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Ideas: A Preliminary List Of "Non-Reform" Education Heroes

image from dulemba.com There was lots of behind-the-scenes reaction to last week's "wrecking ball" post.  Most of the folks I sent it to seemed to think that such a thing wasn't possible given lack of money, or wise given recent inroads, or were understandably exasperated that I didn't know their heroes and accomplishments already.  But there were also some examples of new and worthy stories of a more positive version of educators responding to the reform agenda including the Save Our Schools march being planned for this summer, the ongoing work of the Broader, Bolder coalition (Elaine Weiss was at the Fordham event yesterday), a call from Pedro Noguero for President Obama to do better on education reform, and the big group of folks in California who are pushing for an end to the overuse of untrained teachers (including TFA) in high poverty schools. Even better, there were also several names of teachers and activists doing interesting-sounding things to shape reform that were probably new only to me: Renee Moore, Phil Bigler, Lori Nazareno, Anthony Cody, Anthony Mullen -- and new some places -- San Diego? Chattanooga? -- and non-charter initiatives -- International High Schools?  Cathie Bellinger at SFER wrote about how progressives should reclaim schools run progressively even if they're charters.  Sam Chaltain weighs in with a long but interesting post about the crossed-arms stance of what he calls education's Old Guard and the positive energy of Educon (Let's End the Battle of the Edu-Tribes).  To these I would add Valerie Strauss at the Post and Dana Goldstein at The Nation, and Baltimore and the Harlem Children's Zone too (fundamentally a progressive model). Who would you name as an education activist to watch in 2011 -- a progressive version of Rotherham's infamous list -- and why?


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Hi Alexander,

I look forward to seeing who folks peg as our "Non-Reform" heroes. While I have my own list of truth-telling celebrity heroes and sheroes, I'm most impressed most by our everyday heroes--the parents, young people, concerned community members and community-based organizations, and other committed stakeholders--who are raising their voices more and more each day to demand and construct more equitable public education opportunities in our low-income communities of color. These people are more focused on educational improvement and community empowerment than the "reform" du jour.

That said, I would like to draw your attention to a petition I launched last week calling upon Teach For America to evolve from a hurried five-week summer training for brand new teachers to a full-year, school-based model akin to Urban Teacher Residencies. If you would, please sign and post/circulate.

Many thanks,

Joe Rogers, Jr.
Communities For Well-Prepared Teachers



Teach For America is gearing up for its 20th Anniversary Summit in Washington, D.C. on February 11-13. Thousands of TFA teachers, alumni and supporters will converge on our nation's capitol to celebrate, reconnect and hear CEO and Founder Wendy Kopp's vision for TFA's future. At this auspicious moment, we call upon Ms. Kopp to announce the long overdue reform of her teacher preparation program.

Currently, TFA systematically assigns brand new teachers with only five weeks of summer school training to Black and Latino children in low-income communities. In addition, few TFA teachers remain in the classroom beyond TFA’s two-year requirement, depriving our children of experienced educators. These are bold injustices in a perpetually unfair education system that denies our children the critical resources they deserve and need to reach their full potential. The status quo educational inequity that assigns well-prepared teachers to middle class and wealthy White children and inadequately prepared teachers to our children must end.

Tell Wendy Kopp to reform Teach for America's model so teachers assigned to low-income communities of color receive at least a full year of high quality, school-based preparation before they assume responsibility for their own classroom and our children's education.

Thanks for the shout-out for Save Our Schools, a loosely organized but rapidly growing collection of educators who want to reclaim public schools from those who would relinquish them to the forces of corporatization. Is public education an idea worth saving? I think so. There are plenty of unsung heroes with copious experience making public schools better and more equitable. It's nice to see some of their names turn up in your blog.

As for changing TFA to give low-income children of color better teachers--don't we already have something to address that? Ed School? I'm a big fan of urban residencies and ongoing special training for those who choose to teach in high-poverty schools. Why would we waste it on those who haven't chosen teaching as a long-term career?

TFA costs more per teacher hired than does hiring a fully trained beginning teacher out of a traditional education program. That is, TFA requires the district to pay them for the teachers they provide. In return for which a district gets someone with 5 weeks of training, who is not committed to remaining in the classroom. But it is worse. As it attempts to evolve, TFA is now requiring the members of their corps to simultaneously be taking graduate course while learning how to teach. Sorry, but that is idiotic. As beginning teachers, while it might be appropriate to have a support program for any beginning teacher, including one fully trained and having student taught for 16 weeks. Beginning teachers need to be concentrating on helping their students and also learning what they are doing.

In that sense, I agree with what Nancy Flanagan has offered, even as I offer additional comments of my own.

As far as the post Alexander has posted, since I suggested a number of those names, if someone reading his post does not know who they are or what they have done, are they really sufficiently knowledgeable about education to be making decisions about the future of educational policy?

One of the things that is badly wrong right now is how systematically the voices of educators are being excluded, even as we can offer examples of things that work, that are far more effective and often cost less money than what the self-styled reformers - who might more appropriately be labeled deformers - are willing to consider.

thanks for the comments -- but too bad from my perspective joe and ken that you're not using this space to talk more about someone on the list. i don't mean to shut you up and don't disagree with you substantively about TFA's weak preparation and configuration but strategically i think it's time to start building interest and attention on a more positive, compelling storyline. you may not agree, which is fine, but from posts like this i'm not even sure that you understand what i'm talking about.

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