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Monday, March 19, 2012

Taking Education Reform Advice From the Blethens Is Like Taking Sex Advice From Rick Santorum

Posted by on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 6:02 PM

Sorry to repeat the joke in the headline, but could the Seattle Times editorial board be any less informed about the subjects on which they choose to opine? For example, this data-less blowjob of Teach for America:

A district often accused of not making data-driven decisions is smart to wait until the end of the contract and measure TFA's effectiveness. Until then, rely on parents' and principals' up-close observations.

It is too early to glean information about TFA's impact from standardized test scores or other data. But TFA teachers appear to be doing the right things...

That's right, a school board accused of not making data-driven decisions should instead rely on anecdotes and appearances, instead of, you know, peer-reviewed research. Why? Because as the corporate reformers feeding the editorial boards their talking points surely know, there's not a single peer-reviewed study that finds that TFA has a positive impact on students. In fact, most of the studies find that TFA and other under-certified teachers do worse than veteran or traditionally certified teachers:

"In reading, mathematics, and language, the students of certified teachers outperformed students of under-certified teachers, including the students of the TFA teachers, by about 2 months on a grade equivalent scale. Students of under-certified teachers make about 20% less academic growth per year than do students of teachers with regular certification."
The effectiveness of Teach for America and other under-certified teachers on student academic achievement: A case of harmful public policy. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10 (37).

"When compared to college-recommended teachers, alternative-route teachers often provide smaller gains in student achievement, at least initially, and for ELA it takes longer to catch up."
— How changes in entry requirements alter the teacher workforce and affect student achievement. MIT's journal of Education Finance and Policy, 1 (2): 176-216.

"Uncertified TFA teachers showed significant negative effects on student achievement in five of six estimates..."
Does teacher preparation matter? Evidence about teacher certification, Teach for America, and teacher effectiveness. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13 (42).

TFA doesn't release its full research, though that doesn't stop it from making extraordinary unsupported claims based on bogus "Value Added Measurements." So no... after two decades of TFA nationwide it's not "too early to glean information about TFA's impact." And it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that, on average, trained, certified teachers do a better job than untrained, uncertified ones. They may cost more money, sure, but as in most things, you get what you pay for.

The Seattle Times closes its information-free editorial by belittling TFA critics for their "scathing blog posts and anti-TFA speeches." Heaven forfend! But as Gary Rubinstein, a 20-year TFA alum-turned-critic, blogging on TFA's own website explains, there are good reasons why people have started hating on TFA:

The big reason, though, that people who hate TFA is the way TFA benefits from actions that hurt kids and teachers. When a school gets shut down unfairly, a TFA alum will be there to start a charter school in the old building. When a school fires half its staff for a ‘turnaround,’ TFA licks its chops as they get to populate these schools with more TFAers. Meanwhile, TFA must know, deep down, that shutting down schools and turning them around doesn’t work. TFAs silence on these issues is another thing that people hate about TFA. Surely some of these schools employ plenty of TFAers and have administrators who were TFAers who get fired because of these. Destructive corporate reforms seem to benefit TFA and nobody else. And TFA could do the right thing and speak up against this, but they don’t since these reforms are the source of much of their money and power.

If the editors' goal was truly to improve education, then they'd be passionately and relentlessly advocating for the one education reform that's been irrefutably proven to work: Universal preschool. But if their goal is merely to punish teachers and bust their unions, then all this advocacy for TFA and charter schools makes perfect sense.

 

Comments (15) RSS

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15
@2, I was just going to say the same thing. Goldy, I'm not questioning the value of universal Pre-k but when I google it there's a wide variety of articles both for and against it. If you're going to blast the Seattle Times for fact free writing the least you could do is link your recommendation to a study supporting your statement.
Posted by Root on March 20, 2012 at 2:15 PM · Report this
14
Andrew Hartman, history professor at Illinois State University did a review of the TFA program and found less than stellar results. One of these days, the real teachers in this country are going to stand up and say Enough! I can't wait. I'm so tired of people with no education experience thinking they have all the answers and impose them on the real educators. I have no problem with accountability, but I can't see MD's allowing non MD's to regulate their profession.
Posted by kevin11 on March 20, 2012 at 1:22 PM · Report this
13
So how are we spending the money to get TFA corps members? I mean as a society and total dollars dumped into TFA.

(1) TFA CMs are costing Seattle and Huntsville Alabama a cool $4,000 / CM / year sent to TFA.

(2) The total annual budget of TFA divided by CMs teaching in schools = $20,000+ / Corps Member (2010 data)

So where is TFA getting all this money to run its operation?

Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the Federal Government are some of the funders.

TFA once only provided CMs only to districts with severe teacher shortages ... but now its like a Giant Pyramid Ponzie scheme taking advantage of High Minority / High Poverty populations in places that can be tricked into giving it $4,000 per corps member per year.

But Seattle had the Seattle Foundation headed by Norm Rice providing the $4,000 bucks per CM for 2011-2012. --- put the Seattle Foundation on the donor list.

Hey put the UW on the donor list as well .... for creating and running its only alternative certification program, which is 100% TFA. Others seeking alternative certification need to look elsewhere ... only "5 week" TFA newbies allowed at UW. A entire program is now in place serving less than 15 corps members.
Posted by WestSeattleDan on March 20, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 12
Word up. Americorps ftw.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on March 20, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
11
"A more realistic choice would be TFA of veteran teachers with larger class sizes."

Ah, but Bill Gates tells us - all of us but his own children - that class size DOESN'T matter if you are a good teacher.

Back to TFA, you can look no further than their latest "announcement" that they have joined hands with a charter company, Imagine. Go Google Imagine and see what a terrible charter group they are and the tactics they are using.

TFA is a costly distraction for Seattle Schools.

The value and the best choice? Americorps members who are in our low-performing schools every day, tutoring and mentoring. THEY are making a difference, not TFA.
Posted by westello on March 20, 2012 at 8:36 AM · Report this
Catherwood 10
@8 WTH are you talking about? It's not like TFA recruits come for free -- in fact, each one of them comes with an extra four grand on the price tag, a "finder's fee" paid to TFA every single year. The choice is indeed between hiring a certified teacher, or a TFA recruit. They may be fine upstanding young people, but they can't teach their way out of a paper bag. And expecting these total noobs to come in and magically close our racial achievement gap is ludicrous.
Posted by Catherwood on March 20, 2012 at 8:17 AM · Report this
Goldy 9
@8: Right, because there's a limited amount of money we can possibly spend on education, so unless we bust the unions and replace them with untrained, uncertified teachers, class sizes will continue to rise. Or something.

In fact, TFA keeps growing and class sizes keep rising. Don't see how TFA is fixing this problem.
Posted by Goldy on March 20, 2012 at 6:59 AM · Report this
The Third Rail 8
My problem with the argument here is that you're offering a false choice, TFA or veteran, "traditionally certified" teachers. A more realistic choice would be TFA of veteran teachers with larger class sizes.

How would increased class sizes impact the performance that these veteran teachers are seeing? It's a question worth asking, given that if you did away with programs like TFA, this is the actual result you would see.
Posted by The Third Rail on March 20, 2012 at 1:26 AM · Report this
7
I think you could rationally add publicola to the list of media mouthpieces for the gates foundation "ed reform" agenda. They love charters almost as much as the seattle times. Obviously not as big an outlet, but an example of supposedly liberal orgs promoting "ed reform" without any evidence they know what they are talking about.

It's just frustrating to read this crap about how to fix education without ever getting a reference to the supreme court ruling saying we have to increase funding to education. It's like a unanimous decision from this supreme court is just irrelevant. Instead we are debating, TFA, charters and whether to reduce bargaining rights... WTF
Posted by cub on March 19, 2012 at 10:22 PM · Report this
6
It's all about the money. One need only to look at Utah, Arizona, and Florida as prime examples of places where profit has taken over the K-12 system.
Posted by StuckInUtah on March 19, 2012 at 10:02 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 5

It's pretty clear to all but the slowest readers that someone wants a piece of the Educational Market. So, it's obvious that that Gate Foundation and their media voice the Seattle Times are going to keep pounding away on this issue until they can get what they want -- access to the billions in taxpayer money that now is controlled by local school boards, state government and the teachers union. To that end, we'll hear all about "innovative charter schools" and any other con they can manufacturer until they get to Their Money.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on March 19, 2012 at 9:26 PM · Report this
Goldy 4
@2: The preschool piece is written and in the hopper, but won't see the light of day for another week. That said there are plenty of peer reviewed studies that demonstrate the benefits of high quality early education, and broad bipartisan acknowledgement that it works.
Posted by Goldy on March 19, 2012 at 9:24 PM · Report this
3
Says the Red Sea pedestrian who sends his precious angel to mercer island for school, not Rainoer Beach HS. Only good republican goyem for Goldysteinberg's little angel.

So Goldboy, why won't u send little Goldylocks to Rainier Beach, your assigned school?
Posted by Sigma Alpha Moo on March 19, 2012 at 8:27 PM · Report this
2
As irrefutably proven to work as preschool may be, you might wanna provide some data or at least a link to back up that claim, unless you like being a hypocrite in a post about journalistic integrity. Also, preschool is just daycare hosted by the public school system. You get about the same educational value gnawing on a block of lead all day long.
Posted by Brandon J. on March 19, 2012 at 8:05 PM · Report this
1
If the Seattle Times was serious about improving schools and student achievement, they would be relentless in the pursuit of ample funding, starting with our neediest communities. They would demand professionals be included in every conversation on what needs to change. Instead they are mindlessly pushing the ideas and anti-union drivel of millionaires and billionaires club who don't want to pay their fair share.
Posted by 1971 on March 19, 2012 at 7:31 PM · Report this

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