As Dallas ISD Looks to Renew Teach for America Contract, District Offers Numbers in Support

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The first real look we've had at TFA's teachers' achievements in the DISD, which the board will discuss next week
One week from tomorrow, the Dallas Independent School District's board of trustees will settle in for what's sure to be a calm, reasonable and thoroughly thoughtful discussion about extending the district's contract with Teach for America through the 2017 school year. The cost of the new deal: $3 million spread over five years, with DISD paying TFA $3,000 each year for each new teacher brought into the district, with that number capped at 100 for every school year. Though, keep in mind: That does not guarantee 100 new warm TFA corps members each year. There might be 120 one year; 80 the next.

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Charles Glover
TFA's been much in the news of late, as district officials and teachers unions debate a program that brings some of the best and brightest into classrooms for mandatory two-year stints, after which 43 percent leave. One district official boils down the debate thusly: When you pay TFA, you get one fired-up Ivy Leaguer ... about half of whom leave in two years." The bossman visited this subject just one week ago. At present, there are 147 TFA teachers scattered around the district -- out of more than 10,000 teachers employed by the district. I can find you at least four trustees (Carla Ranger, still the loudest) who will likely to demand why, when the district's looking to shutter schools and shuffle students and cut loose teachers to save money in advance of $38 million in coming cuts, it will pay TFA $3 million to recruit up to 100 teachers a year.

And yet: Along with the contract with TFA, the district late yesterday posted some data concerning TFA teachers' achievements in the district and principals' affections for those corps members. All of it follows, but says the former, based on the controversial Classroom Effectiveness Index, "1st year TFA corps members outperformed other 1st year teachers in Mathematics and Science in the district, [and] first-year TFA corps members' performance in reading/LA was slightly higher than other 1st year teachers in the district." Says the latter: Of the 40 principals who responded to an independently conducted survey, "an overwhelming majority reported a positive experience with their Teach For America corps members." Kyle Richardson, ex of Marsh and currently of Woodrow, is not alone.

I had a long talk about all of this late yesterday with Charles Glover, executive director of Teach For America in Dallas. Long story short: He was excited when he got his hands on the preliminary data, more of which will be released during next week's board meeting.

"It took some time for the work we were doing as an organization to be quantifiable, so I was excited to share it," he said. "I was thrilled to see the results we have. That's a key part of the dialogue that's been missing, and now it exists. What we've seen in our tracking and what I know to be the truth is now out there. I am no longer a prophet in my own land. I can say: 'Here are the results.' I am not surprise people demand data, because I would want the same way. It's exciting."

Glover, who served his TFA time in Durham, North Carolina, before coming to run the office in TFA founder Wendy Kopp's hometown(ish), says that $3 million contract with the district really doesn't amount to much -- not when you consider it's spread over five years, not when you consider it's but a small, small piece of his total budget. Says Glover, "I will raise 85 percent [more] for the needs of the district based on that commitment. Or, I should say, I will attempt to raise it."

I'd called him just to get some basic numbers about teachers in the district -- how many and where, some fact-checking stuff. But we spoke for close to an hour; for every question I asked, he asked another. We'll revisit some of that discussion in coming days; there's plenty of time.

But one thing TFA constantly faces is the question: Why is a district paying millions to recruit a fraction of a fraction of teachers, many of whom don't stick around past the two years? Or, as Glover puts it: "How can 100 teachers make an impact?" That's how he hears it most commonly phrased. And this is how he begins to answers it.

"Teach for America is not the sliver bullet," he says. "But as one those 100 once, I saw what our children were capable of, and the more people we have coming into our city with that mindset the better. TFA members aren't idealists. We're realists, because we know what all children are capable of."TFA in DISD ResultsDISDTFA2012ContractTFAPrincipalSurvey
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Pamelakripke
Pamelakripke

If the district is going to spend that money on teaching, give it to the underpaid experienced teachers who bring more life/kid/psychology knowledge to the classroom. This is more critical in the urban setting than conscientious rule-following. 

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

CEI's are soooo unreliable. I will say it again---I had 98.8 of my kids pass the TAKS test. Only one failed, but according to the CEI, I only got a 59% or something like that,  I forget exactly, since they had TO CORRECT their miscalculations. A fellow teacher gets a lower rating than that, even though he outperforms almost ALL teachers in his subject on ACP's, year in and year out. I havebeen as high as a 4 and as low as a 1 on that stupid thing, which is based on ten year old data--comparing kids by zip codes.... To spend ANY money to RECRUIT any teacher right now is absurd, when we are cutting good teachers. They are primed to cut another 400 spots next year, and the principals do not want to be the one to rock the boat. They LOVE TFA teachers, because they work hard, knowing they are outta here in two years. They so indeed treat them like little darlings,because they know thatthe TFA'ers tell their Glover guys everything that goes on at the campus level... Yes, we know.

I tellyou what. Let's kill two bids withone stone. Hire TFAs to work a newly added alternative school. We need at least two more "Village Fair" type schools. Put the little darlings there and let them make a difference. Then, when they go off to administration or law school or politics, they can truly say what a joy it was.

CCole
CCole

As a former corps member, I can say for sure that two years can make a difference not only in the schools, but in the teachers themselves, many of whom stay in education after that two years. In their first year as Teach For America alumni, the majority of our charter corps members have opted to stay on in the field of education, three out of four are working full-time in education, and 63 percent have continued on as K-12 classroom teachers in Dallas ISD and at other schools serving kids growing up in low-income communities.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Are we still slipping behind the world average when it comes to standard educational measurements?  Because if we are, this is just so much smoke in the wind.  The US spends more $'s per pupil than almost every other country, yet we continue to lose ground educationally.

It seems to me, we could cut athletics (properly the responsibility of parents), clubs (again, parents), and administrative trips to exotic locations and actually apply those $'s to the pupils' educations to make a difference.  TFA might be the best way to accomplish that, might not be.  I'm fairly positive that 20,000 seat football stadiums with full press boxes and on-field wireless comms for coaching staff do very little to raise math, science and LA performance.

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

The data says nothing about where TFA teachers were sent vs. where the other teachers did their teaching.  There have been persistent reports of TFA teachers ending up at already high performing schools.  There's a lot that needs to be investigated here before anyone jumps to any conclusions based on DISD-supplied data.

Veteranteacher
Veteranteacher

I am a veteran teacher who teaches alongside TFA teachers every day in DISD and I amazed at the commitment they show to their students and our school. The data provided in the September principal survey says that 95% of principals would recommend hiring a TFA teacher and felt they made a positive impact on their school. We need to look beyond the budget numbers and see that Teach for America teachers are making a difference in our schools. Instead of spending time complaining that just less than half leave after two years, we should think about what we can do to convince them to stay.  

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

"But one thing TFA constantly faces is the question: Why is a district paying millions to recruit a fraction of a fraction of teachers, many of whom don't stick around past the two years?"

This Goofy dude is running an Teacher Employment Placement Company Its Product is Placing Teachers , not education .

Using the The past success of the now vanished teachers is a foolish way to encourage the  continued use of this Teacher Employment Placement Company to hire more who are going to be doing the same thing .

The success we should expect is to use them less and less Not the same amount every year or more.

TURN OVER IS GOOD FOR the Teacher Employment Placement Company.

Not the DISD!

Frank
Frank

Since this comparison is for Cohort II, this data is for the teachers who started in the Fall of 2010, TFA's second cohort in DISD.  They are still teaching within  DISD today.

DFW Mom
DFW Mom

The fact that we have new teachers coming into DISD and helping our kids learn -- that's what matters most.  Regardless of whether those high-performing teachers are provided by Teach For America or other sources -- the bottom line is our kids are learning -- and that's the whole point, isn't it?  

planner
planner

Couldn't agree more, DFD Mom. When you cut through all the crap, the bottom line is that the kids are well served - whether it's old mossbacks like myself (LA) - or bright, energetic eager beaver rookies... and I'll echo FandB and the comment on the data - res ipsa loquitur.

FairAndBalanced
FairAndBalanced

The back-benchers have been howling for local data. Here it is. Congratulations, TFA. Mission accomplished. Don't let up.

Robbie Sterling
Robbie Sterling

Tthe math doesn't work. If TFA averages 100 new teachers a year for five years and the cost per teacher is $3,000, the total expense is $1,500,000. If Glover raises 85% of that total ($1,275,000) and if my calculator is working properly, the DISD out of pocket cost will be $225,000 ($450 per teacher). Am I missing something? I would be glad to see my tax dollars spent to bring in TFA teachers - if the data are accurate and (and I have no reason to believe otherwise) even the $3,000 expenditure seems to be a very efficient allocation of resources - let alone the $450 arrived at by my calculation. My perception is that there is a small but vocal group trying desperately to squash the TFA initiative in Dallas. Fund 'em.

FormerTeachr
FormerTeachr

The data given by the district is inspiring. If these teachers "outperformed other 1st year teachers in Mathematics and Science in the district...and...reading/LA was slightly higher than other 1st year teachers in the district", it shows that they are being effective. If the goal of DISD is to get the best teachers in front of students, I think that we want the teachers that are performing at the highest level. At least for my kids, I'd want the teachers that "outperformed" others.

I realize that the CEI is controversial and may not be the best way to measure teachers. This article does point out that the majority of principals had a positive experience with their TFA corps members. I've heard of TFA teachers being teacher of the year at their campus or taking on leadership positions on their grade team or leading/starting extracurricular clubs for students. Since principals are on the ground level with the teachers, I'd say this helps support the data found by the CEI analysis.

It sounds like to me that even if we get these teachers for 2 years, we are lucky. The fact that we are keeping a lot of them for more than 2 years is even more exciting. I say to the district, let's bring more in and work on offering them pathways to keep them in the district.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

I completely agree with your post.

I would caution that relying on principal feedback is sketchy only bc of this:  what principal is going to be negative about TFA when it is clear the trustees want TFA?  

In any organization, only the people who cheer the party line will be promoted.  

Instead, we need to measure objective data to assess any teacher's effectiveness.

I'm positive TFA teachers' test data would be good enough to stand alone without principal testimonials and CEIs.  TFA does a great job of lasering in on the very issues that trip up new teachers.  TFA also closely monitors their teachers; they seem genuinely concerned about the quality of instruction.

We just need to cut the budget elsewhere.  

Frank
Frank

Perhaps with this data, the annual debate over this contract will end.  TFA teachers just want to teach.  They don't want to be treated any differently and just want to serve their kids.  Annual debates like this only create friction between TFA teachers and non-TFA teachers.  Good teachers are good teachers, period.  Let's do what we can to retain all good teachers, regardless of how they were sourced.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

"outperformed other 1st year teachers in Mathematics and Science in the district."but would they have out performed experienced teachers, like some of the ones that took early buy outs? We should keep one eye on performance and the other on retaining teachers. Teaching, like any other profession requires in the trenches experience.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Wise point, Bill.

All new teachers are assigned to veteran mentor teachers who often, especially in math and science, have to teach the new teacher not only the way the school works but also the math and science content.The problem comes in when TFA teachers are treated like campus gods with little or no regard given to good veteran teachers or non-TFA teachers who work equally hard and are equally good. 

In their zealousness to impress the trustees, principals can really offend their "career" teachers who truly do shoulder a lot of the burden only to be ignored when the media shows up.  

It's wrong to treat anyone that way.DISD has a long history of treating teachers badly, which ultimately affects students.

TFA is great, but a balance including respect and appreciation for excellent veteran teachers would go a long way or we are going to become a district of 2-year teachers who are applying for graduate school their second year instead of keeping up the quality of teaching the kids deserve.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Glover, who served his TFA time in Durham, North Carolina, before coming to run the office in TFA founder Wendy Kopp's hometown(ish),says that $3 million contract with the district really doesn't amount to much -- not when you consider it's spread over five years, not when you consider it's but   a small, small piece of his total budget. Says Glover, "I will raise 85 percent to that for the needs of the district based on that commitment. Or, I should say, I will attempt to raise it."

How much wrong headed thinking is in this paragraph  ?

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Well, upon reading your comment I will say it appears a word is missing from his first sentence, which should read, "I will raise 85 percent [more] for the needs of the district based on that commitment" to make more sense. What he's saying is: The district's financial commitment makes up just 15 percent of TFA's local budget.

Effective Teacher Advocate
Effective Teacher Advocate

Bottom line: the district needs effective math and science teachers. If TFA teachers are outperforming other math and science teachers we need do everything we can to get more TFA teachers--they are good for the district and good for our kids. 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

My only problem with TFA is the expense--the revolving door of expense due to the 2-year commitment.All suburban districts have managed to find quality teachers without the extra fee.How is that?The root of the problem lies in the management of DISD, as it has for decades.  We need to change trustees so we can change district management.  Taxpayers have to keep paying extra fees to fix/compensate for bad management.  The trustees hire the district managers who are wasting our money and then the same trustees want us to spend more money to fix the disastrous rock stars they embrace.Solutions:-Require a 3-year commitment without a fee increase to up the value we get for our tax dollars-Keep the 2-year commitment and get the fee slashed-Cut DISD departments to balance the spending on TFA.  There is a 300+ page list of bureaucrats in the org chart.  When they are cut, no one on the campuses notices. Cut Professional Development and HR for starters.  A shocking expense that hasn't had much traction is the Parent Portal.  How many millions were spent to pick one, ramp it up, shut it down?  And now we're back with the program that was there all along--already paid for?  We could triple the number of TFA teachers with kind of money. 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Nitpicking the term of a TFA commitment is silly.  A two year commitment is significant,  Don't know how they do it at DISD but my speculation is the regular entry teacher does not make a two year commitment.  I remember a long way back that Ross Perot financed an extensive statistical analysis of DISD student academic outcomes and my recollection was it was able to statistically show that the worst student outcomes were likely caused by relatively few inept teachers, who were named in the report.  Nothing happened; too politically sensitive, too racially sensitive.  I can guarantee you firing these inept teachers will do more good than firing any number of administrators.  I am guessing these teachers are so bad that even a pet goat would do a better job.  Seems like another job for TFA.

JM
JM

DISD teacher, are CEI's an effective way to measure performance? Are this a reliable, non biased tool?

classwarfare
classwarfare

Yes use the CEI's.  Measure, measure, and measure again.  The only outcome of importance is how much kids learn. How effective a teacher is in achieving this outcome needs to be known.  If a child has learned a math subject or how to read and understand an essay he will be able to demonstrate how to solve an algebraic equation or explain a metaphor. This can be measured and I think by any measurement of meaningful effectiveness TFA teachers will stand up exceedingly well.

Classwarfare
Classwarfare

Let me add---Hire these TFAers, as many as you can.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Absolutely not.

Middle school science teacher:88% of her students passed 8th grade Sci TAKS (20 points above district average).Her CEI was in low 90s.

So the next year, she teaches same way bc it was obviously effective, right?About 87% of her students pass 8th grade Sci TAKS the second year (still about 20 points above district average).

CEI result?  Her CEI dropped to low 40s!(At other schools, teachers' scores went up over 50%.Inexplicable and completely unreliable).

She's looking a for a new job and this district is going to lose a great teacher bc someone is playing games with CEI computations.

I don't doubt for a moment that TFA teachers have good CEIs--there's nothing to stop someone little computer fairy from going in and making sure their CEIs are good.

No teacher should be evaluated using CEIs and CEIs are certainly no reason to keep overpaying TFA.

Again, I think TFA teachers are good.  If we want them, we must cut the budget elsewhere.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

My post was typed with multiple paragraph breaks, but it did not display.

I have no "edit" button or I would fix it.

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