I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, November 5, 2012

Yet Another TFA Alum Puffs Up Her Resume

It's a fine TFA alumni tradition started by none other than Michelle Rhee:

Sell yourself as a teaching genius by gussying up your two or three years in the classroom with statistics showing your "success."

Rhee used to make this dramatic claim: "Over a two-year period, moved students scoring on average at the 13th percentile on national standardized tests to 90 percent of students scoring at the 90th percentile or higher." Unfortunately for this modern day saint, G.F. Brandenberg got hold of her actual test scores and exposed her as a serial exaggerator. It's a sad comment on our national media that the woman continues to be treated as an expert on education when she clearly dissembled about her own accomplishments.

Now, we have TFA alum Allison Serafin, who is running for the Nevada State Board of Education.
During her time with Teach For America, she taught 6th and 7th grade English and Social Studies, where nearly 100% of her students achieved passing scores on state assessments. However, much like the way her passion for serving others expanded, so did her role as an educator. Over her 10-year career, she taught students, recruited teachers, coached teachers, led national video and social media campaigns, and served as a school director. And most recently, she served as the Executive Director of Teach For America-Las Vegas Valley, before transitioning into her current role as a special consultant for Superintendent Dwight D. Jones. [emphasis mine]
Hmmm... maybe we ought to flesh that out a little. Where, exactly, did Serafin teach? Here's her LinkedIn biography:

6th grade Language Arts & World Cultures Teacher

Houston ISD

Educational Institution; 10,001+ employees; Education Management industry

May 2001 – May 2003 (2 years 1 month) Attucks MS

•Taught 150 students the foundations of social studies and geography through an in-depth study of Asia
•90% of my students experienced at least 2 grade levels of growth in Social Studies as measured on the Stanford 9 exam in 2003.
•95% of my students passed the reading portion of the 2002 TAAS test; 25% were recognized with Commended Performance.
•100% of my students experienced at least 1.5 grade levels of reading growth as measured by the Scholastic Reading Inventory
Attucks Middle School in Houston, huh? I guess Serafin forgot to add that Attucks is a magnet school, specializing in science and math. Students must apply to be accepted. And, yes, Attucks was a magnet school all the way back in 2001.

So it's not like Serafin was teaching kids who were struggling academically to begin with - just like her next gig:

7th grade Humanities teacher

YES College Prep

2004 – 2005 (1 year)

•98% of our 7th grade students passed the Language Arts 2005 TAKS test.
•Authored the 2005-2006 YES College Prep 8th grade Language Arts and US History curriculum.
•Designed 6 rubric based “final projects” to assess students’ knowledge and skills within the integrated A/H content areas.
YES CP is a charter chain. And its schools feature - surprise! - a very high student attrition rate. The Class of 2011, for example, started off with 145 students in 6th grade; by the time the class graduated, only 55 students remained. So not only does the school enjoy the student screening that comes from an application process; it loses large numbers of its children as the years progress.

It may well be that Serafin was a good teacher (although, if she were, why did she stop after only three years?). But it's incomplete at best for her to make claims about her students' successes without acknowledging that she has never taught in a neighborhood school that has to take all comers. Her scant teaching experience was in selective schools and not representative of the work public school teachers do every day in meeting the needs of all students.

From Searfin's campaign page:
Allison is running for the State Board of Education, District 3, because it's time we had people with classroom experience AND real business experience helping to create policy for our schools. She's taught in the classroom, managed an organization focused on student achievement, and currently runs her own successful small business. Now Allison wants to get to work helping to advance student achievement in Nevada. [emphasis mine]
Yes, Searfin has classroom experince: highly selective, unusual classroom experience. Let's not pretend otherwise.

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