Jul 08 2013

My open letter to 2013 corps members

Dear 2013 corps members,

I recently read and commented on a blog post calling on you to quit Teach For America because, as alleged in the letter, the program exacerbates inequalities, operates under a broken model, isn’t wanted by communities, and practices disaster capitalism. While I agree with many of the author’s points, I want to remind you that you came to TFA for a reason. If that reason was to dedicate yourself to improving the educational experience of low-income students, then I am telling you right now that we need you.

Regardless of how you feel about public schools, charter schools, private schools, or teacher preparation programs, the fact of the matter is that come August and September there are going to be millions of students across the country sitting at desks and tables in every type of school. In many cases, they will have a caring, dedicated individual at the head of their classroom. I don’t care what “Waiting for Superman” told you, nearly every teacher I have met has been an excellent educator. But, too often, the education system is working against our students, and there will be many cases where kids will walk into school on the second day or the second week or the second month or the second semester of school and face a different teacher or a handful of substitutes. If you’re their teacher, I know that’s not going to happen this year or next year.

Yes, you could make a statement by quitting TFA. You could highlight the severe problem of administrators and politicians playing games that created these vacancies. You could question TFA’s contracts with school districts. You could be a featured speaker at a union rally decrying the corporatization of our public schools. But, in addition to being an excellent teacher, I believe you will be a better advocate for your cause inside of a school rather than outside of a school.

When I started my journey as a TFA corps member in June 2011, I had three major questions: 1) How could I be ready for a classroom without traditional training? 2) How would my mere two-year commitment impact my future school? Doesn’t that exacerbate inequality in urban districts? 3) Doesn’t my participation in TFA dilute the labor movement?

“How could I be ready for a classroom without traditional training?”

First and foremost, the teacher preparation question is the most important. Before I committed to teach in Milwaukee, I had serious reservations about whether or not I could deliver an excellent education for my students. How could five weeks at Institute, TFA’s teacher boot camp, possibly be enough? I’ll tell you right now, its not. But neither is a traditional teacher preparation program.

I started at my school at the same time as a traditionally trained teacher. We were both scared on the first day, and we both struggled with behavior management and implementing curriculum concepts. We got it together around November not because of our respective training, but because we worked together to begin building our kindergarten program.

So here’s Lesson 1: You won’t be prepared on day one. Here’s Lesson 2: Make allies.

I mentioned it before, but it is so important to remember that you are not the only person in your building dedicated to helping your students. Almost every person comes to education for a similar reason as you. It’s easy to be cocky as a TFA corps member.

So here’s Lesson 3: Be humble, respectful of your colleagues and learn from them.

“How would my mere two-year commitment impact my future school?”

Now what about that two-year commitment. What does it say when someone spends two years becoming an excellent teacher only to walk away? What does it mean for the schools that have invested so much money and time into developing a staff member? It’s not great. In fact, it’s terrible. I hate that people stop teaching after two years. Teachers get better with age and experience and the only way our urban schools will improve is if we can attract and retain the best teachers. We cannot rely on a fresh crop of novices every single year. But TFA isn’t the only teacher dropout factory. The problem is systemic.

The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future reported in 2011 that 46 percent of new teachers will leave the profession within 5 years. Arguably, that number is higher in urban districts where teachers will face larger socio-economic obstacles. For my corps of TFA teachers here in Milwaukee, nearly half of us will be teaching a third year in Milwaukee or another city this fall.

Which brings me to Lesson 4: It isn’t enough to teach for two years, but that’s not simply a TFA problem.

“Doesn’t my participation in TFA dilute the labor movement?”

My last question about TFA came in the wake of the Wisconsin’s collective bargaining protests in early 2011. As a proud Democrat and staunch union supporter from the home of labor, I didn’t want to be part of a union busting organization. While I am sad to say that I can’t call TFA pro-union, it isn’t anti-union either. In most districts, TFA teachers are hired the same way as any other teacher. If they’re hired by a public school, they can join the union. I’ll add, however, that I’ve read that Chicago Public Schools are contracted to hire a set number of TFA teachers. I do not approve of that practice. If it’s true, then it runs counter to TFA’s mission of placing teachers in high-need areas and replaces it with a back-door patronage system. It would be an incredible black eye for TFA.

Which, with some trepidation, brings me to Lesson 5: TFA is not pro- or anti-union.

Moving forward I hope that you’ll keep those lessons at the forefront of your mind. Over the course of two years you will learn that education is full of politics and important debates about the future of our kids and our country. Your views will develop as you think about how important policies impact your students, their families, and you as a professional. No, you’re not a savior for coming to this work, but we need you. I believe in you. Please feel free to comment or email if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Alex Morgan

111 Responses

  1. Ms. Jenzen

    Nicely stated.

    For the preparation bit, you are correct that “traditional” training is no better than non-traditional on the first day of school. I wish we had the type of hands-on training that doctors are required to have: Theory/Book Learning–>Internship–>Residency–>Real Teacher. That is a long way down the road.

    Also, ideal training is that which combines practice with time set aside during which teachers are REQUIRED to reflect in a safe “no-holds-barred” group. Unfortunately, this is not a part of many “traditional” teacher training programs either.

    As long as people join TFA for the right reasons; to give students a permanent teacher, to have an opportunity to impact education etc., those people can make a difference. Mr. Morgan, you are an example of one of those people. There may or may not be other corps members who have joined for the other reasons, and they should follow Katie Osgood’s advice and find something different for the next two years.

    • I agree with you 100 percent, Ms. Jensen. Something I like about pursuing my Masters right now, too, is that I get to take what I learn in my own classes and apply it to my classroom. Then I can bring back what happened to my grad class and work through it with my professors and peers. I also agree that TFA should do a better job weeding out individuals doing it for any kind of leg up.

    • Vanette Pinder

      I may be late in this response, but as a graduate of two traditional education programs, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University and The Florida State University, I disagree with you completely. Within each of those programs, I was required to complete numerous hours of field clinical/practicum. My undergraduate degree is in Elementary Education and at FAMU we were required to spend time at an elementary school to observe and eventually practice lessons for every core subject area (math, science, reading, social studies, and even PE). Every class included lessons in theory and later discussions of reflection upon our experiences and methods for improvement. The same procedures were followed while I earned a graduate degree in Exceptional Education with a specialty in Students with Autism from FSU. Both programs also required that I complete a semester internship, in which half of the time is dedicated to the student actually taking control of the class to gain the full teacher experience. Florida traditional programs are focused on developing the “whole” teacher. I am not sure what is happening in other states but Florida College/University program educators graduate prepared with practice. We may not be perfect the first day or even first year of school and we may be nervous but we are also prepared. I just ask that you consider what you are saying considering that you just may not have completed a traditional education program and are not aware of what a traditional program student actually goes through in order to improve the lives of their students.
      FYI I have been a teacher for 12 years.

    • tlmerrie

      I also disagree. My teacher education program was at Auburn University. My professors aren’t there anymore, but I sure hope it hasn’t changed much. We spent vast quantities of our time teaching in schools. I remember that some of my classes were even held in school conference rooms so that it wouldn’t disrupt our work too much. By the time I started teaching in my own classroom I had already been through the first week back for teachers, the first week back for students, and most everything else. Your first year is the hardest, but I don’t think mine was as hard as it would have been with less training.

      I now work in Memphis. I spent some time working for the College of Education at the University of Memphis and thought it was pretty comical how they were ranked higher than Auburn in that NCTQ “study” considering the differences in those two programs. My understanding is that TFA also had a contract with Memphis City Schools like the one you speak of.

      Other than that, I enjoyed your post. I’ll make a point of following your blog in the future.

    • Thank you for you comment, and I do agree that traditional training is probably the best route, but, again not the only route.

      Many folks have raised questions about the teacher training study and I still haven’t had a chance to read it. I’m curious to do so.

    • The fact that our teacher training on the whole is poor in this country isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of TFA. That being the case, we’d be better of spending the money on training our teachers better than doing the other things promoted by the reform movement.

      If you come out of a good teacher training program you ARE prepared and you are not scared on the first day of school. I came out of an excellent one and I am a first year, I have skills that very few people on the campus I teach have. I do creative curriculum design, I know to reach different types of learners, I know how to deal with the most disadvantaged students, I know my content incredibly well.

      And in my training program, that reflective piece was mandatory and built in. So let’s improve training for everyone.

  2. S

    I’ve taught for three years (2010 corps) in Texas, and always have been a member of the AFT. Neither TFA nor AFT seemed to care about the dual commitment.

    • In general, I don’t think people care, especially in states that don’t have a strong union history. But in cities facing massive layoffs (Chicago, Philly, etc) there can be a divide. I think it comes down to how the corps member approaches the situation.

      I do, however, wish unions would do more to reach out to their prospective members. I know TFA and non-TFA teachers in Milwaukee who aren’t union members because they don’t see the benefit of it.

  3. Katie Osgood (@KatieOsgood_)

    Thank you for writing a thoughtful post in response to mine.

    few things that need to be cleared up, TFA does take jobs from veteran teachers, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. Principals are coerced into accepting applicants, HR favors TFA (gets special access at job fairs, interviews etc) and many charters are designed for TFA. When there are layoffs happening in cities where TFA is expanding, the TFA teacher gets the job over the veteran who won’t get hired at the charter/turnaround/receiving school. That “back door patronage” is happening across the country, not only in Chicago.

    Any new corps members in cities experiencing teacher layoffs such as Chicago, Detroit, Philly, and many others must not accept placements. (In addition…as a special education teacher I must say this…if you are placed in special education, you must refuse that placement as well. Immediately. It is completely unethical).

    Also, training absolutely matters. There is no doubt, and research supports this, that completing a teacher preparation program before teaching on your own is vital: (See http://www.greatlakescenter.org/docs/Policy_Briefs/Heilig_TeachForAmerica.pdf ) More work needs to be done to make all school environments set up for success, but that is no reason to exacerbate the existing inequality of giving low-income kids certified teachers.

    Lastly, your point about the labor movement is unfortunately inaccurate. TFA says it is neutral, but its actions, as well as the rhetoric in recruiting, literature, and training are anti-union and anti-veteran teacher. Not all TFAers themselves are anti-union, but when seeped in that rhetoric many get pulled into believing the “anyone can teach”, “teachers don’t need tenure” “unions protect bad teacher” nonsense.

    In addition, here in Chicago, TFA discouraged CMs to vote for the the strike until the CTU pushed back and forced TFA to send out a “clarification” that they were neutral and CMs could vote their conscience. They also discourage CMs from attending union meetings, in part just by how busy you all are kept. Also, TFA encourages martyrdom behavior, which is actually just exploited labor, something teachers have been fighting against since the birth of unions.

    I know this is hard to hear, but TFA is doing real damage. Please get out while you can.

    • Thanks for your post, Katie. In this and other posts I think we’ve listed the pros and cons of Teach For America.

      I’m an alumnus now, and for us alumni as well as those who choose to stay in the classroom, I’d love to stay up-to-date on what’s happening and think about how TFA members can be productive members of the teaching profession.

      I encourage all teachers of any background to join their local union and attend and participate in meetings. Of course it’s also important for us to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in our profession. Are there any blog or news sites that you suggest I/we follow?

      Despite this disagreement, I applaud and appreciate your activism. I think the more informed we are, the stronger we will be!

    • Michaela J.

      Katie interesting how fervently you feel about unions considering you choose not to be a member of one and also work at a private, for-profit venture, Chicago Lakeshore Hospital – which itself has some interesting history and business practices. More here: http://bit.ly/Xk2wmG.

      What do you have to say about this seeming oddity and incongruity?

    • Michaela J.

      @Katie – how long have you been at Chicago Lakeshore? Where you there during the times highlighted in the Chicago Sun Times article?

      Looks like it’s a organization-wide plague: “At a sister hospital controlled by Kim in California, an employee last year filed a lawsuit alleging that company officials defrauded the government by providing “minimal, substandard care” to patients. That facility, Aurora Las Encinas Hospital, also came under scrutiny after The Los Angeles Times reported the unexpected deaths of three patients and the alleged rape of a teenage patient, all within a five-month period in 2008.”

    • I think pinning the problems of a Chicago Lakeshore Hospital on Katie is like pinning the problems of Institute or a school on a TFA teacher. Katie writes that she works with kids at the hospital with special needs and I’m sure she does a great job. Also, the link you posted is to the Tribune and not the Sun-Times.

    • Katie Osgood

      Michaela, I don’t appreciate the insinuations you make about me and my workplace.

      But I think mental health care services in our country provide a poignant example of why corporate education reform is a terrible idea. The hospital where I work provides mediocre care. We have an excellent staff, but we are not resourced to be excellent. Almost all child/adolescent pychiatric hospitals in the state of Illinois are privately-run, a vast majority of them for-profit. Health care is a decade or more ahead of where we are in education in terms of privatization. And the market dictates that sub-standard care is acceptable in my state, especially if your facility serves low-income, minority populations as mine does. As states cut funding for medicaid payments, all facilities are providing worse and worse care. Sound familiar?

      And you know what? Every single employee in my hospital agrees that we need some form of leverage to force the higher-ups to spend more on patient care. We do need a union. That’s a battle I would love to fight someday. But I’ve been distracted lately by the complete dismantling of public education happening in my city.

      I stay here because despite all the nonsense, I get left alone. I get to do really creative, deep, fun learning activities with kids. I never have to administer one single standardized test. I get to work closely with patients, hear their stories, work with schools, advocate for kids. I get to work with an interdisciplinary team, the only way you can address kids multi-faced needs. Here is a post I wrote about what I do and what I believe: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/02/katie_osgood_the_reform_my_stu.html

      I would love to go back into a traditional classroom, but I will not as long as these horrible “reforms” are destroying it. (Read more here: http://mskatiesramblings.blogspot.com/2012/04/dear-mr-mayor-why-i-will-not-teach-in.html )

    • Katie,

      You just hit at some of my core problems with our education system. You are able to do what you love to do at a private institution and I am able to do what I love to do at a private institution. We aren’t getting nearly enough resources, but we’re being left alone to pick and choose what we think is best for our patients/students.

      What I hate about “Ed Reform” is that the people pushing it often make exceptions for charter schools and always allow for exceptions to continue for pubic schools. If they’re going to push anything, it needs to happen throughout. Charter and private school teachers are used as advocates for many of these reforms that they aren’t forced to practice in their classrooms. It’s ridiculous!

      Thank you for offering some insight into your work!

  4. Michaela J.

    Thx for correction on source.

    Bigger Q: is why choose to work at a private, for-profit hospital when one feels so strongly about unionism? Where we work and how we spend our time matters – can’t disconnect that nor shill disingenuous ideologies.

    Also since she’s calling for TFAers to quit (I don’t totally disagree w/ that sentiment btw) so why not yourself quit a business which appears to be so clearly at odds with her philosophical and moral underpinnings regarding the welfare of children and organized labor?

    A bit odd in’t it?

    • This is a fairer point considering Katie’s argument. I, however, am a major union supporter but work at a private institution. I wish we were union, but, given our size, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I still think we can advocate for the same things at private institutions, and, no doubt, we benefit from the existence of the union in the public sphere.

    • CarolineSF

      1. Katie Osgood hasn’t said there’s anything wrong with a private, for-profit entity.
      2. One can’t wish oneself into a union job. Working in a non-unionized job not anti-union, however, and is an entirely different thing from working for an aggressively union-busting operation such as Teach for America. And union-busting is only a small piece of the harm TFA does. Promoting the separate-and-unequal notion that low-income children of color deserve only minimally trained temps as their teachers is a far greater part.

      This entirely line of attack is crap, Michaela J. Good try on hitting as hard as you can at a BS offense, but it’s dishonest crap.

    • There’s nothing wrong with a private, for-profit entity? There are a lot of things wrong with private, for-profit entities when they are hospitals and schools! I don’t agree with Katie or Michaela’s line of attack, but if you’re going to accept one then I think you have to accept them both because they’re along the same lines!

    • DrewHeiserman

      @Michaela J – Katie is suggesting that TFAers quit because they are displacing experienced professionals, and their organization de-professionalizes teaching.
      Who is Katie displacing, and how does her work de-professionalize the profession of her colleagues?
      Your argument is flawed at its core.

  5. Michaela J.

    We share similar stances on this point re: private/public institutions and organized labor.

    Difference btwn us and Katie being that I won’t call on you to quit your work in order to join a union – while I myself continue on in private sector. So less abt pinning crimes of Chicago Lakeshore Hospital on Katie and more about reconciling the seeming contradiction in her sounding a call to action she hasn’t answered herself – and in such vitriolic, condescending, privileged and obtuse language no less.

    “Stop eating pizzas! You’re ruining the business of sandwich stores everywhere.” *Puts on Pizza Hut hat and goes back to work.*

    Doesn’t sound, feel or look right. SMH.

    • I was definitely put off by the tone, but I will contend that she makes many valid points both in her letter and in response to your post.

    • Michaela J.

      There are several valid points (again I don’t entirely disagree w/ premise) and many invalid ones. And, even for the valid points, she’s the wrong person to sound this particular call to action. Reading post made me curious about her own background which led to research re: workplace. The hypocrisy is deafening.

      I call BS on her reply and rationalization: I can picture TFAs saying the same thing: “Oh I would totally do something else besides TFA if I liked the other options better. But I don’t so I won’t.”

      Put your money where your mouth is and don’t call on others to do the work you’re too afraid to. Spend less time on internet and more time organizing your hospital. Easy to tell others what to do, esp those you don’t like; harder to do it yourself.

      Katie I know this is hard to hear, but Chicago Lakeshore Hospital (and the profiteering and disaster capitalism is represents) is doing real damage. Get out while you can.

    • I’ll just add that I do agree that we need to do more organizing across many professions and I’m going to leave it at that. Thanks for your comments, Michaela.

    • Michaela J.

      And to you too. You’re certainly more diplomatic than I and I appreciate that. We need more of you and less of Katie and I if we wan’t to build bridges and make sustained progress.

    • Katie Osgood (@KatieOsgood_)

      Michaela, you seem hell bent on attacking me personally, and continue to ignore the wider issues. I see that argument as al diversion technique when you know you cannot win the argument any other way.

      Honestly, I had been toying with the idea of getting a job in a school for next year. But then I remember that my district has closed down a huge number of schools and fired hundreds of teachers. No one new is getting hired this year. Oops, except for the 325 uncertified, first year novices from TFA.

      I will say it again to the new Chicago CMs, you must refuse your placements.

  6. Michaela J.

    Katie I know this is hard for you to hear, but Chicago Lakeshore Hospital (and the profiteering and disaster capitalism is represents) is doing real damage. More here folks, this is where she works: http://bit.ly/Xk2wmG.

    I don’t care much about TFA so what truly concerns me is your attempt to degrade others while your own decisions and actions are so tainted. You’re like Rush Limbaugh (same tones of privilege & radical ideology included) telling others not to pop pills or be acerbic ideologues. Your hypocrisy is glaring.

    You work for an organization which has been proven to harm children. You have no room to cast aspersions anywhere else. Pretty disgusting behavior altogether. “I would work for a school next year but …. ” Riiiiiiight. BS. You have more excuses than logical legs to stand on. If you’re the type of person “fighting for” my three children, we’re in deeper than I thought. Please put your hands in the air and step away for our kids.

    Get out while you can. Refuse your next paycheck and quit spending your work hours contributing to an organization abusing children. Until then you have no credibility.

    • Katie Osgood (@KatieOsgood_)

      You know you have hit a nerve when people viciously attack you. I guess my piece hit the TFA nerve, probably because they know that there is truth there.

    • Guilt by association is one of the most beloved tools of sophists. How far would you care to extend this line of attack? Perhaps Ms. Osgood is personally responsible for the deaths of polar bears because she has been known to drive a car…

      If Lakeshore were so irredeemably beyond rehabilitation, it should have been closed down by the state. That it wasn’t says that the authorities believe it can and should be repaired.

      So you should get on your knees with your three children tonight and thank whatever deity you believe in that people like Katie Osgood are willing to work in one of the most challenging and difficult jobs that one could possibly imagine. Be grateful that she’s doing so in a place that clearly needs dedicated, decent people to change its culture and serve its patients.

      Once you’re done, tuck the kids in and kiss them goodnight. Then say a prayer of hope and thanks: hope that you will never need a teacher like Katie Osgood, and thanks that she and many others are there for you if that awful time should ever come.

    • Katie, By my count, only one person has viciously attacked you. At least on this post.

      Jersey, While I don’t agree much with “guilt by association” I don’t know how you can attack Michaela for this but not Katie. Whether or not it’s mature, Michaela is simply mimicking her line of attack here.

  7. xian

    Michaela, where do you work?
    What’s your shoe size?
    How old are you?
    What’s your favorite food?

  8. Michelle Klein

    Katie seems to do a job many would not be able to do. She works with a special needs population that has major health and emotional issues on their plate. The public system does not have the resources to educate these students. Therefore Chicago Lakefront Hospital needs someone to help students not loose educational ground. Why are you vilifying her because she works in a city where the public school teachers are being let go of by the HUNDREDS yet TFA is recruiting to stand in front of classrooms full of under privileged students? She took the job she could. And from the sounds of it does her very best and is passionate about helping her students. Stop attacking her, you should applaud her.

    • I think you meant “lose” and not “loose” since I hope we don’t have any “loose” educational ground. Also, I’d hope that commenters would specifically address individuals as I’ve not attacked Katie for her occupation or views.

  9. Kristin Vogel

    I have just left a large urban school district in Northern California to work in a smaller, suburban one. For the past eight years I have committed myself to work with the most disadvantaged students; those who come from devastatingly poor communities, and with special needs.

    When I interviewed for a position I was told that the previous TWO teachers had been CMs from TFA, and specifically told by the principal that “this room is a disaster”. True enough, when I came in to start preparing for the next school year I walked in to find a pile of student work, toys, papers, and curriculum piled up in the middle of the room. The last TFA CM had left the room in the way she thought about it. Even the paraprofessionals let me know that she was a “party girl” and “had no business teaching Special Ed”. It was very hard to instill an academic work ethic into a classroom that had basically been allowed to play all day.

    It is unethical for TFA and school districts to place untrained kids into the neediest classrooms. These are the classrooms where the experienced, credentialed teachers are needed most. Ms. Osgood is correct in encouraging CMs to turn down Special Ed assignments. DO NOT be a part of the corruption in this system. Admit that you are not prepared to work with those students. You are doing yourself a disservice as well; it’s an impossible job for someone without the proper training and qualifications.

    *Note: My classroom was closed down at the end of this school year due to budget cuts, and this was ultimately the reason I decided to leave my district. I will continue to serve low SES students with special needs next year.*

    • Kristin, If you left your email before commenting here, I’d love to follow up with you and hear about the school and district that you were in last year. I personally think it’s important to hear about TFA’s shortcomings and report on it. The problem with much of the TFA criticism is that people do not provide concrete examples.

    • Kristin Vogel

      I’m not sure I can give a more concrete example than a young girl being inappropriately placed in a Special Education classroom in one of the most underperforming schools in a district. Her lack of respect for classroom materials, and the lack of data, assessments, and progress notes for students with IEPs was shocking. I know that the majority of CMs put their heart and soul into their work, but this was a straight up criminal instance, and validates my personal belief that Special Education should be off limits to TFA. While I would hope that this is one of the more extreme cases I don’t expect it to be the only one.

    • You definitely have a valid criticism. While I’m sure TFA would say that they were filling a need and that this was an unfortunate incident, it is, unfortunately, something that happened because of a TFA corps member.

      During the application process and interview process I was asked on more than one occasion if I would be comfortable in a special education placement and I always said no for this very reason. I would not feel comfortable walking in on the first day with only Institute as my background. Perhaps TFA would be wise not to ask that question at all. Although I’m sure I have TFA colleagues who teach in special education classrooms who would disagree with me.

  10. Michelle Klein

    I am bothered by TFA. I can’t decide what is worse. The insinuation that America’s public school students need a missionary Peace corp like person to come and save them or the belief that teachers should be some Peace Corp like volunteers. Everyone teaches. The hard part is to educate. Five weeks of training is no where near enough. And putting the TFA people into the lowest performing schools is malpractice both to the TFA intern and to the students. Just saying…..

    • Michelle, I agree that five weeks is not enough, but I’ll add that I have learned a lot from my graduate classes and I personally believe it has been beneficial to take them during my first two years as a teacher. I’ve been in a very practical program (as opposed to theory based) and I know that I use a lot more from my classes than my colleagues. Did it strain my first two years? Absolutely. Do I think it will help me as a career educator? Definitely. That’s part of why I have a problem with so many people bashing some of our teacher prep programs. I’ve found my university training very valuable.

      Finally, I’ll note that in my letter I explicitly state that TFA corps members need to free themselves of the mindset that they’re saviors, because they’re not. They’re guides for students and families. We’re all guides for students and families.

      Thank you for your comments.

  11. Michelle Klein

    Xian,
    You ask the best questions.
    here is another one that I have been wondering:
    Michaela, where is your degree from?

  12. Michelle Klein

    Kristin:
    You are amazing. Keep up the good work.

  13. Julie F.

    Where Katie works is a distraction. Classic deflect, distort, demonize. Stop changing the subject, Michaela, and turn your ire against the parasitic, racist project of TFA. Cities are laying off hundreds of veteran black teachers, and bringing in cheap, untrained replacements. Where’s your passion against that?

    • Julie,

      Even without mass layoffs we don’t have enough Black educators in the inner city. When I look at my own school, the only certified teachers are White. Recruitment in both traditional and non-traditional programs has to change if we’re going to achieve true levels of representation in our schools.

      Thanks so much for your comments.

  14. These two statements do not jibe:

    From this post: “But, too often, the education system is working against our students, and there will be many cases where kids will walk into school on the second day or the second week or the second month or the second semester of school and face a different teacher or a handful of substitutes. If you’re their teacher, I know that’s not going to happen this year or next year.”

    From Gary Rubinstein: “And since somewhere between ten and fifteen percent of people who start in TFA do not complete their commitment and therefore become alumni, they are not considered in that stat.”

    http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2011/05/07/two-out-of-three-aint-bad-but-is-it-true/

    Hmm…

    In addition: If TFAers are replacing unionized professional educators, as they are in Chicago, that is unquestionably an anti-union act and anti-professional teacher act.

    • Jersey,

      To become a TFA alumnus you have to complete two years of the program. To be realistic about the quit rate, I’d take a quarter of that figure.

      For example, I came to Milwaukee in 2011 with a corps of 53 individuals. We lost 2 before Institute. Thus, they didn’t quit on kids, they quit on TFA. We lost 4 during the school year. These 4, or 8 percent of our corps members, quit on kids mid-year. Another 3 left after their first year. Again, those 3 didn’t quit on kids, they quit TFA. After that, the other 44 finished their two-year commitment and became TFA alumni.

      So, to reiterate, approximately 8 percent was our quit rate in Milwaukee.

      If someone honestly doesn’t think they’re ready for this career, then I do encourage them to quit and figure out their path forward. But I don’t agree with asking many prospective career teachers to quit on the profession before they get started.

      Thank you for your comments.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      To Alex’s response to JJ, 7 out of 51 who started did not complete the 2 years. This is 14%. Maybe you don’t ‘count’ people who quit after the first year and before the second year, but I do. Those people merely ‘took’ from the system and just when they had learned enough to give back, they left. That is quitting on TFA and the kids. Redefining the quit rate does not mean that what I wrote was not accurate. 14% is absolutely between 10% and 15%

    • Thanks, Gary. I honestly could not discern your definition from your post and perhaps I missed it because I was responding to comments too quickly the past two days. Thanks for your clarification and for your email!

  15. Liz Brown

    I have first hand experience with TFAs’ impact on a school’s culture and student learning as a Chicago (Aspira) charter school teacher and department chair. In my last 2 years, 80% of the new hires were TFAs. I personally “mentored” 3. What TFA instructed them to do was, by and large, antithetical to our school culture. 2 of 3 TFAs I worked with closely basically quit TFA their 2nd year and were much more effective for it. They realized that TFA did not have the answer for our inner city kids. One quit teaching after 2 years, the other after 3 years.
    But the one who survived was by far the least capable and committed and, when he taught Juniors his 3rd year (previously my schedule), our ACT English scores dropped 4 full points after steadily rising by 1.5+ points for 4 years, each year.
    But the school, seeing the profit of hiring TFAs, continued to hire TFAs, And the school’s scores and enrollment continued to plummet.
    Last year they removed the CEO.
    This year they closed the school.
    The school had promise, but was undercut by cheap labor and high turnover, caused by top level corruption that funneled resources away from the classroom and into the pockets of individuals.
    No benefit accrued to my students or my school by hiring TFAs.
    The only benefit was gained by those who profited financially.
    I believe to think otherwise is simply foolhardy.
    TFA is without a doubt a central reason that school failed and our children suffered the consequence.

    • TFA is without a doubt a central reason that school failed? What about the leadership? Why would they hire so many new, inexperienced teachers? In my experience, I was able to work with two great mentors and I was one of only two new teachers. I don’t think the “cluster” model works exactly for this reason.

      To be honest, I believe the real vacuum in education is not educators, it’s administrators. It’s people looking to profit or look good to those on a Board somewhere.

      I’m sorry for your experience, and if you left an email address prior to posting your comment, then I plan to be in touch with you about it.

      Thank you for your comments.

  16. Michaela,

    Please just come clean and tell us how much TFA is paying you to troll and distract people away from the FACTS the Katie has put in front of the world?

    Quit trying to move the discussion to Katie’s employer. Her employer’s financial status has nothing to do with her post.

    She is a certified special education teacher serving students in the worst of situations. She is 100% QUALIFIED to teach special education at a hospital or a school.

    TFAers have NO QUALIFICATIONS for at risk youth living in perpetual chaos.

    TFAers take jobs from qualified and experienced teachers.

    Children and communities are hurt by the rotation of TFA crusaders that destabilize communities.

    These are simple facts that have nothing to do with the financial status of her employer.

    Seriously, how much does Wendy Kopp pay you?

    • I doubt there are any trolls here. I think it’s just that we’re all passionate people.

  17. Ellen

    I would like to address a comment that Alex made in the original post about making allies. You stated that both you and another teacher were not prepared for the opening of school. However, the teacher you worked with had already had hours of observations, pre student teaching and student teaching. I wonder how you would have done without your fellow teacher’s experience. I’m sorry but five weeks of whatever they teach you in TFA does not make a qualified teacher. There is no comparison. I have an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and truthfully, my first years of teaching second grade were really hard. However, I had a foundation to rely on of all my supervised and evaluated pre service teaching, lesson plan creation in education classes, knowledge of education theories and a DEGREE in EDUCATION. Since then I now have a masters degree in art education plus thirty years of teaching experience and could not get a job in CPS if I paid them. I have too much experience, but even more I have a solid opinion about education that is backed by knowledge, evidence and research. However, I wouldn’t know where to even start teaching in these classrooms that will be staffed with TFAers. There can be up to fourth kids in a class in Chicago’s most impoverished and under served neighborhoods. That means kids with hard life stories that need to be addressed before any learning can even begin. But, then again it is all about the testing, which TFA is a lobbing force behind. It is always a TFA alum that will bring up how helpful one if the fourteen tests the student take a year is, because it will guide their teaching. An experience teacher does not need that test to guide their teaching, because they know how to teach!
    It is interesting that you have pulled apart Katie’s essay, while EVERY educator I know has regarded it as one of the best examinations of TFA ( this includes Diane Ravich ) The brown and black neighborhoods are always getting sabotage and letting TFA fill teaching positions is an example of this. There are no TFAers teaching in the wealthy white neighborhoods or selective CPS schools.
    As far as attacking were Katie works, this is really a ridiculous argument. I have only worked in private schools, because those are the jobs I was hired for and there was not a Union. That does not make me any less pro union or any less knowledge about what is needed to create schools were children can be successful.
    Lastly, even TFA is using the idea of a two year position as a jumping off point for your career with recent partnerships with the Law School at University of Chicago and I’m sure a list if other graduate schools and business opportunities.
    I think the idea of a peace corp of young collage graduates is a great idea! Schools would love the extra help! But to put inexperienced people in a classroom is educational malpractice.

    • Ellen,

      While I’m sure my colleague and I pulled some from her undergrad experience, I actually think we pulled more from my graduate experience. During my two years as a TFA teacher I was also enrolled in graduate school and twice a week learned many practical things to bring back to my classroom. I always, always shared these things and got feedback, and yes, my colleague often validated these things by saying “I remember that” but, let’s be honest, we don’t remember everything from undergrad.

      But I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit to my university mentor who helped both of us and our school’s curriculum consultant who came in twice a week to watch both of us and provide tailored advice. Again, this wasn’t about any one persons experience. Together, we’ve built a strong kindergarten program. You can question my background, but I have been an integral part of its development these past two years. In fact, a big reason why I’m staying a third year is so that we can formally document what we’ve done for the people who come after us should either of us find a better opportunity in a different school.

      Finally, I wouldn’t say I pulled apart Katie’s essay. Even in this post I say that she makes many, many valid points, but I don’t think they are strong enough to encourage any potential educator from walking away from the profession. We need as many dedicated people as we can get in our schools. I also agree that we need to stop the corporatization of our schools and we need to fully fund our public schools so that we can continue to hire these dedicated people to teach our children.

      Thanks for your comments.

  18. Ellen

    Alex,
    You were in graduate school for what? I don’t think you are the typical TFAer. But, lets be clear about one thing, until you have a degree in education and are certified you are not an educator. Just being in a classroom teaching is not enough and is so insulting to the education profession. Just think about it for a moment, TFA is a way to devalue teachers. There is just no comparison. And for an organization that talks so much about, how it is all about “the kids ” wouldn’t they want the best teachers in those classrooms. TFA is a Neo liberal corporation that is all a out privatizing education and earning big profits on their investment. Why else would they host outrageously expensive events at the Drake hotel in downtown Chicago, sponsor The presidential conference in Israel ( where Rham, Blair, h&b Cliton spoke) and recruit at the “elite” private universities?

    • Ellen, Every corps member in Milwaukee was enrolled in graduate courses in Education Policy w/ teaching certification or Urban Education w/ focus in Bilingual Ed, Learning Disabilities, or Special Ed w/ teaching certification depending on their placement.
      I’ve completed my courses (including student teaching) for certification and have applied for certification in the State of Wisconsin. My best guess is that anyone in our corps who will continue to teach next year (approximately 25 of us) have completed the same process as they either have their Masters or will this fall when they complete their thesis.
      TFA recruits leaders from highly selective colleges and universities because they want to see leaders in the classroom and in the education world. Is there an alternative agenda? Maybe. But from what I can see from the organization it really is about helping mold a strong crop of young teachers. Do I think there are better ways to do this? Yes. Is anyone doing it on as large of a scale? No.
      While TFA is often linked with charter schools because that’s where there are the plurality of vacancies, TFA is not the one pushing the corporatization of our schools.
      If we’re going to stop the corporatization of our schools, then let’s engage teachers (TFA or not) and educate them about what’s happening and educate our communities about what’s happening. Shunning over 300 future educators in Chicago or Detroit or Milwaukee or Philadelphia is not going to help anything. If they’re hounded to quit rather than organize, then I see that as a missed opportunity.

    • Katie Osgood (@KatieOsgood_)

      Alex, but none of you had completed that work on the first day of teaching. TFAers go to grad school WHILE teaching full-time over years. (Which is a problem unto itself, the first few years of teaching are hard enough, new teachers should focus all their time on their classrooms, not split between graduate coursework and attending evening classes.) All that time you are the teacher of record without the full knowledge understanding of teaching Sped or Billingual Ed, etc. And how many don’t bother to get the paperwork done at all because their 2-3 years is up and they are moving on to something else? You are unqualified while working with the most fragile kids. There is the injustice.

    • Never did I say that I was qualified on day one, but, again, I found my graduate work to be very beneficial during my placement. It informed my practice. Neither my colleague who started at the same time as me nor the one who started the following year really pulled from their undergrad experience. They’ve said so themselves. I’m not going to make an outlandish statement saying all teacher prep programs are terrible because I don’t believe that statement, but I think it says something.

  19. CarolineSF

    The Teach for America rap, from Treme:

    Four years at Radcliffe, that’s all you know
    A desire to do good and a 4.0
    You’re here to save us from our plight!
    You got the answers cuz you’re rich and white!

    On a two-year sojourn, here to stay
    Teach for America all the way!
    Got no idea what you’re facing
    No clue just who you’re displacing

    Old lady taught fathers, old lady taught sons
    Old lady bought books for the little ones!
    Old lady put in thirty years!
    Sweat and toil, time and tears!

    Was that really your sad intention
    To help the state of Louisiana deny her pension?

    • I saw this posted a few times on Katie’s post and on twitter. I think it’s a very good idea to host a meeting to process thoughts and organize. It wouldn’t have been my first thought to do it at conference where one has to pay $100+ to register, but obviously that’s where they’re coming together. I just hope that they share their findings so that if others, like me, agree, then we can work with them.

  20. Before becoming a college professor (teacher educator) I taught for 15 years, 9 in very tough NYC schools. I was named “teacher of the year.” My research is on urban teacher preparation and has won awards. So I speak from both experience and scholarship. It’s not enough to be well-meaning. You have to be well-prepared too. Not all programs of teacher education are what they should be and there are “alternate route” programs that do a fine job. Some well-intentioned, smart folks can learn on the job with just a summer of preparation but many cannot. TFA is putting unproven newbies in schools and replacing experienced teachers with links to their communities. This does harm and is morally indefensible. And if But here’s the thing: If you stick around long enough, a newbie will be replacing you. Think it won’t happen? Wait until the principal who hired you leaves – or your school is closed. That is, if you remain in teaching and let kids benefit from what you learned on the job.

    • I commend you, Professor Weiner, and I hope to be a strong, career educator myself. Again, I don’t think we’re going to agree on your preparation points. Of course I agree that a school of education would be the best route for any teacher, but, as someone who successfully made it through TFA and is sticking with the teaching profession, I believe it’s a viable path. Finally, when it comes to your last point (layoff/replacements) I again don’t think that’s simply a TFA problem. That’s a systemic problem in urban districts where we’ve allowed for the corporatization of our school districts. It’s a problem where kids are flowing out of our public schools and into, from what I’ve seen, largely mismanaged charter and private entities where teachers have little to no say in a school’s day-to-day functions. That’s our core issue. Until we get back on our feet and stop the outsourcing of our education system to private vendors, all teachers will be vulnerable to anyone looking to make a quick buck. Thus, I don’t understand why some of my peers are bastardizing TFA teachers who can be valuable allies in this movement.

    • meghank

      Alex, you’re so pro-union, but you’ve never encountered the concept of “scabs”?

    • I want to add that I responded to Meghan’s comment a little further down on this page. It’s a “main” comment because I was posting from my phone at the time.

  21. Kristina Dundas

    I have read through all the comments and am a little discouraged by all of the negative posts. I am a 2011 Milwaukee Teaching Fellow, a group of teachers that is somehow not getting any of this negative attention. I find this interesting because for the last two years I have been teaching and taking grad classes right beside Milwaukee TFA. The Teaching Fellows model is to go “where they are most needed,” and two years ago when I started teaching I was put in a severe Autism unit that had had five teachers in the last two years. Three of them had been certified teachers who went through a traditional route. One was fired for physical violence on a student. Two had been subs who had no prior experience. I have always been completely honest that I had very little experience with Autism. No other teacher would take my room. I survived because had two amazing mentors; one district based, and one grad school based, that were invaluable. And because I am young, passionate, and goal driven. I say this because even teachers that go through ‘traditional’ programs do not always have experience in the rooms that need committed teachers the most.

    It is also important to note that new teacher drop out rates in the first five years according to Forbes is 46%! Not much different from the TFA/Teaching Fellow Drop out rate.

    I would invite anyone who has negative opinions of any teacher who gets in the classroom through a non-traditional route to talk to us, see how passionate about inner city kids we are and ask us to our face our we are hurting the education system. TFA and Teaching Fellows pick from the top tier of college graduates, and are putting some of the smartest in the country in those inner city classroom. People do not like to hear that, but its true, and its helping.

    I know, and see, what great things are happening in individual classrooms because of myself and all the teachers I take grad classes from. I just wish you could see as well instead of fighting back with words you just read about.
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/03/08/high-teacher-turnover-rates-are-a-big-problem-for-americas-public-schools/

    • Kristina, Thank you for sharing your story and providing the perspective of a teacher who assumed an unfilled role.

    • I think one of the reasons Teaching Fellows has a better rep than TFA is that it recruits locally, so the program alumni are more personally invested and are more likely to stay in the area. They may not be more prepared than TFAers on day one, but they’re more of a long term community investment.

    • Parus, I think you may be correct there. Also, because they’re regional, they only get positive or negative hits in that region as opposed to across the country like TFA.

      Which brings me back to a point I made earlier, TFA is very different based on the region. Also, all regions make passionate pitches for their hometowns. I know that I originally applied to TFA both because I did have a desire to be a teacher and TFA reopened in my hometown of Detroit. I believe the recruitment teams needs to change their methods if they haven’t already and take on the focus of the many regional teams.

  22. I’m from Michigan, the home of labor. I know what it means to hire a scab, and, no, I’ve never crossed a picket line. If Chicago teachers want to strike again, I will be right there with them. If Milwaukee teachers feel the need to strike, I will be right there with them.

    • Katie Osgood (@KatieOsgood_)

      Alex, TFA encouraged Chicago CMs to vote against the strike and to not support the union. CTU heard of their actions and pushed back causing TFA to release a “neutrality” statement. TFA also encouraged charter teachers who were being unionized to vote against the unionization. TFA the organization is extremely anti-union.

    • I think that truly depends upon the region. Something most folks don’t realize about TFA is that there is a lot of regional autonomy.

      I think it’s extremely unfortunate that Chicago’s team wasn’t supportive of their striking teachers.

  23. Got to love the internet….Anyway, There are always at least three sides to any issue and TFA is one. As a staff member of Fordham University’s graduate school of ed, I mentored corps members for 4 years while they took grad courses. Not all were cut out to teach at all. Three were excellent and I tried to convince them to stay, but they left to move on because they were never recruited to be passionate LIFETIME career teachers.
    Granted the median tenure is 10 years less than it was 25 years ago, and there are so many reasons for that, but TFA is a big reason for that, not a solution. I could go on and on about the dangers of TFA’s hype more than anything else. In fact I have. Read my blog posts @ dcgmentor.com

    If we could stop and say…. hmmm how do we get qualified, well prepared teachers who intend for teaching (NOT LEADERSHIP) to be a career, then we would be answering the right question. TFA never did that and as long as it doesn’t needs to be discredited.

    • CarolineSF

      The concept behind TFA is so racist, elitist and immoral that any other sides are pretty weak anyway. If it had been shown to have great positive impact maybe that would change things, but that’s not the case.

    • Dave, Thank you for sharing your perspective as a former mentor. I agree that TFA needs to modify its recruitment model and start targeting folks who are interested in teaching as opposed to those who are going to move on to something else. I’ve brought that up within TFA several times. On the inside, I think they do a better job pushing folks to stay, but many people have their minds made up from the beginning.

      I’m not sure how TFA is a contributor to a low retention rate for traditional teachers if you would care to expand on that point.

  24. CarolineSF

    The reply thread ran out. In response to Alex: The notion that it’s a given and a widely shared assumption that private, for-profit schools and hospitals are a bad thing is naive, put it that way — outside mainstream opinion. So is the notion that someone who works for a private, for-profit school or hospital is inherently violating moral codes. If you’re sincere and not a paid mouthpiece, you would do well to inform yourself and think things out more thoroughly. In general I always assume defenders of these education “reform” scams are paid mouthpieces — no one with sense believes this ridiculous s*** who isn’t paid to — but just in case.

    • How can you applaud Katie’s critique of TFA corps members but not see the premise of Michaela’s argument? That’s what I don’t understand. I am not a “paid mouthpiece,” I am an educator. I am someone who is passionate about American education and wants us to do our best, try new ideas, and be critical of them, too.

  25. CarolineSF

    Oh no? “TFA is not the one pushing the corporatization of our schools.”
    TFA is closely allied, joined at the hip, with those pushing the corporatization of our schools; it’s part of the same movement.

    • Many organizations receive funds from these “reform” groups largely because they’re the ones with money to give. I don’t think that makes them attached at the hip. I’m sorry, but TFA does not have the same partisan and vitriolic rhetoric as these groups.

  26. CarolineSF

    Don’t believe you’re not a paid mouthpiece, sorry.

    I DO see the premise of Michaela’s argument: It’s a “throw **** at the wall and see what sticks” personal attack. You don’t get away with making up fake new standards (“working for a private for-profit is immoral”) and attacking people for not meeting the standards you just made up.

    These reformy operations that all share the same funders ARE joined at the hip and share the same goals — privatizing public education, busting teachers’ unions, deprofessionalizing the teaching force, creating a compliant underclass of docile workers. Just because their messages are conveyed in different tones doesn’t make it not so.

    • So I see that since Michaela can make a poor argument that you choose to make a poor argument, too.

      All I ask is that we refrain from some of these outlandish statements and talk about actual incidents. That’s why I always speak from my own experience as a Michigan native, TFA Milwaukee alumnus, former recruiter for a terrible charter school, and full-time teacher at a private kindergarten program that receives voucher funds. I don’t speak
      from any other experience. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not.

      I have not and never will be paid by TFA and if you don’t believe, if you think I’m a liar, then I don’t know why you continue to engage with me on this post.

  27. @Alex. People are very sheeplike.
    TFA’s short timers have set a new norm for other new compatriots who see how easy it is to leave, often with remorse about spending more time preparing for the job. I witnessed this.

    In addition so many schools are led by poor leaders (often TFA alum) and exist in the new system created by TFA allies where mentoring and working with inexperienced teachers are not as high on the list as fire and replace with new CHEAP staff not likely to stay long enough to secure a pension and long term benefits….

    Just follow the $ and TFA is in that flow.

    • Thanks for your respectful responses, Dave. I’m off to do some work, but I would love to engage via email about the issues you brought up here. Thanks again.

  28. ellen

    http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2013/03/20/tfa-sponsors-reform-propaganda-videos/

    00:13 “We don’t need to solve poverty first, and we can’t afford to wait another generation.”

    TFA has been around for twenty years. If this organization shows the excellence it says it expects from students (forget about poverty, special learning needs, family trauma ), where is the big change in our society?

    (More reform lingo at 03:22 “Poverty does not preclude learning. On the contrary education is one of the most effective paths out of poverty.”)

    Why haven’t the very people TFA says it can take out of poverty, living a middle class life. How have these education methods only TFA can provide worked for these kids?

    “Fortunately, no one told these children they couldn’t achieve at the highest levels.” Where are all the graduating brown and black young adults from the elite universities?

    Remember, EXPECTATIONS NOT EXCUSES! So, show me the results of twenty years of TFA!

    • Ellen,

      Granted Gary’s post isn’t about TFA, it’s about RESET in MN, many of the talking points are the same. I’ve never heard anyone say that poverty isn’t an issue and I’ve never heard anyone say that setting high expectations means our students can’t be human. I say that last line because I think anti-”reform” folks believe the goal of “reform” organizations is to standardize students to death. We do need to solve poverty and we do need to let our students learn to be humans. I’m not going to say that teachers blame poverty, because they don’t. But I will say that it contributes to some teacher burn out. We need to believe that anything is possible while fighting poverty.

      That’s not particularly nuanced and I apologize, but I’m trying to get at the gist of your comments.

      Thanks so much for linking to Gary’s post because poverty is definitely an important part of the overall conversation.

  29. CarolineSF

    Because the public lies need to be publicly debunked — with the added twist of the personal attacks on a TFA critic (with the made-up new “standards” of ethics) needing to be rebutted.

  30. Indi

    Nice letter, Alex. Very well reasoned and fairly thought out. :)

  31. ressysmith10

    TFA placements are doing damage in the predominantly black and brown schools for the following reasons: the classroom management skills necessary to impart good pedagogy are lacking, many qualified and experienced educators of color suffer involuntary transfers that often create hardships just so TFAs can be placed in black or brown schools, many TFAs placed in high schools are committing acts of pedophilia that get swept under the carpet, TFA placements result in a disproportionate amount of inexperienced and non-certified folks placed in black and brown schools, which creates inequity and reduced quality, in contrast to the better qualified and experienced teachers in predominantly white schools; and TFA placements result in too much staff instability to the detriment of black and brown schools.

    • Pedophiles? Please substantiate your claim or just stop now.

  32. Rosemarie Jensen , M.Ed.

    I want to be a Nurse for America.I want to learn on the job, while taking courses, and work with the sickest patients. I am sure five weeks will get me up to snuff and hopefully, I won’t do TOO much damage to those I am tasked with caring for while still learning. It is ABSURD to believe that you or any TFA applicant is qualified to teach the neediest students over career, highly degreed, and experienced professional educators. If, in fact, you are so committed to teaching, why wouldn’t you pursue an education degree? Explain that? And I am a graduate of the University of Florida’s ProTeach program where we had FOUR placements during undergrad in four different grades and tasked with developing lessons in all subjects, teaching lessons, being critiqued by both the classroom teacher and professors and returning to classes to reflect and improve on lessons based on citations to RESEARCH. I THEN had a half year internship where I took over the class by the second month and got continuous feedback from teacher and professors.ANd I had to complete action research to be published, defended, and presented. I was MORE than ready my first day of my first job and I was paired with a mentor the first year for support. ANd I taught in a Title 1 school and funny, my loans weren’t forgiven or paid back and I CHOSE this profession from the get go. There is nothing, nothing you can say to me that would ever convince me you are in anyway prepared to teach the neediest children. It is neglect and abuse at it’s finest and the ONLY reason you get away with it is the parents don’t know any better. Out here in the tony burbs, there isn’t a parent who would support that for a day. It’s a complete slap in the face to those of us who did the hard work of getting a degree and planned on committing our professional lives to students and public schools as our livelihood, not just as a resume builder and a loan reliever.

    • Judging from your M. Ed. degree, which many of my TFA colleagues here in Milwaukee now have, I don’t think you want to be a nurse.

      Let me say this, I told my students’ parents before day one that I studied political science at Kalamazoo College. I wanted to be a teacher, but K axed our Education Department. As a first generation college student, getting my four year degree was more important than transferring for a major. I found Teach For America, which allowed me the opportunity to go back to my original career goal. I told them that I was going back to school to be a teacher. I told them that I would be learning as I went day to day.

      Were some of them hesitant? I’m sure. Did any of them say anything? Only positive things. Then, at the end of the year, they all had only positive things to say to me, my principal, and their friends. We had plenty of referrals and requests for students to be in our school and in my class.

      Am I a superhero? Absolutely not. I’m just upfront and authentic like I am on this blog. I think most people appreciate that from anyone working with their children.

      I commend you for knowing from the beginning what you wanted to do with your life and I commend you for picking a program that prepared you to be a strong teacher. Thank you for your service. I’m glad to work alongside you.

  33. Michaela J.

    Using Katie’s demented logic that “you’ve struck a true nerve” when ppl attack you – then I’ve struck the truest cord here no doubt. By this halfwit reasoning, I’ve won the pissing contest – a rarity with my anatomy. And against so many privileged, angry, white people too! My abuelita would be so, so proud of her mija.

    All the trolls are out – what an honor. If you’ve encountered CarolineSF anywhere else on them interwebs (Eduwonk, etc) you’ll see the frightening lack of sanity throughout, so no surprise there. Same with Jersey, Xian and Michelle. It’s the cohort of shilling trolls in full glory. I had no idea until seeing them showing up on the same blogs/sites spewing the same crap. There must be an email list – can I get on that?

    The more research I do here the more I see these internet and Twitter “heros” – who spend so much time on the web that it’s hard to picture them doing anything else, which they likely don’t. You’re anathema to organized labor and advocacy, doing all that “hard work” from your couches and laptops. SMH.

    And how I wish I had some of that TFA $$ – that would be great – is it too late to get some? Or even some of that NEA or AFT $$ that Katie Osgood (@KatieOsgood_) doesn’t pay into but so honorably defends.

    Katie Osgood (@KatieOsgood_) I know this is hard for you to hear, but Chicago Lakeshore Hospital (and the profiteering and disaster capitalism it represents) is doing real damage. Get out while you can. Refuse your next paycheck and quit spending your work hours contributing to an organization abusing children.

    • A lot of these education activists that you personally attack are heroes to teachers in public schools like mine, and by extension to the students we serve. Your abuelita would be avergonzada that you are attacking the folks fighting to help the students who need them the most.

      Martha Infante
      Teacher
      South Central L.A.

  34. Michaela J.

    Martha -

    If the teachers here are your heroes then I don’t know what to say. My family has been consistently failed by your hereos and heroines. A blog comment a hero makes not.

    Michaela J.
    Rabble Rouser
    Chula Vista (“Chulajuana”) by way of Tijuana

  35. Regardless of your view, a blog comment definitely does not change anything. So I hope that we all continue our common goals of being strong educators and pushing our students to their full potential. If folks show as much passion in the classroom as they show in the comments section, then I have hope.

    • I don’t usually read this blog. It came across my twitter feed. I thought twice about commenting because as I get older my time becomes more scarce. But sharing my POV as an experienced educator sometimes serves a purpose. I would venture to say that the comments made by many educators in social media are the tip of the iceberg of their activism in education, having met many in person in rallies, marches, task forces, etc.

      I appreciate your advice, but many of us were already being strong educators and pushing students to their full potential long before you came along in 2011.

      Martha Infante
      Teacher
      South Central L.A.

    • It wasn’t a backhanded comment. I was addressing everyone, new and old, that I do appreciate your work and I am proud to be part of it. Thank you again for your comments, Martha.

  36. Like school, often teacher preparation is dependent on the prof or teacher you have… In the case of teacher training what is more important is the quality of the student teacher’s cooperating teacher and their first and Second year supervisors and mentors. Similarly to med school the residents an intern have are more important than the profs they have in med school. But would you want a Doc without that specific preparation. Same as in teaching. TFA cannot, in its present form, provide that kind of quality preparation.

  37. Here’s a story from The Atlantic about this weekend’s resistance meeting:
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/07/meet-teach-america-resistance-movement-s-growing-within/67125/

    • Meghank

      Just for the record, I can assure you that this is occurring in Memphis as well.

    • A resistance meeting? Can you send more details or is it only word of mouth?

    • Meghank

      I apologize. I meant to group my comment by Nashville’s and to inform you that TFA is having its corp members hired in large numbers in Memphis at the same time that veteran teachers are being terminated for supposed low enrollment at their schools.

      Unfortunately, I haven’t heard of any resistance meetings occurring here.

  38. Nashville

    “I’ve read that Chicago Public Schools are contracted to hire a set number of TFA teachers. I do not approve of that practice. If it’s true, then it runs counter to TFA’s mission of placing teachers in high-need areas and replaces it with a back-door patronage system. It would be an incredible black eye for TFA.”

    I can tell you that, in Nashville, this is exactly what the TFA contract states. A set number of TFA teachers are placed in Nashville schools BEFORE any other new hires are considered. I imagine that this is not the only other city where this is the case, and I urge you to further explore this “black eye.”

    • It doesn’t make sense that if your aim is to find highly motivated, highly effective individuals — which I hope a school would do when it hires folks — that you should interview them alongside other candidates!

      The Chicago Sun-Times has a good story that others have been circulating the past few days. Find it here: http://www.suntimes.com/21411000-761/cps-calls-teachers-mom-to-tell-him-hes-getting-laid-off.html

      I think it’s time for Chicago voters to wake up and send Mayor Emanuel a strong message.

    • This is also happening Sacramento where I am from. I was a first generation and low income student, I went to one of the worst high schools in my state. I graduated from Stanford and then went on to Ed School at Stanford (which was paid for because I earned a national teaching fellowship), I tried to go back to my home community this year, and there were no jobs because 300 teachers had been laid off, this happened AT THE SAME TIME that TFA was brought into the city for the first year. The situation is so bad that I had leave my home to find work in a classroom. That is despite the fact that I was highly qualified first year teacher, from the neighborhood with a dedication to urban youth. That is what is happening across the county. This is not good. We have TFAers at the school I teach now, and I am in an excellent union with a lot of support, if they are good it is because of my union, but from what I hear from my kids, they are not good, and certainly not as good and well trained as I am.

  39. John Eichinger

    Dear Alex,
    I do appreciate and respect your idealism. It is a critical piece of our success in classrooms nationwide.
    Your two years of TFA experience, though, do not give you the insight and objectivity necessary for deep analysis of my profession. Frankly, your letter has the passively arrogant tone of a dilettante looking to confirm their own biased view. Ms. Kopp would be pleased with your letter, I’m sure, but many of us with far more experience than you (or her) disagree with significant aspects of the TFA model. As a veteran teacher, I urge you to revisit your own lessons #2 and 3. I also challenge you to share your ideas again after at least 25 years of classroom service. In my 40 years as a public educator, I’ve seen many idealists come and go, including many TFAers. I truly wish you a wonderful career in education. If you are for real, time will tell and your many students will be the beneficiaries. Your interest in Urban Education says a lot about your goals. I hope that someday, way down the line, you’ll know that your real commitment superseded my pessimism about same. Until then, I urge you to consider more listening and less talking. Time, not cleverly written blog pieces, will tell. Nevertheless, I admire your chutzpah and offer my very best wishes for what I trust will be a long and successful career.

    • John,

      Thank you for the backhanded compliment. I’ll take it. Make sure you hang on to that email address and I’ll be in touch in 25 years.

      If you have something you would like me to listen to or read I am more than happy to take suggestions. I will, however, continue writing. If you don’t like what I have to say, then you can counter it or simply choose to not read it. I’ve never taken kindly to the “sit down and shut up” philosophy. I think it hinders our democracy.

      Best,
      Alex

  40. John Eichinger

    Hi Alex,
    Nothing backhanded about it – it was a straight out compliment, with qualifications for your consideration. Was your from-the-hip (An eight minute turn around time?) response an example of the humility and respect endorsed by your original letter? Sorry if my candor got the best of you – that wasn’t my intention, but it does suggest that you didn’t give my note much thought. I suspect that your masters program is giving you plenty to read so I’ll let them handle the reading selections. I would guess that you also have a long reading list of your own – you sound like a well informed and curious person – and prior responders have given you plenty of food for thought and study. It’s not that I “don’t like” what you have to say. Of course you have to speak up. I urge you to continue writing. No need to “sit down and shut up,” or to get dramatic about democracy as though you’re the first to discover it. You needn’t resort to such polarities (I’m one of your allies), in order to discredit my comments. It’s not my intention to “counter” your arguments – I have no interest in arguing with you. I applaud new and enthusiastic teachers like you. Know, however, that talk is cheap, and many of us who’ve been around a lot longer than you have listened to a lot of talk from many quarters over the years. I simply challenge you to back up the rhetoric with continued action for your kids and communities. Whether or not I agree with you or personally know what becomes of your career is inconsequential. What matters is what you and your students make of it. You seem like a well-meaning young man so, again, as your ally, I will suggest again that you Listen to those who disagree with you and, rather than simply out-argue them or fire off cocky responses (Shall we engage in a cockiness contest? If so, we both lose.), attempt to understand their positions. Especially if they are far more experienced in this profession than you. I’m not suggesting that you agree, just that you listen (listening is a part of democracy, too). Can you hear me? Will you read and consider this suggestion from a friendly, yet candid, source? Or just send off another quick and cheeky response? Cheers! j

    • John, are you on twitter? I love your thoughts and clear way of communicating them. I am @avalonsensei

      Saludos.

    • Well then, sincerely, thank you. Take care.

  41. John Eichinger

    Thanks, Alex. My best wishes to you and thanks for maintaining this forum.

    Hi Martha. I sent you a tweet but since it was my first (!) I’m not counting on that alone to reach you. I do appreciate your kind message. I’m at the CSULA website if you’d care to get in touch. It seems that we’re LA neighbors! Cheers!

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I'm an educator, Kalamazoo College alumnus, Democrat, and proud Detroiter! Views here are my own.

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Milwaukee
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Early Childhood

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