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TFA Alum Blair Mishleau Values Veteran Teachers

September 3, 2016

While perusing the internet on September 02, 2016, I discovered a surprising post on the Teach for America (TFA) website. The post is dated April 10, 2013; written by now-former TFAer Blair Mishleau, it is entitled, “Where Are the Veteran Charter School Teachers?”

Blair Mishleau  Blair Mishleau

When Mishleau wrote the post, he was still involved in his two-year TFA classroom stint.

What immediately struck me was that a member of an organization that promotes temporary teachers actually wrote about the need for career teachers, in this case, in charter schools.

Here is what Mishleau had to say in 2013, in part:

Where Are The Veteran Charter School Teachers?

Those best-suited to teach need a sustainable pathway to stay in the classroom.

By Blair Mishleau

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

… I’m at my second charter school in one year (my first laid me off), and in both schools, I see very few educators with anywhere near the 15 years of teaching experience that my mom has. With these years comes the type of knowledge that only time can provide.

I think it’s a problem in education in general, but I initially noticed the trend in Minnesota, where I live. At the previous school where I taught, only 3 of the 15 teachers had more than five years of experience. …Studies have shown that mentor teachers help with retention. In my current school, the number and proportion of veteran teachers appear to be similar to my last one. …

One friend teaches at a charter that has gone through approximately one new teacher a week. …In his first year, he’s climbing the seniority ladder at a sickening speed. …

From the various research I’ve read from across the country, including papers from Vanderbilt,  Stanford, and the Center on Reinventing Public Education, the turnover in charters appears to be more than just an issue of serving low-income students or learners in urban areas. Questions of job security and compensation are relevant as well.

…I’m not surprised there are so few “lifers” at charters in my area.

… After all, as a veteran teacher in many charter schools, you work longer hours, get paid less, and have less job security than in other school settings. After all, as a veteran teacher in many charter schools, you work longer hours, get paid less, and have less job security than in other school settings.

…Right now, I see what seems to be a revolving door for educators promising to transform students’ lives. Well-intended as they may be, true transformation happens when those best-suited to teach have a sustainable pathway to stay in the classroom. ….

As Mishleau’s LinkedIn bio notes, he did not leave the classroom following his TFA stint (May 2012- June 2014). From July 2014 to present, Mishleau has been a technology teacher with KIPP DC (KIPP DC Heights Academy, to be specific, as this KIPP press release confirms).

Already having four consecutive years experience as a classroom teacher, Mishleau is not the usual TFAer. The organization only requires a two-year commitment, and a 2015 Mathematica study (as noted in Bloomberg) reports that virtually zero percent of TFA teachers plan to stay an additional 3 to 5 years in the classroom.

So far, TFA alum Mishleau has made it to what seems to be the beginning of his fifth consecutive year in the classroom. It remains to be seen how long Mishleau will remain in the classroom. However, one of the indicators that one is a veteran teacher is having student comment, “You taught my mother,” or “You taught my father.”

When that happens, I think it’s fair to say one is a career teacher.

Unfortunately, the TFA from which Mishleau hails does not actively support the concept of career teaching. Instead, TFA wants to fast track its temp-teacher alums into positions of leadership and influence over a classroom that they barely know– a power move that conveniently enables TFA to proclaim that most of its alumni “remain in the field of education.”

Such TFA-promoted fast-tracking of those with hardly any classroom experience into positions of power and influence over those classrooms is a real problem. I hope Mishleau will come to terms with the negative contribution that TFA exerts over classroom teaching as a professional career. TFA is part of a larger ed reform movement that vies for a cheaper bottom line even as it demands more out of teachers– with the narrow, ultimate measure of educational value being the ever-higher standardized test score.

Test-centric instruction is not teaching. It is too narrow and prescriptive. Test-centrism kills creativity and discovery and individuality. Test-centrism values that which can be quickly and efficiently measured– and it tries to force that which cannot be quickly and efficiently measured into the ill-fitting mold of the test score.

I do not count those who consider test-prep-ed as teaching to be teachers. I hope that Blair Mishleau is not among them.

I hope that at his KIPP school, Mishleau defies viewing his students as scores.


Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.



  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    I wonder how the test-centric policies since 2000 have contributed to a high rate of churn among teachers in real public schools. I also wonder how many TFA teachers are hired in real public schools and the relative churn of these teachers compared with those who have had a more comprehensive induction into teaching. In any case, computer-based test-centric “training” modules for many subjects are proliferating and they are misrepresented as personalized learning.
    Title II of ESSA is an endorsement of multiple paths into teaching with few preconceptions or restrictions on entry. A career in teaching is actively discouraged by TFA and other participants in the new breed of “accelerators” where “any operator” can open and run a school as long as they produce “high quality seats” year-over-year. Among the measures are of “high quality” are value added calculations (VAM), attendance and graduation rates and so on. “Accelerators” in education are being formed by community foundations and active or retired CEOs of major corporations. These entities are hostile to democratic governance and they put local school boards on a hot seat. School boards worth their salt depend on community support, including support from businesses, not just during levy campaigns.

  2. I have noticed that now that the TFA program has had a long run in the educational system, there are more voices coming from early TFA teachers who find themselves being harassed and maligned and labeled as being “bad” simply because they have been in the system long enough to have become a target. It’s pretty hard to feel sorry for them….

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