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was posted this morning by my good friend Anthony Cody.  Titled Deepening the Debate over Teach For America: Responses to Heather Harding, it appears at his Living In Dialogue blog at Ed Week / Teachers.

A brief explanation.   Anthony has over the past few months put up guest posts by people who have been critical of Teach for America.  As a result, he psted exchange/interview with TFA's Director of Research, titled Tough Questions for Teach For America: Heather Harding Responds, at the end of which he asked

Readers, what do you think?
In today's post, Anthony features detailed responses from people knowledgeable about TFA and about the relevant research, to four of the 7 answers offered by Harding in the first piece.

At the end of his piece, Anthony provides some background on  the respondents besides himself:  

Barbara Torre Veltri, Ed. D. is ssistant professor in the College of Education at Northern Arizona University, and the author of Learning on Other People's Kids: Becoming a Teach For America Teacher (Information Age, 2010.)

Jameson Brewer is a traditionally trained educator (B.S.Ed. from Valdosta State University) who struggled to find a job teaching due to the recession. He is now a 2010 Metro-Atlanta corps member teaching high school social studies in the Atlanta Public Schools. He wrote about his experience with TFA here.

Dr. Jason O'Brien is an assistant professor of education at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

Gary Rubinstein is a former Teach For America corps member who now hosts the Teach For Us blog.

Please keep reading.

A couple of quick notes.

1.  I have reviewed the Veltri book here.  Barbara Torre Veltri is a professional colleague with whom I am in regular contact.  She appeared at one panel at last summer's Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action, on whose executive committee both Anthony Cody and I served.

2.  I have over the years been critical of TFA, to the point that at one point I was called by a VP of the organization and asked for a meeting.  At that meeting she tried to persuade me that they had improved the program, and to convince me of that fact gave me access for two weeks to their internal training website.   I was not persuaded to change my mind.

3.  There are for many of us two key issues about TFA.  First, their corps members get only 5 weeks of training before being placed into classrooms, often filled with high needs students, and not at all infrequently at different grade levels or subject matter than they were trained for in that unacceptably short 5-week period.  Second, they are not committed to staying in the classroom, which leads to constant turnover in the schools in which they serve.  That is NOT good educationally, as any experienced educator can inform you.

4.  One might argue that in schools where there was a real shortage of teachers, where classes were being staffed by totally untrained substitute, that TFA corps members were an improvement.  But in recent years TFA has moved into schools that do NOT have those issues.  That is part of the reason Gary Rubinstein, who used to do recruiting for TFA, has openly criticized the direction of the organization.

I am not going to go through Anthony Cody's post point by point.  If you care at all about the future of public education, it is best that you read the entire piece, carefully.  

To my mind one thing it clearly demonstrates is that like many at TFA Heather Harding is at best selective in the data she cites on behalf of the organization.

Cody and the others who respond point out the weaknesses of the studies cited by Harding, for example:

With respect to residency programs, teacher effectiveness, and teacher retention: A recent evaluation of the Boston Residency Program found that resident teachers became more effective than other beginners over their first several years in the classroom. Furthermore, evaluations of the longest-standing residency programs in Boston, Chicago, and Denver have identified very strong retention rates for their graduates -- exceeding 80 percent after 4 or 5 years in the classroom. This compares to published retention rates for TFA graduates in New York and Houston of only 10 to 15 percent by year 4. These and other studies have found that the positive effect of a teacher with three or more years of experience is much greater than the effect of any entry program on student learning. Thus, programs that keep teachers in the profession have long-term effects on student achievement.
I strongly urge you to read the complete post by Anthony Cody.   Teach for America is, unfortunately, continuing to be funded by scarce public revenues, at levels from local school districts up to the Federal government, despite the fact that its own filings as a charitable organization show cash reserves in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  

TFA has had a strong tendency to hit back at its critics, most notably going after noted scholar Linda Darling-Hammond who was among the first to publish research challenging the claims of effectiveness by TFA corps members.  

And as a reminder, one of the panels at Netroots Nation, at 10:30 AM Friday June 8, is What Progressives Can Do to Stop the War on Public Education, and its description is as follows:

American public education is under concerted attack: Americans are told we are failing in international comparisons, urged to blame teachers and break their unions, turn more of our public education system over to private interests and rely ever more upon tests to make critical decision. These and other tactics are designed to delegitimize and ultimately destroy meaningful public education. Three nationally-known experts explore aspects of that attack and offer specific suggestions of how progressive supporters of public education can fight back.
I am chairing that panel.  The other panelists are truly nationally know experts, Diane Ravitch and Linda Darling-Hammond.

Originally posted to teacherken on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:43 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Education Alternatives, and Teachers Lounge.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If anyone wants to dialog (5+ / 0-)

    I am around for a while, and willing to engage in conversation

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:04:02 AM PDT

  •  TK, a share your opinion of TFA based on my (12+ / 0-)

    son's experience. Son 2 had applied to TFA and wanted to be a middle school language arts teacher in LA. He had a BA from UPenn and an MFA in writing from the Tisch School at NYU. Instead of offering him a position in English and language arts, he was offered a position in special education. He had no training and experience in special education whatsoever. He turned the position down because he did not think that it would be fair to his students.

  •  As a college professor I've been contacted (8+ / 0-)

    by a TFA recruiter, asking for my help to find students (college) looking for "alternative licensure pathways" for secondary certification.

    Looking over TFA raised all kinds of red flags for me.

    I was able to push the recruiter off by telling him that their program competes with my own (public) institution's education programs.

    But that's the point, isn't it?

  •  I'm thinking about "churning" (6+ / 0-)

    at the university where I work, our residence life program has decided to make the in-dorm adult counsellor job a 1 year "appointment" .  They can be "reappointed" for a few years, but after that, they will be dismissed.

    In the future,  no one will know their  job very well.  But it will be okay because we will all be gaining valuable experience for our next glorified temp gig.

    It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

    by sayitaintso on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:46:09 AM PDT

  •  make America dumb and send more to 1% (6+ / 0-)

    the garbage that passes for news and commentary has helped a consumer culture become unable to understand what is going on, what to do about it, and what a citizen is supposed to do.

    the war on education is another front in the all out attack on many things, including the government

    making government the problem and capitalism the answer is a transfer of faith to the market to work everything out

    churn into this mix politics which consists of two factions, not dealing with the hard problems of governance

    along with fads in management and education and we end up in this mess

    in Finland, education is part of a cultural emphasis on human potential and democracy

    in America, education is ..... not sure what to call it

    but in all fights to break the back of union power, (and citizen power) blame it on the workers and give faith to the market to make everything work out

    you know, like how the market has left us with water infrastructure that is between 50 and a hundred years old and will take a huge capital investment to bring it up to acceptable levels

    •  important that you mention unions (10+ / 0-)

      there is a deliberate attempt to break the teachers unions.  TFA is a major part of this effort.  Unfortunately there are a number of "Democrats" who support this effort, either not understanding or not caring that if teachers unions are broken the remaining unions will also be the cross-hairs, and without unions there can be no hope of reining in what the 1% are doing to the rest of the country.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:55:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe if Republicans win the presidency, then .. (5+ / 0-)

        Maybe if Republicans sweep the political table, the Democrats will be forced to be a party that really represents the 99%.

        The excellent book "Seeds of Change: The Story of ACORN, America's Most Controversial Antipoverty Community Organizing Group" by John Atlas was on display at Netroots Nation two years ago. When I read the book, it described how to educate citizens and engage them in the community. He pointed out that the Democratic party walked away from the poverty issue in the 1980's (I can't find the page reference so this fact may be off.)

        The fact that the Democratic party didn't defend ACORN shows that they are not connected to the hard problems of the society. They were making money on insider trading like our nation of hustlers.

        At the start of the depression, whites didn't care about what happened to the blacks and other minorities. When it hit all of them and they realized that everyone was in the same boat, then they started looking to government.

        Now we have become a nation of Southerners living in debt. When this becomes clear, and the "Democrats" want to get back into power, they will realize how poverty is now the fate of many, if not most, Americans.

        •  If Republicans "sweep the table," (3+ / 0-)

          they won't take their time welding their gains into place as they did under Bush. That result might open some eyes but it would make Democrats powerless to do anything about those realizations. I am not happy with how Democrats failed to defend ACORN from the spurious charges lobbed at it but they idea that being completely defeated is somehow going to make the left more aware and powerful and ready to rise again is bogus. This line annoyed me when Ralph Nader was spouting it and it annoys me now. Today's Republicans are too greedy, selfish, cruel and ruthless. No good could come of them "sweeping the table."

          Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07.

          by anastasia p on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:53:15 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I am not recommending that they sweep the table (3+ / 0-)

            I am making the point that the Democrats have not been representing the 99%.

            The Republicans are crazy, foul, fascists, etc.

            I am saying that there are two factions in the country. The Democratic is the conservative party and the Republicans are the Fascist party.

            With all the money in politics flowing in we saw the early results in 2010. The stupid voters may again vote against their best interests under the sway of propaganda.

            Work to change the system with an eye to the truth of what is going on.  We are adult enough to deal with the truth.

            Are you upset about how Obama played the medical legislation?

            Are you upset about the war on education that is being led by his secretary of education?

            Are you upset about the banksters who are still running the economy?

            Are looking for Democratic candidates who will go beyond the meaningless dialogue of the political factions?

            I am saying that there might be a tipping point if the Republicans run the table and the Democrats if they want to regain power will return to New Deal policies.

          •  With enough voter restrictions, Republicans (0+ / 0-)

            can gain permanent contreol after their big sweep.

    •  neoliberalism is the same thing everywhere (0+ / 0-)

      and unfortunately our President is very much an unabashed neoliberal, so no change from that will be coming from the top, but with the occupy movement I do see real change as possible.

      This is from today's Democracy Now, your comment made me think of it again, about the neoliberal poicies in Africa of privatizing everything ,including education, their crumbling infrastructure, and leaders in the pocket of corporations and the IMF.

      ""But I think it’s part of a general phenomenon that is happening across the continent, which is driven by the fact that over the last 30 years our people have lost all the gains of independence. We used to have free healthcare. We used to have free education, access to water, our own telecommunications infrastructure, own communications infrastructure. All those things that we gained through independence have been lost, and these being lost because of the implementation of the—what I refer to as neoliberal policies, which have been imposed on many African countries by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. And over the last 30 years, you’ve seen people—massive unemployment, dispossession of their land, dispossession of their jobs, a decline in living standards. But worst of all, what has happened during these last 30 years has been a political dispossession, so that people feel that their governments are more accountable to the banks and to the international multinational corporations than they are to their citizens. And I think, you know, people are outraged that their governments respond more to these corporations than they do to citizens."
      (emphasis mine)

      The only thing I'd add is that that 'phenomenon' is not just sweeping across that continent, it's happening everywhere and it's the same game plan regardless of the Country, or continent.

      without the ants the rainforest dies

      by aliasalias on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 10:55:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Our crazy politics - two factions not parties (3+ / 0-)

    How in the world can out two factions or the public make sense of education when our system is unable to make headway on the budget or healthcare.

    Paul Krugman's column today at the NY Times "The Gullible Center" about the crazy Ryan phenomena. Has the press figured out the truth? Don't they see what the Republican budget will lead to??? How are Americans to understand the truth so they can be citizens?

    Chris Hedges posts a column each Monday. The one today "The Real Health Care Debate." Here is the first paragraph which points out how irrelevant the factions are to what the country needs to be dealing with.

    The debate surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act illustrates the impoverishment of our political life. Here is a law that had its origin in the right-wing Heritage Foundation, was first put into practice in 2006 in Massachusetts by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and was solidified into federal law after corporate lobbyists wrote legislation with more than 2,000 pages. It is a law that forces American citizens to buy a deeply defective product from private insurance companies. It is a law that is the equivalent of the bank bailout bill—some $447 billion in subsidies for insurance interests alone—for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. It is a law that is unconstitutional. And it is a law by which President Barack Obama, and his corporate backers, extinguished the possibilities of both the public option and Medicare for all Americans. There is no substantial difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. There is no substantial difference between Obama and Romney. They are abject servants of the corporate state. And if you vote for one you vote for the other.
    link to where it is originally posted (also posted on

    •  Wow — Chris Hedges is full of it (0+ / 0-)

      I will work to avoid stumbling over his meanderings. That "no difference" line to me is exactly why we are where we are. People who cannot discern difference blow up the place.

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07.

      by anastasia p on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:54:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A purely personal note (0+ / 0-)

    My son is a TFA teacher in New Orleans.  This fact will explain my sensitivity to the criticism you've expressed; my counter statements are completely anecdotal and, therefore, dismissable, for the most part if you wish.
    I know my son and have met several of his fellow TFA teachers.  My impression is that any student would be greatly advantaged in having these intelligent and intense young teachers working with them.
    Conversations with my son and the other teachers about the artistry of teaching satisfies me completely about their perspective and their approaches (I've taught at every level of schooling, including college).  Having observed the teaching practices of many traditionally trained new teachers and these few TFA teachers, I can say that the these TFA people are, hands down, superior--mostly for the fact that their intelligence and life experiences make them more flexible and responsive to the children.
    For what it's worth.

    •  You have a point - but there is a larger issue (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Thank you for your comment.

      TFA can inject some new blood into the system.

      And the education system has had problems for years.

      The point of this article is the Trojan horse which goes along with the war on teachers, decimation of state budgets for education on all levels, transfer of government funds to the prison complex with schools providing a path to prison. There are 3,000 NY city police in the schools and only about half that number of counselors.

      Education colleges go after fads.

      In a time when all our institutions have failed including education.

    •  I am sure there are many decent, sincere (3+ / 0-)

      young people in TFA. But they are being  funnelled unprepared into a system they aren't committed to. Is your son planning a lifelong career in teaching? Are any of his friends? Are they working to become a stable, ongoing part of the schools and communities where they teach? Ideas need to be translated into reality, and while I am sure these bright, intense young people have a lot of ideas they are up against challenges that in many cases have defeated trained, devoted professionals. Will your son and his friends be around in 10 years to follow through on their work? Teacher churn creates more instability for kids who already have too much. Let's say a TFA teacher institutes a wonderful, creative program – and then he's gone. Who follows through?

      I'm also put off by your characterization of "traditionally trained new teachers." It's this sort of baseless prejudice and smear, coming from all quarters, that has discouraged talented, bright kids from pursuing careers in education. Why bother if any cocky, self-important kid from a top school with minimal training can waltz in for a couple of years and be declared by one and all to be doing a better job?

      Also, would you be happy if an army of TFA kids replaced the traditionally trained teachers at your child's school? The parents I know whose kids go to excellent suburban schools would be on the rampage if this happened – even though their kids are the type targeted to go into the program.

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07.

      by anastasia p on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:00:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Boy are you disillusioned by your son! That is not (0+ / 0-)

      my experience with TFA.  Most of the TFA people I've  worked with can't wait for their basit two year tern to be over so they can get out to get a "real job."  TFA people don't see teaching as important and certainly don't understand the long-tern goal of educationg a student beyond their own two year limit.

  •  $300 billion? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That's billion with a "B"?  Got a link?  It is astounding that a non-profit outside of an endowed private university would have assets on that scale.

  •  I think it's interesting that Diane Ravitch (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Don midwest, historys mysteries

    has gone from a parroter of the right-wing line on public education to someone who might actually appear at Netroots Nation.

    Don't crash the gate--take back the keys.

    by lungfish on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:24:09 AM PDT

  •  But, but, Ken! - Bill Gates assures me that (0+ / 0-)

    "Once somebody has taught for three years their teaching quality does not change thereafter."
                        -- Bill Gates

    (Yes, he actually says that, about 12:33 in.)

    I don't understand . . .

    Nice diary, BTW.

    Politics is about the improvement of people's lives. - Paul Wellstone

    by occams hatchet on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 12:28:39 PM PDT

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