MEDIA WATCH: Tell us about 'The Irreplaceables...' and all those other self-promoting FNG teachers so we can write an editorial about your 'Study'... Novel (but not new) Astroturf group — the New Teacher Project — dumps its latest 'Study' in the corporate media, proving FNG teachers are THE BEST

As most people learned the hard way, millionaires, billionaires, and CEOs never practice what they preach unless they are facing indictment. In their blood, bones and DNA they know that more is better, most is best and, as anyone who has ever worked out with Rahm Emanuel (who “earned” $18 million during his three brief years in the private sector as a “relationship banker”) would assure you, BIGGEST IS BEST.

After a brief and unsuccessful attempt at inner city teaching as part of Teach for America (she managed to goose up test scores, according to her version of the narrative, but had such bad classroom management that she resorted to taping the mouths of her second graders shut with duct tape), Michelle Rhee (above) was rewarded for her ruthless ambition with the top job at the so-called "New Teacher Project," one of the many groups funded by the plutocracy to provide studies proving what they want proven. Rhee's work at the New Teacher Project was to prove that new teachers are better than veteran teachers, the newest being the best. This has been part of the plutocracy's drive to reduce teacher pay and make public school teaching, at least in the inner city, a de-skilled job based on a kind of piecework.Except when it comes to FNG teachers. When it comes to novices in the classrooms of the inner city (but not generally in the wealthy suburbs which serve the children of the rich in the Chicago area) these same guys and gals are preaching that less is more and least is best. By their logic, corporate profits (and CEO pay) should always be higher. But for teachers, lower is better and least is the goal. And they always have “studies” to prove it and professors and other pundits to quote about it all. The latest of these "studies" comes from the infamous "New Teacher Project" and is now being touted as promoting the claim that novice teachers are "irreplaceable" (as a Tribune editorial on August 5 termed it).

So in August 2012, it’s time to re-welcome "The New Teacher Project" and all their self-promoting great teachers (how do you know they are great? Just ask them) to help frame the discussion of the future of public education in Chicago and Illinois. Some of us thought that the anti-union teachers wouldn't be rolled out until the September strike (except maybe for a lurid letter or two), but this is a pre-emptive bit of nonsense.

There is almost a locust-like predictability to the arrival of a latest Astrofurf (phony grass roots) group on the Chicago schools scene. Here is how it works: A previously unknown person or group is trumpeted in the Op Ed pages of the Sun-Times. Simultaneously, the Tribune editorial board thunders editorial approval from its ever-shrinking Olympus. The Tribune and Sun-Times then throw in some "news" coverage, preaching yet another version of the official Party Line. In a way, the history has been fun. For a century, the ruling class spoke through the moths of the leaders of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, whose bona fides were taken for granted by the people who own Chicago's press and think they own the way the city should think. Whether it was R. Eden Martin or Tyrone Fahner, the Civic Committee served as the Zeus of the Voice of God as far as Chicago's plutocracy was concerned.

But as corporate "school reform" became more and more controversial, heavily subsidized grass rootsy groups and grouplets had to be pushed out front as camouflage for the billionaires' and millionaires' opinions. So in 2009, Chicago was introduced to a full-grown group calling itself "Advance Illinois" and preaching about what Chicago (and Illinois) really needed (and if they could get away with it, providing "survey data" about what we "wanted" as well) for the public schools. For a few years, Robin Steans, the self-appointed chieftain of "Advance Illinois," was the designated source of quotes and punditry. Advance Illinois had a brief half life in the Astroturf world before it faded into a routine quote ("...said Robin Steans of the school reform group Advance Illinois....") in every "news" story that came out on CPS. By late 2010, the constant churn of leaders and spokespersons for "Stand for Children" was on the scene. "Stand" (as it preciously refers to itself) gained immediate recognition from some Illinois political leaders and from the city's corporate media elite despite a lack of any local reality. Stand for Children landed in Chicago to stardom the help of nearly $3 million raised during the last four months of 2010 from the likes of local plutocrats Penny Pritzker (and a half dozen other Pritzkers and semi-Pritzkers), Hedge Fund billionaire Ken Griffin, union hating mogul Sam Zell, and a handful of Penny's plutocratic neighbors, the Crowns. The messy internal realities of "Stand for Children" were obscured by the more messy bragging of Stand for Children's national chieftain Jonah Edelman. Jonah Edelman, of the prominent corporate "reform" family, the Edelmans. (Mom's saving children. Brother Josh ran the charter school juggernaut in Chicago for years before returning to Washington, D.C. to another job in the privatization business) took his preening ego three steps too far in an "Aspen Ideas Festival" forum chaired by Chicago billionaire James ("Jim" to his friends) Crown, and most smart Illinois politicians after that treated Stand for Children like it had leprosy. By the first months of the mayoralty of Rahm Emanuel, the proliferation of Astrotuf was as quick as the looming increase in drug gang murders that Rahm's version of City Hall and Police "reform" would also bring to Chicago. Rent A Preacher and Rent A Protest groups and individuals were everywhere, until just about all of them were caught taking a few bucks from one of Rahm's surrogates or clones. Then came "Democrats for Education Reform" (DFER) and all the other spawn of that group (one that bought some radio ads before the teacher strike authorization vote calls itself "Education Reform NOW!"), "Students for Education Reform" (which seems to mean "college students" who haven't thought about this too much) and for all we know dozens of other fill-in-the-blanksy outfits all of which are "For Education Reform."

And so over the first weekend of August 2012, another one arrived, bells ringing and whistles blowing from Chicago to New York — the NEW TEACHER PROJECT. Now the New Teacher Project has been around behind the scenes for a few years, but they burst out like the seven-year locusts, so to speak, a month before Chicago's teacher strike begins to remind anyone who still pays attention to this kind of propaganda that "New Teachers" and THE BEST TEACHERS and they have both "DATA" and "STUDIES" to prove it.

Hence, in one four-day period, readers of the corporate propaganda press learned that the New Teachers Project knew that the best teachers (for Chicago at least) were the FNG novices who were being let go enrollment dropped. With lightning speed, a Tribune editorial, a Sun-Times Op Ed, and down the road a New York Times editorial all reported this fact, in case anyone missed it. Less is more.

Least is best.

At least when it comes to experience and advanced training and study improving things in the classroom in the person of teachers — in Chicago.


'The Irreplaceables' How CPS can keep its best teachers, August 5, 2012

An eye-opening new study crossed our desk on why so many "irreplaceable" school teachers leave the classroom. It should be a must-read for Chicago school and union leaders as they bargain over a new teachers contract.

TNTP, formerly The New Teacher Project, studied 90,000 teachers in four large, diverse urban school districts. (Chicago wasn't included.) Researchers found that about 20 percent of those teachers were so successful at reaching students they were nearly impossible to replace.

In a single school year, great teachers "help students learn two to three additional months' worth of math and reading compared to the average teacher, and five to six months more compared to low-performing teachers," the study found. Those students are less likely to become teen parents and more likely to go to college and earn higher salaries as adults.

Terrific teachers make a huge difference in their students' education and in their lives. But they're not staying around to do that.

TNTP found that half of the "irreplaceable" teachers leave the classroom within the first five years on the job. The nation's 50 largest school districts lose some 10,000 great teachers every year. Poor teachers? They stick around, and that's not good. The study says: "40 percent of teachers with more than seven years of experience are less effective at advancing academic progress than the average first-year teacher."

Treating good and bad teachers alike is a fine way to be sure the Chicago Public Schools system doesn't improve.

How can Chicago's schools retain the best teachers? Some tips:

• Pay superior teachers more for performance, not simply for seniority or advanced degrees. In the current contract negotiations, CPS wisely proposes a merit pay system that would eliminate the "step" and "lane" system in which teachers are automatically rewarded for adding another year of seniority ("step" increases) and earning advanced degrees or certificates ("lane" raises). Unfortunately, CTU defends the one-size-fits-all system that does nothing to help encourage the best teachers to stay.

We'd heed the warning of TNTP President Timothy Daly: "There has to be a way for the best teachers to make more money faster, or we will continue to lose them."

• Make retaining star teachers a priority for principals. The study is blunt: Too many principals fail at keeping their stars. Too many principals mount a half-hearted effort to retain all teachers, good and bad, under the mistaken notion that most teachers will improve given enough time and training. But struggling teachers rarely improve significantly, even when principals make "teacher development" a priority, the study said. Astonishing statistic: After three years of teacher tutoring, the average ineffective veteran teacher remained worse than the average first-year teacher, according to the study.

• Give principals more flexibility to hire the best teachers. CPS recently agreed to hire 477 more elementary school teachers to handle the longer day this school year. But principals won't be free to find the best teachers. They'll be forced to hire from a pool of CPS teachers who were laid off in recent years. That's a big win for the union, but it doesn't guarantee that kids will find the best teachers at the head of the class come fall. Principals have to be able to hire the best of the best.

• Pay stand-out teachers more for taking on new responsibilities or handling tougher assignments. Many "irreplaceable" teachers report they would have stayed if they'd had the opportunity to take on leadership roles and earn extra money, the study said. CPS' merit pay proposal would do that.

Last year CPS CEOJean-Claude Brizardtold us his goal was to install 675 terrific principals and allow them a wide berth to do their jobs. "If I have 675 tremendous principals," Brizard said, "I can sit back and drink coffee."

Not quite. He needs to make sure those 675 principals get the training and authority and flexibility they need to hire and retain superstar teachers. A new contract that ties their hands will not serve students.

CPS has irreplaceables in every school. Teachers, students, parents know who they are. Let's see a new contract that underscores how incredibly valuable these teachers are. A contract that surrounds those great teachers with other great teachers. A contract that ensures principals can offer powerful incentives to keep those teachers where they belong, at the head of the class.


August 7, 2012 at 2:41 PM

By: john kugler

The Queen of Duct Tape... If kids don't listen, tape their mouths shut

Tape their mouths shut! Yea, that's the ticket!

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