July 7th, 2009

Paul Vallas in New Orleans
Episode 10 - The TFA Effect

This program was made by possible by support from the Annenberg, The Eli and Edythe Broad, Bill & Melinda Gates, William and Flora Hewlett and Wallace Foundations.

Does being bright, young and energetic qualify one to be a good teacher? New Orleans Superintendent Paul Vallas seems to think so.

About 20% of Vallas’ teachers are novices from groups like Teach for America and other organizations that recruit top graduates and send them into some of the nation’s toughest schools, with just 8 weeks of training, or less.

Vallas believes that TFA teachers bring the enthusiasm and idealism needed to fix a district plagued by academic failure. But are these teachers prepared to succeed in the most challenging classrooms?

Want to see what happens to 3 TFA recruits in their first year on the job? Watch and find out.

Download transcript (pdf)

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My heart went out to these determined young people for their efforts to make a difference. However, I disagree with their belief (and apparently Vallas’s) that enthusiasm makes up for their lack of experience in dealing with the type of the problems they have to face in the classrooms of NO. They are having the same struggles as any new teacher, but they are far less prepared to handle those struggles than they could or should be. One thing the piece did not mention: What (if any) collaboration is there between the TFA teachers and veteran teachers, especially successful ones, within the NO system? It seemed as if all of them were left to fend pretty much on their own (typical of how new teachers are treated in most places - and highly ineffective).

I caught the second half of tonight’s episode. Will watch the entire thing when it’s available on this website. Regarding Renee’s comments, I’d have to agree. These TFA teachers are motivated and put in long hours, but they don’t guarantee results. New teachers need time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. This is mentioned by one of the TFA teachers in this episode. FYI…If you want another viewpoint, read some of Jonathan Kozol’s stuff.

we have tfa’s at my school and for the most part they have done a great job! however, i was disappointed that this pbs piece made no attempt to interview non-tfa teachers on THEIR impressions of the program in new orleans. this kind of one-sided journalism is not worthy of pbs.

I feel that using missionary teachers from Teach for America (TFA) represents educational malpractice in its grossest form. For example, we see that the TFA recruits do not have a command of standard pedagogical theories and practices, have not conducted a series of traditional classroom observations, have not student taught, and likely hold only provisional or emergency certifications (if any certifications at all). In contrast, we also know that public schools in affluent and majority White areas have shunned TFA in order to conversely hire fully-certified teachers, individuals with proven records of success, and educators who are altogether committed to living out decades-long careers in the profession. As a society, we must ask ourselves why separate and unequal educational offerings persist, and why anyone would think that this approach is not only justifiable, but moral defendable?

In response to the above posts, I have several comments.

First, TFA does not focus on traditional pedagogical theories and practices because, in general, these have marginalized our nation’s lower socio-economic status students. These theories and practices, which have been in place for at least 40 years, have created a system that does not hold those students to the same standards that higher SES students are held to, and those students are not provided with a quality education. TFA does have a “standard” set of theories and practices that focuses on methods that have been proven to be effective in the classroom by successful teachers, whether those teachers are TFA or not. It is more important that pedagogical methods work for the students and lead to academic success than it is to perpetuate this system that is so obviously failing so many students.

Second, TFA corps members are observed in their classrooms every single day while in summer training (student teaching) by both non-TFA veteran teachers at their host schools and by advisors whose sole job is to aid in the development of the corps members so that they have the tools and knowledge to lead their classes to significant achievement. During the normal school year, advisors continue to observe the corps members to provide feedback.
All corps members are also required to meet whatever licensing requirements each state has for its teachers.

TFA’s mission is to close the achievement gap. While it is very important for our nation’s high-achieving students to continue to be very successful, TFA focuses on schools in low-income areas. In those areas, a far greater number of students live the achievement gap every day; students are expected to graduate at a far lesser rate than their peers in “affluent and majority White areas,” and those who do graduate perform on average at an eighth grade level. Therefore, TFA would not have been shunned by those “schools in affluent and majority White areas” because TFA does not seek to work in those schools that do not have the same problems with the achievement gap that low-income schools do.

In response to Renee – TFA teachers are encouraged to collaborate with their colleagues, especially the experienced ones with a wealth of knowledge, to share best practices, work as a team, and to observe these teachers in action in order to learn from them. It is not the belief of TFA that the only good teachers are TFA teachers. The good teachers are the ones who lead their students to academic success, because that’s what matters.

I believe that TFA is on the right track to fixing the education system in America that is not “the great equalizer” that it is supposed to be.

Got to watch the entire episode today (not just the second half). Another thought came to mind towards the end of the episode. The first-year TFA teachers are interviewed as a group after dinner. Bayoji Akingbola talks about their dedication. Specifically, he states “that energy, which might not be there if you’ve been in the system for 10-15 years, we use as a tool to make positive impacts.” I think it’s interesting he describes it as “the system”, which to me goes hand-in-hand with “union”. Maybe the teachers union is creating this lack of energy, because there’s little monetary motivation.

As a former Teach for America corps member, I wanted to emphasize that while some consider the training minimal, a few assumptions listed above are inaccurate. For example, the summer training required classroom observations before arrival, and we are required to work on our provisional certifications as well as graduate classes.

It was not my intention or mission upon joining to teach in affluent and majority White areas. Rather, the corps aimed to take our varied backgrounds in literature, business, or communications, and leverage those experiences to make gains.

This looked like some colleagues choosing rich texts to use across curriculums, others displaying bar graphs in their classrooms to show students their progress, and some sending out newsletters to their students families.

Would I have liked to work with a traditionally trained, effective, experienced teacher? Absolutely. But there were few experienced teachers at my school because turnover was so high.

Ultimately, every one of my 34 students my first year grew over one year in math and reading because of the equipping I received in professional development through TFA, with a relentless TFA program director that flooded me with resources, and through a Master’s program that mandated in depth reading and observation.

Before one concludes educational malpractice, please consider that Teach for America does not claim to be THE answer, but one piece of a larger, coordinated national effort to see increased academic gains in America’s most under resourced schools. And it’s working.

I take umbrage with your reporting on the New Orleans schools. Focusing on the Teach for America organization distracts from the central issue in urban education. The students should be the focus of the reporting on this issue. The USA will take a quantum leap forward if we can engage our disadvantaged young people to cherish their education.

Your story today regarding the young Teach for America college students hired in New Orleans shows me that newscasters know as little about education as politicians do. Education would be better if politicians and newscasters stayed out of education. I say that as a retired high school teacher.

Why wasn’t the question ever raised or ever mentioned to these “America’s brightest and best” that seasoned teachers spend 15 hour days staying up to 1AM grading papers, grading more papers and doing lesson plans on weekends, grading tests, projects, notebooks, and countless other things over holiday breaks? Everyone acts as if they know the life of an English teacher or a Science teacher in a high school or any age group. Good teachers work their butts off. The job demands it. The lives of the students demand it. All of you, with your lack of understanding and indecent reporting which is too often dishonest, as with dishonest politicians control work to keep our schools down, which in the long run is to the benefit of corporate capitalism.

Have you ever noticed how teachers are never the ones asked to fix the schools? We are always told what to do!

At the very end of John Merrow’s latest installment of his report on reforming schools, Paul Vallas said something truly horrifying. He stated that if Teach for America (TFA) participants leave the teaching profession in a few short years, “so be it.” I hope he has the decency to be embarrassed to have said that on camera.

So it’s okay that he’s got TFA teachers with ridiculously tiny amounts of training (I had two years - and it was barely enough!), that money invested in on-the-job training for these people goes wasted when they leave, the mentoring they get is variable at best, that the kids aren’t getting competent, experienced teachers who share and direct a common school culture and have some institutional memory, and that they are used and abused until they leave the profession in frustration in one or two years? This is fine with him? I think I know why: TFA teachers are cheap and enter at the bottom of the pay scale, can be fired at will, and are routinely terrorized by both their workplace administrators and the students they teach (and their parents). They have no job protection, and have zero recourse (no union protections until they get tenure) when they are bullied by school administrators who see the schools they run as their own private empires.

These administrators see no problem with the “students” circulating petitions to have teachers fired? They all should have been expelled. The video of the students’ behavior in the hallways should shame the administrator who refused to squash it into resigning. Oh, and Vallas loves these green newbies for their “energy?” And then it’s okay to render them hopeless, helpless, and so bitter about teaching that they give up? Oh, this makes me want to SCREAM.

School officials’ attitudes about teachers are part of the problem with schools generally, perhaps as much as sub-standard teaching, sub-par funding, and miserable parenting. His true attitude about teachers is revealed in that comment. We are expendable, we are replaceable, we aren’t worth anything, and anyone with a college degree can do it. Won’t be long until we’re downloading the Podcast for $5.95. Merrow began this segment by saying that teachers are arguably the most important factor in a child’s education, and it may be ironic that a PBS investigative reporter knows more about what makes for good schooling than Mr. Vallas does.

I have never written a response to a newscast, but graduating in 2003 from high school myself, I feel I have experienced this generations poor education system in America. I have traveled abroad to different countries, and have immersed myself with the online community with people from all over the world. My reaction to some of the experiences with these cultures, and people I have talked too is grim. I feel robbed and need to play the catch up game if I am to have a equal standing with the world’s level.

A problem with some teachers is that they are “out of touch”. Sure they may be the best of their field when it comes to math or science, but interacting with a human, a child, and a punk kid is a different field altogether. This isn’t something you can merely learn quickly, you must interact and live it. It doesn’t help if the teacher has some sort of quota to pass a certain amount of students to make his numbers good or else he/she may be subject to ridicule for “not doing their jobs”.

I have a possible solution for these teachers. Get a hold of some tests from other countries, both on the same grade level (or equivalent) and a few grade levels lower. Say tests from China, Sweden, Germany… and then tests from 3rd world countries. Perhaps make it competitive and acquire tests from Iraq or Cuba. Then ask the students to take these tests. See the results and they should speak for themselves. It should be a wakeup call these students sleeping in class or harassing the teachers when they fail a test that some kid in a 3rd world country and three grade levels lower considers to be a piece of cake. Give them a test about our own government, the three governing bodies, and what role each partakes in making our economy and society run. If they cannot even answer these questions about our way of life, you can rule out the possibility that they can more or less pinpoint our allies or enemies on a world map.

We are in this recession for a reason. We as Americans got fat. We wanted the easy road and as a whole we expect we to be taken care of, whether by social services, our parents, or by teacher’s . Some students today are being PAID for good grades. This isn’t some revolutionary break through. It’s rewarding students for doing something that should come natural, trying to help themselves.

I have a newsflash for these children, with the way the world economy is now, I am hearing rumors that you need at least a Master’s degree to have a stable job. It is going to be a lot harder for these children to make it in college with students not just from the USA, but from all over the world, very diverse in culture and backgrounds competing. “We are no longer that shining beacon on the hill” - President Obama. Other countries have a poor opinion on America then they did when boatloads of immigrants came seeking a new way of life. When competition starts to escalate, maybe the interest in doing well will too. We might not on the Japanese level where if you fail to enter college, or save your company from going under, jumping out a window is your only option left.. but then again, I am hearing reports of once millionaires now living on the streets. Give them a taste of harsh reality and a bit of an awakening call that the world will not sit by idle while they fail to study and pass exams that children elsewhere manage to do while sharing one textbook with the entire class. Despite what they say, these children do not have all the answers at age 15.

There is a difference between helping these children, and spoon-feeding them.

This is the second or third time I have seen a story on the young people in Teach for America. The problem with this story is that you do not compare these young teachers with teachers trained in credentialing programs. You also do not compare them with established teachers. You assess them out of context and in a vacuum. The implication of your story is that young people who study to be teachers are not the best and brightest, only teach because of the money, and don’t work long hours planning lessons or care about their students. Without some experienced teachers to compare these young people to, the observer cannot see whether trained teachers can establish discipline more quickly and know methodologies to teach concepts quickly and thoroughly. Your story seems biased and antiteacher. I wonder if the Teach for America program is just another way to pile abuse upon teachers and undercut teacher’s unions?

To: The School Districts

When the system finally allow such organizations to conquest school districts, don’t call when students come to school homeless, hungry and have spent the night in a vacant house with his/her crack head mother and a daddy who is incarcerated. Veteran teachers play many rolls on a daily basis from 8:00 am to as late as 10:00 pm. five days a week and sometimes on weekends that first and second year teachers never thought could ever happen.

Sure TFA’s are probably young energetic, determined, motivated and bright teachers. It is Imperative that our students receive the very best education. But other issues must be factored in because the percentage is somewhat high when it comes to tallying up how many actually stayed the full term. When you step into that classroom, you become not only the teacher/commander in chief, you are now mother, father, pastor, authoritarian, security, mid-wife, baby-sitter, referee, warden, etc. And that’s what a veteran teacher deals with. “Believe it.”

Fascinating piece by John Merrow and interesting exchange here. Many issues worthy of comment - but the one most intriguing is related to TFA and “traditional pedagogical theories.” Sarah suggested that TFA eschews the ed school pedagogy of the past - but in reality if you take a look at their curriculum materials and what is taught at their training institute, what you see is very much “traditional pedagogical theories” — such as those promulgated by Madeline Hunter in the 1980s as well as those of Franklin Bobbitt in the late 1910s. TFA training is highly focused and intensive - which is a positive - and can yield benefits to the recruits and the students they teach. But the TFA training is also highly truncated and narrow - leaving too many Corps members with too few tools to engage their students and help them meet rigorous academic standards (and not just perform a bit better on a standardized test). It is time to get beyond the debate over TFA versus traditional teacher education figure how to transform teaching so all students are taught by an effective team of teachers who stay around long enough to develop collective expertise and make a difference for long-term school improvement. The TFA Corps members interviewed by Mr. Merrow made it very clear they are not the silver bullet Mr. Vallas suggests they are. We actually know a great deal about how to recruit, prepare, and retain effective teachers for high needs schools — far more than policymakers and administrators use.

Karen makes a good point. Since your team was at Frederick Douglass HS, did you (or have you) interviewed veteran teacher Jim Randels about the nationally acclaimed, writing program (Students at the Center) he started out of that school with those same students? Would have made an interesting contrast and context to the TFA staff and their problems.

What if: The students in the urban schools were white, and the majority of the “best and the brightest” young teachers that Paul Vallas brought in were black?

How well does he think that situation would work? And why should the current situation be expected to work any better?

The novice teacher is commonly portrayed as the more competent, knowledgeable teacher by the media and by education administrators across America. Experience does count for something!

A teacher, novice or veteran, is capable of learning new strategies in reaching our youth. Why is it that the experienced, veteran teacher is often dismissed as one who is unable to reach the children? We’re commonly overlooked because we’re perceived as being stagnant, stiff, and/or unapproachable.

Unfortunately, many of the novice teachers enter schools with a “know it all” attitude who need to learn nothing. There is a reason schools have young and old in the same building. A true teacher will learn from his/her colleagues no matter what his/her age.

A true educator, young or old, will do whatever is necessary to reach the students in our classrooms.

As a veteran teacher in the Chicago Public Schools (17 yrs), I have worked with TFA teachers and I agree that their energy and enthusiasm compensates for their lack of experience and training. The question I believe that is not addressed is, how long are they going to be in the profession. What are the return rates at 5 years? I know they don’t have to stay that long but then you are always investing energy in mentoring new teachers without building up a core of long term teachers (and it is a great investment of time and energy to mentor new teachers). I just wonder where our system will be in 10 years. Charter schools and TFA pull in young enthusiastic teachers who put in extremely long hours at the expense of their life outside of school but I have seen many leave in 3-5 years burnt out. What is New Orleans doing to build up a teaching core or are they always going to be relying on new teachers who are only there for a short time?

I thought this segment had a lot of heart – and I see that Vallas now has a bit of a professorial beard.

I do disagree with your first sentence—that techers are the most determining influence in children’s educational. success. Come on—no matter what the current pundits may be saying—you and I both know that it is FAMILY and outside of school influences. Teachers are important but not the most important. Try to find time in one of your upcoming programs for the role of the family.

Barnett Berry wrote: “It is time to get beyond the debate over TFA versus traditional teacher education [and] figure how to transform teaching so all students are taught by an effective team of teachers who stay around long enough to develop collective expertise and make a difference for long-term school improvement.”

I agree with Berry. In this vein, many studies indicate that it takes 10 years, or more, to become an expert. However, TFA retards the construction of “collective expertise” because TFA has a mindset which is constructed around 2-year stints. In other words, TFA perpetually hobbles schools through a yearly influx of new, ignorant, and inexperienced teachers who have very few intentions of establishing sustained careers in education.

Thus, the longer TFA remains as a supplier to any given school system, the greater the impediment. Think of this as analogous to cancer.

In the end, TFA’s approach promotes, causes, and ensures a “greater” educational inequality than that which TFA alleges it wants to cure. Are my eyes out of focus, or do you all see the same picture?

People get the word “schooling” confused with “education” and that has caused the misunderstanding regarding classroom teacher research. The teacher is the most important influence in a child’s SCHOOLING, but the parents are the most important factors in a child’s EDUCATION. As James Coleman said over forty years ago as he concluded his classic study of student achievement: “It’s all family.”

Indeed it is and once we acknowledge this, we’ll begin to do something about it.

Who is supposed to fill the gap in these high needs areas, if not TFA corps members or Teaching Fellows? I don’t see many veteran teachers leaving their positions to take up residence in the highest needs schools.

Beyond this, TFA has raised the bar of professionalism in schools - another significant need. A huge percentage of TFA corps members stay involved in education or involved in the communities in which they teach. I concur that we need to focus on retention - but I think that is a responsibility that needs to be placed on the school and the school leadership. As an administrator, a huge focus in my job is to support our teachers, both TFA and traditional alike, and make sure that they want to stay in education. We have had several TFA corps members who intended to continue on another career path stay on for 3-6 years at our school, and continue on as teachers and administrators at other high-needs urban schools.

I really feel many of the TFA corps members are set up for failure.
It is not enough to be the brightest and the best, not enough to have limitless energy, although all of these help! TFA members really need a whole year of shadowing and working with veteran teachers in order to learn classroom management or how to have the confidence to state their expectations, and rules, (and then to stick to them) in the beginning of the school year.
TFA members are dealing with a tough crowd, kids who have had years of nothing! Hopefully it won’t be a lost generation.
Has someone attempted to reach out to the community?

This was an important show. I respect Paul Vallas for taking on a tough job when he could have easily embraced retirement. And I admire Teach for America and the public service spirit that drives its recruits. But this report illustrates a tendency in school reform efforts to find solutions in single-shot magic bullets that reduce the complexity of the task at hand: in this case, developing a competent and sustained professional teaching force.

I’m all for idealistic, hardworking enthusiasm, and I welcome into the nation’s classrooms these graduates of fine schools. But most of them teach for two years (and possibly a third) and then move on to the careers they went to college to pursue.

I’m troubled by two more issues related to the magic bullet discourse here. First, many who champion TFA seem to affirm an idiosyncratic model of professional development: that these young people’s elite undergraduate educations and their energy trumps extended training and experience. There is no other kind of work, from styling hair to surgery to the pro football defensive backfield where experience is so discounted. No TFA booster, I’d wager, would choose a med student fresh out of a cardiology rotation over a cardiologist who has been in practice for fifteen years.

I also want to consider the assumptions about knowledge and teaching here – or more precisely the use of the status of one’s undergraduate institution as a proxy for being able to teach what one knows. Knowing history or chemistry or literature is essential to teach these subjects, but – again this is common sense – knowing something does not mean you are able to teach it…as countless undergraduates who have sat through bad lectures can verify.

Let’s consider this elite school proxy for expertise in teaching from one more perspective. I went through my Possible Lives and Karin Chenowith’s new How It’s Being Done, both of which contain a number of first-rate teachers. I also looked at the Council of Chief State School Officer’s National Teacher of the Year Program. Only a handful of these top-flight teachers got their bachelors degrees from institutions typically defined as elite. A number hail from state universities. And a considerable number come from small, local colleges with teacher education programs. Expertise in teaching is more than a function of one’s undergraduate pedigree. The sad thing to me is the way Teach for America has become a weapon in the education wars, rather than a laudable vehicle through which young people can contribute to the education of a nation.

I write more about this magic bullet issue in an entry on my blog that will come up in the next day or so: http://mikerosebooks.blogspot.com

T.F.A. is an attempt to fill a void. I don’t think it was ever intended to be a long term solution. In an ideal situation the T.F.A teachers would flourish. That type of energy and dedication will always bring great results. However, in failing schools oversaturated with behavior problems the T.F.A teachers become sitting ducks. In a rough environment most teachers are trying to survive and really don’t have time to help anyone. There are staff developers assign to help all teachers new and experienced alike. However the problem is that new teachers need someone to hold their hands and lead them. No one has time for that. The T.F.A. teachers usually bond with each other and go on hit or miss “classroom lesson” and behavior management trials. This is usually done at the expense of the children. After, two years a new batch of T.F.A teachers comes in and the process repeats itself. This went on several years at my school until the principal had enough. Some of the T.F.A teachers almost suffered break downs because they tried so hard and it seamed no one cared. The T.F.A teachers were ushered in NY to replace P.P.Ts or uncertified Board of Ed. Teachers who were at the bottom of the barrel. They were often minorities. Some tried to place the blame of the failing inner city school problems on their shoulders. Some were good teachers who couldn’t pass the Teacher Certification Exam and others were “incompetent teachers needed to fill a void.” So in failing schools we basically swapped one needy group for another. The T.F.A teacher didn’t perform any better than the uncertified teachers. There was a time it was very difficult to hire teachers; however with the economy being the way it is New York City isn’t hiring T.F.A teachers as much. They are viewed as cheap inexperience teachers who are not going to be around too long. Definitely not part of any long term solution. Perhaps if the T.F.A teachers committed to 5-10 years things would be a little more realistic! I have been teaching for 15 years and I am still energetic and excited!

Mr. Merrow, I started a discussion at Teacher Leaders Network after watching this piece on TFA teachers in New Orleans primarily because I was extremely put off by your opening comment that good teachers are hard to find. The TFA piece was fairly presented, in that it disclosed how confident and prepared TFA teachers felt they were as they began teaching and then went on to expose some of the difficulties they faced as reality hit. Back in 1970 I could have been a TFA teacher: UCLA graduate, National Merit honoree, etc. I chose to teach and have never regretted that decision for a second. Last year I returned to the classroom after six years as a middle school literacy coach, having left when NCLB caused my district (Los Angeles USD) to invest in new mandatory programs and curricula. Now, with 34 years’ experience as a teacher, I am faced with scripted curriculum and “model lessons” forced on me despite my love of curriculum development and a reputation as a creative teacher with a facility for engaging students in learning. I also choose to teach in one of the lowest performing schools in California, teaching intervention and special education students, despite my tenure status. Here’s the problem as I see it: After the politicizing education and vilifying experienced teachers since the inception of NCLB, what level of college student will want to take my place? A series of TFA teachers is our best option? I think not. I think our policymakers and media players such as you, Mr. Merrow, would best help our nation’s children by exposing the truth about the complexity of teaching and learning conditions in our schools; and, in addition, supporting the work of finding long term solutions to what ails our schools rather than blaming our profession with comments like “good teachers are hard to find”. Really, we’re not. Finding an article or presentation about the excellent work of most of us teachers, however, IS hard to find.

I know teachers and TFA teachers and I dont believe that any amount intense training for just a summer can make up for that experience that certified teachers get while student assisting and student teaching. My friend spent 4 years getting a psychology degree and two years student teaching training to be special ed teacher with oodles of endorsements. An acquaintance in New Orleans with TFA was just given a special ed teaching job with a half summer of training. Her major in college was Political Science. The girl is not comfortable being put in such a crucial role by her own admission. The skills gained in politics are in no way transferable to teaching special needs children in an inner city school. A science major of some kind teaching science seems acceptable but there are plenty of teachers ready to make a difference looking for jobs willing to move to these areas.

Maybe they will let me join doctors without borders with my business degree with a crash course in medicine. Then I can earn my doctorate and get my medical license while learning on the job. Would you let me be a pediatrician for your child then?

I myself am a Teach for America teacher, and I agree that it is not ideal for any school district to rely on a program like TFA whose teachers do not all remain in the classroom for long periods of time after their commitment has ended. However, I think that one important aspect has been missing from this discussion so far. Teach for America teachers are only hired in school districts that have a teacher shortage. In my school district permanent substitute teachers are incredibly common. In my school, several of the veteran teachers who have been teaching for 5 or 6 years still haven’t passed their content certification tests. Teach for America teachers are necessary until more traditional teacher training programs produce enough teachers to meet the needs of all of the US’s school districts.

John, the teacher is the most important person in a child’s SCHOOLING, but the parents are the most important people in a child’s EDUCATION. This distinction is a very important one because of the implications for educational reform.

To Linda and John Merrow — Here are three referenced quotes about the influence of teachers:

“An increasing preponderance of educational research has reached the conclusion that teacher effectiveness is the most important in-school factor influencing student achievement” http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2009/0515_obama_budget_berube.aspx ..

“Educational research continues to give us clear and convincing proof that the single most powerful in-school factor for student achievement gains is the quality of the teacher.” http://www.temple.edu/lss/fs_midad&snetwork.htm

“Teacher quality matters. In fact, it is the most important school-related factor influencing student achievement” http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/books_teacher_quality_execsum_intro/

- - - -

So yes, teachers are the most important “in school” factor in student achievement - as if we didn’t already know that. Pity that this is misconstrued those who want to distort this obvious truth and those who are too lazy to check it.

Vallas has no real teaching experience (despite what his everchanging resume might say) so how would he know what is needed to teach in an urban classroom? This is a man who talked about attacking discipline problems with “Zero Tolerance” while he sent his own children to a Philly private school. When I wrote him about a 4th grader passing out pot to my class he could not tell me why that child was merely moved into another classroom. How is that Zero Tolerance? I could go onto the missing art work Paul removed from our schools for “safekeeping”, the balanced budget that grew into a $180 million deficit or how he promised to punished Gregory Thornton for taking a free trip from Plato Software, but later told Seattle he was just blowing smoke to appease the rubes in Philly. Google George Schmidt, Paul Vallas and tests if you want to see the “real” Vallas.

This program is very biased when it comes to Vallas, charters and the TFA posse. It fails to ask the tough questions public school teachers and parents would ask. I guess as long as Bill Gates cough up the dough you’re willing to promote his agenda over the truth.

The notionn that TFA teachers are only hired where there are teacher shortages is an outright lie! As of May 2010 Philadelphia has a hiring freeze on teachers and yet our latest CEO, Ackerman, has hired 300 TFAs over certified teachers, some of whom have already signed contracts with the district. There are cases where people have put their houses up for sale because they thought they were truly hired. How is it Ackerman is hiring TFAs over certified teachers? Because it is part of her unionbusting agenda. Don’t believe the TFA propaganda.

[...] (February 3, 2009) Episode 9: Charter Schools — Experiment Or Solution? (May 7, 2009) Episode 10: The TFA Effect (July 7, 2009) Episode 11: A New Approach To Alternative Schooling (April 7, 2010) Episode 12: Paul [...]

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