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A lesson in ruling class propaganda... Teach for America was always a ruling class and corporate media attack on the nation's real public school teachers, no matter how much hype about Wendy Kopp's so-called 'idealism' infects the corporate media on TFA's 25th anniversary...

Before "Bridgegate" and his blustering threats to "punch" teacher unions in the face, New Jersey's adipositous Governor Chris Christie (above left) was pushing the teacher bashing programs of people like TFA "alum" Cami Anderson (above right). Anderson, with little actual teaching experience, had the TFA brand and so was the best person to become dictator over the Newark, New Jersey public schools when the gubernatorial control escalated under former Newark Mayor Corey Booker. Anderson's lies and arrogance eventually led to her being forced out by the people of Newark following their election of a high school principal, Raz Barake, whom she had persecuted when she was commander in chief of the Newark schools.Anyone who remembers the first breathless announcements that a Princeton senior had discovered the new "secret sauce" for improving America's supposedly "failing" public schools may also remember having said "WTF?!" when the sage of Wendy Kopp and TFA began unfolding, Madison Ave. style, a quarter century ago. The reason is that from the beginning, TFA, like so much corporate bullshit during the Clinton years of the 1990s, was another one of those supposed "reforms" that was aimed at union busing, teacher bashing, etc., etc., etc.

Remember this: The initial Wendy propaganda was based on the fact that the nation's wealthiest and most privileged children -- kids who like Wendy Kopp went to Ivy League and "top" colleges and universities -- were going to save the nation's poorest children by a couple of years of missionary work in the ghettos (before they went into investment banking or "policy" having "paid their dues," idealistically speaking).

And so, as TFA marks (only a few are celebrating) its quarter century point, at least a few pundits and commentators are continuing to challenge all the propaganda surrounding the blue ribbon white shoe outfit.

The latest critique of TFA comes from Non-Profit Quarters, in a delightfully titled essay about the "underwhelming" results TFA has shown in its quarter century of existence. (See below). But as critics have long pointed out, TFA has always devoted more time to marketing and a strategic placement of its alumnae and alumni in positions of power (try and go to a legislative office at the state or national level and not trip over a former TFA "teacher," to cite one example) and not to actually developing people and programs to make the schools of inner city America. (Inner city America was where this reporter taught for 28 years before being fired and blacklisted by corporate America's leading reformers; after I graduated from the University of Chicago and decided that Chicago's inner city high schools were the place do be, despite the violence and sometimes ruthless nastiness of American capitalism...).

Many of us were too busy teaching in the inner city (as I was) when Wendy Kopp's "senior paper" suddenly caused a rush of adulation from several wealthy pundits a quarter century ago. Before you knew it, TFA had more funding than the average inner city high school in Chicago, New York, Baltimore, or D.C. -- and TFA missionaries were being trained in quickie summer programs and sent out to convert the natives to higher scores and the rest of the regime of corporate "reform." Because the average TFA teacher was arrogant enough to believe she (the majority were females) was better than her peers when she walked in the door, the actual ground level realities were confrontational.

But TFA prospered, and over time Wendy Kopp, the TFA chief for most of its history, because a ruling class celebrity, issuing fatuous books based on narratives as simplistic as the notion that five week of summer school could create a superteacher -- provided that the superteacher began in the Ivy League or somewhere else saturated with wealth, privilege, and arrogance.

Part of the reason for the triumph of Teach for America was that for a brief period of time, America's rulers realized that if they promoted a segment of middle class minorities and relentlessly substituted diversity for economic class in discussions of how to make America better, they could spawn a generation of apologists and even rulers who would continue their versions of reality. Among those most privileged by that era were Barack Obama and Cory Booker (above, with protege Cami Anderson). While Obama shot from a privileged scholarship perch at Columbia University, then Harvard Law School, to the White House, Booker moved in the same direction, after briefly serving as the teacher bashing and anti-union mayor of Newark New Jersey. Booker is now a U.S. Senator, although his TFA choice to head Newark's schools, Cami Anderson (above right) was ousted from power there despite her proclaiming over and over and over that her TFA and "diversity" credentials were supposed to mean that Newark's teachers and parents should sit down, shut up, and do what Cami ordered.From the beginning, however, there was a "WTF!?" side to the TFA hype. TFA "teachers" usually had to have their hands held by less privileged veterans when they ran up against the inevitable Motherfucker Moment experienced in the real world of the inner city. (The Motherfucker Moment comes when a gang banger pushes against the mewling teacher and declares, while the tears flow in the front of the classroom, "I RUN THIS MOTHERFUCKER BITCH!" and then sits down laughing...).

TFA, like many of the "paradigm shifters" of the 1990s and early 21st Century, only worked in the imagination of its propagandists. Wherever TFAers were deployed, if they weren't too arrogant, they were lucky to get mentoring and regular support from their peers -- even though most of the peers came out of teacher colleges and were lucky to have walked through the campus of any Ivy League cathedral of privilege, wealth, and preening.

CRITIQUE OF TFA IN NON-PROFIT QUARTERLY...After 25 Years, Teach for America Results are Consistently Underwhelming, By PATRICIA SCHAEFER, September 11, 2015

America has a love-hate relationship with Teach for America. What began as the dream of one idealistic undergraduate in the late 80s is now, some 26 years later, an internationally recognized behemoth in the education reform movement, with more than $200 million (yes, you read that correctly) in investments as of last year.

A recent book, edited by T. Jameson Brewer and Kathleen deMarrais, titled Teach for America Counter-Narratives is the latest to put the organization under scrutiny. In an article this week in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Washington Post columnist Esther J. Cepeda writes about the explosive and jaw-dropping stories written by 20 of TFAs alumni, which she says eviscerate the myth of TFAs unmitigated success. Her takeaway is that the book should be a cautionary tale to those studying the education reform movement. The stories reveal the smoke and mirrors (money and great marketing, in her words) that TFA uses to recruit the best and brightest while convincing their donors and other partners that they are moving the needle on outcomes.

According to its most recent tax return, TFA has total assets of close to half a billion dollars and revenues of more than $330 million, of which about 90 percent comes from government grants and contributions from corporations, foundations and individuals. An organization of this size and stature has an obligation to its constituents to demonstrate its success, and TFA has accumulated years of research findings about its programming, expansion and scale-up efforts. Marty Levine and Ruth McCambridge asked on this site several weeks ago whether Teach for Americas results justify its pillar status.

In 2013, Mathematica Policy Research concluded a federally-funded controlled study of TFA. Comparing TFA secondary math teachers across eight states with a control group of math teachers in the same schools, the study found that, on average, students in TFA classrooms gained the equivalent of an additional 2.6 months of school, as evidenced by end-of-year math assessments. However, two years later, a subsequent Mathematica evaluation was unable to replicate those results.

While the later study concluded that TFA teachers in early primary grades produced roughly 1.3 months of extra reading gains, that good news was overshadowed by the more troubling evidence that an overwhelming majority of TFA staff (87 percent) reported that they did not plan to spend the rest of their career as a classroom teacher or, for that matter, in any education-related career.

TFA takes great pride in how well it prepares its corps members for the classroom (in a smidgen of the time it takes a teacher to train through traditional avenues). Studies published on its website find that TFA corps members are as effective as other teachers in the same schools and that they promote achievement in measures equal or sometimes greater. Two state-wide studies in North Carolina and Tennessee demonstrating TFAs relatively higher effectiveness in teaching STEM content corroborate these findings, although the Tennessee Higher Education Commission report doesnt go much further than stating that TFA teachers tend to be more effective than other beginning teachers.

As NPR correspondents Eric Westervelt and Anya Kamenetz point out, this can be read as either evidence of TFAs superior pedagogy or an indictment of traditional teacher preparation programs. But it should also be noted that some question the reliability of the research itself or claim that even in those limited cases in which TFA shows a positive impact, it is consistently small, and other reform efforts, such universal pre-K, teacher mentoring programs, and smaller class sizes, may have more promise over the long run. The sticking point that returns again and again is that of teacher attrition.

While TFA claims that two-thirds of its alumni have gone on to pursue careers in the education sector, they do not have hard statistics on the number of alumni who have remained full-time classroom teachers for even a minimum period of time. That is a shame, as its an obvious question on peoples minds and would be compelling information. Moreover, its hard to align the two-thirds claim with the overall trend away from the education space cited in Mathematicas most recent study.

While there is little else in terms of concrete student gains, much less long-term, systemic results, whats perhaps most confounding of all is TFAs almost willful refusal to acknowledge the role of state schools of education (which train the majority of public school teachers) or its very partner schools, as allies in reform. The more one reads from those who have gone through the experience, the more apparent this becomes, with non-TFA faculty regarded as the problem that TFA must come in and fix. While its clear the majority of the TFA teachers and staff are sincere, smart, and hard-working, a corporate reputation too often deemed exclusionary and imperious precedes them, a reputation that seems to have fossilized despite numerous attempts at rebranding over the years.

So, for instance, while TFA has (wisely) moved its narrative beyond a rehashing of its early history and founder, conspicuously missing from the stakeholders it chooses to represent in the present dayits core members, alumni, students, and the more elusive communityare the very faculty and administrators of the schools they serve. Apart from national surveys that TFA commissions to query principals about their satisfaction with TFA faculty (consistently good), there is remarkably little testimony available from veteran teachers, guidance counselors, parents, and other school stakeholders about TFAs ultimate impact on whole school environments.

Similarly, a five-minute video on TFAs website focusing on greater New Orleans is astonishingly self-referential, attributing a disproportionate share of credit to itself for the turnarounds in that city. (While [TFA] was expanding its footprint, the community has seen rapid growth in student achievement.) While its footprint has indeed grown six-fold, the growth filled a notable vacuum resulting from the systematic firing of 7,500 public school faculty, and TFA teachers now make up 20 percent of the citys teaching force. No mention is made of the hundreds of civic leaders, educators and othersfor better or worsewho stepped up to reinvent the system in the disasters aftermath. And it should be pointed out that many questions remain as to how successful the Recovery School District has been. As reported recently in the New York Times, there is perhaps no topic of the last 10 years as polarizing.

At the time of this reporting, Matthew Kramer, appointed co-CEO of TFA two years ago, announced he was stepping down and handing over the reins to his counterpart, Elisa Villanueva Beard. I will leave to my colleagues in the field the question of what prompted TFA to experiment with a co-leadership model in the midst of an expansion effort unprecedented in its pace and scale. Like all other news coming out of Teach for America, it, too, will be closely examined.

In the meantime, the question of whether TFA is living up to its mission to enlist, develop, and mobilize future leaders to strengthen the movement for educational equity remains an unanswered one. With more than $75 million coming in from government at last count and another $220 million from the philanthropic community taking advantage of the charitable gift deduction, we should be seeing more evidence of long-term student gains and far more alumni continuing their impassioned work in the classroom.

Perhaps TFAs real problem is that it has simply not paid close enough attention to the final core value cited in its literature, that of respect and humility.Patricia Schaefer

ABOUT PATRICIA SCHAEFER. Patricia Schaefer is a philanthropic and communications strategist with more than twenty-five years of executive and board experience with foundations, nonprofits, schools and NGOs.

DIANE RAVITCH NOTED ON SEPTEMBER 13, 2015...

Nonprofit Quarterly: TFA Has Produced 25 Years of Hype and Disappointment

by dianeravitch

Patricia Schaeffer, a consultant to philanthropies, reviews Teach for America's 25 years of promises and concludes that they have not been fulfilled. To draw thousands of bright young people into the classroom for a commitment of only two years, having only five weeks training, is not sufficient to close the achievement gap or to change American education in any significant way.

The many studies of TFA's "effectiveness" conflict about whether its recruits raise scores more or less than other new teachers. No one, however, has ever demonstrated that TFA has closed the achievement gap anywhere. Or ever will.

Schaeffer writes:

"America has a love-hate relationship with Teach for America. What began as the dream of one idealistic undergraduate in the late 80s is now, some 26 years later, an internationally recognized behemoth in the education reform movement, with more than $200 million (yes, you read that correctly) in investments as of last year.

"A recent book, edited by T. Jameson Brewer and Kathleen deMarrais, titled 'Teach for America Counter-Narratives' is the latest to put the organization under scrutiny. In an article this week in the 'Las Vegas Review-Journal,' Washington Post columnist Esther J. Cepeda writes about the explosive and jaw-dropping stories written by 20 of TFAs alumni, which she says eviscerate the myth of TFAs unmitigated success. Her takeaway is that the book should be a cautionary tale to those studying the education reform movement. The stories reveal the smoke and mirrors (money and great marketing, in her words) that TFA uses to recruit the best and brightest while convincing their donors and other partners that they are moving the needle on outcomes.

"According to its most recent tax return, TFA has total assets of close to half a billion dollars and revenues of more than $330 million, of which about 90 percent comes from government grants and contributions from corporations, foundations and individuals. An organization of this size and stature has an obligation to its constituents to demonstrate its success, and TFA has accumulated years of research findings about its programming, expansion and scale-up efforts. Marty Levine and Ruth McCambridge asked on this site several weeks ago whether Teach for Americas results justify its pillar status.

TFA founder Wendy Kopp was catapulted into wealth, fame and power by America's rulers from the time she devoted a few months to describing what became Teach for America in a senior paper while at Princeton University. Kopp was provided with millions of dollars, first in private funding, and later from public sources, as the TFA version of reality was promulgated across the USA despite the fact that it rarely or never actually helped improve the public schools serving the poorest (most of them, minority) children in the USA. Not surprisingly, Kopp married one of the founders of the KIPP charter schools and continues, to this day, promoting the teacher bashing and union busting narratives that began in her Princeton dorm room."In 2013, Mathematica Policy Research concluded a federally-funded controlled study of TFA. Comparing TFA secondary math teachers across eight states with a control group of math teachers in the same schools, the study found that, on average, students in TFA classrooms gained the equivalent of an additional 2.6 months of school, as evidenced by end-of-year math assessments. However, two years later, a subsequent Mathematica evaluation was unable to replicate those results.

"While the later study concluded that TFA teachers in early primary grades produced roughly 1.3 months of extra reading gains, that good news was overshadowed by the more troubling evidence that an overwhelming majority of TFA staff (87 percent) reported that they did not plan to spend the rest of their career as a classroom teacher or, for that matter, in any education-related career."



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