One of the basic tenets spouted by the corporate "reformers" and their politician friends is that bad teachers are ruining American public education. Newsweek
has featured "bad teachers" on its cover. The movie Waiting for Superman
blames bad teachers and the teachers unions for everything.
Where are all these bad teachers coming from? The answer to that seems to be that they come from greed. The conventional wisdom, at least in the Governor's mansions and state houses in places like Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio, is that teachers are so greedy that they will spend years in the classroom simply to get their high wages and retirement pensions.
Arne Duncan has indicated that teaching experience doesn't matter and people like Michelle Rhee and Bill Gates seem to believe that the older you are, and the more teaching you have done, the less qualified you are to remain in the classroom.
How do the Duncan's, Rhee's and state politicians propose to find "good" teachers? The answer it's clear, is to recruit them for Teach for America.
That's just what's happening at the University of Washington.
Students in the Master's program at the University's College of Education, who must spend years getting training, experience in classrooms, and pedagogical background in education before they're allowed to teach, are now being told that they must compete for jobs with Teach for America candidates who are being given teaching credentials after just a few weeks of training.
In a must-read
post titled Plan to host Teach for America at Univ. of Washington highlights hypocrisy of ed reform
Parents Across America notes that,
Here they have been spending two years following the rigorous standards the dean ostensibly believes in, diligently studying the art and science of teaching, paying their own way for a $23,000 ($50,000 nonresident) masters degree at what they thought was a reputable teaching institution. They are spending hours of in-class time in actual public school classrooms getting invaluable experience, all in the hopes of applying for one of the rare teaching positions in the fall. Now they are being told that a stream of fresh grads will be brought in alongside them at U.W., given a special, condensed education, will do little to no student teaching, but will compete against them for the same jobs.
Furthermore, Bill Gates has offered to pay the $4000 fee for the TFAers.
It turns out that there is a connection between Teach for America and the University of Washington's new Dean of the College of Education, Tom Stritikus. Stritikus is a Teach for America alumnus and is making things easy for TFA to move into position in Seattle.
The Save Seattle Schools Community Blog reported
on a series of communications between Dean Stritikus and TFA:
The day before [Stritikus'] appointment was even announced (August 18th), he contacted Wendy Kopp, the head of TFA. He asks her if she wants to build an on-line endorsement program for TFA with UW and to do press for him. She replies, “As you say, this is a terrific moment in the history of TFA and hopefully is a just a harbinger of all that’s to come in terms of the influence of alumni on teacher education.”
Further on in the e-mail, she says, “Let’s absolutely see what we can cook up in terms of ways of working together…”
Just one week later, he is tries to get together with TFA staff in Washington, D.C. He says, “I would love to be able to get a set of possible ideas for collaboration on the table and identify priorities.”
Also that week, he says, “I offered to help Janis in anyway she needed.” Janis is Janis Ortega, the TFA director for Puget Sound.
In an e-mail on Sep 13, 2010, again just weeks after he became Dean, Stritikus writes to a TFA official and says, “By that time (9/29-10/1), I will have talked to key faculty, developed a sketch plan for the master’s degree, and gotten a handle on the certification issues.”
Naturally the students at the College of Education are upset. They are spending thousands of dollars and years of their lives training for careers in education.
One student referred to the UW-TFA deal as a “slap in the face.” You can’t blame them for feeling betrayed by Stritikus and the university...
It must feel like running a 10-mile race, only to have the judges allow a group of new runners join in the last 100 yards and race you to the finish — on skateboards.
Is it really bad teachers? Can you make better teachers by replacing education students who spend years studying for their careers with recent graduates who get 5 weeks of training?