2) I am not against TFAers doing their 2 and leaving.

    3) I am categorically dismissive of using brand new teachers to train other brand new teachers. If ex-TFAers can get the work, great. Good for them. But TFA raises money and then use a lot of that money for what is little more than a jobs program for ex-TFAers as “trainers”, and that’s worthy of a lot of contempt. (It is on this point, and this point alone, that I am skeptical of my colleague’s career plans. She’s a good new teacher and in fact I think she should stay in teaching, although I understand her decision to leave.)

    4) While TFA does no harm, it doesn’t do much good, either. Which is generally true of most reform.Viewed as a clever career choice, it’s great, and does no harm–it’s a perfectly good feeder program for a small number of new teachers. Viewed as a solution or an inspirational model, it’s a joke and should not receive the adulation it does.

    5) I have a great deal of contempt for “reformers” or doltish reporters/columnists who constantly yammer about the greatness that is TFA. That, more than TFA itself, is what I mock. That is, I was mocking the blogger and the columnist. I was merely unimpressed, but not critical, of the teacher.

    While I am a teacher, my thoughts on TFA were in place long before I became a teacher.

  21. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    There is another aspect of TFA that is rarely discussed even though it has huge implications for education in our country:

    Many middle class and professional people in the United States look down on K-12 teaching. This is in sharp contrast with other countries that revere all its teachers (preschool to university) and enjoy much more success than we do (e.g. Germany, Finland). I first became fully aware of this when I suggested teaching to my own two well educated sons. Their immediate reaction was to scream with laughter and start hitting one another on the backs. When I asked for an explanation, my older son just said, “Come on, Mom.” Apparently it should have been obvious to me that graduates of Harvard and Stanford would not want to be teachers.

    My sons did not get that attitude at home. I always loved being a teacher and felt privileged to be one. My husband volunteered in my classroom after retirement and declared it “the best job I’ve ever had.” No, their profound disrespect did not come from us.

    It came from the greater culture and is best displayed by Michelle Rhee and others like her: Teach for two years or so before going on to a real (i.e. six figure job). Being a lawyer, entrepreneur, physician, university professor, educational consultant is OK, but teaching children is not. Teach for America has enshrined this philosophy and made it not only acceptable, but admirable.

    It is my opinion that this attitude is the primary reason why we aren’t able to attract or retain the “best and the brightest” into the K-12 teaching profession. Stated simply, teaching children is just not valued as an occupation by many citizens. I believe this goes back to our history where young girls agreed to teach until they got married. In contrast, our university professors were men who modeled themselves after their European counterparts.

    How do we change this perception? Not easily, but here are my thoughts: Let’s borrow some ideas from countries such as Finland that do it right. I’d like to see the federal government offer scholarships to talented students who agree to study at excellent colleges of education, such as Columbia. These students would then become “Federal Teaching Fellows” and woulld be placed in low-performing schools across the country. They would receive professional autonomy as well as excellent salaries and benefits. Perhaps they would even run federal charter schools that would be managed entirely by teachers. Hopefully, these jobs would become prestigious positions that would attract talented people who want to make teaching a career.

    Many people in TFA have the admirable desire to teach our poorest children, but the message the organization sends is the absolute last thing that we need.

  22. Attorney DC Says:

    Linda: I agree with you that people do not respect K-12 teachers as they should in America. I’ve been a teacher and I’ve been an attorney (with a few other jobs thrown in along the way), and I can tell you that being a teacher is the hardest job I’ve had. It’s especially hard when teaching low-income, minority populations and/or students with special needs.

    However, I would posit that the way to make teaching more ‘respectable’ would be to treat it more like a professorship. For instance, in Japan, teachers teach fewer classes/students each day than in America, but have more time to research and perfect their lesson plans and collaborate with colleagues. Teachers in America are given almost zero time to research or prepare their lessons (they often do it on their own time, at home and on the weekends, if at all) and are given little or no time to observe/collaborate with their colleagues. In addition, the pay should be raised. Perhaps it could become a year-round job (or an 11 month job) with the summer break used as a paid preparation/professional development period?

    Anyway, these are my ideas. I’d love to hear more from you and the rest of the blogging audience.

  23. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    AttorneyDC:

    Before I answer your question, I’d like to describe an experience I had in my very last year of teaching because I think it illustrates so well the profound disrespect that many citizens, even educators, have for teachers. I’ve told this story several times before but I think it deserves a retelling:

    In my last year of teaching (2006-2007) I was 65 years old and had 42 years of experience. In addition to that I was the author of a book on reading that went through ten printings and a Mentor Teacher for my district. The parents and children appreciated the work that I did and I myself experienced a tremendous amount of fulfillment; even joy, on a daily basis.

    That said, I had to spend a lot of my own money on books and materials. I often wanted to take my students to local concerts but there just wasn’t the money for it. But my last year I decided to take my students to the Center for the Performing Arts even though I knew I’d have to pay for most of it myself. So I applied for a scholarship for my class, attended two workshops that were three hours each (after school, of course) and purchased a DVD of the Nutcracker ballet so the children could be exposed to the music before attending the performance. I then purchased tickets for everyone in the class (the scholarship was partial) and even had to pay to park the school bus (Yes!). The whole experience cost me about $300 but I did it for the kids and to celebrate my last year. Oh, and I also purchased a toy nutcracker so the children would know what one was.

    Anyway on a Friday afternoon before the performance I showed the DVD. The children sat in rapt attention and even applauded after some of the dances. At that moment a young assistant principal (about 28 years old) came into the room with a clipboard. She sat down and watched the performance for a while while scribbling notes.

    The next day I received an evaluation of my lesson that placed it at the “knowledge” level on Bloom’s Taxonomy!!!!! (I kid you not.) For those who don’t know that is the lowest level. There was also a note that said, “Please see me after school.”

    Well, there are advantages to being a few months from retirement so I just balled the paper up and threw it in the trash. When the young women came into my room a few days later, I was not nice.

    This is just one example of what teachers are up against in our country and it might explain why you and others leave the profession.

    To be continued.

  24. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    AttorneyDC:

    Now to answer your question. Yes, I agree with you that teaching should be more like a professorship. My idea is for teachers to be completely in charge of a school in the same way that attorneys are in charge of law firms, physicians are in charge of clinics and professors are in charge of departments. As you have suggested, the teachers would teach in the morning so afternoons could be free for reflection, collaboration and preparation. Like other professionals, teachers would make decisions about entry into the profession, curriculum and instruction, evaluation and promotion of peers. Salaries and benefits would be competitive with jobs that require similar preparation. As you suggest, teachers might be employed for eleven months instead of ten. They would have stipends for books, periodicals and conferences, just like other professionals. Teachers’ unions will morph into the professional organizations they were originally intended to be.

    Teachers would then have career ladders similar to what professors have now: assistant teacher, associate teacher, teacher, mentor teacher etc. People would not be forced to leave the classroom in order to be promoted.

    If the United States truly wants to attract the best and the brightest to K-12 education (a big “if”) it will have to make the profession much more attractive than it is at the present time. Personally I believe it’s only a matter of time before teaching becomes a full profession.

  25. Attorney DC Says:

    Linda: Your story made me laugh (in a bitter, been-there-done-that kind of way…) So true! It’s bizarre how administrators will come in and do a 15 minute observation of a sliver of one class and then pronounce on your ‘teachiing quality’ with such assurance.

    Keep up the interesting (and true) stories – It’s important to show the rest of the world what the actual lives of real teachers are like. By the way, I applaud you for your efforts in getting your students to attend that performance. That type of over-and-above effort is truly laudable; Thanks for your 40+ years of dedication.

  26. Attorney DC Says:

    Linda: My comment at 1:50pm (above) was in response to your earlier comment at 1:33pm. Just read your 1:48pm post and wanted to reply:

    I really like your ideas for developing a teaching profession that is much more similar to other autonomous professions (lawyers, doctors, etc.) than its current status. I especially like the idea of teachers running their own schools and controlling entry/exit/training for the profession. Why should lawyers get to decide who should be a lawyer but state legislators (who’ve usually never worked as teachers) get to determine teacher credential standards?

    Any practical suggestions as to how to put these ideas into practice?

  27. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    As my lawyer/politician son likes to say, “The devil is in the details.” How true!

    This is what I have come up with: I believe that many of these billionaires (e.g. Bill and Melinda Gates) really do want to help poor kids but they are listening to the wrong people (i.e. people who taught less than three years or not at all) and so they are spinning their wheels and wasting so much money on strategies that have been tried in the past. If we ask a number of them to help I think we’d find someone willing to sponsor a teacher-run school in a low-income area. Universities, unions, the federal government, and school districts might help too.

    Before asking for financial backing, some teacher-leaders would get a team of teachers ready, draw up a plan and then apply for charter status. A “head teacher” would be selected but that person would serve at the pleasure of the faculty and be an equal member of the teaching staff. These teachers would then make all decisions, in collaboration with parents, regarding curriculum and instruction. A group of senior teachers would hire new instructors, decide on permanent status and promotion. Hopefully there would be enough money to give teachers the time to reflect on their work, as you suggest. Another way would be for a small group of teachers to get a school going on their own before applying for charter status. These people would have to be able to accept a lot of financial risk.

    I don’t know if these ideas are specific enough. If I were planning to do it, I’d:

    write to the state for information about starting a charter school;

    try to get a group of likeminded people to meet together to share ideas and write to potential benefactors;

    find other teacher-run schools and ask a lot of questions.

    One teacher blogger told me that teachers are not “entrepreneurial” and would not want to do this and another said, “teachers are just too busy.” Both comments are true to a great extent, but at every school there is a teacher who loves to organize and lead. What do you think?

  28. Cal Says:

    The whole premise of your post is wrong. We get perfectly good teachers, particularly in high school, where they’ve always had to pass a competency test. One of the good things about NCLB was that it forced states to give competency tests to middle school teachers.

    The bulk of our teachers are more than adequate in their field, and as time goes on the middle school teachers who were let in under the old system are going to retire. (Spare me the nonsense about ed majors and SAT scores, as high school teachers aren’t ed majors and elementary school teachers have to pass a competency test, regardless of their intent).

    The elite ed schools take the bulk of their students from elite colleges. I went to Stanford’s teacher education program, and most of the class was from Harvard, Duke, Cornell, Columbia, Berkeley, and so on. The state systems generally take the lower ranking schools, but again, they require the competency test. In fact, the only real difference between elite ed schools and TFA is the time the first group spends teaching. Their qualifications are just as good.

  29. Chris Smyr Says:

    Cal:

    Yours is the longest-running non-response I’ve seen in a long time. You act offended that I write so much in response to your posts (and proceed to make it clear you’re interested mainly in trying to insult me–but this all comes off as playground banter, so I hope this wasn’t your goal), yet you’ve managed to continually reply over the past few days without actually responding to much of anything of what I’ve written.

    You’ve propounded stereotypes of TFA teachers several times in this thread, and you at one point used an anecdote to further your point about how “the stereotype hurts because it’s accurate”. These stereotypes are incorrect and your reasoning to support them is poor or nonexistent.

    Here’s another response to your latest comment, something that you continually fail to do in return:

    ***”1) I am not against TFA. I work with several excellent TFAers.”

    Again, this is besides the point; your previous arguments were asinine attacks on TFA.

    ***”2) I am not against TFAers doing their 2 and leaving.”

    Great, but here you seem to imply “2 and leaving” is part of this accurate stereotype you keep peddling, when the research suggests that you’re wrong.

    ***”3) I am categorically dismissive of using brand new teachers to train other brand new teachers.”

    I ask again: Why? What is the rationale that a teacher with 2 years of experience cannot be an excellent coach for a new teacher? I’ve had several mentors as a teacher and the younger ones were just as helpful as the older, even more so at times. You keep asserting that there is a minimum to # of years of experience to be effective as a coach, but that is not the case, nor is it the case for teacher effectiveness in general.

    ***”But TFA raises money and then use a lot of that money for what is little more than a jobs program for ex-TFAers as “trainers””

    I mean, how the hell do you not understand that this is not only insulting but incorrect?

    ***”4) While TFA does no harm, it doesn’t do much good, either. ”

    Says the immature commenter who apparently has no idea what the research suggests about TFA.

    I asked you this before: if you want to continue asserting that TFA doesn’t do much good, do what you asked me and cite some research. Much of the literature suggests a reality different from the one you’re continually conjuring up in this thread.

    And if you want to put on your big boy shoes and actually try out this thing called a debate, how about a response to my comments at 11:52P and 11:49A?

  30. Cal Says:

    Dude, you haven’t understood what I’ve said so far, so why would I bother?

    BTW, I don’t wear big boy shoes.

  31. Chris Smyr Says:

    Paraphrased: “You’re completely wrong because I said so!”

    You’re ridiculous

  32. phillipmarlowe Says:

    Cal Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 11:10 pm
    Dude, you haven’t understood what I’ve said so far, so why would I bother?

    BTW, I don’t wear big boy shoes.

    Exactly.

    Cal, you’re lucky.
    Atleast Chris hasn’t labeled you with body parts and sex acts.

  33. Chris Smyr Says:

    Phillip paraphrased: “I’m a diversion! I’m a diversion!”

    Since these “debates” always end the same way (see: eduwonk . com/2010/08/kipp-and-catholic-schools.html#comment-208856), I’d be happy to contribute toward the new topic of “Stupid Shit Phillip Says”, if you’d like.

  34. phillipmarlowe Says:

    Aww, poor Chris’s feelings are hurt.

    I liked the way Michelle Rhee removed our banter at studentsfirst.org to save you further embarrassment.

    As for “Stupid Sh*& Phillip Types(sic)”, let’s start with the resounding success his AP Biology students in scoring 5s on their AP test.
    Huzzah!

  35. Chris Smyr Says:

    That is indeed a great start to this new topic because:

    1) It has zero bearing on any even remotely relevant argument,

    2) It is another example of the character attacks that you so fancy, and

    3) I never taught AP Biology you incorrigible nitwit.

    Here’s a good one:

    “phillipmarlowe says: I’d rather be a loony than an asshole.”

    Your turn!

  36. Cal Says:

    “Paraphrased: “You’re completely wrong because I said so!””

    Is it within your intellectual capacity to grasp the difference between “you don’t understand” and “you’re wrong”?

    I’ve tried to explain this twice, now.

    Regarding your comment to Mr. Marlowe–I’m thinking you might be both?

  37. Chris Smyr Says:

    Is it within yours to understand that I’ve addressed every iteration of your argument in this thread?

    You didn’t “explain” that I don’t understand. Rather, you stated it. You’ve stated repeatedly that I just don’t understand you. Considering I’ve responded to your arguments almost literally line-by-line, I’m pretty sure I’ve gleaned whatever nuance you purport to have had. Even when you numerically structured what you were trying to say–in an attempt to show how badly I misunderstood you– I continued to respond, and I noted how my response then was quite similar to that of my response prior.

    You, however, stopped responding long ago.

    If you want to try to have a debate or to simply further defend your position, I’ll be here. In the meantime, if Phillip wants to showcase his flawless credibility and online reputation, I’ll humor him.

  38. tom Says:

    Also Cal, still waiting for your response here: http://www.eduwonk.com/2011/04/good-kipp-bad-kipp.html#comment-220125

  39. phillipmarlowe Says:

    Cal,
    on this one you’re wrong.
    Chris and I are not the same.
    I documented that Michelle Rhee lied,
    Chris believes her because she said so.

    On this blog, Chris’ belief was accurately described as creationist-like, and Chris, the nonAP biology teacher had a conniption.

    I believe you can see some exchanges back at the beginning of February and back in Oct.
    I had Miss Rhee’s number back then, and subsequent history and data proved me right.

  40. Chris Smyr Says:

    Perhaps Cal thinks Tom also cannot read since he hasn’t replied to him yet?

    And yes Phillip, another excellent addition to this new topic, because:

    1) On none of your many excursions into the research literature and testing data have you come back with anything that proved any of your claims,

    2) I never said I “believe [Rhee] because she said so”, but rather that you have no business pretending you know how to interpret data, and

    3) I’ve not once been offended by this strange creationist insult, but find it really weird that you keep wanting to reference it. What it does do, however, is add to the evidence that you are fixated on leveling strange and sleazy claims and insults about people you disagree with rather than on positions or arguments.

    Of course, Cal thinks I can’t read, so hopefully the stunning revelations the two of you have gathered aren’t actually portents of the gods and are really just utterances from a couple of morons.

    Here are a few more quotes I’d like to add regarding Phillip’s penchant for referencing private parts:

    “phillipmarlowe Says: you’re probably frustrated that no-one will treat you to the Lady Gaga suggestion of taking a ride on your disco stick.”

    “phillipmarlowe Says: the fellatio graduate”

    “phillipmarlowe Says: suck on this big ten inch of irony”

    He’s so charming.

  41. Cal Says:

    Philip–you misunderstand.

    Chris was quoting you, saying “I’d rather be loony than an asshole.” I was saying–to Chris–that perhaps he was both.

  42. Chris Smyr Says:

    And the non-response continues

  43. Phillipmarlowe Says:

    Cal, I get it now.

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