Dallas ISD Trustees, Principals Express Their Deep and Profound Love for Teach for America

Miguel_Solis UPDATED.jpeg
Miguel Solis was one of the first TFA corps members in the DISD, at Marsh Middle School.
Three hours after their start time, the Dallas ISD board finally got around to discussing whether or not to extend the district's contract with Teach for America -- which would seem like a no-brainer after you read this 2010 Atlantic piece about TFA or this January 2011 study by the University of Texas at Dallas or after you talk to DISD principals who have (or want, and they do want) TFA corps members in their schools. And trustees didn't have a single negative thing to say about TFA -- even those, like Carla Ranger, said to be opposed to spending up to $3 million over the next five years to bring in an average of 100 teachers a year if there's room.

Edwin Flores looked at those math and science numbers we showed you last week and reminded his colleagues: TFA corps members "outperform two-thirds of all our teachers in math and science." Bruce Parrott looked at that chart comparing TFA newcomers to their regular counterparts and acknowledged: "I'm impressed."

Nancy Bingham brought up the common complaint about TFA teachers -- that they're only committed to serving two years in the district -- and brushed it aside. "The chances of [student in elementary schools] having the same teacher two years in a row doesn't happen," she said. "Usually one year is all a child has. The longevity might be important for the stability of the faculty, but the impact on a child is of such high quality."

Eric Cowan agreed. And Mike Morath noted that when you drill down into the numbers, there's just an "eight percent spread between TFA teachers and regular teachers" when it comes to their departing the district.

DISD board president Lew Blackburn tried to find someone, anyone, to point out the negatives. "Anything you don't like?" he asked the room, finding not a single soul willing to raise a hand. "I wish we could get more," said Bingham, who received murmurs of agreement.

Several district principals with TFA cohorts attended the briefing, proselytizing on behalf of TFA: "They raise the bar." "They set the tone [when it came to] work ethic." "My veteran teachers welcome Teach for America. They wanted them to step in and become the department chairs." Kyle Richardson, in his first year at Woodrow, said that when he worked with TFA cohorts at Marsh Middle School, "it was a truly transformational experience."

And, when the board gets around to voting on the contract in a couple of weeks, that experience will continue for at least five more years.

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22 comments
anominus ?
anominus ?

Omg that was my 8th grade u.s history teacher ! such a great teacher , im useing the skills he tuaght me in my freshmen year and im doing awesome c:

East Dallasite
East Dallasite

Edwin Flores and his North Dallas backed cronies on the board, the Greater Dallas Chamber, the Dallas Citizen's Council, DISD administrators and principals love TFA teachers for a variety of reasons unrelated to test scores or student achievement.

- 1st and 2nd year teachers receive significantly lower salaries than veteran teachers. It is financially beneficial for the district to perpetuate the high turnover rate in DISD.

- Inexperienced TFA teachers are less likely to object to mismanagement which is a major reason principals love them. (They won't say this in a board briefing but it is the truth.)

- The overwhelming majority of TFA teachers are not married and do not have children and therefore don't have conflicts when they are asked to arrive early or stay late (often with little or no prior warning).

We also know that TFA teachers are given preferential treatment by DISD principals and administrators. It is very easy to manipulate a teacher's success or failure when measured through CEIs. This is done through screening the students assigned to a teacher, giving preferred teachers classrooms instead of forcing them to float from room to room or teach in a portable and ensuring they get additional supplies and materials. Trustee Flores can tout the "data" all he wants but it doesn't stand up to close scrutiny.

For more information on CEI problems see DISD's Performance Pay Project Final Presentation (September 20, 2011) prepared by Battelle for Kids. The district paid Battell to conduct this research.

- "There is an UNACCEPTABLY" high correlation between achievement (status) and effectiveness indices as reported by the District's value-added model."

- "The net effect is that the value-added model currently in place does not differentiate between achievement and growth - either for teachers or at the campus level."

- "The current model requires complete reconstruction and not incremental improvement."

Despite the research, Flores and the other Trustees are basing their decision largely on the CEIs. DISD will continue to throw out the veterans to bring in younger, cheaper teachers. Look carefully at the teachers designated "Excess" and you'll see a pattern - they are the older, experienced and more expensive teachers.

JOSHUA
JOSHUA

THE ARNE DUNCAN playlike teacher version of the PEACE CORPS.  What a hoot and a travesty.

Frank
Frank

To clarify the data, first year TFA teachers scored better than two thirds of ALL teachers (new and veteran) in math and science across the district.  If we truly want to improve student performance, how could we possibly think that discontinuing this program was a good idea?  $3,000 per teacher per year is an absolute bargain....these teachers are performing at a level significantly higher than some veteran teachers costing substantially more.  We have thousands of great teachers across the district....but we have 10,000 teaching slots and everyone of them needs to be filled with the best educator we can find.  Let's stop distinguishing between TFA and non-TFA...its not good for the culture of the schools to create this separation any more than it would be wise to try and publicly distinguish between teachers who come from x school of education vs. y school of education.  It doesn't matter.  They are all teacher pipelines.  What matters is "can they teach"?  The data clearly says yes.  The principals clearly say yes.  If we care about students first and foremost, let's move on.  

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Personally I would rather see the additional monies spent to keep librarians...more bang for the buck in my opinion.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

The overlooked question is this:  why don't HP, Southlake, etc have to pay a headhunter fee to TFA to get qualified, enthusiastic teachers?

Why do DISD taxpayers have to take the TFA hit?Who do DISD students have see part of their money spent on TFA?

We need TFA because of DISD mismanagement.

We need TFA because of race-based, crony, and nepotism hiring--especially when it comes to principals and off-campus personnel.

We actually need TFA-trained people in admin and trustee positions.Change at the teacher level is not enough.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

Again, if I read all this right, they are comparing TFA teachers to other novice teachers, not experienced teachers. 

So when Flores says, "TFA corps members "outperform two-thirds of all our teachers in math and science," that isn't accurate is it?Not taking anything away, but it's important to state what is actually being compared. 

Ross3700
Ross3700

What company would put together a five-year plan based on ONE year of data? 

A Concerned Parent
A Concerned Parent

Never have I seen so much protest over a teacher pipeline that comprises less than 2% of DISD's total teaching force. When are we going to start reading comments that talk about what is best for student achievement (vs. a litany of excuses to soothe ineffective teacher egos)? Great teachers want to be surrounded by other great teachers. They don't care "why" a younger teacher might be more able to be highly committed with great energy. Let's talk about what is best for our children, shall we?

Cares About DISD
Cares About DISD

Unfortunately, we need TFA because the attractiveness of teaching in low income schools is not currently high among high performing college graduates.  This is not a DISD problem but a national problem....only 14% of new teachers in low income schools come from the top third of their college graduating class per a recent study by McKinsey.  Until we as a nation decide to pay high quality teachers the salary they deserve and give them a professional career path similar to that found in other industries (and in education in other countries), we will need to rely on programs like TFA.

Edwin Flores
Edwin Flores

Bill:I never add to blogs, but I want to make sure that the correct information is available. 

My statement is correct, the CEI data reported yesterday compares the TFA Cohort II teachers to ALL teachers in the district, not just first year teachers.

The data from last year'sTFA cohort was also very impressive, but the total number in the evaluation pool last year was too low for the p-value to be significant.  This year the numbers where high enough to make that determination. 

TFA has years worth of data to show the effectiveness of its corps members, the Cohort II data validates and adds to that body of data. 

Finally, I think that the comments from the principals are the most significant because: they are on the front line, they have the experience as teachers and administrators to evaluate the effects of just a handful of TFA teachers, and they listen to our many great teachers who also support the program as one source of great teachers.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

That is correct. But in general, many other studies have shown that TFA corps members outperform teachers with MANY years' worth of experience.

Get a life!
Get a life!

How about you support our community's children instead of mocking them.  I am ashamed to live in a city where comments like that are acceptable.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

You may be a parent, but you know nothing about this. TFA is trying to get its head into  the tent. It is a way to eliminate the higher paying, EXPERIENCED teachers. They want teaching to be like McDonald's. If that is what you want for your school, fine. And we ARE talking aboout WHAT IS BEST. WHAT IS BEST is a stable faculty, one who knows the students and their families, the area and the problems faced there over years.

Do you go to doctors who change out every two years? Lawyers? Cops? Firemen? Let's all change jobs every two years. Let's see what happens then.

East Dallasite
East Dallasite

Is using an irreparably flawed formula (based on DISD's own studies - not simply opinions) to evaluate teachers and determine whether or not DISD commits to a five year, $3 million contract "best for our children"? Is continuing to spend millions upon millions of dollars while laying off hundreds of teachers and increasing class sizes "best for our children"? Start paying attention. DISD has not been about what is "best for our children" for a very long time, especially under the current Board of Trustees.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Trustee Flores---Seriously, you know the CEI is flawed. It is using ten year old census stats. It compares kids based on ZIP CODES, and makes no distinction between between two Hispanic girls, one pregnant and one not, or two African-American boys, one who comes from a stable home, and one who is in foster care for the third time. It does not even separate black kids from those born here from those who came from East Africa four years ago.... I have had a HIGH CEI (4) and a LOW CEI (1) , using the same textbook, same ancillary materials and in the same school. I taught basically the same way--and tweak finer points to bring up my kids to a level of being equal to Highland Park on the TAKS.98.8% of my kids passed the TAKS in 2011, yet my CEI was in the middle, a 3. THAT ALONE proves the uselessness of this. And with respect, sir, the principals are like the ones who sit in the chairs in front of you at meetings. They will tell you what you want to hear. I know, because some of them are frends of mine, and they learned under Moses not to open their mouths in disagreement. After all, they are career climbers, and they want a cushier job downtown someday. They would not DARE to contradict your beliefs. They tell me the TFA teachers are indeed full of energy, but wonder what happens when they leave, as  when the economy improves. They tell me they cannot put them in long term programs, because they don't know if they will be there in two years. Cannot build with temp workers, and this is what they are.  And excuse me, I AM on the front line, not the principals. I am in front of the kids, not our bosses. I am the one who stands for 7 hours a day, making plans, teaching, guiding and helping. I have experience, and that benefits our students. I was a good first year teacher, but now, I am even better. To basically insult the hard-working backbone of the cadre of teachers in DISD is very disappointing, but not surprising. The truly BEST teachers in DISD were the older, experienced ones, but you won't now that, because so many of them have left or retired, because they became disgusted with the lack of appreciation for what they and others like them still here, bring to school every day.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Edwin,First of all, you said yourself that the CEI numbers are flawed so perhaps the data isn't quite so impressive. But setting that aside for the moment, my beef isn't with TFA but with the way the district spends our money.  The additional cost of this program should be subsidized either by TFA itself or by the teachers being certified or by third parties....not by the taxpayers.Mike

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

When I was a new teacher, when I was only 38, I also had more energy. What I did not have was seasoning. My students then did not have a TAKS test, but TAAS. My kids worked hard with me. I spent hours and hours there after school. (Roosevelt). Then, I learned as I got older and got more experience, that those hours and hours could be trimmed and get even better results. I learned how to manage my time and their efforts better.

I also know that many of theTFA's are getting cherry-picked kids for their classes. Nobody will tell you, but I just did. The real troublemakers are sent to the EXPERIENCED teachers' classes. When they do have trouble, they turn to the older teachers, you know, the lazy, good-for-nothings that everyone puts down....  

And not all of the TFA's are shining stars. You have to wonder why their stats show them leaving DISD at a higher rate than nationwide. So, even thse darlings of education see the problems in DISD!!! THAT should tell you something, right?

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Behind every ineffective or awful or abusive or lazy teacher is a principal looking the other way bc it ultimately benefits them to do so.

TFA can be a win-win for many principals:  the school's overall scores may go up and the principal can continue ignoring the bad-teacher-related-to-a-higher-up.

Too bad the kids can't ignore the bad teachers they get stuck with.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

We want to get rid of the bad teachers, too,  because it causes us more work. However, bad training on PDAS and lack of support downtown have created a cadre of paper-pushers, not leaders, in DISD. That is why they love TFA. They work hard and shut up. They know they are leaving in 2-3 years, so they don't take a stand or question anything.

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