Is @TeachForAmerica Cloaking Inequity?: Discussing the Headwind

Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, author of the blog, Cloaking Inequity, provides an important look into the nature of Teach for America, and why it is not the way teachers for our schools should be prepared, or hired.  He writes:

After several decades, Teach For America, a program that sends inexperienced teachers (typically only 5 weeks of summer training) before they are shipped off to teach on a temporary basis (primarily) in America’s toughest schools, is facing some headwind. Alumni are increasingly speaking out against the organization, many of whom who joined Teach For America…read the full story here:

Is @TeachForAmerica Cloaking Inequity?: Discussing the Headwind.

Do Some Charter and Title I Schools Use a Pedagogy of Indoctrination

 

"Creative Commons Allensworth Classroom by Joseph Vasquez  CC By 2.0
“Creative Commons Allensworth Classroom” by Joseph Vasquez is Licensed under  CC By 2.0

I might be off my rocker on this post, but I want to get it out there, and ask you if there might be some truth in my claim.  My claim is that the No Child Left Behind Act set in motion a culture of schooling which seeks conformity and an authority to which participants must subscribe, meaning teachers, students and their parents.  Followed by the Race to the Top, we have created in American schools an environment that many have shown to be harmful to the psychological well-being of not only students, but teachers as well.

There is evidence that many charter and Title I schools use an authoritarian and behavioral change system of learning to make one change in student behavior and that is higher test scores. Because of federal and state regulations implicit in NCLB and RT3, a top-down system of accountability has played a role in making authoritarianism the principle of charter schools, and many public Title I schools.

The Strict Family and the Strict Classroom

In previous discussions on this blog I’ve applied the research of George Lakoff.  Dr. Lakoff uses the conceptual metaphor of Nation as Family and applies it to politics, literature, philosophy and mathematics.  Using this idea, ones (political) beliefs tend to be structured by how we think of family, and our early experiences in our own family which contribute to our beliefs. Thinking of a nation as a family is a familiar notion, as in phrases such as Mother Russia, Fatherland, sending sons and daughters off to war, the founders, Big Brother (see Joe Brewer, Rockbridge Institute, discussion here). In Brewer’s thinking, the conceptual metaphor of nation as family organizes our brains in this way: homeland is home, citizens are siblings, the government (or head) is parent, and so forth.

Lakoff would say that a conservative family would be based on authority, and would be represented by the “Strict Father Family”. In the Thinking Points Discussion Series published by Rockbridge, the conservative family can be characterized as follows (from Brewer, Conservative Morality):

  • The Strict Father Family is the traditional family with a father and mother
  • The father is the head of the house
  • The mother is supportive and upholds the authority of the father
  • A hierarchy exists and is never to be questioned
  • Children are weak and lack self-control
  • Parents know what is best
  • Children learn right and wrong when punished by doing wrong
  • When children become self-disciplined, respect authority, and learn right from wrong they are strong enough to succeed in the world.

In my earlier blog post, I wrote about Rocketship Education, a relatively new charter management system with schools in California and Wisconsin.  It appears to me that the Rocketship education model of education is authoritarian and relies on indoctrination for its success. It’s a model of education that fits the description of Lakoff’s conservative family.

Authoritarian Education

In that earlier post, I outlined four principles that characterize a Rocketship School based on the research of Gordon Lafer.  Here are the principles and comments I’ve made about each one. As you read these points, connect these principles to the principles in Lakoff’s theory:

  1. Replacement of teachers with computers for online learning–Digital learning is a way to make the school more economical, and using the schools “Learning Lab” large numbers of students can be accommodated with less staff.
  2. Reliance on a young and inexperienced teachers largely recruited from Teach for America–according to Lafer’s report, Rocketship has a contract with Teach for America to offer a pipeline of new recruits. Rocketship teachers are paid based on how their students score on math and reading tests. The model embraces a young staff and one that has a high-turnover rate. As you will see ahead, Rocketship schools are staffed with teachers who have between 0-5 years experience, where successful comparable public schools have staffs with 10 – 30 years of experience. Teaching staffs that are more experienced are by far more successful with students and their learning. The replacement or turnover rate for the Rocketship schools averages 29% each year.
  3. A narrow curriculum of math and reading–Rocketship Education describes its approach to curriculum as blended learning. Blending digital learning with face to face. However, its curriculum only includes math and reading literacy. You will not find a full curriculum at these schools.
  4. A relentless focus on preparing students for standardized tests—Rocketship teaches to the test–students are involved as full-time test takers at school and home. Students take the test Measuring Academic Progress (MAP) three times per year. This is the same test that teachers in Seattle boycotted. But instruction is totally centered around tests that are aligned to the state standards (the Common Core Standards next year).

The nature of the pedagogy outlined in these four points is a certain example of Lakoff’s conservative “Strict Father Family,” where the entire system is organized underneath an authority figure.  This could be the owner of the charter school management system, the principal of the school, or even the top-down rules and regulations upon which the school’s accountability depends.

But this tenor of authoritarianism is not limited to charter schools.

Indoctrination

What has happened is that accountability has been reduced fundamentally to one cause, measurement or variable, and that is student test scores.  In Georgia, for instance, the state rolled out a new accountability system in which each school in the state is graded (A – F) by adding up the points earned in four categories.  However, each of the categories is dependent on one reason: student test scores.

The state, in Georgia and most other states, is the authority figure that controls the behavior of administrators, teachers and students. The state indoctrinates school staff to follow very strict guidelines to increase student test scores.  These guidelines are defined by standards (either state or Common Core State Standards), and what is known as College & Career Ready Performance, using expressed as an index or simply a number that can be used to compare schools, districts and states.

In Atlanta, all you had to do yesterday to verify this is to read the Atlanta Journal/Constitution newspaper which listed the top and bottom performing schools in school districts around the state.  Winners and losers?

So, the only purpose of teaching in schools that are served by an authoritarian regime is to teach to the test, and to spend as much time possible making students practice for the tests with worksheets, and obsessively stupid homework assignments.  The goal is to score high on the state mandated high-stakes tests, and to get as a high a grade for the school based fundamentally on student test scores.

The Rocketship Schools have taken the conservative model to the extreme.  By reducing the curriculum to essentially two subjects, math and reading, teachers are trained to teach math and reading only in so far as the kids score high on the tests.  In fact, in the Rocketship schools, teacher’s pay is dependent on student scores.  I am not saying that there is a salary scale based on specific scores, but given comments made on a PBS interview with the principal and two teachers at the school, there are targets to be met.

In this kind of school, teachers do not need to be educated, but they need to be indoctrinated and trained to follow the leader. Teach for America’s 5 week training is all that is wanted in schools that cut teaching to test preparation.  Not only does Teach for America supply Rocketship teachers, but TFA and the New Teacher Project have multi-million dollar agreements with several Race to the Top winning states (follow this link to see it work in Georgia).

Child Labor Violations

What is the role of the student in these extreme classroom situations.  The school day begins in the school courtyard or similar space in a kind of ceremony or rally to energize the students, and to instill in them “group think” and the requirement that they must conform to the authority of the school, and especially their teachers.

To some researchers and practicing educators, American obsession with statewide testing has led to an inhumane environment.  Stephanie Jones, a research professor at the University of Georgia has written that the current system of high-stakes testing might be exploiting child labor laws by creating a system in which students spend up to seven hours in school doing things that might be unethical.  As she sees it, children are the producing workers in the school system whose production of test scores will be used to reward the people above them—-their teachers and administrators, and indeed the superintendent of the school system.  Go ask Beverly Hall about this.

As Dr. Jones points out, Child Labor laws were enacted to prevent children from working under conditions of stress and long hours.  Sending them to school was one way to prevent business owners from using children during the day.  Now, schools seem to have taken over.

Psychological Abuse

Joyce Murdock Feilke is a 30 year veteran school counselor in the Austin, Texas independent school district (AISD).  On October 15, 2013 she filed a “Report of Psychological Abuse in an AISD Elementary School,” and sent it to Senator Jane Nelson of Texas, and the Committee for Health & Human Services.  The superintendent of AISD was Dr. Meria Carstarphen, who was hired to begin the superintendency of the Atlanta Public Schools in July, 2014.  According to reports that I have seen, there is evidence that Dr. Carstarpen covered up the abuse, and then after a month simply denied Joyce’s report.

Joyce Murdock Feilke wrote in her report about the psychological abuse of students at an Austin elementary school.  She begins by saying:

During the past 30 years as a school counselor, I have observed a steady decline in the elementary school environment.  This decline has resulted from complex reasons, but primarily from the obsession with statewide testing and corrosive school politics.  Children in most elementary schools of Texas are being forced to function in an environment of chronic stress.  Chronic stress is known to change brain chemistry in children and can lead to mental illness.  Many of these young children with genetic predisposition to autism and other neurological, sensory, and developmental delays are experiencing chronic traumatic stress and will suffer even greater psychological harm.  The demands for high-test performance ratings are causing these children to be exploited and experimented on as if they were caged mice in a science lab.  They are being psychologically abused on a grand scale that will impact the mental health of future generations (emphasis is mine).

The New 3 R’s System of Behavior Control

Feilke has exposed a system of teaching that uses punitive methods of behavior modification (now called Applied Behavior Analysis {ABA}) in Title I schools in Austin, Texas.  According to this veteran educator, a new system of 3 R’s (The Right Resources, The Right People, and the Right Systems) using behavioral engineering was initiated by a former structural engineer who became principal in the AISD.  The 3R’s model is applied in elementary schools with large populations of minority students.  Ms. Feilke provides insight into the 3R’s model.  She says:

The New 3 R’s System of behavioral engineering that AISD is celebrating and perpetuating uses the same methods of punitive classic conditioning that are known to enslave children for child labor and sex trafficking, and for obedience training for dogs and zoo animals.  It is the same dysfunctional system that kept the black culture of the South submissive to oppression for the hundred years after the Civil War.  It is the same dysfunctional system that led to the Nazi Regime in Germany prior to WWII.  The New 3 R’s System has the same sophisticated dysfunctional dynamics and abuse of power that can be observed in every poisonous pedagogy that has ever woven its way through history.  It can be observed in families, cults, and countries.  It is efficient, and it does result in high performance, but at the expense of great psychological damage to its victims.

The 3R’s was effective in raising Title I student test scores, so much so, that the district expanded it into other schools.

But the 3R’s systems, according to Feilke, is punitive.  It creates chronic stress in students, resulting in

desensitization, anxiety, loss of imagination, loss of spontaneity, loss of humor, regression, irritability, self injury, inability to concentrate, and dissociation.  However, the most destructive effects of this psychological abuse will not manifest until the children reach their teenage years, or early adulthood.  At that time, their conditioned emotional repression from victimization of institutional bullying and positive/negative ambivalent role modeling can lead to mental illness and criminality.

Punitive System of Teaching

Using qualitative research, Feilke documents specific examples of the effects of this punitive system on students.  As she points out, the teacher/caregiver dominate the class environment using punitive classical conditioning to “shape” behavior.  She makes the point here, when she expresses what happens to kids in this kind of classroom:

This poisonous pedagogy has been demonstrated throughout history to produce efficiency in human systems and gain desired performance, but at the same time repressing vitality, creativity, and emotions in children.

Imagine your child coming to school and you ask, what did you do today?  Well, at lunch, because I didn’t finish my work, I was told to stand up in front of everyone while the principal said I was bad for not finishing my homework.  I felt awful.  Some of the kids snickered at me, but Shane put her hand on my back, and said “don’t worry.”

Here is how Ms. Feilke describes the effect of this kind of behavior control on children:

Many of the younger children cry when forced to sit in isolation by themselves in front of everyone in the cafeteria.  Some of their peers show signs of sympathy, while others make sarcastic comments or looks, and others fear the same could happen to them.  Most of the children see the injustice, and feel helpless and sad for the victims.  This method of humiliating children causes strong emotions of shame, anger, and resentment for both the victim and the bystanders.  By using this method, teachers are modeling negative behavior of “bullying”, while presenting it to the child as “good discipline”.

There is more to this story, and I’ll follow-up later this week.

For now, I wish to thank Joyce Murdock Feilke for being such a courageous educator to take the risks to expose the dehumanizing pedagogy that was used in elementary schools in Austin.  After her superintendent, Dr. Meria Carstarphen, (who is the new Superintendent designee for the Atlanta Public Schools ) denied her report, Joyce resigned her position in the Austin USD in protest.  She said this in her letter of resignation:

I have attempted to speak up and advocate for children in AISD who are most impacted by this invalidating environment and dysfunctional administration. It is my goal to continue speaking up. I am submitting my resignation as counselor in order to pursue this advocacy without retaliation from an administration that does not recognize or respect the needs of children, or the rights of professionals who work to support and help them.

Joyce’s documentation of the injustices that prevailed in these schools was also published on Julian Vasquez Heilig’s blog (Cloaking Inequities) and Diane Ravitch’s blog.  If you go to Cloaking Inequities you will find 99 comments in response to Joyce’s letter to Senator Nelson and the HHS Committee.

Do Some Charter School Models Use a Pedagogy of indoctrination?  What are your ideas?

What Sort of Teacher Preparation Programs Does the Gates Foundation Support?

Did you know that between 2008 and 2013, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided more than $37 million in funding for teacher preparation projects?

What sort of teacher preparation programs does the Gates Foundation support?

Only 8% of these funds were awarded to university teacher education programs. Ninety-two percent of the grant money was awarded to corporations including The New Teacher Project (TNTP) and Teach for America (TFA).  Michelle Rhee, a former Teach for America cadet, and former Chancellor of the D.C. schools founded and ran The New Teacher Project.   Teach for America was founded by Wendy Kopp in 1989.  Rhee has two years of teaching experience, while Kopp has no teaching experience.

So, organizations whose heads have very little practical teaching experience are likely to receive funding from the Gates Foundation, while universities with qualified and experienced educators are not likely to receive much in funding.

As you see in Figure 1, ten institutions received funding for teacher preparation from Gates.  Only four are universities. There were 20 funded grants, most of them going to two organizations, TFA and TNTP.  In each of these programs, teachers are trained during a 5-week summer term, and then assigned to a school somewhere in the country.   Under these circumstances, school districts have a pipeline of new, but uncertified and inexperienced teachers to hire, often in challenging teaching environments.

The university grants are very small in comparison to the TFA and TNTP.  The largest of the university grants was awarded to the University of Central Florida to support its TeachLivE program, a simulation for teacher development.  According to the TeachLivE website, “it provides pre-service and in-service teachers the opportunity to learn new skills and to craft their practice without placing “real” students at risk during the learning process.”

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 6.45.54 PM
This graph is based on data from the Gates Foundation that appeared in the Education Week article, “Follow the Money: Gates Giving for Its Teacher Agenda“, November 5, 2013.

The Gates Foundation, which is the largest private foundation on Earth, believes that teachers can be trained in a summer camp type of environment, and immediately be placed in schools to teach.  Because many of the persons that are recruited by programs such as Teach for America sign up for only two years, in the long run, this approach to teacher preparation is not sustainable.  Suggesting that uncertified and in the long run, part-time teachers is a way to staff schools with effective teachers is unfortunate.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 7.52.23 PMTeacher education makes a difference in the quality and effectiveness of professional teachers. Clinically based, and constructivist oriented teacher education program are more effective than a summer program in which pedagogy is crammed into a five-week program.  I know this first-hand because I was involved in two summer teacher education programs at Georgia State University from 1987 – 1992 (The Alternative Certification Program and the AFT Educational Research and Dissemination Program-TRIPS) Although our programs involved mentor teachers, who also received training, the programs did not compare in effectiveness to the program that emerged from our experiences.  Out of our experiences in these two programs, we developed the TEEMS program, a master’s level, full-time, clinically based program for mathematics and science teachers.

In a Journal of Teacher Education article entitled How Teacher Education Matters, Linda Darling-Hammond reviewed the literature on teacher education programs and has this to say:

Despite longstanding criticisms of teacher education, the weight ofsubstantial evidence indicates that teachers who have had more preparation for teaching are more confident and successful with students than those who have had little or none. Recent evidence also indicates that reforms of teacher education creating more tightly integrated programs with extended clinical preparationinterwoven with coursework on learning and teaching produce teachers who are both more effective and more likely to enter and stay in teaching. An important contribution of teacher education is its development of teachers’abilities to examine teaching from the perspective of learners who bring diverse experiences and frames of reference to the classroom.

Post Script

In teacher preparation there are various pathways to becoming a teacher, including teacher education programs, alternative programs, or no program.  Based on a large study of 3000 beginning teachers in New York City regarding their views on their preparation for teaching, their beliefs and practice, and their plans to remain in teaching (Darling-Hammond, Chung, and Frelow), the researchers found that:

  • teachers who were prepared in teacher education programs felt significantly better prepared across most dimensions of teaching than those who entered teaching through alternative programs or without preparation.
  • the extent to which teachers felt well prepared when they entered teaching was significantly correlated with their sense of teaching efficacy, their sense of responsibility for student learning, and their plans to remain in teaching.
  • These are significant finding in the context of the drive to place non-certified and non-prepared teachers into classrooms that typically are more demanding and require more knowledge about learning and student development than these individuals can deliver.  The knowledge base on teaching is enormous, and to think that we can prepare teachers in 5 – 8 week institutes only devalues what we know about preparing teachers for practice.

What do you think about effort of the Gates Foundation to influence the way teachers are prepared?

What is Georgia’s Race to the Top Plan for New Teachers?

What is the Georgia Race to the Top (RT3) Plan for New Teachers?

Teach for America

The simple answer is to hire inexperienced and uncertified teachers through contractual arrangements with Teach for America, a political action organization that provides boot camp summer training for college graduates from élite universities.  After five weeks of training, with little to no “student teaching,” these young persons are then dropped into a variety of schools.  For Georgia, most of the TFA cadets are hired by school districts in the metro-Atlanta area.  According to the TFA Metro Atlanta website, since 2000, there are 989 TFA alumni in the Atlanta region, 13 alumni school leaders, and 300 corps teachers hired this year for Atlanta area schools.   And according to the AJC, four of the TFA alumni are running for a place on the Atlanta School Board.

The New Teacher Project

The New Teacher Project is essentially a step-child of Teach for America.  It was given birth in 1997 with the aim of giving poor and minority students equal access to effective teachers.  TNTP’s CEO was Michelle Rhee, a TFA alumni, from 1997 – 2007.  TNTP uses  TFA boot camp model with a five-week “pre-service” summer training period.  TNTP teachers then begin their teaching assignment in the Fall.

trendsThese two programs train teachers, just as we train athletes.  At their websites you will find falsehoods about so-called traditional teacher education.  They make the claim that traditional teacher education stress theory, and don’t offer practical field-based experiences for its students.  Both of these are falsehoods.  I entered the field of science teacher education in 1969, and from the beginning all of our programs at Georgia State University were field-based, and might be described as programs that mingled theory and practice, and prepared people to be educators.

And to make matters even more fuzzy, Georgia State University’s College of Education has partnered with TFA to offer a route for recruits to earn a teaching certificate and a master’s degree in education.  Although I do not know the circumstances that led to the partnership, it is questionable why GSU would agree with TFA that putting inexperienced cadets in the poorest classrooms with out student teaching type internships is disappointing.  So on the one hand, TFA and TNTP claim that traditional teacher education is too theoretical, but on the other hand, they are quick to ask the traditional provider of teachers to educate their recruits.

That said, the facts are that the directors of the Georgia Race to the Top advocate putting the most inexperienced teachers in some of the poorest schools in the state where the evidence is that more experienced teachers with advanced degrees would perform at higher levels.  Figure 1 is evidence that the RT3 favors rookies over experienced teachers.  The evidence is in Table 1, which includes four budget lines showing how $30,375,235 million will be spent on turning around the lowest achieving schools.

Figure 1. Turning Around the Lowest Achieving Schools Budget Items in Georgia's Race to the Top Grant. (Race to the Top Scope of Work)
Table 1. Turning Around the Lowest Achieving Schools Budget Items in Georgia’s Race to the Top Grant. Table was copied from www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/state-scope-of-work/gerogia.pdf

Teach for America has a $15.6 million contract with Georgia’s Race to the Top over four years, while The New Teacher Project has a $12 million contract with RT3 (the difference in the amount shown in the graph is to pay for supervisory teachers) .  Each of these projects is a fundamental part of the RT3 plan to turn around the lowest-achieving schools in Georgia.  The lowest-achieving schools in Georgia are closely monitored and put most of the resources into improving the achievement scores of students in mathematics and English/language arts.

Pipeline

The language used to describe this effort is tied up in the notion of increasing the pipeline of effective educators.

From the RT3 budget is this statement:

Increase the pipeline of effective teachers through partnership with Teach for America in Atlanta Public Schools, Clayton County, DeKalb County and Gwinnett with the first class of new TFA recruits beginning in the school year 2011-2012.  Funding included in section E project 24: $15,6000,000).

A separate line in the budget points the same kind of arrangement with The New Teacher Project, which will provide new teachers in Savannah, Augusta, and Southwest Georgia, for $7,568,395 million.

RT3 mandates that if a school is considered a turn around school, typically the principal is replaced, and many of the teachers are replaced with new teachers.  There is also the possibility that the school will become a charter school managed by a charter corporation.

Where will the state find the teachers to fill the gaps in these schools?  Well, that’s easy to answer:

  • Teach for America
  • The New Teacher Project

So as we see, the effort to work with schools whose students do not do well on achievement tests boils down to replacing experienced teachers with new recruits who will only stay on for two years.  This is simply not a sustainable approach, and ignores the intention of experienced teachers who understand from their earlier work with children that there is more to school than getting kids to pass a test.

Yet, the plan is that TFA will provide between 900 – 1100 uncertified teachers for metro-Atlanta schools, while TNTP will train 200 – 300 uncertified teacher for Savannah, Augusta, and Southwest Georgia.

 What about “traditional” Teacher Education?

Does the RT3 have any interest in investing in colleges and universities who have been in the business of preparing teachers for decades, and quite effectively.  The short answer is yes, but at lower levels than for TFA and TNTP, and primarily in the fields of science and math.

The RT3 awarded grants to three Georgia universities, University of West Georgia, Southern Polytechnic University, and Valdosta University.  According to RT3, these programs replicate the teacher education program developed at the University of Texas, the Uteach program, which is a traditional science and mathematics teacher education program.  The Uteach program is very similar to the science and mathematics teacher education program at Georgia State University, the TEEMS program, which was developed in the early 1990s, and is still operating at GSU.

The RT3

The $4 billion Race to the Top contest was won by 11 states and the District of Columbia.  The goal of the RT3 is for states to make sure that student achievement scores increase according to performance standards which have no basis in science.  I have spent hours studying the Georgia Race to the Top budget and work plan.  I normally do not study budgets, but I’ve been a critic of the RT3 ever since it was announced, but in order to do this, it was paramount that I look into the details.

This post only exposes a tiny piece of the complexity of the RT3.  Millions are spent on testing and evaluation, creating instruments to measure the effectiveness of teachers, millions of dollars to set up a data warehouse to store a wide array of student and teacher data.

Because the model of learning that is advocated by the RT3 is behavioral, and not constructivist, the drive is to produce teachers who can get results on achievement tests.  And so it doesn’t matter how experienced the teachers are, according to the RT3, they only need to be able to teach to the test, and hope that students score high enough so they won’t contribute to their school being labeled, “needs improvement.”

Well, there you have it.  Is the nearly $400 million that Georgia received to improve education being used in ways that you think will improve schooling?

 

Georgia’s Race to the Top Questionable Relationships with Charters, Teach for America & The New Teacher Project

Georgia’s Race to the Top has clear, yet questionable relationships with Charter Management Companies, Teach for America and The New Teacher Project. Charter management companies are private nationally based firms that receive public funds intended for public schools. The Race to the Top insures that management firms are welcomed into the 11 states and D.C., at the detriment to local school districts.

Build Charters and They Will Come

Add to this fact that the Georgia State Legislature passed a law to amend the Georgia Constitution allowing the defunct (because the Georgia Supreme Court ruled its existence unconstitutional) State Charter Schools Commission to rise from the dead. This summer the revived Commission received 16 applications from various groups seeking to embed charter schools in districts around the state. And, they can set up shop without the district’s approval or need, as long as they are approved by the State Commission.

Why is this relationship such a big deal? One of the goals of the RTT Georgia plan is to turnaround the lowest-achieving schools. In this scenario, the state fires the principal, and no more than half the faculty, and replace them. One of models is the “restart model” whereby a school is converted, or closed and then opened by a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an education management organization.

Screen-Shot-2012-03-14-at-7.17.54-PM-1So, the Race to the Top has laid the ground work to unleash charter schools with false claims and lots of money.  The problem here is that charters have not been more effective than regular public schools, and indeed it would be better for a parent to send their child to a public school than a charter.  For example, data from Dr. Michael Marder’s research, University of Texas shows that not only is poverty correlated with low test scores, but charter schools on the whole are at the bottom of the graph showing how ineffective they have been in improving academic achievement.

Charter schools also have increased the segregation of children.  Instead of seeking other possible solutions, such as teacher enhancement and staff development, health care for families, social services that offer opportunities and help in alleviating poverty and unemployment, investment in the infrastructure of the communities of these schools, all the state can come up with is firing 50 percent the staff, and then hiring inexperienced and non certified part-time teachers.

Hire Inexperienced, Non Certified and Part Time Teachers

One of the four focus area of the Georgia RTT is great teachers and leaders.  In the mind of the Georgia RTT officials, one way to get great teachers and leaders is to partner up with two organizations that “train” teachers during a boot camp style summer program lasting at most six weeks.  I’m talking about Teach for America, and The New Teacher Project.

In the budget of the Georgia RTT there are two lines that show the amounts paid to these two organization.  Teach for America received $4,837,104 through June 30, 2012.  The New Teacher Project received $3,002,890 through the same period.  Why would the state pay out $7,839,994 to hire inexperienced and non certified teachers, and place them in schools that have been identified as “low achieving.”  Through this period, the total expenditures of the Georgia Race to the Top is $69,765,001.  More than 11 percent of the budget was allocated to these organizations who prepare non certified teachers.

Thousands of Georgia teachers lost their jobs over the past three years, yet the state is willing to hire nearly 500 inexperienced and non certified recruits from Teach for America and The New Teacher Project, at a cost of about $14,000 each.

How is this plan going to improve the quality of the teaching profession in Georgia when the state seems bent on replacing experienced and well-educated teachers with people who’ve already indicated they are only going to stay for two years and move on to something more lucrative?

The relationship between the government and these private organizations is enough to get your attention.  Why spend so much money on non certified teachers when the goal is somehow improve teaching, and get what the state calls Great Teachers.

Why not use this money to develop sustainable and research based teacher education programs?   The RTT funded three projects based on the U-Teach Program at the University of Texas.  However, the three universities in Georgia received a total of only $789,6748, a miniscule amount compared to what TFA and TNTP received.  And, oddly, RTT people didn’t have to go to the University of Texas to find such a model.  It exists at Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, and the University of Georgia.

What do you think about the nature of the relationships that are evident by examining the Georgia RTT Budget and Plan?