Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

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I came across a TFA corps member’s old letter of intent, and in addition to showcasing some grade A positivity pablum, it featured this utterly disgraceful passage: I’ve been following Teach for America for several years.  Alum (sic) like Michelle Rhee(1) at DC Public Schools or KIPP founders Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin have used…

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If you will forgive the drought between posts, I did actually begin this one last month and it’s been sitting in the drafts folder ever since. But I think today is as good a time as any to revive it due to the latest legislative news. Among other things, House Bill 5 eliminates the requirement to…

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The Texas House of Representatives just voted to reduce the number of end-of-credit exams required for graduation from a record 15 (five each year from freshman to junior year) to just five. The push to scale back our testing regime came from all corners of the state and enjoyed near-unanimous support from both parties. The…

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I got an e-mail from TFA linking to a blog post on Teacherpop(1) entitled “Feel Unprepared To Teach? You’re Not Alone.”  Based on the headline, I thought that this pertained to my interests. The author, citing the Gates and Walton-funded National Council on Teacher Quality’s State Teacher Policy Yearbook report for 2012, begins by showing…

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It’s now been four weeks since I came back from a truncated paternity leave(1). It is killing me to go to work these days. Each morning I change his diaper and he’s started to get infectiously smiley right when we wake up. I try to get my wife some breakfast and take our dogs out…

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Jan 17 2013

#62: Ben

On Friday, January 11 at 12:59 PM, my life was irreversibly changed. My son Ben — all 10 pounds, 4 ounces, and 22 inches of him — joined our family. I cannot describe the feeling of seeing him for the first time. And I cannot express enough the gratitude for my wife who carried him…

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I’ve taken a decidedly more strident tone as of late, so I want to spend some time examining why this is so.  It’s not that TFA or education reform as a whole has changed much in the last couple of years, but my analysis of it certainly has.  The longer I spend in the classroom,…

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The 2012-2013 is the second year of implementation for the STAAR end-of-course exams, previously complained-about on this site here. For those of you who are not teaching in the once proud nation of Texas(1), you may not know about our testapalooza for our high schoolers, but here was the original plan in its inception: All…

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Dec 29 2012

#59: A TFA Revision

In previous posts, I have danced around possibilities of what a service-oriented TFA might look like.  My complaints at this point are: TFA is no longer addressing teaching shortages as initially envisioned. Parachuting mostly white 22-year-olds into communities they don’t know working a job they are not adequately prepared for is not the best way…

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Dec 28 2012

#58: Season’s greetings

I’ve spent the better part of the last week stuffing myself with tamales(1) and teeth-ruining candies(2).  This is the proper time to reflect on the holiday season. I got to play with my school’s band during their holiday concert!  It was the first time in 10 years I had picked up a euphonium and boy…

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Dec 26 2012

#57: Castling

In my last post, I explained that I no longer believe TFA to be improving the educational landscape of my city for the better.  My chief complaint is the organization’s courtship of private philanthropists whose primary objective is to weaken public schools and strengthen charter schools. A huge part of what rankles me about TFA…

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I started this blog over a year ago with a couple of posts about why I joined.  The short versions of those two posts are: So, in short, the people working in this organization are super organized and professional and are tirelessly working to make my city’s educational landscape better.  I’m happy to be a…

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In October, we lost one week of instructional time to administer district benchmarks, ostensibly to get a snapshot of progress made towards this year’s STAAR. Because so many students failed their STAAR tests last year, we(1) lost this week of instructional time due to students retaking exams, in some cases all 5 from last year.…

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I just about hit the roof when this scene came up in Lincoln.  This is a great scene for history and Geometry classes. My warm-up question for this clip: what geometric axiom is Lincoln describing?

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So, I’m in an unusual position as a TFA teacher: this is my third year of teaching(1) but my second year as a corps member.  This means I’m still getting classroom support which I would recommend really for all teachers for the first few years anyway. In San Antonio, Teach for America’s support model has…

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In no particular order other than when I remembered them: 1. “Competency-Based Education in Iowa, Down the Pike it Comes” by Shawn Cornally at ThinkThankThunk.  Lest you believe that education reform means endless standardized testing to determine teacher pay, here’s an actual idea for education reform that is mind-blowing.  I read this in the morning…

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I’ve been following the Supreme Court case of Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas with a lot of interest the past month.  The case involves a now-22-year-old now-Louisiana State University alum named Abigail Fisher who charges the University of Texas at Austin of denying her admission based on her racial background as a white applicant.…

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Sep 30 2012

#50: More UIL Evangelism

Dearest Texas high school teachers, I just had the chance to go with a couple of collegaues and 16 students to the UIL Student Activities Conference at UT-Austin.  It was incredibly rad(1) and we all learned a lot about the different academic and speech events. This year as academic coordinator, I finally have coaches for…

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Sep 30 2012

#49: On being a traitor

I was making copies a couple of weeks ago and one of the social studies teachers asked me: “So how does it feel to be teaching this year?” I thought this was an odd question. “Uh, same as the last two years I’ve been teaching, I guess,” I replied. “I just mean that now you…

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Aug 16 2012

#48: All you need is hate(1)

Before my summer is officially over tomorrow morning for my campus retreat, I’d like to join the fray and respond to some posts and comments in the TFU airspace. The topic is, broadly, how to best achieve reform. A couple of TFU bloggers have gone to the mat for consensus-building.  To borrow a turn of…

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Aug 14 2012

#47: TFA is not a monolith

I wanted to write about TFA orientation while it is still fresh in my mind. I think it’s important to air our grievances as a matter of conscience.  Many if not most of TFA’s corps members can be described as politically progressive(1).  I think a great deal of the disillusionment that many corps members feel…

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“Everyone here is so young and dynamic!” This was something I overheard at Institute last year, and it was definitely a declaration of pleasant surprise.  For each corps which is predominantly early 20-somethings, you go through most of your schooling in environments run by…old people.  Not old people, but people indeterminately older than you.  Then…

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Aug 13 2012

#45: Service

Lately, when I hear TFA described by anyone not already involved in it, the phrase “national service organization” leads the description.  I’ve been unsure how to word it myself.  Most of the time, I’ve said something to the effect of “It’s this thing where mostly recent college grads get placed in urban and rural schools…

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Jul 24 2012

#44: Mission creep

When TFA was conceived twenty some-odd years ago, founder Wendy Kopp outlined four goals in her senior thesis at Princeton for the organization: Goals: A. To help solve teacher shortages. B. To focus positive attention on the education system and on the profession of teaching. C. To attract the ‘best and the brightest’ to teach.…

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I was thinking by this time that I’d have written a lot more for this blog, reflecting on life and teaching and oh whoops June is almost over and I’ve accomplished nothing(1). I guess the biggest news for my professional life next year was buried in an earlier post: I am going to be teaching…

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