Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Colleges of Education Fail When They Join with TFA

University of Minnesota, Do NOT Partner with Teach for America

On the surface, Teach for America is one of the greatest ironies of the neo-liberal education reform movement.  These so-called reformers yell and scream about the poor state of teaching in our public schools, and their greatest solution is to put the most inadequately trained, and inexperienced 22 year-olds in front of the students with the greatest needs.

The truth of course is TFA and their billionaire financiers are not here to save public schools, they're here to privatize them.  While it is somewhat understandable that idealistic young college students might believe joining Teach for America is a way to help, it is inexcusable that the administrators in charge of our Colleges of Education would share this naivete.

Teach for America's dysfunctional existence is enabled every time a politician hands them money, and even more so, when colleges of education accept some of that money in exchange for offering false credibility to TFA.

Here in Minnesota, Hamline University, a private liberal arts college, was the first to sellout to the neo-liberal reforms and work with TFA recruits.  Now the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities is looking to get in on the money. 

We are fortunate here in Minnesota to have a governor who does not subscribe to the neo-liberal agenda and who believes in public education.  He recently took the bold step of line-item vetoing a section of a bill that would have given state funding to TFA.  However, TFA is flush with cash from the federal government and wealthy foundations and they are asking the University of Minnesota to "partner" with them.

Jean Quam, the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota appears ready to accept this "partnership" and all the funding that comes with it.  Recently, the college held a couple of meetings to discuss working with TFA.  Reports from PEJAM members who attended the meetings suggest that Dean Quam has made up her mind, and wants the College to accept the partnership with TFA.

Just as PEJAM helped in the grassroots effort to call on Governor Dayton to veto the TFA funding, we must now build the grassroots effort to call on the University of Minnesota to reject any support or relationship with TFA.

Here is our petition statement:
We call on the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities to NOT partner with Teach for America (TFA).  With greater focus on the teaching profession and greater calls for thoroughly trained teachers in every classroom, it is unconscionable to have one of Minnesota's premiere universities facilitating a short cut to the classroom.  TFA was originally said to be a stop-gap for schools and districts with chronic teacher shortages.  There is no teacher shortage in Minnesota, and TFA will never be a means to improve public education.  Minnesota deserves fully-trained and licensed teachers in every classroom, not band-aids. 

TFA recruits are inexperienced and most lack a commitment to classroom teaching as a career. Not only are these young TFA members unprepared to be effective teachers, 70% to 80% leave the classroom within the first three years, creating a revolving door of inexperienced teachers for children who need the best teachers.  TFA also infringes on students’ civil rights, and does not increase academic achievement. TFA places the most inexperienced recruits in front of students who have historically been the most underserved in schools - minority, poor, and special education students.  They mislead the public by conflating learning and academic success with a test score. While test scores may or may not be indicative of the achievement of any individual student at a given point in time; education is much more than a test score and test prep.

A University of Minnesota Partnership would only help Teach for America displace career educators. TFA destroys school and community cohesion by replacing experienced, career educators with inexperienced, ineffective recruits. TFA requires partnering districts to contractually guarantee teaching spots for its recruits, thus forcing cash strapped districts to layoff experienced, career educators.

The University's ultimate responsibility in training Pre-K - 12 educators is to the students those teachers will face each day.  To that end, we call on the University of Minnesota to reject any partnership with Teach for America and maintain its commitment to develop in-depth knowledge and teaching skills through its graduate-level program.

Please click on this link and sign our petition.  Teachers here in Minneapolis are telling Dean Quam they will not accept student teacher from the U of MN if that agree to work with TFA.  Please add any additional reasons the University of Minnesota should reject this relationship.

Posted by: Robert Panning-Miller

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Truth Behind Reform Speak: Minneapolis Version

The Truth Behind Reform Speak: Minneapolis Version

This week Minneapolis Public Schools unveiled its latest version of these reforms under the title, “The Time is Now to Shift.”  The Superintendent invited “all stakeholders” to come and hear the “new” plan and get involved.  Unfortunately, the great unveiling took place at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning, which meant teachers and most parents were unable to attend.  Perhaps we are not “stakeholders.”

I think it is important for those of us fighting the corporate reformers, and fighting for strong public schools, to recognize the reform plans in all their various disguises.  While the Superintendent’s speech detailing “the shift” is now available on district’s website, PEJAM is providing the corporate reformer’s outline version of the speech without the extra packaging.

Watch for a version of this near you!

Title: The Time has Come to Double-down on Corporate Reforms! (Call it a “shift”)

Part 1: The current situation according to Gates, Broad, Walton, etc.
·      Generous Greeting of fellow reformers
·      Platitudes
·      Outline speech
·      Platitudes
·      Platitudes
·      Platitudes
·      Platitudes
·      Claim we have tried the “extremes” of top-down and bottom-up operations and declare that both have failed.  We must now take a  “new” approach which means going with the only tried and failed top-down structure, but call it a “partnership.”
·      Share statistics without any meaningful context
·      Platitudes
·      Throw in backhanded praise for teachers
·      Platitudes
·      Declare test-prep charter schools as success stories, and that that will “soon be our norm.”
·      Throw in business jargon
·      Quote Martin Luther King Jr.

Part 2: The “New” Plan
·      Emphasize high standards for all
·      Explain how we will fix teachers
o   Implement flawed and burdensome teacher evaluation and VAM
o   Implement a test-driven, teacher-proof, standardized curriculum (Minneapolis calls it “Focused Instruction”)
o   Explain why there needs to be a strong leader in the “partnership,” and that this will be accomplished by following a TFA approach to principals.  Use a double-dose of TFA jargon for the title of the new principal training program
·      Include a reference to “choice.”
·      Highlight of the plan is a “Strong Partnership.”  (definition of Strong Partnership: a relationship in which one side concedes that the district “partner” is always right, doesn’t argue with the district “partner,” and always does what they are told to do.)

Part 3: Solve Problems by Gutting the Teachers’ Contract
·      Cut Seniority and Tenure Rights!
·      Tagline – “It’s time to shift.” (Wait for applause!)
·      Take away more of the teachers’ personal and family time without concern for burn-out and without fair compensation.
·      Tagline – “It’s time to shift.” (Wait for applause!)
·      Create teacher hierarchy that pits teachers against one another and call it a “career ladder” (because teachers go into teaching hoping to climb away from the students).
·      Tagline – “It’s time to shift.” (Wait for applause!)
·      Cut teacher and staff pay and benefits.  Introduce a merit pay system, but call it being a “good steward of resources.”
·      Tagline – “It’s time to shift.” (Wait for applause!)

Part 4: The Rollout and Big Finish
·      Implement the draconian reforms, first, on the schools with the highest need kids and most beaten-down teachers.
·      “Invite” people to “partner” with you by following your plan.
·      Platitudes
·      Platitudes
·      Message of Urgency
·      Appeal to Emotions
·      Tagline – “Together…we must shift!” (Wait for applause)
·      Wait for results…
·      Wait for results…
·      Wait…