"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, January 6, 2012

NEA and TFA Update: Other Voices

I wrote about the joint op-ed by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and TFA CEO Wendy Kopp on December 26, 2011 and again on January 5, 2012. Today, others have also commented about Van Roekel's collaboration with Wendy Kopp and the refusal of Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige and Matt Damon to allow themselves to be nominated for the NEA's Friend of Education Award.

from the Huffington Post
Matt Damon, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Decline Education Award Nomination Over USA Today Op-Ed
The NEA and TFA have had a historically strained relationship as the NEA, the country's largest teachers union, has long opposed TFA and its practices. In July, the group collectively accused TFA of placing its corps members in areas where there are no teacher shortages, robbing educators of jobs in communities where those positions are already hard to come by. They said some TFA contracts could be used to "bust unions," Education Week reported.

The teachers' group has also criticized TFA's general concept: Recent college graduates are trained over the summer to teach two years in some of the country's most challenging classrooms -- in hopes of helping close a still-wide achievement gap. But because TFA corps members are only committed to two years of teaching, many leave teaching after the experience. By contrast, the NEA and American Federation of Teachers believe that seasoned veteran educators and quality training are key to boosting test scores, graduation rates and improving American education overall.

Van Roekel has taken some heat since the op-ed's publication. Education blogger Anthony Cody wrote on Education Week that Roekel is sending mixed messages about teacher preparation, pointing out that the NEA president writes in his USA Today piece that "not all teachers are getting the high-quality preparation they need to excel with students in the classroom."
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from Living in Dialogue by Anthony Cody
NEA Stance on Teach For America Continues to Raise Questions
I do, however, wonder about the substance of his agreement with Ms Kopp regarding teacher recruitment and preparation. Specifically, does Mr. Van Roekel agree that it is a good idea to recruit people who have no desire or intention to become teachers for a two year commitment? Research has revealed that 57% of the people who enter Teach For America do not intend to become teachers, and lo and behold, three years after they start, 75% of them are gone. [Be aware that TFA fudges these numbers by tracking the number who remain "in education," which includes the many TFAers who become staff members or work in other parts of the non-profit and for-profit educational landscape.]

I wonder how it is possible to fight vigorously for a minimum one-year residency program and simultaneously praise someone whose recruitment model features a five week summer training course, and targets people who do not even wish to become teachers?
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from Fred Klonsky's Blog
Van Roekel’s date with Kopp and Duncan not going over too well.
When the 10,000 delegates to last summer’s NEA RA passed a critical New Business Item about Teach For America and another one sharply critical of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, few of us thought that meant for IEA President Dennis Van Roekel to arrange a lunch date with both.

I guess he did.

And it’s not going so well for Dennis...Some might say that DVR’s meet up with Duncan and Kopp went worse. The three appeared together at a meeting on teacher training (something Kopp’s TFA pays scant attention to). Duncan then spent most of the time gushing over Wendy, claiming nobody has done more to get great teachers into classrooms than she has.
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from The Answer Sheet
Has the NEA warmed up to Teach for America?
The NEA and the American Federation of Teachers, which combined have more than 4 million members, have long opposed the 20-year-old Teach for America. TFA recruits newly minted college graduates who are not education majors and gives them five weeks of summer training before placing them in classrooms in high-poverty schools. Recruits are asked to commit to only two years of teaching. The unions have argued that the country’s neediest students need highly trained teachers committed to the profession.

Van Roekel appeared in late September with Kopp at an event along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and more recently co-authored an op-ed with Kopp in USA Today about the best way to prepare teachers.Van Roekel issued a statement Thursday about the Carlsson-Paige letter that says:

“I respect Matt Damon and thank him for his support of public education. I believe NEA should talk to those who support public education, even if we don’t agree on everything, and work together to serve students. Wendy Kopp and I agree that students will benefit from stronger recruiting and teacher preparation. NEA isn’t going to quit fighting for students and our members, or for stronger teacher preparation. In fact, better teacher preparation is part of our 3-point plan on Leading the Profession that was released last month.”

It isn’t clear just how much Van Roekel has ruffled feathers in his union but some educators have written that they feel he has undercut efforts to expose Teach for America’s deficiencies and perhaps get it to change.

...I asked Van Roekel this week if he has warmed up to Teach for America.

He said “no” and still opposes the short training period given to TFA recruits. But he also said he has over time “learned some things” from the way that TFA operates and that “there are some things that I see a little differently.”

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