Too Good To Check!

I was puzzled by this article by Washington Post national education reporter Valerie Strauss. She relays an account from a Baltimore teacher (that came via Diane Ravitch) about how he/she was almost squeezed out of a job because the city was hiring all these Teach For America teachers and teachers from The Baltimore City Teacher Residency.   Sounded too good to be true.  Or from Strauss’ point of view, too good to check as they say.  In fact, the email touched all the right talking anti-TFA talking points and sounded like a thinly veiled attack on the two reform-oriented prep programs operating in the city – the residency is an initiative of The New Teacher Project.

And in fact, well, it is.  When you look at data on hiring in Baltimore it looks like while Teach For America provided 160 teachers in Baltimore in ’09 and ’10, the city hired 584 new teachers in ’09 and 477 this year (with 37 vacancies still open as of August so presumably some of those have been filled, too).  Meanwhile, here’s a New York Times story on Baltimore hiring teachers from overseas because they can’t find enough… For its part the Baltimore City Teacher Residency, which launched in the early part of the decade, seems to provide about 20 percent of the district’s teachers.

As a function of their size big city districts hire a lot of teachers from multiple sources each year, which is why you should always be skeptical when any particular pipeline is singled out as representative of anything.  In Baltimore, given those numbers, it seems ridiculous to blame these two routes for making it really difficult to find a job.  Hundreds apparently didn’t have that problem…And again, the research is quite clear that teachers entering teaching through these routes do as well or better than others.  The variance is within the different routes not between routes.

Strauss can’t be bothered to explain any of this context.   Nor any context or analysis on a host of other claims in the email, which is reprinted verbatim and anonymously. In The Washington Post. Really.

10 Replies to “Too Good To Check!”

  1. “This teacher we heard from doesn’t like TFA! Her story, as retold from her perspective, is obviously evidence of wrongdoing!”

    So, she blames everyone else when she doesn’t land a job? One wonders why she didn’t get hired.

  2. What a remarkable amount of bullshit.

    “It is tragic that our students who desperately need consistency in their lives, are being subjected to TFA, a program whose two-year commitment breeds instability in our students’ lives.”

    “I have also heard that some school administrators have confirmed that qualified candidates were available for hire, but they were forced to hire people through alternative certification programs.”

    My favorite:

    “I am succeeding now and helping to close the achievement gap [in my classes] mostly due to my training and the fact that my commitment is to my students and to the profession and not to Wendy Kopp [founder of Teach for America].”

    If this is what ed schools produce maybe they should be abolished.

  3. Why check when you already just KNOW something is true? And checking would involve looking at numbers, and numbers are clearly really bad for kids.

    Plus since Strauss doesn’t believe that you can measure teachers, how would one know that a teacher is any good?

    Data: bad. TFA: bad. Regular teachers who principals don’t want to hire: good. Old way of doing things in Baltimore that was so great for poor kids: good.

  4. If this is what ed schools produce maybe they should be abolished.

    Yeah, right on man!.

    All the teachers at the Catholic schools I’ve worked with come from ed schools.
    And we know what a terrible job the Catholic schools do with educating children.

  5. Excuse me, but the parenthetical statement “37 vacancies still open as of August” makes me wonder what “almost squeezed out of a job” means. Good thing there might be a couple dozen OTHER jobs available – IN THE SAME DISTRICT!!

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