Archive for the ‘Teach for America’ Tag

Let me set the record straight…   5 comments

As I was checking the profiles of my new followers yesterday, I noticed that several of the people are affiliated with either KIPP or Teach for America. I figured that they found me due to my incessant use of #hastags. In previous posts I mentioned Michelle Rhee and the other above-referenced companies. I have never minced words about my feelings on Rhee’s leadership style, or lack thereof, because frankly, that’s my prerogative. Once I noticed who was following me, I tweeted the following random message:

A lot of #TFA people have started following me..hope they don’t get their hopes up b/c I ain’t drinkin the Kool-Aid!

It is not uncommon for me to use sarcasm in my blogs..that’s just part of my personality, especially when everyone with an Ivy League degree claims to be an expert on fixing public education (see, there it goes again). I used the Kool-Aid reference (Jim Jones) to remind people how easily swayed we become when begin worshipping false gods (now that there is from the bible). While I do not discount any progress made by KIPP, TFA, or the teachers and students in D.C.’s public schools, I take issue with the perpetuation of this myth that minorities are not qualified enough to educate minority children. NOTE: I did not say that White teachers could not make a difference. Please read what I wrote. Do not walk away with a different interpretation. Bottom line: I am not a cheerleader for any organization that can set-up shop in some of the poorest minority communities and set the glass ceiling at the principal’s door. Sure they recruit teachers, support staff, and some principals from minority groups, but how many of their upper-level management positions are filled by ethnic and racial minorities? Better yet, look at the boards of KIPP, TFA, and some of the major charter school organizations and count the names that appear more than once. Get back to me on that one. If these companies were genuinely concerned about closing the achievement gap for all ‘disadvantaged’ students, their services would reach beyond the four walls of the school. Perhaps they could ‘color’ their respective boards to reflect the communities in which they serve, and simultaneously make millions each year, per school? Nah..that’s too much like right. Instead, these Ivy League colleagues continue to groom their friends to develop spin-off companies, in turn perpetuating the cycle. Basically, Education-for-profit is akin to the ‘old boys’ network’ still prevalent here in the South. We look out for our own. Unfortunately, when African Americans adopt this same type of attitude, we get branded as separatists or segregationists. Some yahoos even start yelling about reverse discrimination! How in the hell can you have reverse discrimination when African Americans are usually the only ones who acknowledge its existence? Even then, there are ‘those’ (AA) who will deny it, slavery, and anything else to appease the ‘right’ people in power, but that’s another blog entirely. For those who are students and studiers (is that a word) of History, you know exactly what I mean.

As I said earlier, I am not a cheerleader for any person, organization, institution, etc. that perpetuates the obvious system of haves and have-nots, whether it be through employment, education, politics, etc. I will not temper my words to make anyone comfortable because no one is addressing the systemic racism and tracking that is rampant in public education to make sure my kids get a fair chance to make their own opportunities.

I did not intend to write this blog at 2 in the morning, but someone wanted me to explain my comments/feelings about KIPP. More importantly, I know that I would not have slept peacefully with these thoughts in my head. If I had more time, I would have easily added a historical component but alas, the best I can do is direct you to a wonderfully written blog interview with Ira David Socol. If he wasn’t a White guy, I would swear we were related because we think so much alike it’s dangerous…..for someone!

Peace! I’m going to sleep!

Remember when you point the finger…   5 comments

three are pointing back at you. Yes, I went there with song lyrics again. Couldn’t help it. Dealing with ‘education rhetoric’ overload. Last week I wrote about the single parent-bashing that has been going on in the media, especially as it relates to Education. Since I wrote that blog ‘off-the-cuff,’ I didn’t have time to do any research on people raised by single parents or grandparents who are now very successful and well-adjusted. I am sure that we all know someone who, despite the statistics and negative Nellie, went on to college, graduated, and are making some form of contribution to his/her community. I know I can name a lot of people who are succesful and self-absorbed, but I digress because that is not the topic of today’s blog. Instead, I thought I would issue a challenge to those who are still playing the blame-game and laying the responsibility of Education’s demise at the feet of teachers and teacher unions.

For those who are ‘in’ the 3-ring circus of Education reform, I can’t help but wonder:

  • How many of the ‘experts’ attended public neighborhood schools? Not the elite schools where parents pulled a few strings, but the schools located right in their own neighborhood. Probably none.
  • Of the people, actually ‘in’ Education, who are bashing public school teachers, how many would be willing to contact their teachers to say they did a crummy job? Probably none. For the record, I try to connect with my teachers each year and thank them for their dedication and high standards. Some of them are actually still teaching. Yeah, who says teachers aren’t committed?
  • Has any union-basher actually done any empirical and peer-reviewed research on the detrimental effects of teacher unions? No one seems to notice that Georgia, a state without a union, consistently performs in the bottom five. Massachusetts, however, consistently performs in the top tier. Hmmmm. Could one dare to say that student performance is tied to teacher effectiveness, which is tied to a strong and active support system, a la unions? No one wants to admit that. Nevermind.
  • Will anyone admit the real issue with unions: The only reason why education ‘experts’ are calling for the dismantling or reorganization of these institutions is because they (experts) want to bring-in Rhee-type leaders to fire anyone who does not conform to the regime-of-the-moment and replace them with TFA alums. I guess I just did. Nevermind.

I would like to know when someone, anyone, will start addressing the educational infrastructure, which parents and teachers alone cannot change? You know, things like overrepresentation of minority students (particularly African-Americans) in Special Education. Or how about the underrepresentation of minorities in Gifted Education programs? Here’s a good one: What about the systemic tracking of minority and low-income kids into technical education programs? It’s one thing if kids are interested in those programs, but a completely different issue when kids are not provided with exposure to options. I guess I will continue to have this conversation with myself because no one wants to jeopardize losing powerful connections by admitting that our country’s education system (not teachers) and its archaic policies are, in fact, racist and classist.

Sometimes song lyrics are the best way to convey your point!

Mass firings not a magic bullet for D.C., other struggling districts   1 comment

In just a few years, Michelle Rhee has become a household name. Appointed Chancellor of the D.C. Schools, Rhee has become well-known for implementing her tough top-down management style in an effort to improve academics and teaching quality in the struggling school district. One of Rhee’s more radical tactics is firing ‘ineffective’ teachers (Read: Those who refuse to be bullied to keep their jobs) and replacing them with Teach For America alums, a program which Rhee also completed. I do not discount the improvements Rhee has orchestrated since assuming her responsibilities as Chancellor; however, I do disagree with the manner in which she is attempting to exact large-scale change.

I am concerned about assigning the ‘ineffective teacher’ moniker haphazardly, especially given the fact that private funding is a substantial motivator in demonstrating academic improvement at the expense of dedicated teachers. Before a teacher can be deemed ineffective, we must first ask ‘Who determines a teacher’s ineffectiveness, and by what means?’ Every state has some procedure in place to both evaluate teachers and correct any deficiencies, usually by developing a Professional Development Plan (PDP). For argument’s sake, let’s assume that every principal in a D.C. school evaluates every teacher, the prescribed number of times, each and every school year. (Note: If this happened anywhere, NCLB likely would not be necessary.) Given this ideal situation, how would a supposed ‘ineffective teacher’ manage to keep the same teaching job for 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years? The answer: He or she would not.

Here is the million dollar question: How does a teacher become ineffective, under the direction of an administrator who is supposed to evaluate this teacher every year? That’s the easy part. There are, in my opinion, three possible explanations. First, the teacher may have never received an official evaluation. For those who wear rose-colored glasses, this does happen more than anyone may want to know. Second, the teacher may have received an unsatisfactory evaluation, but never received a PDP either because the administrator did not feel like doing the paperwork or this teacher was a part of the ‘in crowd.’ Lastly, the teacher could have very well been an excellent teacher, with outstanding classroom management skills and the ability to interact with students and parents. For the upcoming year, the principal may need to hire an additional coach but does not have a teaching assignment. Guess who suddenly becomes an ineffective teacher?

With the case of D.C. Schools, Rhee wants to replace the ineffective teachers with recent TFA alums, who will earn lower salaries, work longer hours, and fall inline with her regime without asking any questions or making any waves. Recently teachers, whether ineffective or otherwise, have essentially been thrown under the bus in the name of closing the achievement gap or improving schools. Do I believe that there may be some ineffective teachers? Absolutely. Will mass firings solve that problem? Absolutely not. If schools and districts wholeheartedly implement and follow-thru with effective practices, teachers would not be the scapegoats for what ails public education. In her efforts to make change, Rhee is alienating students, teachers, parents, community members, and some politicians. As public education faces scrutiny and tougher accountability measures, those are not the people she wants as enemies.

This has been on my mind for awhile. I felt the best way to release it was to out my thoughts on paper. Of course, this is the condensed version! As I said in my first post I am not an expert, just full of common sense.

Thanks for reading!


Additional links on Rhee and D.C. Schools:

Probe demanded in teacher firings

Rhee’s firing streak continues

Anger over layoffs vented in 18-hour meeting

Posted October 20, 2009 by moniseseward in Uncategorized

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