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USDOE Pays Shallow Ed Reform Orgs to Address NOLA Teacher Retention Issues

November 14, 2017

It seems that the US Department of Education (USDOE) is sending $13 million to New Orleans so that two local, private universities and four ed-reform nonprofits can drum up a “diverse” teacher workforce for the almost-all-charter, New Orleans *public* schools.

I take it that the term, “diverse,” means “a lot less white than it is now.”

The thing is, prior to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had a teacher workforce that was remarkably nonwhite– in fact, New Orleans’ teacher workforce was 72 percent black in 2004 (pre-Katrina), as opposed to 49 percent black in 2013-14– with the expectation that this percentage will continue to decline.

Add to that the fact that those pre-Katrina, black New Orleans teachers tended to have their roots actually in New Orleans.

According to a 2015 Education Research Alliance of New Orleans (ERA) policy brief, a number of issues have impacted the New Orleans teacher workforce, including the following:

  • Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) teachers mass-fired post-Katrina;
  • OPSB teachers’ collective bargaining agreement expired;
  • Decrease in NOLA teachers with local roots;
  • Increase in teachers with 5 or fewer years of teaching experience;
  • Decrease in teachers with 20 or more years of teaching experience, and
  • Annual rate of teachers exiting Louisiana’s public school classrooms doubling in the decade post-Katrina, with teachers from alternative teacher prep programs and less experience demonstrating higher turnover rates.

ERA tends to believe in “the reforms” and in “the increase in student outcomes” associated with the test-score-driven, market-based reforms that have hit New Orleans. However, there is no entity responsible for keeping track of students in this decentralized system of charter school islands; it is no one’s responsibility to make sure that a student leaving one New Orleans charter actually continues in school. Too, ERA’s statement of “increase in student outcomes” does not address the reality that New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) ACT composite scores are far too low for guaranteed admission to Louisiana’s four-year colleges and universities.

Even so, ERA notes problems with New Orleans’ post-Katrina teacher workforce:

… While many of the city’s new and younger teachers do not intend to make teaching a career, their life circumstances make it possible to work extremely long hours in the short run for the few years they are in the classroom. Research shows that students may learn more when they have more time on task, even though, in this case, these younger alternatively prepared teachers have higher turnover rates.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to this new teacher workforce. On the one hand, the change in the teacher workforce coincided with a large improvement in student outcomes. Among the disadvantages, however, are concerns that changes in the racial and local composition of teachers may have consequences for students not captured by test scores, that the current teacher workforce model is unsustainable, and that any further school improvement may not be possible with inexperienced teachers with limited formal training. While it seems clear that schools have improved, they are still low-performing and different strategies
may be necessary to get students and schools to the next level.

So, now we have USDOE chipping in that $13 million to address NOLA teacher attrition and to make the NOLA teaching workforce “diverse.”

Of course, part of the problem involves paying the likes of these ed reform nonprofits to purportedly address the problem.

In this post, I consider two: Teach for America (TFA) and Relay Graduate School of Education.

A glaring example of handing money over to those who exacerbate the problem involves paying the teacher temp agency, TFA, to address teacher attrition.

TFA promotes teacher attrition.

It asks its recruits to remain in the classroom for two years.

TFA sells its alumni as *educators,* but it does not dare call them “career teachers.” TFA plays a shell game with the American public by making it seem that those who receive temporary training and agree to temporary classroom service are actually benefiting students and their communities. But all that TFA does is guarantee that teacher churn becomes a never-ending reality for the districts that utilize TFA year after year.

In the article about the $13 million USDOE grant, TFA even had a temporary regional exec tacitly admit twice that TFAers do not remain in the classroom:

Joy Okoro, Teach For America’s interim executive director for the region, said the organization has trained more than 2,000 teachers statewide over its 27-year span in the state. More than 1,100 of those “leaders” stayed in the metro New Orleans area, she added.

Approximately $3 million of the grant will be used by Teach For America to bring “300 teachers or more” to the city over three years. Teach For America members are required to teach for two years, but Okoro said they will “hopefully commit to a lifetime of educational advocacy” in the region.

“A lifetime of education advocacy” does not address problems of classroom teacher attrition– but it sure does help guarantee that there will always be TFAers working to keep TFA in business.

As for another USDOE grant recipient, Relay Graduate School of Education, well, that nonprofit is best described as “what happens when an organization principally led by Teach for America (TFA), charter-school-leading alumni manage to figure out what they need in order to be granted accreditation as a teacher-prep program.”

As New Jersey professor, Daniel Katz, notes in this 2015 Huffington Post article on Relay:

…Relay “Graduate School of Education” was singled out as an innovator by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last November, but it is a “Graduate School of Education” that has not a single professor or doctoral level instructor or researcher affiliated with it. In essence, it is a partnership of charter school chains Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First…. Relay’s “curriculum” mostly consists of taking the non-certified faculty of the charter schools, giving them computer-delivered modules on classroom management (and distributing copies of Teach Like a Champion), and placing them under the auspices of the “no excuses” brand of charter school operation and teachers who already have experience with it.

And as I wrote in 2016:

In order to become a Relay dean, one only needs to be willing to start a new Relay campus the Relay way– where student test score outcomes are front and center. For example, this ad is for a “dean fellow” in the Bay area (California). …

…“essential duties” include drumming up philanthropic support. …

As for the qualifications of a Relay “dean”: A doctorate is not necessary (which is not the case of any dean of a real college/university). Too, the [loosely defined] requirement of “instructional experience” is not the same as “full time classroom teaching experience”– which makes it easier for TFA alums to become Relay “deans.”

So, one might think of TFA getting a $3 million USDOE teacher-training grant and TFA cousin, Relay, garnering another $2 million.

According to the New Orleans Advocate, “Relay Graduate School will use $2 million of the grant to recruit and develop novice teachers through a teaching residency. Residents serve as apprentice teachers in the first year and transition into lead teachers in the second.”

ERA notes that higher teacher attrition in New Orleans is associated with alt-cert training and less teaching experience. And here we have a teacher temp agency pretending to address teacher retention and a related graduate school that is not a graduate school offering alt-cert.

Add to that the fact that neither TFA nor Relay originate with New Orleans. Both are ed reform transplants that must work to make themselves appear local.

It’s just too good, like paying Chinet to replace heirloom china.



Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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 two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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From → Arne Duncan, RSD, TFA

  1. Massawessick permalink

    And…don’t forget…once again…the “Trojan Horse,” buy-in Negro partner organizations that make it all possible by appearing to give the A-okay Black community stamp of approval…good ol’ XULA does it again….

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Slightly off topic, but the December issue of Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis has a study titled: “Evaluating Teachers in the Big Easy: How Organizational Context Shapes Policy Responses in New Orleans.” Interesting case studies, but not much overall criticism of mandates to use “multiple measures,” one of these a short version of the Danielson protocol for observation. The researchers think “mastery” is a worthy goal for students and teachers, along with positive “organizational change.” The study has multiple authors organized for this effort by the Tulane-based Educational Research Alliance for New Orleans with “support from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and William T. Grant Foundation.” Could not help noticing that the Walton Family Foundation supported two other studies in this issue. I can supply a print copy if you wish to know more.

  3. Good article that points out the inherent flaws in TFA and Relay schools who will be receiving millions of dollars from this grant. TFA pushed out trained and certified teachers in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina and across the country while promoting the teaching profession as a brief stepping stone to another career. Relay Graduate School is a joke and a fraud with no trained educators training perspective educators (needless to say Relay Graduate School doesn’t meet any national accreditation requirements as a graduate schools and in the real world is not recognized as graduate school in professional circles). So the USDOE has given millions of tax dollars to two organizations that are responsible for the teachers shortage in New Orleans and are clueless about training teachers. Unbelievable!!!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. DeVos Gives NOLA $13 Million to Get “Diverse” Teaching Staff that Might Stay Longer | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. The Mass Firing of Teachers After Hurricane Katrina Demonstrates TFA’s Achilles Heel… But a Recent USDOE Grant Demonstrates Their Connections | Network Schools - Wayne Gersen

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