Education Week - June 1, 2016 - (Page 28)

LETTERS to the EDITOR 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., 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. Brian Hartle Cambridge, Mass. 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 the centuries. 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. Irving Hamer Memphis, Tenn. 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,", April 29, 2016). 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 BEYOND BIAS 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 conversation] forward with identifying a research agenda that takes into account intersectionality in 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 | Bettina L. Love Associate Professor of Educational Theory and Practice, University of Georgia " Historically, schools have not been places that welcome student agency. Particularly in urban districts. That student voice is suppressed often. There are misguided interpretations 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 Urbana-Champaign Photos by Deanna Del Ciello/Education Week Black Girls, Discipline, And Schools To watch the videos, visit

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
Report Roundup
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