Teach for America Is a Glorified Temp Agency

Teach for America Is a Glorified Temp Agency

Julian Vasquez Heilig… NY Times

(In all fairness, and in full honest disclosure, I have hired and worked with some of the best teachers I have ever met in my life, and they were TFA graduates; I should add that they are all in for teaching as a (more than 3 years) profession. And on the other hand, some of the worse teachers I have ever encountered in my professional life, came through a standard 4 year university school of education program. A great deal of time, support, mentoring, attention and professional development must be given to any first year teacher (actually the critical 1st-3rd year); and that would include graduates of traditional professional education programs. I have been saying for years that as a profession; we need a well-organized teacher-internship-transition program; not even a 1st year apprentice electrician is allowed to wire a house by themselves; and they definitely don’t get the most challenging wiring assignments!

Unfortunately (in this case) a lot of people in America attended a school; and as a result, like our misguided “reformers”, they think that teaching is easy. This author’s critique of the central TFA role in the faux “education reform” movement is totally on point, as it destroys the “education is easy” myth-narrative. The TFA teacher-participants are innocent in that sense. The guilty parties are the TFA leadership, and those “reformers” who look down, disregard and have little respect for experience and formal professional training. The other problem is their particular disrespect for educators and communities of color (oddly, during segregation, Black students were exposed to very talented, skilled and efficacious practicing Black teachers; even as these teachers were terribly underpaid and under resourced. This modern patronizing “reformers” belief that Black and Latino people don’t know how (or care) to educate Black and Latino children is really driven by a bad economy (lack of jobs for White college graduates), and the discovery of the huge amounts of money from private and public sources that could be had for the taking in public education; and specifically to be made in struggling communities of color; whose leadership is unclear and unaware, and/or could be easily bought off or compromised. This colonial educational approach devastates the students who are in the greatest need of the best educational practitioners. Its theme: “we will save the ignorant savages from themselves” attitude, is the height of arrogance. And sadly it is the school children of color in this nation who must pay the price for this philosophy of racial and cultural condescension.—MAJ)

Teach for America Is a Glorified Temp Agency

Julian Vasquez Heilig

To a casual observer, Teach for America’s narrative is compelling: an array of feel-good stories profile fresh-faced college graduates choosing to teach. However, as hundreds of millions of public and private dollars flow into the program, a growing chorus of criticism surrounds it.
The program should start requiring longer commitments and certification if it wants to become more than a résumé builder.

It is telling that the intellectual elites that expound the virtues of Teach for America do not accept them in the communities that serve their own children. Recruits with five weeks of training are good enough for poor whites and students of color, but they are glaringly absent from affluent schools in places like Scarsdale, N.Y., or Westlake, Texas, districts seeking well-qualified career teachers for advantaged children.

Indeed, Teach for America is essentially a glorified temp agency. According to my calculations, more than 80 percent of the recruits leave for graduate school or another career before their fourth year, taking with them all the training and recruitment dollars taxpayers and universities have invested in them — as much as $70,000 a year. As I discuss in a 2010 National Education Policy Center research brief, the debate about whether these teachers produce gains or losses in their students’ test scores rages on in academia. The high turnover among these temporary teachers undermines students’ achievement at the schools where they are placed — a concern that civil rights and parent groups have raised repeatedly as Teach for America lobbies to have its teachers hired in the districts the critics’ children attend, even when there are no shortages.
Sadly, Teach for America is a revolving door of inexperienced teachers for the students who most need a highly qualified one. As applications to the program at Harvard and other highly selective institutions of higher education are burgeoning, now is the time for the organization to start require corps members to make at least a five- to seven-year commitment and to become certified. Then Teach for America (and the districts that hire the group) would know which individuals are serious about making a difference in the classroom and which see a teaching stint with Teach for America as simply a résumé builder.


This is so painful because Tamir looks like so many wonderful young men I have worked with in the past, who are now doing great things in the world; he looks like members of my family; he looks like so many of my childhood friends; he reminds me of me, and the hopes and dreams I had at that age for the future; but where are his hopes and dreams now…

When you think of America’s tremendous response (“severely punish and hurt Mike Vick!”) to the harm and murder inflicted on a lion, and or a group of dogs; it’s very clear that those animals are able to generate more sympathy and protection than Black children in America.

Now, Tamir Rice, another exonerated (even as it is poorly explained in a press conference) murder, the list just goes on… and on… and on… and on… and on… It would seem that all we need now is a blank space on the national murder certificate list, waiting to be just filled in with the next officially state sanctioned murder victim…. Again, Mr. Obama will express sympathy and concern over the incident; and the standard and steadfast true race haters will protest his sympathy and concern as hate… (places everyone, roll camera…)

One thought every Black person must have this morning; even if they don’t share it with a White friend or co-worker: “I could call the police out of civic duty, for a very simple matter, and someone could end up dead, perhaps a neighbor, maybe a family member, or maybe even me!” This could be one of the reasons that national crime statistics are dropping; perhaps large segments of the Black citizenry are afraid to call the police; so as not to create an additional official crime by the police that will surely go unpunished. And I don’t want to hear about the “most good cops” narrative; clearly there are not enough good cops to change the behavior of the “bad cops”; and surely not enough “good cops” in positions of leadership to change a deeply embedded culture of: “Its them (the entire Black community, not the criminals operating in the Black community), versus us!”

What the next whatever number Justice Department investigation won’t find (or disclose); is that there is a difference between a police force, whose ultimate objective is to serve and protect the citizens; and a military occupation force managing what is perceived as the “enemy”, in enemy territory. The thought never entered the minds of those police officers who confronted Tamir that he was part of their human family; let alone a citizen deserving of every right to surrender peacefully; that neighborhood was a foreign land to them, not their land, not America; the people who live there, are not their people, not Americans deserving of rights protection.

A thousand ways to kill a Black kid…..There are just so many ways that this society kills Black children; through poverty, poor healthcare, terrible housing and living conditions; an early and long engagement with the lucrative (for others, not them) criminal justice system, no job opportunity, the tolerated and encouraged illegal drug system that enables mass and horrific fratricide, an educational system that breaks their spirits, destroys their imagination; ignores their genius and creativity, and eliminates any hope of a life-dream coming true…
And if by some strange chance they survive all of that… the people who are sworn to protect them shoot, choke, “rough ride” them to death; and then get together with elected officials and agencies that call themselves: “mayors” and “public defenders”. But these people don’t consider Black people as part of the public to defend; they always seem to come up with a creative way that will allow their co-murderers to go free (and in places like NYC even give them a promotion to sargent!) Black people are not these public officials constituents; rather young Black America is the raw material of our economic system; their suffering sends other kids to college and promising careers, even as they head off to jail, or death, in schools, or on the streets.

I still say history is the great teacher here. For as we learned from the Civil Rights movement; when business can’t go on as usual, the usually accepted evil stops. (That moment when evil is bad for business!) Perhaps when the parents and communities that are supposed to protect these children have had enough, it will stop. When the thousand ways to kill Black children gets in the way of the financial bottom line; it will stop… Or it will stop when Black people decide it is time for it to stop. I don’t want to go James Baldwin here (“The Fire Next Time”); but the later solution could get very ugly…

Past lives and present lies: Why the study of history is so important…


It is not uncommon for students to ask: “Why are we studying about things that already happen; about people who are dead?” My answer was always: “Because we cannot fully and clearly understand the present, or minimize our mistakes in the future, unless we study the events and people of the past… The past-present-future are incapable of being separated!” And then I would go on to explain how without historical knowledge we cannot comprehend the present state of affairs in the Middle East, Africa. Asia, Europe, South or Central America, the Caribbean, or bringing it closer to home, the presence and state of Black America in the present US.

Now I love STEM, but one can never undervalue the critical need to study and know history. And for some of us who are old enough; our memories are our own personal history books. For we can hear the same dismissive arguments used against the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, word for word, that were used by those who condemned the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) protest of an earlier era: “disrupting business”, “interrupting the holiday celebration”, “inconveniencing ordinary people”. And yet for a lot of people in this nation, their daily lives are disrupted, permanently interrupted, inconvenienced beyond repair by physical, educational or economic violence against their humanity and personhood. When your life is painfully abnormal, why then should life just go on as “normal”?

CNN’s Sunny Hostin beautifully and historically links the CRM and the BLM here:


Giant Missteps…

2015 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships

Perhaps I should channel Yogi Berra here; because it seems to me that 90% of getting over the hurdle is… getting over the hurdle! My takeaways from the Giants-Panthers game. Where under very stressful and challenging conditions; both teams sought out to display their most comfortable and naturally inclined personalities. And I call them: The 10 Giant ways to make sure you lose a game; this list can be easily transferred to school team-leadership work.

#1: Lose your sense of mission and purpose; or not having a sense of mission and purpose, and you have already lost the game!

#2: Act like you don’t have any sense; like you have no idea of: “Why we are here!”

#3: And even after you realize that your loss of sense is harming you and the team, don’t (“why should I”) stop!

#4: How many creative and unique ways can we muster, not to win the game; but to lose the game!

#5: No matter how wonderful your individual talents; a “team game” means: it’s a team game!

#6: An important part of “losing” is to believe that you will lose; and an important part of winning is believing that you will win!

#7: There is something to this “Jedi Mind Trick” thing; control the mind, and control the actions and behavior of your opponent!

#8: The team is only as good as the most untimely and unfortunate and unforced error by one single team member!

#9: Leadership is having to deliver a tough and unpopular word; even to the wrong behaving but enormously popular; as well as to the tremendously talented, but recklessly undisciplined members of the team!

#10: In times of great stress, challenge, setbacks and/or disappointment a person, team, or a school will revert to its most natural and true personality!

After the Wiz, I saw the Wizard at work…

To: N’kuimah Schloss-Allen: My take away notes (yes I take notes while watching TV, I approach TV like reading literature) from the last 12 mins. of last night’s Lions-Packers game. Powerful Lesson #1: This is what happens when one side is determined to lose, and the other side is determined to win!”

And so some further life lessons from last night:

(2) “Life is not fair!” For some people in society (the politically-economically disenfranchised) you should enter “the game” with the understanding that society’s referees (economic, political, educational, criminal justice—systems, etc.) are more than likely not going to rule in your favor; if you don’t have that understanding, from the start, then you have already lost, from the start!

(3) Manufacture your own “luck”! You should enter the game with the idea that you will win based on your own efforts; not based on the mistakes of your opponent, “a lucky break”, or depending on the rulings (or kindness) of the referees. But always be ready to take advantage, of any advantage that comes your way. Or as Sun-Ra says: “Space is the Place!” And so, put yourself in the right space, place and time; and something good will happen!

(4) The joy and pain reward of being on a team. A team is only as good as the serious mental lapse, at the worst possible moment, of a single team member(s)… And a team is as great as that team member(s) (Rogers-Rogers) who performs in an extraordinary way, at the best possible moment.

(5) Time is not neutral, it does not work in favor of the inefficient, the incompetent, the un-rehearsed, the ill-prepared and the chronically unaware and ill-informed. However, Over-Time: Time favors the efficient, the competent, the well-prepared, the well-practiced; and more importantly, those equipped with the necessary prerequisite knowledge and skills.

(6) The “bad sign” rule: When the only person (other than Peyton Manning) in the NFL, who I (at 64) could compete with in a 40 yard dash, runs for an untouched 14 yard touchdown run…It’s a sure sign that things are probably not going to end well. (We are not talking Cam Newton or Russell Wilson here!)

(7) The more determined, persistent, hardworking, proficient and excellent people are, the more “luck” seems to flow their way (they conspire and cooperate with the universe to create their own “luck”!) Message:

Be your own Wizard!