Scaling Up

In his most recent Gadfly commentary, Mike Petrilli writes:

The strategy of opening up the teacher pipeline to non-traditional routes is clearly showing some success, in some areas. (Areas, by the way, that tend to attract young high-flyers; the list of such areas is unfortunately short.)  . .  But this strategy isn’t showing success at scale. And thanks to our national obsession with “reducing class size,” we boast a teacher workforce of more than three million; teachers coming through TFA and TNTP are a metaphorical drop in the bucket.

The “scaling up” argument on Teach For America is a bit shopworn. It’s true that Teach For America corps members make up a very small percentage of all teachers in public school classrooms. However, I would argue that in our 18 years of existence, we have learned quite a bit about effective recruitment strategies that, with some tweaking, could be applied to traditional teacher preparation settings. There’s nothing preventing such programs from using these strategies to target undergrads in their sophmore year of college. I think we also know quite a bit about how to accelerate teacher learning that has applications for both traditional and alternative teacher preparation programs.

Despite our elitist rap, we do play nice in the sandbox and look for opportunities to share what we have learned—it’s part of what I was brought onboard to do. Drop me a note if you would like to receive a hard copy of our complete program overview or a PowerPoint on our recruitment strategies.

–Guestblogger Michele McLaughlin

4 Replies to “Scaling Up”

  1. Thanks so much for this week’s guest blogging! As a former corps member, I’m feeling positively electrified!

  2. I am glad to hear that the TFA “play(s) nice,” and that that is one thing that you were brought on to do.

    I’ve never understood the animosity toward TFA, but I can imagine that some kids think that history began the day they walked in the classroom. (surely I’ve never been guilty of that) If a TFAer acts like a jerk or a Kipster argues that others could get the same increases in student performance in neighborhood schools, we can refute the arguments of those individuals.

    The problem is not individual debates – I think we have the evidence on our side, but political coalitions. For instance, when it comes to terminating ineffective teachers, we all have plenty to answer for. So why did the New Teacher Project play loose with the evidence in their report, and what will be done in the future to avoid becoming a pawn in the hands of teacher-bashers?

    I’m hopeful that we’ll seee Obama’s wisdom in supporting both the Broader, Bolder Challenge, and the EEP – minus (hopefully) its faux accountability. And if the accountability of NCLB II is just as primitive as in NCLB I, there is no reason why we can’t learn the lessons of the last six years and sidestep the most destructive aspects of that law’s implementation.

    Similarly, the latest proposal on Comparability by John Podesta and Cythia Brown said that transferring teachers to achieve equity “seems nonsensical.” The first time I read the Ed Trust anaysis on Comparability, I thought, “Wow! This will help us shift the subject from equality to equity.” And of course, if that happens it will be due to the leadership of the union. But when I read the Ed Trust’s proposals I was equally astounded, and wondered, what are they thinking? Do they really want to help poor kids or are they just latter day Trotskysist hating on everyone who is not ideological pure? Do they really think they can help kids by destroying teachers and collective bargaing?

    At any rate, The American Prospect report seemed to show that Comparability could be phased in over seven years while not undercutting collective bargaining. If we could get that sort of deal, there would be more money for poor kids for more TFAers, more learning time, and more instruction that respects the humanity of students, not teacher-less worksheets and more fabricated graduation rates to make it seem like a teacher-proof system could actually benefit poor kids.

    I would also like your thoughts on Michelle Rhee. Is it possible for her to “play nice?” If not, can we all agree to clean up our own houses, hold ourselves accountable, and repudiate ideologues who won’t work in good faith to reach compromises?

  3. Michele – thanks for your candor. Would it actually be possible to get a copy of some of the materials you guys use to ‘accelerate teacher learning’? I saw a copy once of the TFA manual on curriculum development and lesson planning, and damned if I don’t know why TFA doesn’t copyright and sell that stuff.

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