About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Quote: Stop Talking About Education's "Egypt Moment"

Quotes2 This isn’t a revolution like Egypt’s, in which 18 days can change everything.

 -- Reform advocate Whitney Tilson

Teacher of the Year Laid Off; 41 pictures plus videos and stories from the TFA 20th Anniversary Summit; Session with Randi
         
 
Inbox
  X  
         

Reply

Whitney Tilson

 
show details Feb 14 (1 day ago)
 

1) Buried in my last email about using animated cartoons to spread the reform message was the link to the cartoon I created entitled “Teacher of the Year Laid Off”.  It’s posted here (without the curse words): www.xtranormal.com/watch/11138646 (it’s only two minutes) (the curse word version is still at: www.xtranormal.com/watch/11131334).  Let me know what you think and please forward/post it!

2) STOP THE PRESSES!!!  The TFA 20th Anniversary Summit last Saturday was AMAZING!!!  It was truly one of the most energizing, inspiring days of my life.  The energy, passion, commitment…you get the idea.  I hope the 41 pictures that my assistant (and TFA alum, Newark ’04) Leila Jerusalem and I took (31 at the end of this email and these plus 10 more athttps://picasaweb.google.com/WTilson/TFA20) plus all of the videos (specific links below and all are posted at: http://vimeo.com/tfa20/videos/sort:date) can give you some idea of what it was like.

The day began with an opening session, kicked off by a local school’s marching band parading through the crowd.  Kaya Henderson (TFA New York ’92), Interim Chancellor of the Washington D.C. Public Schools, welcomed everyone.  You can see her speech at:http://vimeo.com/19899601.  Wendy Kopp gave the opening speech (http://vimeo.com/19900801).  Then TFA Board Chairman Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, introduced the panel (http://vimeo.com/19899686), which consisted of Jon Schnur, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada and new LA super John Deasy (http://vimeo.com/19904035).  They were in top form!  The KIPP String and Rhythm Orchestra played at both the opening and closing sessions.

Then we broke for morning sessions.  Under the theory of “know thy enemy,” I attended the “Discussion with Randi Weingarten on the Role of Teachers’ Unions in Education Reform”, during which she was questioned by Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute.  I credited Randi in my written question (which Rick read) for having the guts to show up (Dennis Van Roekel, President of the NEA certainly didn’t!), but she was surprisingly uninteresting.  I was expecting more combativeness, but she was really trying hard to persuade us that she’s really on our side.  At the end of this email are some notes I found on a blog.  Here are some excerpts:

Hess: “We understand that the union has to protect its members, but it seems like the union is more concerned with protecting teachers’ due process rather than helping teachers who have to shoulder the burden of working in a system with so many bad teachers.”

 

There is a strong applause, loudest of the session.

 

Weingarten: Responds by saying, “Any union that does that, shame on them.” Then, she goes on to explain how she isn’t about protecting “due process” as her central goal. She is walking a fine line here, definitely trying to win over the crowd, which seems pretty split on their opinions of her.

 

Hess: “Last in, first out…AFT has stood by this… WHY?”

 

Weingarten: “I’m not saying that seniority is the best way to make layoff decisions…the magnitude of the cuts to schools across this country are devastating…that’s what we should be fighting against. These cuts are devastating for kids. I am fighting to stop the magnitude of these layoffs.”

 

…“I hate the status quo. I am not here to defend the status quo.”

My main takeaway as I listened to her is that she’s focused on the hardships of the adults in the system (not surprisingly, given who elected her and who pays her), whereas I (and other reformers) are focused on the hardships of the children in the system.  Yes, I care about the adults – but a distant second to the kids.  I have no doubt that Randi cares about the children – but a distant second to the adults. 

Then there was lunch and shorter breakout sessions, followed by the afternoon sessions.  I was on one entitled, “Shifting the Prevailing Ideology”, with James Carville, Kati Haycock (Ed Trust), Amanda Ripley (author and Time magazine columnist), and musician John Legend.  Everyone in the audience was snapping pictures of me (for sure, they weren’t aimed at John Legend! ;-).  My main message was that we shouldn’t be deceived by all the people in the room and at the Summit, which acts as an echo chamber.  We’re still outmanned, outgunned, and outspent 100:1 in this fight and we have A LOT of work to do to persuade the general public to support our agenda.  I also said that this isn’t a revolution like Egypt’s, in which 18 days can change everything.  The system is too big, decentralized (90% of K-12 spending is at the state and local level), and entrenched for change to happen quickly, so it’s going to be a long, bloody, brutal slog.  It’s taken us 40 years to go from having the best public education system in the world to one that is at best middle of the pack among developed nations, and it will likely take another 40 years to fix it.  So this is a journey of 1,000 miles and we’re only a short way into it – but I’m optimistic because for the first time in my lifetime, we’re winning.  Yes, it’s 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, but that’s a whole lot better than the 2 steps forward, 3 steps back of previous decades. 

My final comment was a call for everyone in the room (and everyone who reads this email!) to get involved: yes, do great work in your classroom and make a difference in dozens of kids’ lives, but you must do more – you must become an advocate!  Specifically:

1) Host a showing of Waiting for Superman, which is scheduled to be released tomorrow on DVD (I just ordered mine at: www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B003Q6D28C/tilsoncapitalpar).  [I wish I’d made this offer on Saturday, but I’ll make it here: if $17.99 is an obstacle for you, I will BUY YOU A COPY if you promise to organize a showing for at least a dozen people – just email my assistant Leila at leilajt2@gmail.com and she’ll order it.]

2) Get educated by downloading my slide presentation and signing up for my email list atwww.arightdenied.org

3) Sign up for email updates at www.dfer.orgwww.edreformnow.org,www.studentsfirst.orgwww.standforchildren.org and www.edtrust.org

4) Be an advocate: sent out emails, use Facebook and Twitter, etc.  Most importantly, drag all of your friends to visit high-performing schools – you can talk to people until you’re blue in the face (and they’re sick of hearing from you), but seeing is believing!

5) Show up at political events and ask tough questions of the politicians (who tend to be ignorant and/or gutless weasels on this issue) and, if you’re able, write checks to support reform-friendly politicians

At the closing session, President Obama addressed the closing session via a taped video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-w95Ixb8-o).  Here’s an excerpt:

 

“Wendy believed it was possible to harness the desire of young people to make a difference.” He compliments the TFA teachers for their work and TFA is now 28,000 strong. He then steps away from talking about TFA, and simply talks about teaching.

 

He echoes his state of the union address. “Anyone who is a teacher deserves our respect and support…We want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the next years…I am encouraging young people to become teachers. I want to thank those who have stayed beyond 2 year commitment…Thank you for showing us the difference a great teacher can make.”

 

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke as well (http://vimeo.com/19908589) – here are some excerpts:

 

“Everyone here is here today because at some point along the way, we had the great fortune of having a great teacher, a great education.”

 

“What Wendy Kopp did 20 years ago, and what you have done, is extraordinary.”

 

“Poverty is not destiny…Education can be a respected profession.”

 

“I know how hard your work is…You may not get the support you need. You may not have the resources you need…”

 

Told a story about a chronically failing Chicago high school was closed and replaced with smaller schools including Urban Prep charter school, where every senior is now attending a four-year college.  “Same children, same community, same poverty, same violence…Different adults, difference sense of expectations…that made all the difference in the world.”

 

DC Mayor Vincent Gray also spoke.  He sure had the reform talk down, boasting about TFA alums in the DC school system, most notably of course, Kaya Henderson, and he also mentioned De’Shawn Wright (NY ’98), his new Deputy Mayor for Education.  The fact that Henderson is still there and that Mayor Gray hired Wright is important.  My conversations with a couple of folks indicate that Gray isn’t as bad as we all feared and there may even be room for cautious optimism.  Perhaps Fenty and Rhee’s reforms took root and generated enough momentum that they’ll keep going under Gray…

 

Numerous TFA alums gave short but powerful talks in a part of the closing session called “Reflections”:

 

 

TFA Board Member John Legend spoke (http://vimeo.com/19909923) and then performed with the KIPP Orchestra (http://vimeo.com/19909406).

 

Afterward, there was a reception downstairs and then lots of folks went to various gatherings hosted by KIPP, etc.  I went to one for original TFA staff and corps members organized by Iris Chen (NY ’90 and various roles at TFA including Executive Director of TFA NYC).  It was a blast seeing people I hadn’t seen in 21 years and they showed an old documentary about TFA’s first year that brought back some incredible memories.

 

A very special day…

---------------------

 

It's hard to describe or capture in a photo what the 11,000 incredibly energized people looked like, but it was INCREDIBLE -- gave me goosebumps!  This picture only captures about 1/3 of the room.  I pan across the entire crowd 19 seconds into this video:www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YLB1Mgpl2M 

 

 

2 of 31

 

 

A local school's marching band opened the morning festivities.

 

 

4 of 31

 

 

Kaya Henderson (TFA New York ’92), Interim Chancellor of the Washington D.C. Public Schools, welcomed everyone.  You can see her speech at: http://vimeo.com/19899601

 

 

TFA Founder Wendy Kopp gave the opening speech (http://vimeo.com/19900801)

 

 

TFA Board Chairman Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, introduced the panel (http://vimeo.com/19899686)

 

 

The panel was AMAZING!  Front left to right: Jon Schnur, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada and new LA super John Deasy (http://vimeo.com/19904035)

 

 

The KIPP String and Rhythm Orchestra played at both the opening and closing sessions.

 

 

10 of 31

 

 

11 of 31

 

 

12 of 31

 

 

13 of 31

 

 

14 of 31

 

 

Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute interviewed AFT President Randi Weingarten in one of the morning breakout sessions

 

 

I was on an afternoon panel, “Shifting the Prevailing Ideology”, with (from left to right) James Carville, Kati Haycock (Ed Trust), Amanda Ripley (author and Time magazine columnist), and musician John Legend

 

 

17 of 31

 

 

This was the crowd at our session.  Notice all the people with cameras aimed at me (for sure, they weren’t aimed at John Legend! ;-)

 

 

President Obama addressed the closing session via a taped video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-w95Ixb8-o)

 

 

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke as well (http://vimeo.com/19908589)

 

DC Mayor Vincent Gray also spoke just before Duncan, but I didn’t get a photo or video.  He sure had the reform talk down, boasting about TFA alums in the DC school system, most notably of course, Kaya Henderson, and he also mentioned De’Shawn Wright (NY ’98), his new Deputy Mayor for Education.  The fact that Henderson is still there and Gray hired Wright is important.  My conversations with a couple of folks indicate that Gray isn’t as bad as we all feared and there may even be room for cautious optimism.  Perhaps Fenty and Rhee’s reforms took root and generated enough momentum that they’ll keep going under Gray…

 

 

TFA Board Member John Legend spoke (http://vimeo.com/19909923) and then performed with the KIPP Orchestra (http://vimeo.com/19909406)

 

 

22 of 31

 

 

23 of 31

 

 

Numerous TFA alums gave short but powerful talks in a part of the closing session called “Reflections”.  Here’s KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg (Houston ’92) (http://vimeo.com/19910007).

 

 

Mike Johnston (Mississippi Delta ’97) and Bill Ferguson (Baltimore ’05), Colorado and Maryland State Senators, respectively (http://vimeo.com/19908808)

 

 

Evan Stone (New York ’07) (co-founder of Educators 4 Excellence) and Amy Spicer (Baltimore ’99) (http://vimeo.com/19908469)

 

 

Dominique Lee (Newark '07), founder/chair of Newark’s B.R.I.C.K. Academy, and Charity Haygood (Newark '96), Principal of Newark’s B.R.I.C.K. Avon Avenue Academy (http://vimeo.com/19909169)

 

Other amazing Reflections included: Miguel Solis (Dallas ’09; http://vimeo.com/19896769), Elisa Villanueva Beard (Phoenix ’98; Chief Operating Officer, Teach For America; http://vimeo.com/19899420), Camika Royal (Baltimore '99; http://vimeo.com/19909070), Tina Fernandez (New York '94; http://vimeo.com/19910048), Closing Reflection (and my favorite): Jeremy Beard (Los Angeles '95;http://vimeo.com/19909263)

 

 

KIPP co-founders Mike Feinberg and David Levin (left and right) and Board Chair John Fisher (center)

 

 

The reception at the end of the day

 

 

In the evening, there was a dinner for original TFA staff and corps members.  From left to right: Ian Huschle, Doug Shulman (currently the Commissioner of the IRS – had I known, I would have REALLY sucked up to him! ;-), Jamey Delaplane, Richard Barth (current CEO of KIPP), Wendy Kopp, Andrea Wade.  In front: Lorri Eisenberg-Brito

 

 

Original TFA staff and corps members.  From left to right: Jim Manley (currently Principal of one of the Success Charter Network schools), Kevin Hall (CEO of the Charter School Growth Fund), Daniel Oscar (VP at Edison Schools), and Ian Huschle

 

----------------

Edited notes on the session “Discussion with Randi Weingarten on the Role of Teachers’ Unions in Education Reform” from http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com

 

Randi begins. She gives a little history of herself and why she was drawn to teaching/labor issues. She says she thought  the labor movement was the way to change society, education is the way to change society. “The union is an empowering organization for teachers….most of us don’t have individual power…we need to create structures that create this power…we need you to be part of that.”

 

Waiting for Superman=she is talking about the contract signed with a Green Dot school in New Jersey. 97% of the kids are on track to graduate. 100% passed their math regents. She points out that this is a unionized school, so Guggenheim should have acknowledged this.

 

Hess: He says…In NY state, you and the union fought to keep student performance out of teacher performance evaluations and you fought against charter school cap being raised. He asks why she fought against these agents of change.

 

Weingarten: Responds that the data system was flawed. Then goes into a discussion about how large school systems are like factories. She tells the crowd to email her if they see union problems: Rweingarten@aft.org.

 

Hess:  “How come you haven’t been more vocal about calling out management?” He is referring to management  (school leaders) not getting rid of “bad” teachers.

 

Weingarten: She says something about the budget crisis. “I stopped calling them out when the recession hit…” She refers to the fiscal crisis of the 70s. She says “you are right,” referring to Hess’s claim that we need to “call out” management.

 

“When the union leader does it (calls out blame), then it turns into a fight…it takes us away from the true problems…conflict makes great headlines…but it doesn’t help reform systems to help kids.”

 

“Let’s have 360 degree accountability. Let’s not just have top down, let’s have bottom up. Shouldn’t teachers have a chance to evaluate principals…We gave Joel Klein an evaluation. What was interesting…70-80% filled out the evaluations. They want a voice.”

 

Weingarten: Re. the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR), she is talking about the shift to allow free transfers. Now, she’s moving on to excessing, and how she cautioned against it when the DOE wanted to do it. 

 

She is telling a story about someone who worked in two failing schools. “We have to get to a different system where we figure out who can teach and who can’t…a system that is fair.”

 

Hess: “We understand that the union has to protect its members, but it seems like the union is more concerned with protecting teachers’ due process rather than helping teachers who have to shoulder the burden of working in a system with so many bad teachers.”

 

There is a strong applause, loudest of the session.

 

Weingarten: Responds by saying, “Any union that does that, shame on them.” Then, she goes on to explain how she isn’t about protecting “due process” as her central goal. She is walking a fine line here, definitely trying to win over the crowd, which seems pretty split on their opinions of her.

 

Hess: “Last in, first out…AFT has stood by this… WHY?”

 

Weingarten: “I’m not saying that seniority is the best way to make layoff decisions…the magnitude of the cuts to schools across this country are devastating…that’s what we should be fighting against. These cuts are devastating for kids. I am fighting to stop the magnitude of these layoffs.”

 

Hess: “School spending for three generations has increased. We’ve added adults to the system at twice the rate of students.” He’s gone on to talk about tax increases and how Americans don’t want to spend more on education.

 

Weingarten: “The American public wants to invest in education…I think there is wasteful spending in our system. We waste $7 billion on attrition. In Finland, you have almost no attrition with new teachers.”

 

Hess: “Let’s talk about the labor market…” He says her wasteful spending claims don’t add up.

 

Hess: School pensions in New Jersey. “We don’t have the dollars to afford these…they are being offered generous packages at the expense of the students.”

 

Weingarten: “$600 a month is what teachers in New York are getting.” She is pointing out how it isn’t really as “generous” as Hess just alleged. “We need to actually use pension funds to do things about infrastructure….my point is this…there are a lot of new things that need to happen in American…how do you become a fair society.”

 

Question and Answer session begins, questions are read by Hess:

 

Question 1: How can teachers who are dissatisfied with unions do anything?

Weingarten:  “Get involved. We need you and we want you.”

 

Question 2:  Oakland teacher who is his school’s union rep wrote: “Our kids are graduating at a dismal rate. When I raise this at meetings, no one wants to talk about teacher quality. What can I do to help them see this connection?”

 

Weingarten: “You can’t point fingers...regardless of what you think the problem is you have to engage with your colleagues…We can’t do it alone.”

 

“I hate the status quo. I am not here to defend the status quo.”

 

Question 3:  Starts with a compliment to her for being her and a criticism of the head of the NEA not being here (the first part was my question). The question is about her opinion of NEA.

 

Weingarten: “I’m not going to trash the NEA.” She doesn’t say much.

 

Question 4: “As states like CO, LA, roll out new evaluations for teachers and schools, what are the 3 key things to keep an eye out for?”

 

Weingarten: We cannot reduce education to a test score! (applause).  She doesn’t give two others, but explains this at length.

 

Picasa Web Albums - Photos linked in this email.
YouTube - Videos from this email
 Reply
 
 Forward
       

 

Comments

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00e54f8c25c98834014e861d6bdf970d

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Quote: Stop Talking About Education's "Egypt Moment":

Permalink

Permalink URL for this entry:
http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2011/02/quote-stop-talking-about-educations-egypt-moment.html

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Umm worst formatting ever?

I think there is an "Egypt moment" happening in education, except not the way she is thinking. I for one am happy to see teachers in Indiana and Wisconsin joining their brothers in Egypt to fight for democracy and the right of people to have a say in how they want their schools (and countries) run rather than an affluent few like Rhee, Klein, Duncan, and Gates who want to dictate from above. Up with Democracy!

a few more examples of overzealous language being used at the event

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2011/02/teach_for_americas_egypt_momen.html

of course, obama and duncan and others do similar things all along -- as do opponents of reform like ravitch

Thanks for the link Alexander. It is funny how TFA talks about their movement as "taking over" public education, but seem to suffer from what many republicans suffer from and that is not understanding that this other group they want to "take over" is made up of real human beings who have something to offer, who have spent their whole lives in education. One could be forgiven for not mistaking this group for a republican group.

thank you. i love to read this type of information posts. again thank you...

The comments to this entry are closed.

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.