The Brief and Wondrous Lives of Teach for America Teachers in DISD

RichardsonKyle_2010_2x3.jpg
Woodrow principal Kyle Richardson lost four TFA-trained teachers -- and went and hired three more.
Teach for America, the nonprofit teacher pipeline founded by Park Cities native Wendy Kopp, has made a couple of appearances in the Morning News lately, first in a news story and then an editorial about the rate at which TFA teachers stick in their jobs. Apparently the first class of TFA "corps members" to complete two-year stints in the Dallas Independent School District fled the district at a slightly higher rate (43 percent) than they do nationally (36 percent).

It's only a six-point gap, and I'm not sure a statistician would love the margin of error in comparing an 80-teacher sample size with the tens of thousands of TFA teachers who have gone through the program nationally. It also ignores a more relevant stat: While only 57 percent of DISD TFA grads stayed in the district, 63 percent stayed in teaching, which is in step with the national average, says Charles Glover, TFA's local director.

Also: In a market as dense as DFW, and in a local economy that's stabler than many of TFA's other regions, there were likely more jobs, teaching and otherwise, for corps members to fall into here. You could argue -- I think I'm actually arguing -- that DISD is doing pretty well at keeping these folks around.

Still, The News's editorial board opined: "The attrition rate raises important questions about what more DISD can do to support these young teachers -- and encourage them to stay."

In Sunday's news story, the only person who seemed troubled by the statistics was the one person you call when you need someone to be troubled by something Teach for America-related: the union president. (They could have also called trustee Carla Ranger.) Unions are wisely skeptical of Teach for America, since corps members take jobs that might otherwise be filled by lifelong dues payers. But a labor boss's opinion isn't the first I'd seek when wondering what effect attrition has on the only variable that matters in this equation: the students.

Instead, I'd ask the one group in a position to see and feel and measure the effect of TFA's alleged revolving door. And that group shouldn't have been hard for The News to identify, given that Mayor Mike Rawlings had just two days before had written a story in the paper urging the district to "continue to leverage Teach for America and other pipelines for talented new teachers. Principals continue to tell me they're making a difference."

Ah, yes, principals. They know things. And you know what else they would tell Rawlings and anyone who asked? They're not worried about how long those TFA-trained teachers stay.

"Not at all," Kyle Richardson, the principal at Woodrow Wilson High School, told me yesterday. Richardson spent the previous six years at Marsh Middle School, in Northwest Dallas. In 2009, when TFA started in Dallas, he hired four of its teachers. The next year, he added seven more. "They were just amazing in my school," he said.

But at the end of last school year, all four of Marsh's inaugural class of corps members bolted. I asked Richardson if he knew where they went. He rattled off each easily and by name, listing their destinations like a proud father announcing his kid's college choice. One went to Harvard, he said, to study education policy. Another went to Boston University to study urban health care. The other two went to work for TFA to train teachers who, if he has the chance and the fit, Richardson will probably hire in the coming years.

"When I first thought about it, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, these guys can leave after two years!'" he said. But then he realized: "They had a great impact on our school -- an amazing impact. And it's not like I can't go out and hire more TFA teachers or somebody else." Which is exactly what he did: Before he left Marsh late in the summer, Richardson hired three more TFA teachers.

It's a matter of reassessing the value of longevity. Obviously principals want great teachers to stay as long as possible. If you have a chance to hire a great teacher, and there's a "greater possibility that they're going to stay in the field, then that's who you hire," Richardson said, whether they're TFA-trained or not. "If I'm going to get longevity too? You bet."

But longevity is only one quality, and it's one you don't get the sense Richardson has much time to consider. He's looking for teachers who can make "an impact right away," he said. "If I can positively impact a group of kids, seven out of eight periods a day or six out of seven periods a day, I'm going to do that."

Even if there's no guarantee they'll stick around.

"In this day in age, [longevity is] becoming more difficult," he said. "Not everybody is like me; not everybody goes into education and stays for 30 years."

That's especially true of the caliber of graduate dispatched by TFA. The program seems to attract bright, curious, dynamic high-achievers who aren't sure about teaching as a career. Most have never even considered it as a career path, Glover said. But they're drawn to it for whatever reason, and then they're thrust headlong into one of America's most confounding problems. And, from all appearances, they're held accountable for finding solutions.

The nature of using one system to find and train teachers -- the traditional education-school track -- promises to produce teachers with similar backgrounds and mindsets. An alternative track produces alternative people -- and, if you believe Richardson and other principals who rely on TFA teachers, it produces results too.

"They're smart and quick learners," said Dr. Lucy Hakemack, the new principal at Conrad High School, who had 14 TFA teachers on staff at Spruce High last year. "I would to have loved to have hired more this year, but somebody stole two of them." She wasn't kidding: Another principal hired two TFA teachers out from under her after she'd already spoken with them about jobs at Conrad, she said. She sounded genuinely pissed.

But there will be more, and she'll hire them. And if they leave -- to go train teachers or study policy or do something in education or public service, as many of them do -- she'll just hire the next ones around. Unless Richardson, or some other smart principal, gets to them first.


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64 comments
Marsh Matador
Marsh Matador

I am a teacher.  Ihave worked with Principal Richardson and TFA teachers.  TFA teachers, in my experience, areamazing. 

TFA has been good for my students, for me and for my school.  I say give me the good teachers now – TFA,veteran, education majors – I don’t care how you get them, just get them here.  If it works, I want it in my school, and TFAworks. 

I challenge those who believe TFA is bad for education tospend a week, a day - sometimes all you will need is class period - in a TFAclassroom.  Then decide if they havevalue.

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

Without stepping into union/TFA conflicts, let me say that I am very impressed with Woodrow Principal Kyle Richardson. We were very lucky to get him as many other schools wanted him - the timing was right in our case.

You can check his record at Marsh to see his many stellar accomplishments.  One of his greatest strengths is his ability to hire the right teachers.  I would be willing to bet that many of them will stay long-term at Woodrow, as it's a place many people never want to leave...

Planner
Planner

In 2010, there were 3,823,142 teachers in public, charter, private, and Catholic elementary and secondary schools. They taught a total of 55,203,000 students, who attended one of 132,656 schools. TFA teachers represent 0.25% of the teacher cohort.  Why the fuss?

MattL1
MattL1

I have an idea.  There are a bunch of young college graduates willing to teach kids.  Let's discredit them!  Yeah! 

Educated Mom
Educated Mom

BOULDER, Colo., and TEMPE, Ariz., June 9, 2010 -- Teach For America has generated glowing press reports, but evidence about whether the alternative teacher-training program works is far more murky, reports a new policy brief from the Education and the Public Interest Center and the Education Policy Research Unit (EPIC/EPRU).

The report, Teach For America: A Review of the Evidence, is written by professor Julian Vasquez Heilig of the University of Texas at Austin, and professor Su Jin Jez of California State University, Sacramento. It offers a comprehensive overview of research on the Teach For America (TFA) program, which recruits graduates of elite colleges to teach for two years in low-income rural and urban schools. The brief was published today by EPIC, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and EPRU, at Arizona State University.

Overall, Jez and Heilig argue, the impact of Teach For America on student achievement is decidedly mixed at best.

On the one hand, studies show that TFA teachers perform fairly well compared with one segment of the teaching population: other teachers in the same hard-to-staff schools, who are less likely to be certified or traditionally prepared. Compared with that specific group of teachers, TFA teachers "perform comparably in raising reading scores and a bit better in raising math scores," the policy brief's authors write.

Comparisons of TFA teachers with credentialed non-TFA teachers are another story. Research on that question finds that "the students of novice TFA teachers perform significantly less well in reading and mathematics than those of credentialed beginning teachers," Heilig and Jez write. And in a large-scale Houston study, in which the researchers controlled for experience and teachers' certification status, standard certified teachers consistently outperformed uncertified TFA teachers of comparable experience levels in similar settings.

In the end, TFA teachers have some advantages and some disadvantages, and these appear to play out as one would expect. Accordingly, the results are consistent with common sense - but it's a common sense often ignored in policy discussions.

The trade-offs are straightforward. TFA teachers are elite college graduates, but they receive a much shorter training process than conventional teacher education programs. They teach in hard-to-staff schools, but they generally do so for only two years. So one would expect that these TFA teachers would show outcomes better than other minimally trained beginning teachers but worse than fully trained teachers or experienced teachers. In fact, the research shows exactly these results, explain Heilig and Jez.

TFA teachers do get better - if they stay long enough to become fully credentialed, the evidence suggests. Those experienced, fully credentialed TFA teachers "appear to do about as well as other, similarly experienced, credentialed teachers in teaching reading ... [and] as well as, and sometimes better than, that comparison group in teaching mathematics," Heilig and Jez write.

There is a catch, however: More than half of TFA teachers leave after two years, and more than 80 percent after three. So it's impossible to know whether those who remain have improved because of additional training and experience - or simply because of "selection bias:" they were more effective than the four out of five TFA teachers who left.

Furthermore, the high turnover of TFA teachers results in significant expenses for recruiting and training replacements.

While TFA advocates see the program as a way to expand the supply of teachers willing to work in the nation's most troubled schools, critics see it as an intense training experience for the teachers but a harmful dalliance into the lives of vulnerable students who most need highly trained and highly skilled teachers. The bottom line from the research is that TFA teacher effectiveness depends on the way the question is asked. "The lack of a consistent impact, however, should indicate to policymakers that TFA is likely not the panacea that will reduce disparities in educational outcomes," Heilig and Jez write.

In the face of such limitations, the authors urge schools and districts instead to devote resources to a number of proven remedies for improving achievement, including mentoring programs that pair novice and expert teachers.

The authors also recommend that schools use TFA teachers only when "the alternative hiring pool consists of uncertified and emergency teachers or substitutes."

Find the report Teach For America: A Review of the Evidence, by Julian Vasquez Heilig and Su Jin Jez, on the web at:http://epicpolicy.org/publicat...

Think Tank Research Quality: Lessons for Policy Makers, the Media, and the Public, our new book based on the work of the Think Tank Review Project, is now available from Information Age Publishing at http://www.infoagepub.com/prod..., or from Barnes & Noble at http://tinyurl.com/TTRQ-B-N.

The Education and the Public Interest Center (EPIC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU) at Arizona State University collaborate to produce policy briefs and think tank reviews. Our goal is to promote well-informed democratic deliberation about education policy by providing academic as well as non-academic audiences with useful information and high quality analyses. This policy brief was made possible in part by the generous support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Visit EPIC and EPRU at http://www.educationanalysis.o...

EPIC and EPRU are members of the Education Policy Alliance(http://educationpolicyalliance...)

**********

Anon
Anon

More than 10% of graduates of elite (it's even higher at the Ivy League) schools are applying to be in TFA. That alone should show you that people applying for these positions are doing so, not because they have any particular skills that suit the education profession, or even just a remote interest in it. They are simply ambitious young people. If that were the end of the story, I wouldn't necessarily find fault with the program. But it isn't. I know how this process works and it's garbage. I personally think the best teachers love learning and love to inspire. They aren't necessarily the people who majored in education (in fact, I find the education major to be fairly worthless). There are probably lots of people at elite schools who find in their senior year that they'd love to give teaching a shot, are willing to work hard, but they majored in history instead of secondary education. Bright, eager Harvard graduate interested in teaching, this should have TFA written all over it, right? Wrong. TFA doesn't want people who profess to want to work in education. You have to tell them you are interested in politics, law school, business school, or medical school. If you tell them you want to stay in education you better have a story worked out about how you want to start up a charter school. The on-campus recruiter was a good friend of mine. She said that she put forward incredibly bright people who were interested in education and TFA showed absolutely no interest. Exasperated, she told them that clearly there was kind of misunderstanding regarding what type of person they were looking for. She had put forward lots of smart, dedicated people and they were not biting. She then mentioned our mutual friend who was already accepted to a top 10 medical school and TFA started fawning over him, saying that's the kind of person they wanted. She told them that he had no interest in teaching, had already accepted his medical school spot. They said her job was to reach out to people like that and convince them to apply to TFA.It's garbage. It's about creating an alumni base of influential and successful people with lots of money who will give back to the system and reinforce its greatness. It's almost entirely about the resume effect for these young graduates. That's fine for fields like consulting, investment banking, law, and business. There is an expected turnover in those fields and the profit motive is really all that's guiding the behavior of those firms. Education is supposed to be about students. I know it's never really that pure, but the motives of TFA have absolutely nothing to do with trying to improve the lives of disadvantaged students. They are trying to improve the lives and careers of its alumni, all while taking in maximum donations from corporate and high net worth individuals.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Teachers do not stop learning (or taking classes, or continuing education or training) once they begin teaching.  Generalizations have a basis in fact and I believe, from  experience,  that an veteran teacher is better than a kid who has no experience and perhaps didn't consider teaching as a career until TFA recruited them. That being said, even the veterans had to start from the beginning didn't they?  It's just that the majority of those teachers chose teaching as a career...not a stepping stone.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Teachers do not stop learning (or taking classes, or continuing education or training) once they begin teaching.  Generalizations have a basis in fact and I believe, from  experience,  that an veteran teacher is better than a kid who has no experience and perhaps didn't consider teaching as a career until TFA recruited them. That being said, even the veterans had to start from the beginning didn't they?  It's just that the majority of those teachers chose teaching as a career...not a stepping stone. 

Dave Russell
Dave Russell

Here are some truths about TFA:

1) The new hires are not highly qualified content specialists under NCLB rules. This means with TFA you might have a history major teaching a math class.

2) TFA gives hirees a 5 week intensive training before stepping foot into a class. There is little to no training on learning theory, content specialties, or pedagogies. 

3) TFA teachers are not credentialed. They are hired on an emergency credential and are required to work toward earning a credential as a condition to work with students.

4) After a two year stint, TFA appointees receive a pay down bonus on their student loans and their obligation is complete.

5) The cost of on TFA hiree is roughly one half the cost of a life long experience career teacher nearing retirement. This gives districts financial incentives to fire experienced teachers and replace them at a rate of two for one with two year revolving door TFA recruits. 

In the long run, noncredentialed TFA recruits who, by contract, commit to a short two years in the classroom displace individuals who have committed themselves to education through gaining a 4 year degree that is NCLB certified to make the "highly qualified," and who then go on for an additional two years to obtain an state sanctioned and approved teacher credential. 

Compare that level of commitment to, as the author describes as "bright, curious, dynamic high-achievers who aren't sure about teaching as a career. " If it were truly about the kids and not about the district's bottom line and corporate profit, then TFA would not exist.

Eatexaseducation
Eatexaseducation

Usually, you don't see the effect until five years later after several TFAs have destroyed school climate and discipline is out of control. It seems like these principals want a quick fix. These principals are also trying to pad their resumes. Maybe they should be PFAs. Principals that believe in a factory model, will eventually hit a low point when they look around and are surrounded by all rookie teachers. It's ashame we have these people in charge of schools.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

When you hire young, mainly unmarried, non-parenting kids to teach, you get some real energy-burners. Kind of like the Army with privates. If you want a professional Army, you train them, promote them over time and build a solid cadre that can handle any situation.If you cannon fodder, you bring in tons of young people and let them get into the battle. Soem will live, some will die. Most will exit as soon as they can....And that is what we have with TFA. Their WHOLE purpose is NOT to help schools, but to help people pad their resumes. They want to be able to say, "Oh, when I was a teacher...." and get the street cred for when they go to law school or get their chance in politics. We call them Teach For a While. Yes, we need energetic, young people. As we teachers get older, get families and such, we have less personal time to dedicate thousands of hours  to a classroom. When I started 13 years ago, I spent a lot more time in the room after school, before school, etc... And then I got EXPERIENCED. I learned how to work with success. Now, I have patterns of how to handle work, how to do lesson plans--all things TFA need help with from us old folks, by the way.

Call some of the experienced, qualified teachers let go by principals--including one in this article--in favor of the TFA? You know why they favor TFA? Because they know nothing. They never question authority, they just nod and go trotting off... And when their time is up---we have to spend time and money to get new ones in, bring them up to speed with how things are done.Tell me what corporate model this works well with? A school needs stability with high quality teachers, not a rotating door. It needs programs with multi-year planning, not guesses on whether the teacher will return next year or go to law school. It is an attempt to lower the value of teaching to that of a cog in a machine. Even the DMN editor suggests that one of them could run for school trustee. Give me a break. What? So you can control them there, too? Oh, Joe, and the slam on unions there in the article. Tsk, tsk. I pay union dues for the legal insurance against false claims by students, unsafe working conditions, violations of the pathetic contract I have or violations of state laws. Get off the union slamming wagon, please. I can teach circles around these TFA kids, and I have for years--could do so for more years to come once they leave.

Wildcat2009
Wildcat2009

Mr. Matador,Sorry, but a middle school classroom is no comparison to a challenging curriculum that must be delivered by an AP teacher, much less an IB Teacher. I challenge you to put a TFA with AP level students and they will soon figure out the teacher is not experienced. Middle school is nothing like high school. AP Exams are not TAKS exams. I wouldn't want to have been taught by one at Woodrow. Glad I graduated before this trainwreck hit Woodrow. Hope my great AP teachers like Evett, Sanchez, Black and all the experienced teachers are still there to guide this new principal. Cutting costs by hiring cheap will not help you pass AP Exams.

2009Wildcat
2009Wildcat

Marsh is a middle school. You can have a revolving door of teachers in and out without really affecting kids. I am sure high school teachers agree that it takes about 3 years to get the hang of it and to even consider a teacher to teach an AP Course. Cannot make assumptions or track records of Middle Schools or Elementaries. Middle schools have 3 opportunities to take TAKS it's called the gaming the system. High Schools only have one chance at AP Exams or IB Exams.

Anon
Anon

it's not about that. if all we want is to let schools hire talented young people regardless of training, then remove all regulations regarding who a school system can hire. remove the administrative burden of creating TFA in the first place - it's really just dead weight loss if the end goal is simply to hire talented young teachers and there is a true demand for those teaching spots. that's a solution I can get behind because I think HR departments of public school systems hide behind the artificial credential of state certification to hire and keep crappy teachers (artificial in the fact that I don't believe it has any bearing on whether a teacher will ultimately be a success or failure). 

but I guarantee that without the stamp of "TFA" on their resumes, those graduates will not flock to teaching at high risk schools - because frankly they don't care. they are applying to be part of a brand. a brand that says regular teachers in school systems are average and mediocre. we are better. we are TFA.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Nice cut and paste job.  Most important line: "This policy brief was made possible in part by the generous support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice."  Look it up and you will see that this study was made to order.

scottindallas
scottindallas

"Some of the largest concerns with TFA include that teaching is a profession that takes at least five years of experience to do well"

Well Jerky, evidence shows that more than half of these people do indeed use this as a launching point for a career teaching.  I don't think anyone is suggesting replacing major percentages of the teaching force with TFA, it's just another alt-cert. program.  Not everyone has parents willing to pay for them to student teach.  And, at least they told me, there's no way to work and student teach.  (funny, as in "adolescent" I learned one is not an adult till they're self sufficient.)

CGreen
CGreen

Are you aware that TFA teachers receive continual training throughout their two year contract with experienced TFA staff members who go into the classroom with the teachers, help problem solve and review each TFA member’s effectiveness with their classroom? There are stringent accountability matrixes set to ensure that teachers are moving in the right direction and if they are not, their 'mentors" work with them to provide solutions or a shoulder to lean on. Cost to the school district for this additional support – zip, zero nothing. It is paid for by the TFA organization.  The majority of the TFA staff are assigned to remote regions of USA where you cannot find qualified teachers. I know this as my daughter, a University of Texas Special Education major, spent her two year commitment on an Indian Reservation in New Mexico. She now spends 50-60 hours a week as a TFA mentor in Phoenix. I am a former teacher who taught in the West Dallas Projects. There are many “seasoned” teaches there who I was horrified to teach with. Each school district has their “dumping grounds” for teachers they can’t fire. Don’t tell me just because they are seasoned they are good.

scottindallas
scottindallas

The districts use alternative creditialled teachers as is, there is little difference.  The education difference is two courses, and one semester of student teaching.  The "four year degree" is common to both.  Alternative certification does the exact same thing.  It seems a bit onerous to suggest that one can only become a teacher by having the foresight to graduate with a teacher's certification, and then do the onerous, unpaid, student teaching.  In fact, it's the opposite of unpaid, the aspirational teacher must pay tuition for a university professor to stamp her time card, for which there is no compensation.

I appreciate that you may have gone through that route, but it isn't practical for everyone.  It sounds like you're really bellyaching.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

You say tomato, I say  .  .  .  .None of your points challenges Richardson's assessment of the TFA students.  Richardson finds them to be excellent teachers.  You seem to say TFA teachers do not have the teacher training credentials of the typical certificated education majors and therefore they cannot be as good a teacher as the teachers with the teaching certificates.  What about comparing other metrics, such as GPA, SAT scores, quality of the undergrad college, classroom student improvements, etc.  Call me crazy but I prefer getting the best teachers available and have little interest in the technicalities of a teacher's accreditation.

I find it hard to understand  the ire traditional teachers have against TFA, but I have to wonder if the TFA teachers make the traditional teachers feel inadequate: for TFA, teaching at public school is a charitable, public service inspired contribution of services, a factor that may account for the positive impact attributed to TFA.  I'd rather have an inexperienced highly motivated employee than someone who just shows up to send out the mail.

Pat mullin
Pat mullin

Keep in mind it is common practice in many industries to fire "seasoned" employees for younger more energetic college graduates because they will often work more efficiently and far far cheaper than those older employees. Why would teaching be any different. An expensive average teacher is no better and sometimes a bigger drain than a fresh inexpensive teacher who has the drive to put in long hours but may need more guidance...

scottindallas
scottindallas

"Because they know nothing. They never question authority, they just nod and go trotting off... And when their time is up---we have to spend time and money to get new ones in, bring them up to speed with how things are done. Tell me what corporate model this works well with?"

Diane, that IS the corporate model. 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Look at:

http://www.nctq.org/docs/TFA_S...

These are bright, highly motivated people willing to defer or forego their traditional career opportunities.  DISD's students are lucky to have them, and kudos to these kids for subjecting themselves to what surely must be a nasty school environment.

Padding resumes?  So what.  They are still putting in two years time and effort, and seem to teach as well or better than more experienced teachers.

Principals like TFA.  A Broad Foundation study gives TFA high ratings for student improvement. You dismiss the principals' opinions (what does the boss know about his employees.  As for corporate models? The finest law firms in this country hire law school graduates with no experience for entry level positions.  Why do they do this?  Why not hire a lawyer who has already  three or four years experience?  Practically none of these new hires have masters degrees.  I guess the law firms are stupid.

You declare everyone (administrators, educational foundations, etc. wrong except the ploughperson-like experienced teachers who selflessly shepherd the TFA kids through the blocking and tackling of everyday teaching.Nothing personal, but the Broad and Gates Foundations both support TFA.  Not being anywhere near an expert on the subject of what it takes to make a great teacher, and having never experienced the bad work environment of the us vs them (old teachers with teaching degrees vs really smart graduates from the nation's best universities) that appears to prevail at DISD, I will bet on the teachers rated highly by the by Gates et al.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Well said, Diane.  Lazy principals with short-term goals love the TFAers - enthusiasm may also hide a number of novice teacher shortcomings.  As the parent of a high-schooler I would not want a TFA beginner teacher with a six-week boot camp in "education" getting his "on the job training" in my child's classroom.  Give me the 20-year veteran master certified teacher any day to serve as my son's educator and mentor. 

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

Where did I slam the unions?

MattL1
MattL1

Too late.  It already exists, and now the graduates DO want to come to those schools.  I'm pretty sure everything else exists solely in your mind.  

Anon
Anon

be careful - they don't stay in teaching. they stay in "education" which is a term TFA defines to have a very broad meaning. going to work as a fundraiser or administrator for TFA counts, but I don't think that anyone would reasonably say that counts as teaching. that's the non-profit sector, not the education sector.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Continuing training AFTER they are in FRONT of the kids? Wow, that should make it all better.

How about a doctor or lawyer going to a boot camp in Houston for 5 weeks and then put them in an ER or a courtroom....

Anon
Anon

the student teaching itself is worthwhile, but the educational theory classes required for certification? not so much. and the student teaching is only worthwhile because, well, you're teaching. you could just as well learn on the job while being paid instead of paying tuition. in my (anecdotal) experience with people who went through the student teaching process, most "supervising" teachers were on auto-pilot and didn't provide much value to the trainees. after the first week when they figured out the kids wouldn't kill them, they mostly left the classroom to do whatever they wanted and just checked in once in a while to ask if the trainees had questions.

Dave Russell
Dave Russell

The issue I have with this article and many like it is that, by design, it is a fluff piece designed to be a thinly veiled advertisement and rah-rah session for TFA. For every Richardson who thinks TFA short-timers are great, there are an equal number of experienced administrators who will disagree. This piece is not a balanced representation of the realities of the TFA experience. 

Some of the largest concerns with TFA include that teaching is a profession that takes at least five years of experience to do well. This is like most any other profession - newly minted graduates, regardless of  GPA, SAT scores, quality of the undergrad college, classroom student improvements, etc., simply do not have the experience to answer the the four fundamental questions of teaching: 1) what do you want the kids to know, 2) how do you know if they know it, 3) what do you do if they don't, 4) what do you do if they do. The real art of teaching comes from experiences in dealing with items 2, 3,and 4. This takes time to develop and only through carefully observing a large population of kids over time can one develop techniques that help discern where common misunderstandings lie, develop a large tool kit of responses to fix the misunderstandings, and develop strategies to effectively infuse the knowledge into the hearts and minds of kids. These are skills that a fully developed credential program reveals and skills that take more then 2 years to refine.Great teachers - yea, you bet! But TFA runs the real risk of putting someone in the class who soon realizes the realities of education are not the bed of roses TFA propaganda would lead them to believe and simply bides their time waiting for the two years to finally be over so they can get their pay-out and get on with the career they went to college for. Let's not forget that the odds favor that someone with a Harvard MBA has a mountain of debt that will likely not be paid for on a teachers salary. So who would be bolting for the door at the end of 2 years.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Nothing personal, but what does Bill Gates know about education? He dropped out of college and his wife went to Ursuline in Dallas, a private school. What in hell does he know about teaching poor kids in a city?

Broad Foundation is tied to the conservative right which wants to look like it is helping educaiton, all the while, undermining it for edu-business.

Dave Russell
Dave Russell

A Broad Foundation study ... really? You champion the fox guarding the hen house. Broad has a long history of pushing agenda's that are designed to discredit public education while fostering solutions that will privatize education. He is a Neoliberal champion of opening the education budget to corporate privateers thereby selling the minds of kids to the lowest priced gatekeeper of knowledge. Your statement "Not being anywhere near an expert on the subject of what it takes to make a great teacher" is true.

scottindallas
scottindallas

I think you over generalize.  Seems to me that for many subjects, high school teachers should be able to succeed under TFA.  I can easily imagine some students who are simple majors in sciences might be more knowledgeable than either education majors or those trained years ago, with dated technology and dated theories.  Somehow, universities are teaching, like thousands of kids, without the professors being trained specifically in pedagogy. 

I always felt there was a difference in the English dept between straight English majors and English majors who sought to teach.  I found the straight English majors more passionate about literature and writing.  Many of the wanna be English teachers either liked kids or we're dullards seeking a safe job. 

Amy Severson
Amy Severson

Kyle Richardson is neither lazy nor a man with short-term goals. Michael, most of the time I agree with what you say, but I can speak from 7 years of working for Kyle as an unpaid  volunteer that he was one of the hardest working principals I've had the pleasure of meeting. His goal has always been the best teacher with the most passion for their work, whether that is enclosed in a 30 year veteran or a first year college graduate. The real power of teaching is within the teacher, not their resume.

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

Kyle Richardson was at his previous two schools for five-plus years each, as I understand it. He's in his 50s. He doesn't seem to be a climber, and there's no inclination he's lazy. So that argument, at least when narrowly applied to him, doesn't hold.

Also, even Richardson agrees with this: "Give me the 20-year veteran master certified teacher any day to serve as my son's educator and mentor."

The question is: What about the 20-year shitty teacher? Do you want him or her teaching your kid, or a Kyle Richardson handpicked TFAer? That's getting closer to a tossup for me. Unless you deny that some teachers are shitty, in which case, let me know where you sent your kids so I can move into the neighborhood.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Joe, to ingratiate themselves the TFA kids are encouraged to join the unions.  It would be interesting to know the exact cost of these TFA teachers to the district vs a non-TFA teacher.  If I remember from the September 2008 board meeting, the funds requested by DISD for the TFA program in 2009-10 and 2010-11 totaled $678,000. $420,000 is offset through a payroll deduction from TFA members participating in the DISD Alternative Certification  program which would leave a General Opearting Budget cost to the district of $258,000. For how many teachers?  Perhaps you could also investigate the difference, if any, in the contracts between a TFA Ch-21 teacher and a non-TFA Ch-21 teacher?  The original "selling point" for TFA was (1) a shortage of "highly qualified" teachers and (2) low cost.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has already ruled that TFA teachers are NOT "highly qualified" although Congress may have the last say.  Are starting salaries reduced for TFA teachers?  I don't think so. http://voices.washingtonpost.c... "Teachers still in training programs are disproportionately concentrated in schools serving low-income students and students of color, the very children who need the very best the teaching profession has to offer." Which begs the next question -- where are the TFA teachers teaching in Dallas?  I know they are at Booker T, Marsh and WT White - not exactly the campuses with the greatest need.

Anon
Anon

what school are you talking about? my college? I don't even work in education but have very close ties to it. I guess we just disagree - I think TFA is a very bad program.

And if you don't think that societal perceptions affect the ability to recruit and retain quality employees (in any business), then you don't really understand the labor market.

MattL1
MattL1

Nobody ever said it was a total solution, but in my experience it's a good program.  The rest of that is an attitude thing, which is a personal problem.  I mean, is that a big problem at your school, or are those just whispers?

Anon
Anon

then allow me to be specific. I have expectations for the future of the education system of America, and the tax dollars it consumes. TFA is not a solution to the problem, as even its advocates agree that it cannot be a total solution to the problems in public education. in the meantime, it denigrates "regular" classroom teachers who are not entering the system through TFA (or some of its equivalents). people from elite schools don't want to go into teaching not because of the lack of money - it's the lack of respect. why did you waste your time and money going to Harvard to be a classroom teacher? if you don't think that's a common refrain, then you are fooling yourself. but if you do TFA, people practically insti-gasm about how fantastic you are, and how selfless you must be to forgo other opportunities to help out some poor kids. the demand is not for teaching jobs. it is for slots in the TFA program.

so it's a program whose existence contributes to the longer-term deterioration in public education. its employees (the teachers, anyways) are paid with taxpayer money. I don't think we should be paying them to further erode respect for classroom teachers who do not come from their feeder system. 

MattL1
MattL1

I still don't understand your gripe, but so be it.  Methinks you've lost that fight.

Anon
Anon

right, but I don't really want my tax dollars supporting that brand. and that's what we're talking about here. because last I checked, taxpayers are still supposed to have the ability to gripe when they think their money is being mis-used.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

WRONG!!! We do NOT have TENURE in DISD!!! God, I wish people would learn about education, instead of listening to sound bites on radio and tv!!! Seniority is not tenure, since tenure means a job is PROTECTED.

We have a woman on our campus, whom I will not name, but has been teaching for over 50 years---read that, 50 years. She has taught 3-4 generations of the same families in East Dallas. She also teaches part time at a private religious academy. She also teaches institutes for AP around the country all summer--and she is in her 70's!!! She is the BEST teacher I have ever known, but they could replace her tomorrow with a TFA kiddo, because, hey, they went to Dartmouth.

Where do you get that "many" are terrible? Stats to back that up? Define terrible? Test scores? Put 100 Highland Park kids at our worst high school, and they will bring the scores up for the school, no matter who their teacher is . Take one hundred of our worst kids and put them in Highland Park HS, and their scores will go down. People just do not want to accept that even the BEST teachers get some real non-achievers in front of them in classes.

So, what to do with the rest of the kids? You need experienced teachers, specialized teachers, to handle the problems that come our way. Look, I was once "new," and I had a lot to learn, which is why I did TWO semesters of student teaching. TWO. I was prepared when I was actuallyPAID, and yet, I still had a learning curve. Why is fair to place a new --non-trained teacher in front of a class? The TFA kids are not idiots, they are temps, get that, please. And temps are not what makes a school strong in the LONG RUN.

Guest
Guest

Diane:  Many of the long tenured teachers in the DISD are terrible.  What about that do you not understand?

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Bill Gates may know zero about education but it is amazing the amount of expertise you can buy with a few billion dollars.  So just who is capable of trying to improve a very broken system?  Only those who are part of the very broken system?  I guess there are no good ideas outside of DISD and the world is beating a path to its door to learn the really good ideas.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Not self-serving at all. I am an experienced teacher. I am the expert, as are all other experienced teachers. TFA is a way to get rid of senior, experienced teachers to hire lower-paying young people who want to pad resumes.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

BTW, my lack of expert status does not confer you expert status.  Even a non-expert can discern the self serving pettiness of these attacks on TFA.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Is the Gates Foundation a fox in the hen house?  Do the Gates' have a neo-liberal agenda, too?  If all of these certificated teachers are so good why is the education so bad?  These incompetent kids sure seem to scare the bejeezus out of these supposedly expert certificated teachers.  All of these school teacher apologists sure come off looking like all they care about is protecting their turf at the expense of educating their students.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Hi Amy. My comments were general in nature and should not be interpreted as a comment about any specific principal, much less Kyle Richardson.  I do not know him and have never met him and would not disparage a teacher or principal in public anyway.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

You slammed unions when you said, "dues-payin," as  if having union membership taints your experience with TFA. You don't refer to people driving cars as "insurance-paying"  do you? Let me put this in a quiet way-- wasn't talking about K R. .... And when you CUT a GOOD teacher, Joe, not a shitty one, so you can HIRE A TFA, explain that in any other way? No, cut the experienced surgeon for my kid, let the med school kid do it. Shitty teachers will be gone if you hire enough GOOD ones who STAY. The irony is folks, you hire enough temp workers, and that is what TFA is, what do you have for LONG-TERM planning for a school?

These TFA kids did not fill in many unfilled spots, they TOOK spots.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

You mean the CEI's! HA! HA! They are proven to be unreliabel. I have a passing rate of 98.9% on the TAKS last year, yet only got a 3 on the CEI. I had a lower passing rate in years past, like 85%, yet had a CEI of 4. Try again....

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Name the "BAD" teachers. Tell me how you rate them, and I bet we might concur. But they aren't putting the TFA kids in hard to fill spots. If they are cutting 209 teachers this fall, why are we still in a contract with TFA, when the expressed purpose of TFA is to fill unfilled spots?

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

So, you want them to be unprotected from a false allegation or have no legal help if they are harrassed or in an unsafe working condition, or if someone is pressing them to break the law?

Wow. I guess doctors should not join the AMA or carry liability insurance, either.

Frank
Frank

Mike, if you are truly interested in the effectiveness of TFA, then ask for TFA classroom effectiveness scores vs. those teachers of similar vintage who are not TFA.

Guest
Guest

How much of that is paid by the DISD?

And the $18,000 is obviously a perposerously high number.  It assumes you spread the cost of the entire DISD accross only the TFA teachers in one school.  In fact, the cost is a couple thousand dollars per teacher. Which makes them a lot cheaper than some of the dead weight teachers in the DISD, even if the DISD paid their entire salaries. 

Guest
Guest

Because it isn't true?  What, TFA teachers make up less than 5% of the teachers in the DISD?  Far more than 5% of the teachers in the DISD wouldn't qualifiy as good or effective.  I only wish we had enough TFA teachers to replace all the terrible teachers in the DISD. 

Ross3700
Ross3700

Not a bargain---that's in addition to their starting salary of $45K.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Cannot retain good, effective teachers who cost more, when you can hire TFA, why is that not seen by people?

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Actually, several TFA people have told me they were expressly told NOT to join unions....

Guest
Guest

Given that there were 14 TFA teachers at one highschool laster year, $258,000 must be an absolute bargain.  If there were the cost for just those 14 (excluding the TFA teachers at every other school in the DISD), that would mean they cost only $18,000 each. 

scottindallas
scottindallas

I don't know one specific fact about TFA, but I'm certain we can assume that the district is subsidized, credited or somehow remunerated.  What would be the point of such a program otherwise?

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Joe,I have no anger towards TFA teachers at all.  The kids are engaging and enthusiastic and full of energy.  I have met and have enjoyed conversations with over 35 of them in the last two years. I have enthusiastically backed the policies that take seniority out of the teacher evaluation process and have worked diligently in favor of the policies, now in place, to allow the non-renewal of teachers in the reassignment pool.  Both policies are not "seniority friendly" or union friendly for that matter.  The impact of TFA teachers is hotly debated.  The National Education Policy Center released this review of TFA last year: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publi...  And may I suggest this interesting read by reporter Stephen Brill who authored "Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools" and provide an intriguing web of the relationships behind what is now a multi-billion dollar education industry. http://www.dfpe.org/pdf/Steven... Charter schools and TFA are not the magic bullets...they are not the answer although they have a place in the mix...they are, certainly, a hot button item in the education debate that creates conflict and conflict sells newspapers.  You may also want to read http://www.dfpe.org/pdf/Educat... "Education Inc. - How private companies are profiting from Texas public schools" by Abby Rapoport, Texas Observer, September 06, 2011 and http://www.dfpe.org/pdf/Vetera... "Veteran teacher on what 'highly qualified' really means" by Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post, October 18, 2011. I have filed, this morning, a FOIA request for the district certifications, college majors and teaching locations of all the TFA teachers in the district.  My information about their teaching locations comes from the teachers themselves but it's nice to have accurate statistics.

Pickle086
Pickle086

Mr. MacN,

Can you provide proof that they are at Book T. or W.T. White? You seem to have a lot of pent up anger towards TFA and your copy-and-pasted comments across all blogs shows it. You continuously bring up that you would rather have a 20 year master certified teacher, but does certification and pure experience make them better? Possibly, but who is to say. Have you visited a TFA classroom?

Either way, this argument is shifted in the entirely wrong direction. Rather than focusing on retaining TFA teachers, Dallas ISD needs to focus on retaining top, effective teachers regardless of group affiliation if there is going to be hope for the district. 

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