I joined the conversation in response to Diane Ravitch's recent blog,

Those who know me know that my hot spot is Teach for America and this one really got me going.

Here is Diane's blog followed by my response. You can read the other commentary through the link. http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/10/can-tfa-save-itself-from-the-impending-disaster/

Diane Ravitch's blog

Can TFA Save Itself from the Impending Disaster?

July 10, 2012

Gary Rubinstein told me a year or so ago that the corporate reform movement was living on borrowed time.

He believes that its ideas are so destructive and ill-conceived that it is certain to implode as failure after failure drags it down and as the public realizes that its public schools are being ruined.

In this post, he tries to figure out how Teach for America might salvage its reputation as the ship goes down. He explores his own hope that the original idea of TFA—recruiting top college graduates to teach–might survive.

He suggests that there are two different TFA legacies: One is the privatization/testing group (Rhee, John White, etc.), and the other consists of realists who have joined the education profession or found other ways to be constructive. He looks to the latter group as a saving remnant when the great ship Corporate Reform founders, as it inevitably must.

I find it hard to share Gary’s sunny optimism. I agree with him that corporate reform is a disaster and that it will collapse and die, weighted down by its failures and its inability to achieve its goals. But TFA has benefited so handsomely from the “reforms” and has produced so many of the leaders, that it is hard to see how the one good idea that launched TFA gets disassociated.

But I would like to believe. Is Gary right? Will he be the one who helped save TFA?

MY RESPONSE to the question:

De-professionalism of the teaching profession is the epitome of education "reform."

The mantra "it's about the children" is a smoke screen to divert attention away from the primary effort to remove experienced, qualified educators from the classroom to make way for all the other aspects of "transformation."

Reformers have capitalized (no pun intended) on the damage that our public education system has brought upon itself with many years of moving more and more towards an administrative, top-down structure of hierarchical control that almost instantly upon promotion from classroom to ivory tower often "necessitated" suppression of any innovative albeit practical ideas that might interfere with the new administrator's new duty of supporting the status quo and eerily similar "business model" in central office. But we complain about the corporate takeover? Are we blind?

Can't we see the forest for the trees? After three years of my participation in this "discussion" I still see little to no understanding (by administrators and policymakers) of the primary importance that the highly qualified classroom teacher plays in this on-going debacle.

Charters, vouchers, virtual schools, standardized testing, common standards/curriculum. . . are all not designed as ends in and of themselves but as the MEANS to end the need for certified educators thereby bringing down the last wall of defense that allowed the teacher to walk into the classroom and still TEACH critical thinking skills and the importance of independent thought, research, and questioning.

I am perpetually frustrated and infuriated that even those in the upper echelons of education administration who see the writing on the wall of reform are not FIGHTING for our teachers. They file lawsuits and lobby against the peripheral objectives of the reformers but obediently plan for the coming total destruction of professionalism through value-added models of teacher "effectiveness," high stakes standardized testing (another weapon in the arsenal), "common core" stds/curriculum (designed to replace teacher created lesson plans with scripts) and blended learning models - all of which will virtually deal the final blow.

If there ever was a RED FLAG, it's TFA. TFA means no certification or qualifications. TFA means no tenure or job security. TFA means no need for collective bargaining, pension benefits, equitable pay structures. TFA removes individualzed learning opportunities for the children but MOST IMPORTANTLY removes the need for experienced teachers who will be replaced with the script.

TFA would NEVER HAVE BEEN NEEDED if certified teachers had been offered appropriate incentives for teaching in schools with the greatest challenges. If they had been given the necessary training. We understand that in professional football but not in the teaching PROFESSION.

It appears that many of those now fighting TFA were actually complicit in the creation of TFA. It's hard to shut the door when the car is submerged.

Now is the time to support our TEACHERS if we want what is best for our children. We have to support and retain our professional organizations and unions as they struggle with new priorities and the necessity for internal organizational changes. We have to support our TEACHERS as they speak out against the ravages of standardized testing and standardized curriculum. We have to bring our TEACHERS to the forefront of this conversation because they are the experts who struggle every single day to provide opportunities for EVERY SINGLE CHILD who walks into their classrooms with an opportunity to learn and to think so they can be productive citizens regardless of their desire or ability to go to college.

Join the conversation and be a part of Save Our Schools People's Convention in Washington, D.C. August 2-5 www.saveourschoolsmarch.org

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