Education Week - June 1, 2016 - (Page 28)
Alumnus: Teach For America Needs to Be
Overhauled and Professionalized
To the Editor:
A recent Teacher Beat blog post, "Teach For America Vows
Recruitment Changes in Wake of Application Drop" (www.
edweek.org, April 12, 2016), has prompted me to write. As a
Teach For America alumnus, I would argue that the program's
assumption that high-achieving college graduates with
demonstrated leadership ability can take charge of a classroom
with minimal training is faulty. The entire TFA system should
be overhauled and professionalized.
Countries that are best-in-show when it comes to education,
like Finland and Singapore, require teachers to participate
in rigorous preparatory programs. They treat teaching as a
profession that is on par with the law or medicine. TFA, on
the other hand, requires just two years of service from those
it trains. The program justifies its minimal commitment by
pointing to the likelihood that many potential candidates would
not apply if that requirement were extended. But a profession
demands a lifelong commitment.
Recruitment efforts ought to be changed as well. TFA should
begin recruiting even earlier than students' last year or so of
college, as is currently the case, and it should target the top
third of high school graduates. If TFA partnered with colleges,
universities, and local or state governments, it could coordinate
recruitment and selection by subject area in accordance with
the labor market's needs. Corps members could then complete
their practicum in schools that have definite openings, thereby
building relationships with staff, students, and families years
before they are on their own at the front of a classroom.
Funds that are now expended on basic training could instead
cover the cost of tuition at schools of education with such robust
clinical programs as those that exist in Finland and Singapore.
In exchange, corps members could remain at their placement
school for a minimum of four years.
By ensuring that corps members were committed to the
teaching profession before they step into a classroom for the
first time, the teachers that TFA provides would no longer be
a disruptive force in the communities they serve. Rather, they
would be a source of stability, serving those communities well
from the start. And that is a cause socially conscious young
people can sign on to.
Lessons From Business and Industry
Should Not Be K-12 'Guiding Light'
To the Editor:
Paul Kihn's effort to develop a vision for K-12 urban school
districts is laudatory but lacking ("The District Is Dead. Long
Live the District," April 13, 2016).
There has never been a public school monopoly in education.
Independent, parochial, and for-profit schools have been part
of the landscape for some time. There is also no "science" of
education without "art." The current accountability era has
almost eliminated the artistic features of the profession. The
failure of policymakers and practitioners to honor the lessons
of the cognitive sciences when developing rules and practices
that dictate what happens in districts is regrettable.
Public schools were designed to resemble factories and
business organizations in the 19th century. They were not
designed to be highly effective for all students. The lessons
from business and industry should not be the guiding light for
education. Educators already know what to do and how to do
it well. Continuing to emulate business strategies ignores the
insights into teaching and learning that have developed over
It is a myth that there are no resources for education. There
are huge disparities in per-capita student spending. ZIP codes
and politics determine whether or not students-particularly
poor children-receive a highly effective education. Our
commitment to universal education does not have a
corresponding commitment to equity.
Local public school districts are the first-and often the
only-choice for education, except for privileged families.
Innovations such as charter schools must be funded so that
urban and rural districts can keep pace with the warp-speed
developments of the global economy.
Kihn's 2.0 vision for school districts is worth pursuing, but
too many features of his argument are assailable.
The author was formerly a deputy superintendent in Miami-Dade
County, Fla., and Memphis, Tenn.
Research Supports Value of School Libraries
To the Editor:
Megan McDonald adds another convincing case history
showing the value of the library and librarians in schools ("How
the School Library Saved My Life," www.edweek.org, April 29,
Studies agree: Keith Curry Lance's research in the United
States consistently shows that school library quality is
positively related to literacy development. Research completed
by Sy-ying Lee, Jeff McQuillan, and me also suggests that
access to a good school library can offset, to a large extent, the
Countering Stereotypes In School
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 32
As most of the nation knows, so much
attention has been given to black boys and men
over the past 20 years or so in education research.
It is refreshing that we are now seeing a rightful
inclusion of black girls and women. They really
are pushed out of schools in some uniquely
gendered ways that
haven't been fully
considered. I think
we move [the
research agenda that
takes into account
all its various forms.
I'm often troubled when I hear well-meaning
researchers and others attempt to make the case
for more focus on black girls and women by
juxtaposing them with black boys and black men
and the attention that's been given to black boys
and black men. I don't want this to be a gender
clash where it's an 'us vs. them' because in many,
many ways, we're all sort of in the same
educational boat. "
I think black girls are seen as either
invisible or they're problematized, meaning
there's fault with them. They're looked at
through a deficit lens. I think that many of the
attributes that sustain them are not celebrated.
They're strong, they have principles, but they're
seen as loud and obnoxious. Those paradigms
in which we view them do not affirm them, and
they will need these skill sets to survive in
institutions that aren't often hospitable to them. Unfortunately, we find this
in the places that we call schools. The challenge is not how do we change
black girls, how do we make them more like ladies, if you will, but how do we
make sure that these places celebrate and respect them and who they are
and view them as assets as opposed to problems. How do we bring out the
best in them so they can become their better selves?"
Terri N. Watson
Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership, City College of New York
What I'm really concerned about right now is the school experiences
and life experiences of black girls. What we're finding out now is that these
intersections of race, of gender, of class put our most vulnerable in a life that
they did not ask for. What we're seeing now is that African-American girls
who have high proximities to poverty, high proximities to attending
low-performing schools, those schools are deeply embedded in the idea of just
discipline. Discipline, discipline, discipline. We can talk about all of these
groups, but we do need to center the most vulnerable in our society. If we can
have policies and education reform, real
education reform that really gets at the most
marginal in our society, then it will permeate
out to everyone else."
Shaun R. Harper
Executive Director and Founder, Center for the
Study of Race and Equity in Education, and
Professor of Education, University of Pennsylvania
28 | EDUCATION WEEK | June 1, 2016 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary
Bettina L. Love
Associate Professor of Educational Theory
and Practice, University of Georgia
Historically, schools have not been
places that welcome student agency.
often. There are
of what it
means to teach
kids of color
and low-income kids of color-that they
need to be heavily disciplined and heavily
surveilled. I think student agency plays out
in what teachers in school districts often
misinterpret as misbehavior that I say is
'kid language.' So when kids feel oppressed
or repressed, they respond in the language
that they know. Sometimes that's talking
back. Sometimes that's not being compliant.
That's where they're exercising their agency,
and it puts them at risk of being expelled
and facing even harsher discipline and so
on. Schools could recognize that these
behaviors aren't just because kids want to
be bad. They're responding to an
environment that doesn't help them feel
free and doesn't facilitate their learning and
success. We can rethink school and spaces
for learning so that kids can feel free."
Adrienne D. Dixson
Associate Professor of Critical Race Theory
and Education, University of Illinois at
Photos by Deanna Del Ciello/Education Week
Black Girls, Discipline,
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 1, 2016
Education Week - June 1, 2016
In Special Education, A Debate on Bias
Proposed ESSA Rules Aim to Strike Balance
Civil Rights Office Gets Aggressive
Charter Movement Fuels Boom For Public Montessori Schools
News in Brief
Transgender Debate: What’s Next?
Free Website Expands on EngageNY’s Mission
Study on Teacher Test Finds Mixed Results
Blogs of the Week
Digital Learning Games Breaking Into K-12 Mainstream
Girls Outperform Boys on First National Test of Tech, Engineering
Oregon Creates a ‘Lens’ for Viewing Educational Equity
High School Takes Cue From Montessori
School Finance Suits: More Than Just a Legal Roll of the Dice?
Report Feeds Into Debate Over Racial, Economic Inequities
Blogs of the Week
Policing Girls of Color in School
The Plight of Black Girls in K-12 Schools
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Black Girls, Discipline, and Schools
Education Week - June 1, 2016