Random Thoughts on Random Readings

Every morning I peruse the K-12 education stories of the day, including in Education Week and The Washington Post. The first two random articles I came across today would both get 'D's," well, maybe "C's," in a high school writing class (if I was teaching it anyway, snap!).
The first one is about something the new-ish Education Chair of DC's City Council, David Catania, is pursuing in our nation's capital. He's hired a law firm to do research and help write legislation that would take all that's happened in DC education to the next level (or so it sounds like to me, from the other article this one links to).
The entire essay is based on a generalization stated early on: "hiring a small team of lawyers is the least likely path towards achieving imaginative and effective policy."

I mean, I love generalizations because they're always true, but this one is so random! And it's an opinion, not a fact, yet everything else in the piece is based on its assumption. Furthermore, I think we can safely say that whatever policies Catania is looking into come on top of decades of education reform in DC (and lots of community input); I don't think he just summoned his staff one day and said, "Hey let's go ask some random lawyers to write some education policy, how fun will that be?!"

I really like the writer's idea of crowdsourcing a discussion on education policy in DC, but it doesn't preclude the need for the high-level research it sounds like Catania is hiring the law firm to undertake (finding best education laws/practices from around the nation). Sounds like a pretty good use of philanthropically-provided resources actually. In any case... not a convincing piece.

The second article
that is killing me is this "commentary by a TFA insider" which is EdWeek's TOP (i.e. highlighted) story today. Almost everything the writer states she then qualifies: maybe this, but maybe not. Someone's doing x! But it makes sense that they're doing x, etc.

Apparently the writer was recruited her senior year by TFA (which is a pretty nice thing, to be actively recruited (!), especially because you've proven your ability to do lots of extra work and lead others -- which is what teachers do in the classroom. I can't believe TFA did that to you! So mean!).

However, she, the writer,  wasn't up to the task of teaching (at least where she was placed). So, other people thought she'd be great at it but they were wrong (it sounds like). And during the time of her two-year commitment, the writer and other corps members in her region encountered at least one hard decision (about possibly changing to a nearby region). Um, ok, where they needed you changed, um......  That's called "life." It's not really grounds for providing expert analysis of how the entire, massive organization is run (imho). I mean, yes Education Week should publish opinions about Teach for America (and all teacher recruitment/prep programs, and fairly), but this essay is based on such light "evidence" for the points it's making, that it doesn't really make any points. 

Lastly, I'm pretty sure when the TFA recruiters told the writer that "this is the hardest thing you'll ever do," they were, in fact, telling her that "this is the hardest thing you'll ever do." That's not exactly an ambiguous statement.  (Btw, on a factual note, I'm pretty sure that the TFA attrition rate is lower than the attrition rate of non-TFA new teachers. Please correct me if this has changed.)

Yes, I am a TFA fan because of what it provided to me personally (leading me to my life's work) and what it has done over two decades to move K-12 education towards a badly-needed transformation. Sometimes I think about how much worse our schools/systems would be right now if it had never been created. That's a scary thought to me.

But this essay bothers me more for how meek it is. "Lean in" writer if you have such fierce feelings about these issues! And base them on real evidence! And maybe send them in a letter to Wendy Kopp (please I hope you did actually take these complaints/recommendations to TFA already before complaining that the organization won't listen to criticisms/recommendations)?

So, friends, not the most enlightening reading this morning. Guess I'll get back to my regularly scheduled programming (or, gasp!, take a Saturday afternoon off??). 


Posted on April 27, 2013 and filed under by Kelly Amis, Education Equality.