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Events: Five Ideas For TFA's *Next* 20 Years

image from blogs.houstonpress.comHere are five completely unsolicited ideas for TFA's next 20 years, on the occasion of its first:  (1) Tell locals to pick one or several struggling schools, stuff them with corps members and alumns over the course of two or three years, and show everyone what you can really do at the the whole school level.  Rinse, lather, repeat. (2) Stop expanding to new cities and do more in the cities you're already in.  Create two or three "superlocals" to get involved in reform, short of operating schools but well beyond the current menu of training, placement, and support. (3) Get off the charter school pipe.  Charter placements shouldn't exceed the percentage of kids being taught at charter schools in any given district. (4) Add a preservice residency year. It's the right thing to do, everybody else (BTR, AUSL, etc.) is doing it, you've got the money, and you can obviously afford to lose a few applicants without suffering too much. (5)  Take a stand against districts (or newspapers) publishing individual teachers' value-added scores, which should be used instead for evaluation, training, and support.  Wendy said she was against it in a recent interview but -- on this and so many other issues outside TFA operations -- hasn't taken a real leadership role on the issue. Now's the time.  There's only so much money, brand appeal, press, and political capital you can amass before you have to start making full use of it.  Push yourselves to make as much change as you push individual corps members.

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I've never been opposed to TFA. If they would follow your outstanding suggestins, TFA would become a win, win, win effort.

Regarding 1), TFA will never bite. So many of these kids quit from the stress...put them in charge of a challanging school and you will end up with a 50% sub population by spring break. Poor kids suffer once again. Besides, once the economy starts to return, these kids are going to skip TFA and head straight for a Wall Street job anyway. Their current high numbers reflect the tight job market (and the need for a good resume) more than it reflects growing interest in education of the poor.

Do you really think it's advisable to push for staffing an entire low-performing school with minimally trained beginners with a fleeting temporary commitment to teaching? If you put it that way without latching onto Teach for America's glittering hype star, it would sound crazy, or coldhearted, or Randian, or something.

Even evil tfa corps members can grow into experienced trained teachers caroline... I'm talking about a school full of alums. Please read my posts before responding.

Here's the deal - TFA has no power to do numbers 1, 2, or 3. So many state and district officials would have to be involved in 1 or 2 that putting this on TFA's wishlist is ridiculous. Because of the limits placed on where corps members can be placed in a district, they have to get on 'the charter school pipe.' Charter school leaders have the autonomy needed with staff hiring, so they are a natural draw for TFA.

I don't think TFA corps members are evil. I don't think the concept is inherently evil either. But its collateral harm encouraging the disparagement and replacement of experienced, committed career teachers in favor of cheap, overconfident temps -- and deprofessionalizing the teaching profession overall -- may well make it a net negative for U.S. public schools and kids. I assume that those are unintended consequences.

We're still waiting for Brain Surgeons for America, Airline Pilots for America and the like.

Thank you, Mr. Russo, for sharing your ideas. If there's anything I took away from attending this weekend's Teach For America 20th-Anniversary Summit in Washington, D.C., it's that educators and the people that support them in their roles as policymakers, lawyers, funders, etc. must continue to innovate in order to close the achievement gap that persists throughout the United States.

Personally, I believe: 1) TFA is already doing it. 2) This would be contrary to TFA's mission. And since you said yourself that the organization has a wealth of resources, why shouldn't it expand to other cities where children lack the opportunity to attain an excellent education? 3) I'd like to hear your reasoning behind this 4) Teach For America has never been about "what everybody else is doing." 5) I'm just happy when newspapers/the media elect to COVER issues of education reform! It is a woefully underreported movement.

I think those are all fairly reasonable suggestions actually. I don't think it would be contrary to TFA's mission to focus on maximizing their gains in their already established regions before expanding to every metro. I think their chances of being effective are greater in cities where they already seems to be a critical mass of TFA people (Chicago, New Orleans) rather than say, jacksonville. In those larger regions, we already see several instances of "school takeovers". I volunteer in one such charter school in Chicago.

Some sort of preservice residency would be huge, and go a long way towards better preparing new CMs, but I doubt TFA would ever go for it.

I think those are all fairly reasonable suggestions actually. I don't think it would be contrary to TFA's mission to focus on maximizing their gains in their already established regions before expanding to every metro. I think their chances of being effective are greater in cities where they already seems to be a critical mass of TFA people (Chicago, New Orleans) rather than say, jacksonville. In those larger regions, we already see several instances of "school takeovers". I volunteer in one such charter school in Chicago.

Some sort of preservice residency would be huge, and go a long way towards better preparing new CMs, but I doubt TFA would ever go for it.

its realy nice post thanks for submiting

i'm told that there are at least a couple of schools that are full of TFA CMs and alums -- WHEELS in NYC and port huron in seattle. any others? let us know.

also -- my thoughts from after the event are here --
http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2011/02/tfa20-a-premature-or-even-unwarranted-celebration.html

does TFA deserve to take credit for large-scale changes in public education outside the classroom, or is that part yet to come?

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.