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Archive for July 10th, 2010

The Wall Street Journal has a great weekend interview with the founder of Teach For America, Wendy Kopp. I know that many folks interested in improving education in Delaware have had an active debate as to the merits of Teach For America. The interview can be found here (a subscription may be required). Quoting from the article:

In the spring of 1989 Wendy Kopp was a senior at Princeton University who had her sights set on being a New York City school teacher. But without a graduate degree in education or a traditional teacher certification, it was nearly impossible to break into the system. So she applied for a job at Morgan Stanley instead.

Off to Morgan Stanley rather than teach, and it wasn’t for greedy purposes? Nope. Several years ago, Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, found that the the most popular major for college students in the bottom 20% of their class was an education major. Mr. Gerstner conducted this study in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation’s largest teacher unions. It seems that Morgan Stanley has higher metrics for its employees.

A few months ago, Teach for America (TFA) received an applicant pool that Morgan Stanley recruiters would drool over. Their 46,000 applicants included 12% of all Ivy League seniors, 7% of the graduating class of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and 6% from U.C. Berkeley. A quarter of all black seniors at Ivy League schools and a fifth of Latinos applied to be teachers in the 2010 corps. It is, I’m told by some recent grads, one of the coolest things you can do after college.

So, Ms. Kopp did an end-run around the teacher-mill establishment to create a new system — very entrepreneurial. A system in which the top students in the country now compete to be teachers in urban, under-served schools. How did we get here?

“The interesting thing,” she tells me in her organization’s Manhattan headquarters, “is that 20 years ago most of our school systems were thinking that recruiting teachers was not their responsibility. They were thinking that was the responsibility of schools of education. So you had one set of institutions that was responsible for training teachers and another set responsible for actually affecting student achievement results.”

With the Union hold on teachers, it is no wonder that school districts stayed out of determining the districts needs for teachers. Why fight against a union that spends millions of dollars controlling the legislature. We’ll just lower the standards, give social promotion, and blame it on bad parents. Everyone wins except for kids, and the future of America. Ms. Kopp, no screaming right-winger, has delivered the goods:

A 2008 Urban Institute study found that “On average, high school students taught by TFA corps members performed significantly better on state-required end-of-course exams, especially in math and science, than peers taught by far more experienced instructors. The TFA teachers’ effect on student achievement in core classroom subjects was nearly three times the effect of teachers with three or more years of experience.” A new study from the University of North Carolina found that middle school math students taught by TFA teachers received the equivalent of an extra half-year of learning.

TFA has proved (although anyone with half a brain wouldn’t actually need the proof as it is self-evident) that the discrimination of low expectations is what has destroyed educational opportunity for millions of our poor.

TFA’s fundamental premise is that a child’s home life and socioeconomic status need not doom him or her to educational failure. “There is a perception in our communities that we have low educational outcomes in low-income communities because kids aren’t motivated or families don’t care. We’ve discovered that is not the case,” says Ms. Kopp.

There is one area in which I disagree with Ms. Kopp — but since she is doing an end-run around the system, I think that her mindset is to continue to do an end run.

The constraints now are funding and placement. Ms. Kopp says that her funding has grown about 30% per year for the past decade “because of the commitment of the private sector.” While many philanthropists have cut back giving in recent years, TFA has not suffered. (Their biggest funders include Eli Broad, Doris and Don Fisher, and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.) Public funding makes up about 30% of her budget. TFA received a federal appropriation of $21 million last year, and it has asked for $50 million in fiscal year 2011 to take advantage of what Ms. Kopp calls the “incredible” recruiting environment.

I don’t think that the constraint is funding. We spend 1/3 of the State’s budget on education; much of it on wasted, legislatively-managed central planning. If the legislature and Governor had the political will to open up the District hiring process to anyone (not just Union-mandated, acceptable candidates), the funding is there. Ah, well. At least with the Teach For America end-run, we’re getting some fresh blood into the system. Fresh faces & capabilities that are actually improving education. What a concept.

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The paper says it all.

An unemployed man has to grovel for food. His skill is stone masonry. Stone masons build things made from stone such as bridges and buildings. Think for instance of government buildings.

The stimulus was enacted to create shovel ready projects such as bridges and buildings primarily of the government kind. Even Our Joe touts how great it’s working.

The stimulus was kicked in 17 months ago and yet there is still no work for this stonemason in New Castle? Yet, I thought Our Joe said it was working.

However we also learn today that the stimulus weatherization program is such a boondoggle and fiscal farce that the Lt. Gov has to do a little side step by blaming the need for new personnel as the reason why no one knows where the money went, etc.

With such inane an incompetent leadership allegedly running things one has to ask do they even know how in over their had they are? I guess not and that’s how they can sleep at night.  

Tomorrow at church, I’ll be picking up a list of items our food bank needs and dropping them off. 48 year old men in our state having to beg for food while still looking for that shovel ready project.

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