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, August 5, 2013

Reformy Money Pours Into NJ

Anthony Cody makes the case that the recent resignation of Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is the outcome of just one more scandal in long line of "corporate education reform" failures. This entire movement is beginning to collapse under the weight of its own mendacity; the day of reckoning has finally arrived.

That may be, but reforminess isn't going away any time soon, so long as the money to sustain the "reformers" keeps gushing. Take, for example, New Jersey
Newark's Teach for America is getting a boost from the Walton Family Foundation, which has pledged $2 million to the program that brings young teachers into under-served classrooms.
Newark was one of several cities that will share the $20 million donation from the foundation.
“With this critical investment, Teach For America will be able to bring effective teachers into some of the most under-resourced classrooms in the country while simultaneously working to develop more of our talented corps members as long-term champions of educational equity and excellence,” said Matt Kramer, co-chief executive officer of Teach For America.
The money headed to Newark will be able to support 369 first and second year teachers who have committed to work two yeas at high-need schools.
Leave to the Star-Ledger to report this without any context whatsoever. The truth is that there is scant little evidence that TFA's corps members - who get a total of five weeks of summer training before being thrown into a classroom - are "effective" when compared to teachers who pursue degrees in education. Gary Rubinstein shows us TFA's training is wholly inadequate, and the claims of great "learning gains" from TFAers are little better than lies. High-quality research shows TFAers are not a superior substitute to well-trained, experienced teachers; in truth, TFA's high attrition rate works against the goal of improving student achievement.

TFA stopped being about classroom effectiveness long ago; it is now a political organization. And it's expensive, spending over $38,000 for each corps member who starts teaching. School districts like Chicago and Philadelphia, reeling from massive budget cuts and school closings, continue to pay TFA to place their corps members into schools.

But not just any schools: increasingly, TFA has become a de facto staffing agency for charter schools. As EduShyster reports, TFA is sending more and more of its recruits to charters managed by the big, national chains: KIPP, Rocketship, UNO, Imagine, etc. One ancillary benefit for real estate developers is that TFA gives them a consistent, constantly churning supply of yuppies, perfect for urban gentrification. Newark's Teachers Village is only one of several projects popping up all over the country that take advantage of TFA's steady supply of college-educated renters, desperately needed to "turn around" neighborhoods and raise property values.

These nascent urban hipsters are taking away unionized teaching jobs; nonetheless, unions - including some teachers unions - support these projects (which benefit from enormous tax gifts) because they create temporary unionized construction jobs. You can certainly understand why the Waltons, who run one of the most anti-labor corporations in the nation, would want to invest in a union-busting outfit like TFA - especially when some teachers unions are willing to shoot themselves in the foot and support bringing more corps members into their cities.

The resistance to TFA has grow sharply in recent months; however, as long as they have money to burn, they won't be going away any time soon. Same with the Gates Foundation:



Council of Chief State School Officers

June 2013
to support the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Institute for Transition and Transformation Services partnership with the NJ DOE to support the state’s efforts to support high quality implementation of the Common Core of State Standards
United States
Washington, District of Columbia 
Nearly $800K to imbed the Common Core into New Jersey from the Gates Foundation: they must be cheering in the Montclair school district's central office...

Common Core really means only one thing for New Jersey: testing, testing, testing. Reformy types like Andy Smarick, formerly Number 2 at the NJDOE, have already admitted the ultimate goal of these tests is to make New Jersey's excellent public schools look as bad as possible, allowing them to move their privatization agenda out to the 'burbs. Never mind these kids are already over-tested; we're going to pile more tests on top of them and stress them out further so we can implement even more innumerate test-based evaluations for teachers.

When parents and teachers learn about all this, they are going to rise up in revolt against the Common Core. Good thing the Gates people have coughed up so much money for propaganda a public relations campaign to quell the public's disgust while radically altering New Jersey's high-performing school system.

Anyone else in Jersey want our reformy money? "Cause we've got plenty!


Unknown said...

Does the Walton donation have anything to do with their efforts to build a Walmart in Newark?


beto said...

UNO charter cannot survive without TFA folks.

Duke said...

That, Karen, is an excellent observation. Hmm...

alm said...

TFA's preference, at least as I understand it, has always been to place in underserved district schools. The move to charter placement happened when a lot of districts went from shortage situations to layoffs during the recession.

Not sure what the scare quotes around 'turn around' re: Teacher's Village in Newark are all about. The stretch of Halsey where TV is located was largely vacant and abandoned. TV brings new residents, adds to Newark's tax base, brings more eyes to the street, restores a blighted stretch of Halsey...

What exactly is the problem here? TV is owned by a property developer, sure -- but that's how buildings get built in the US.

Teaching jobs are middle-class jobs. I don't think that the gentrification charge sticks - I mean, I guess the teaching staffs at those schools trend somewhat younger, but so does the rental market for apartments in any city.

Mrs. King's music students said...

Really? You want to talk about high teacher attrition rates? 60% of TFA teachers walk away after 3 years of training while NJEA turns up it's nose at half the membership? I'm surprised you even brought that up.

And remind me again - why are we attacking other teachers? How is it their fault that nearly half of traditional route teachers leave in their 3rd year of teaching - not limited to inner city types?

Finally, show me the yuppy that will work for teacher pay much less work in high risk city schools? You've already pointed out that rich people send their kids to private schools not public, why on earth would any of them opt to teach in one?

The only reason anyone teaches in inner cities is because they want to. And neither TFA nor the NJEA has anything to offer teachers who don't. The only difference between the 2 orgs I see here is that the TFA appears to be collecting data to find out why attrition is so high and NJEA has steadfastly refused to collect the data (about why) for decades.