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On the Serving Platter: The NEA-Teach Plus “Partnership”

February 22, 2014

I think both national teachers unions have some skewed arrangement to “seek solidarity” by fastening themselves to privatizing groups. Perhaps such is an adult display of grasping to belong to the “cool kids” clique.

The “cool kids” are the ones exploding with reform philanthropy money to invest in ways to drain money from the teaching profession.

Never mind the destruction– even the looming destruction of the unions themselves.

A national teachers union’s alignment with organizations clearly opposed to traditional teaching (and non-standardized-measured “success”) must be in vogue.

A way to be “at the table”– a real “mover and shaker.”

Never mind that your “featured seat” is in the center of the table on a serving platter.

The NEA Decision to Align With Yet More Privatization

On February 20, 2014, the National Education Association (NEA) decided to seat itself on that serving platter by joining forces with the education privatization nest that is Teach Plus.

Here is the opener NEA uses to announce its decision:

For several years, the National Education Association has pressed for a shift in education that places educators in a position of leadership. After all, who would have more insight into the academic standing of your child or student? A. An educator. B. A policy wonk whose never stepped foot in a classroom.

Mind you, before the push to privatize public education had really taken hold of school districts across the country in just the last several years, the teaching profession promoted from within: A teacher who had a number of years of classroom experience would continue for a masters degree and perhaps a doctorate in education administration; would become an assistant principal, then maybe a principal, then an assistant superintendent, then superintendent.

However, individuals like Eli Broad and the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI’s) Frederick Hess, and organizations like Wendy Kopp’s Teach for America (TFA) decided that education leadership “talent” should come from outside of the teaching profession.

After all, these education leadership robber barons insisted, true leaders are above belonging first to a particular profession.

So now we have NEA joining with Teach Plus “to give educators a better platform to lead their profession”:

The association (NEA) has partnered with Teach Plus, an education advocacy organization, and has created a fellowship program that has brought together 53 NEA members from 14 different states. These teacher leaders are passionate about the future of teaching and understand the integral role NEA must play in shaping the future. [Emphasis added.]

The CEO of Teach Plus is Celine Coggins. I first wrote about her for her membership on the advisory board of the non-accredited, self-appointed, pro-privatizing National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). She is also connected to Mind Trust, yet another Gates-funded “reform” group that actually has what it terms its Charter School Incubator.

Both Hess and Kopp were on the NCTQ board with Coggins.

Coggins: VAM Is Good.

Coggins advocates for teacher evaluation based upon student test scores. This excerpt is from an Ed News Colorado blog entry authored by Coggins:

At Teach Plus, we are working with several states on the roll out of reforms similar to those in Colorado’s SB 10-191, the educator effectiveness law. It is complicated work with a number of interesting puzzles that are destined to make or break the impact of the legislation. [Emphasis added.]

Colorado Senate Bill 10-191 mandates that half of a teacher’s and principal’s annual evaluation be based upon student test scores (euphemistically called, “the Quality Standard that measures student learning over time”).

Notice Coggin’s description of the teaching fellows program:

At Teach Plus we work to break down the barriers that separate teachers and policymakers. We run two programs designed to give teachers greater input into the decisions that affect their classrooms. Our Teaching Policy Fellows program is a selective training program in policy and advocacy for classroom teachers in years 3-10 of their careers. It spans two school years. Our T+ Network, is a broad-based community for over 5,000 progressive teachers seeking a voice in education reform. At both in-person and online events, we use real-time polling to get feedback directly from teachers to policy leaders. [Emphasis added.]

Teach Plus teacher fellows are “selected” to lead schools based upon the usual privatization course of teacher value based upon student test scores.

VAM.

Coggins calls this “building a coalition of the willing.”

This is what NEA is proud to promote.

Bill Pays Teach Plus

Bill Gates has paid Teach Plus $9.6 million in the form of two grants:

Teach Plus, Incorporated

Date: September 2009 
Purpose: to support the program’s expansion and create a national network of informed teachers 
Amount: $4,511,611 

Teach Plus, Incorporated

Date: July 2012 
Purpose: to support Teach Plus’s Teaching Policy Fellows, Teach+ Network, and Turnaround Teachers Teams Initiatives 
Amount: $5,082,777 

Once again, we have a national union aligning itself with Bill Gates’ agenda.

What is next for NEA? ALEC membership?

Teach Plus Leadership: A Corporate Reform Nest

Teach Plus leadership overlaps notably with Education Trust and TFA. Moreover, many Teach Plus execs are connected to charter school leadership.

Education Trust CEO Kati Haycock is credited as one who pushed for No Child Left Behind (NCLB), with its emphasis on student test scores as measures of teacher quality and school accountability. Consider this description of Haycock’s NCLB contribution from a 2008 San Diego Rotary Club press release:

In 2001, Haycock helped spur the creation of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Haycock played a major role in crafting the accountability and teacher quality provisions statues in this educational reform policy.

No one besides Bill Gates and President Bush has had greater influence on
American education reform policy over the past 10 years than Kati Haycock. [Emphasis added.]

Wow. And now NEA is endorsing Teach Plus, a pro-privatization organization that has Haycock’s fingerprints all over it.

(Haycock is listed as a board member on Teach Plus’  FY 2012 IRS 990.)

As for TFA: It is a teacher temp agency that seeks to replace traditional-teachers-gone-education-leaders with its neophyte, test-score-driven “talent.” (for a real eye opener on TFA, read this post.)

And now, for the Teach Plus leadership:

National Director of Educational Programs Heather Peske is formerly with Education Trust and Teach for America. Peske is listed as director on Teach Plus’ FY 2012 IRS 990. (UPDATE: Peske is now with the Massachusetts Department of Education in “educator policy, preparation and leadership.” A former TFAer is going to “prepare educators”??)

Washington, DC, Teach Plus Executive Director Candace Crawford is also formerly with Education Trust and is a trustee of Capital City Public Charter School.

Memphis, TN, Teach Plus Executive Director Lisa Watts has served as a consultant to the TN Department of Education in the Office of Achievement Gap Elimination (no kidding). She also is vice-chair of the board of directors for Circles of Success Learning Academy charter school.

Los Angeles Teach Plus Executive Director John Lee is so reformy, I just have to post most of his Teach Plus bio:

John Lee… served as the Executive Director of Larchmont Schools, a network of charter schools in Los Angeles. He also served as the Director of Leadership for the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), where he advised new charter schools on growth, training, establishment of program goals, strategic planning, data-driven decision making and leadership development. Prior to joining CCSA, John was the Founder and Principal of KIPP Los Angeles College Preparatory School, a high-performing (euphemism for high test scores) charter middle school serving students in Lincoln Heights and surrounding communities. ….As a Teach for America corps member, John began his career as a social studies teacher in Baltimore, Maryland. John earned his B.A. from UCLA and his M.A. from Johns Hopkins University where he was a learning team leader mentoring teachers on effective teaching strategies in the urban classroom. He also completed the KIPP School Leadership Program, an intensive year-long program that trains individuals to open a KIPP school. John serves on the board of two Los Angeles-area nonprofit organizations and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree at UCLA through the Educational Leadership Program.  [Emphasis added.]

Indianapolis Teach Plus Executive Director Caitlin Hannon is also a former TFAer.

Boston Teach Plus Executive Director Lindsay Sobel is a former political journalist who later worked for Citizen Schools, “an organization focused on expanding (lengthening??) the learning day for low-income middle school students.”

As a finale, my personal favorite for her extensive classroom career:

National Teach Plus President Monique Burns Thompson was never a teacher in any capacity. She was, however, an assistant principal for one year. Her story is that of classic education reform placement of non-teachers in education leadership roles:

Monique has been President of Teach Plus since its incorporation in 2009.  She brings experience as a social entrepreneur, management and human capital consultant and reform-oriented district administrator to the Teach Plus team.  She started her career in the business sector (Quaker Oat Co.) in marketing and brand management before moving to the education sector as a consultant for McKenzie Group, opening model middle schools in Washington, DC.  After spending a year as the assistant principal of one of those schools, Monique then worked as Special Assistant to the Superintendent of the Philadelphia Public School District, which informed her understanding of the need for quality training of urban school teachers and leaders.  This focus on human capital development lead (sp) her to co-found, and co-lead as President and Chief Curriculum Officer, New Leaders for New Schools. She later worked as a consultant for Building Excellent Schools, supporting the leadership capacity of some of Boston’s strongest charter schools. Monique earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Dartmouth College, her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, and her Master’s in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is ABD for her doctorate in Education Administration and Social Policy.

So, NEA’s story is that it is joining with Teach Plus in order to avoid handing education leadership roles to “a policy wonk who has never set foot in a classroom.”

Teach Plus’ National President is one such “policy wonk.”

Irony, Irony, thou criest loudly from the rooftops!

Education Trust and Its Nonprofit Spawn

Education Trust is a privatizing entity run by CEO Kati Haycock. As previously noted, Haycock promoted the NCLB concept of gauging education success based upon student test scores. Haycock pushes “school turn around,” but only for select schools.

Haycock’s Ed Trust is heavily Gates-funded. Since 2002, Gates has given Ed Trust $41.5 million.

Over half ($22.8 million) was for “general operating support.”

Leave the money in the usual spot on the night stand, Bill.

See you next time.

Bill Gates has bought Education Trust, and he made his purchase the year that NCLB took effect: 2002.

Below are two particularly revealing Gates grants to Ed Trust. The first involves “substantively and politically” “pressure testing education finance reform solutions.”

Gates wants to exercise “political and substantive pressure” over education finance?? Playing god with school finances?

The second involves sending Haycock’s Ed Trust to influence state and local policies regarding the Gates-determined “value” of “teacher evaluation” (again with the euphemism for VAM).

The Education Trust

Date: September 2012 
Purpose: to begin pressure testing possible education finance reform solutions—both substantively and politically 
Amount: $304,971 

The Education Trust

Date: November 2012 
Purpose: to inform state and local policies on teacher evaluation as a significant and valuable tool 
Amount: $2,101,177 

Now, the Gates connection to Ed Trust does not stop here.

According to IRS forms 990, Ed Trust is the “direct controlling entity” for three other nonprofits: US Education Delivery Institute, Edinnovations, and the Data Quality Campaign.

Thus, the nonprofit Ed Trust controls three other nonprofits. Edinnovations is just a shell– no money yet. The US Education Delivery Institute is functional; it includes the following mission on its 2011 990:

The US Education Delivery Institute (EDI) is an innovative non-profit organization that focuses on implementing large-scale system change in public education. Our mission is to partner with K-12 and higher education systems with ambitious reform agendas and invest in their leaders capacity to deliver results. [Emphasis added.]

One doesn’t get much more reformy than that.

Kati Haycock is secretary/treasurer for EDI.

Gates has paid $7.1 million to EDI, with $3.2 million devoted to getting the organization started in April 2010.

Next is the more intriguing Data Quality Campaign (DQC).  Kati Haycock sits on its board as a “director.”

The mission of DCQ as stated on its 2011 990 is to “encourage” the collection of student data:

To encourage and support state policymakers to improve the availability and use of high quality education data to improve student achievement. [Emphasis added.]

I closely examine DQC, its board, and its director, Aimee Guidera, in this post.

Gates has paid DQC $12.7 million, with $2.3 million devoted to operating expenses.

Does NEA have anyone on the payroll to do what I have just done for free and investigate an entity like Teach Plus?

The key, Dennis, is to uncover the facts prior to forming the alliance.

*Sigh*

The Wrap-up

On occasion, I have people tell me that my exposing union foolishness is “bad for the union.” I should just be quiet as a demonstration of “solidarity.”

Are you kidding me?

Time for an “empty chair” moment with NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

Dennis, Teach Plus has no intention to promote sensible, seasoned, traditional teachers into positions of leadership. Teach Plus and its associates (not the least of which is Ed Trust) are seeking young teachers who might be molded into the corporate-reform mindset of test-driven reform– including test-based teacher evaluation and replacement of community schools with profit-driven charters.

Is this what you want? How can you not see though this?

Have you become consumed with the advancement of your own career, union be damned?

I really would like to know.

I would like to know why you have positioned your constituency on that death-to-the-traditional-teacher serving platter.

24 Comments
  1. It is time for Dennis to go. Actually it has been time for a while.

  2. John a permalink

    Van Rockel and the NEA have been co-opted by Teach Plus. His delusional belief that he and the NEA will be given a meaningful “seat at the table” has resulted in selling out his membership, students, schools and families. Time will make manifest the extent of the negative impact of his fool-hardy decision to be a collaborator. The rank and file members can either resist or be submerged by the forces of ‘reform’. Van Rockel’s sell out has tainted any notion of the NEA’s legitimacy as representing the interests of public schools..

  3. Mercedes, you never cease to amaze me with the details and clarity of your research and writing. The war is far from over and the misdirection and mendacity of many leaders of teachers’ unions is becoming more and more apparent. We in Los Angeles suffer under this inability of our leaders to recognize and counter threats to our profession but you give me hope.

  4. Once again, your research is invaluable. Thanks for taking the time to connect the dots.

  5. Jack permalink

    I concur with other comments on your exhaustive and valuable research on this issue, but would it be just too much of a side-track or back-track to ask what could sound to other readers like an “are you kidding me?!” question? From your repeated and seemingly automatic association of people and organizations with charter schools as a badge of dishonor, do you mean to sound so categorical: charter schools = privatization = bad? If not, what redeems the exceptions?

    • As it stands in our current environment of test-driven “reform,” charter schools replace traditional public schools in order to raise test scores. The charters that boast of “success” equate “success” with the test score. If a charter has a nobler goal, it does not last long.

      When Albert Shanker introduced the charter school concept, it was to be run by school faculty as a means to help marginalized students, not as competition to the public school and as a means of draining financial resources from the public school. And it certainly was not intended to be a hedge-fund-financed industry staffed by non-unionized “teachers” with limited credentials and whose ultimate intention is to climb some “ed-reformer” ladder, or by exploited teachers who feel stuck pushing their students for higher test scores, which is where most charter schools are today.

      • Jack permalink

        You’re probably right when you say “most” charters are something other than what Shanker had in mind, but aside from the broad-brushed research on numbers of CMO-coordinated charters vs. independents, etc., I still wonder whether we know enough about the actual purpose and ground-level functioning of individual charters across the total spectrum to be confident about sizing up “most” of them as the enemy of traditional public education. Perhaps I was radicalized too early in my career by the authoritarian sorting and homogenizing nature of the schools that I taught in years ago to appreciate the potential for an even uglier face to characterize today’s “reformers.” But I have powerful memories of the 60s and 70s when thoughtful and creative people dreamed about alternatives and launched experimental, “free” or independent schools in a kind of Thoreau-spirited effort to educate young people “deliberately” and without being driven by the mad values of testing. For what they may be worth in times of presumed war with charters, those same motives, I believe, can live at the heart of what many teachers and kids actually do together charter schools every day. I have seen and felt them in such schools, regardless of their management structure. So — I must ask — are the stakes so high in the face of the huge web of connected dots you so brilliantly portray that “most” charters must be treated like spiders whether they have the nature of a spider or not? If not, what then?

  6. TeacherFromTheWest permalink

    The Teach Plus rep from my state was plucked from Teachers United, a group lead by a former TFA participant and funded by Gates. DVR has sold us down the river. The true test will be to see where he goes to work after he’s done demolishing the union.

  7. Elin permalink

    Solidarity, whose kidding who? If the union wants us to turn a quiet tongue and pretend for the world that everything is going well, then perhaps they should play their part as it should be played in the first place rather than hanging us out to dry.

    This reminds me of how several years ago now when another group (our elected president etc) were at the helm and we reps were out at a weekend union retreat in Walnut Creek. We were told there would be some exciting news given to us by the end of the conference…that news leaked out and went down like a lead balloon when we found out their exciting news was their approval of charter schools in a joint effort UTR and our administration. It didn’t fly!

    And nothing flies well even today, even with a changing of the guard…new faces, same ideas set before us by CTA and NEA and at the cost of the rank and file teachers.

    They need our money, but that’s about all.

    I’m pro union all the way, but what’s happening is that our parent unions (CTA, NEA) are siding with those who are bringing to the table non union ideals and our local presidents with their eyes on some prize of continuing in union business although not as a teacher seem willing to go along with it.

  8. Miron Boland permalink

    I think that the important fact about charters is that they are an unaffordable, unnecessary distraction from the problems of unstable, inequitable funding and poverty. Choice is simply not one of the fundamental problems facing us in overcoming the achievement gap.

    • Hillary permalink

      Absolutely right! Do charters really work? Are they really raising test scores? The first hand evidence I’ve seen is no. A non-profit that would investigate and hold some accountability over the Charter schools, hmmm novel idea.

  9. Those who claim the unions should be exempt from criticism seem to fail to understand the very purpose of unions, which is to stand up in the face of any unethical adversary. If anything, unions should be held to a much higher standard and criticized the harshest when they turn their backs on those they obliged to protect. Speaking as an NEA member here.

  10. “What is next for NEA? ALEC membership?”

    Quit giving them ideas, Mercedes.

  11. Polly permalink

    From Polly

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

    deutsch29 wrote:

    > a:hover { color: red; } a { text-decoration: none; color: #0088cc; } a.primaryactionlink:link, a.primaryactionlink:visited { background-color: #2585B2; color: #fff; } a.primaryactionlink:hover, a.primaryactionlink:active { background-color: #11729E !important; color: #fff !important; } /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ WordPress.com deutsch29 posted: “I think both national teachers unions have some skewed arrangement to “seek solidarity” by fastening themselves to privatizing groups. Perhaps such is an adult display of grasping to belong to the “cool kids” clique. The “cool kids” are the ones explod”

  12. Mercedes, I have an abundance of respect for your work and I enjoy keeping abreast of your thoughts, especially on the privatization in Louisiana. I am one of the fellows in this NEA/Teach Plus program, and I am a proud public school teacher. I have offered a response from a participant’s perspective. I hope you will all consider it. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/teach-plus/a-powerful-vision-for-nea_b_4855742.html

    • Hi, Rob. Your post is too fluffy to be considered a “response” to my post. That NEA membership is declining is no surprise given the beating the teaching profession has taken from the very organizations with which NEA has chosen to align (TFA and test-driven charters) via TP. So now, we have an artificially created “demand” for fledgling admin trained in grading TFA-style test worship. How convenient.

      As for the impact of your post on my NEA sellout stance: no sale.

      • Hi Mercedes. Not trying to make a sale on your stance. Simply trying to speak to one aspect of your detailed post, regarding the actual work being done in the fellowship. I am not, have never, and will never be moulded into the “corporate-reform mindset of test-driven reform” as you have said. There are many factors for declining membership in the NEA including ill-intentioned reform efforts and anti-public school legislation. However, I’m just offering a perspective that I have yet to encounter any of those reform initiatives in this fellowship. If any product of our work calls for those efforts, I’ll respectfully remove my name from it. And if there’s one thing I’ve come to value during this experience so far, it’s the potentially powerful democratic nature of unionism. For now, I am excited to be a member of an organization that can improve teaching & learning through empowering public school teachers as experts. I am glad we are having all of these discussions. Thanks for your reply.

      • “If any product of our work calls for those efforts, I’ll respectfully remove my name from it.

        Good to know. Thank you.

  13. Janna permalink

    Dear Mercedes, This blog was very interesting and of concern to me. I was a little startled when I read this post that I recognized one of the names you listed. I worked in Memphis for years and we were one of the first places that charter schools began. The original one’s we not “for profit” and had extensive research conducted on them to see if their practices could be used in the public schools. During those years I worked with Dr. Lisa Watts at the University of Memphis an she was a wonderful educator who cared about what was best for children. She had several positions there as an instructor and was a mentor to beginning teachers in the New Teacher Center. I reached out to her and asked if she was still associated with Teach Plus. She said has not been there for quite a while and was surprised she was still on the website. This is what you wrote above. “Memphis, TN, Teach Plus Executive Director Lisa Watts has served as a consultant to the TN Department of Education in the Office of Achievement Gap Elimination (no kidding). She also is vice-chair of the board of directors for Circles of Success Learning Academy charter school.” I can see why they keep her on the website since she has some impressive credentials but I do not think it is appropriate to link her with this organization any longer. Thanks for all you do!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Schneider: Why Is NEA Joining Forces with Teach Plus? | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. NCTQ: “their remedies are part of the disease” | the becoming radical

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