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Gary Rubinstein: TFA CEO Has Three Big Ideas For New Corps Members — And Two Of Them Bash Teachers

July 25, 2018

Gary Rubinstein is a Teach for America (TFA) alum who chose to remain in the classroom as a math teacher in New York.

I appreciate his insights into TFA. Below is an excerpt from a piece he posted on July 25, 2018, entitled, “TFA CEO Has Three Big Ideas For New Corps Members — And Two Of Them Bash Teachers”:

Teach For America and the Teacher Bashing Movement are inextricably linked.  Of course the most influential teacher basher of all, Michelle Rhee, is a TFA alum and former staff member.  At the alumni anniversary summits, panels are packed with notable teacher basher friends of TFA like former Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan and former NYC Chancellor Joel Klein.

I was a 1991 TFA corps member and back then I was pretty naive about the skill of experienced teachers.  I was pretty sure that I’d be better than veteran teachers because I was a math major so I knew much more math than the average teacher.  Also as a graduate of Tufts University I felt that I had something a little extra to bring to the table when I became a teacher.  Back then, Teach For America was only in its second year and it was a naive organization too.  They didn’t do much to make me think I was wrong about veteran teachers.

Of course nobody goes into teaching their first year thinking “I hope I can be just like that burned out veteran who has been teaching for 30 years and has used the same lesson plans for the past 10 years.”  The fuel for young teachers is enthusiasm and the desire to be a superstar who drastically alters the course of his student’s lives.

One of the tricky balancing acts in training impressionable new teachers is to try to ground them in reality while not draining them of their enthusiasm.  An enthusiastic teacher who doesn’t have a clue about how schools work or how kids learn is going to make a lot of mistakes in the beginning of the first year.  As you only get once chance to make a first impression, by the time the new teacher figures out what he or she did wrong, it is often too late.  The year is sometimes unsalvageable.

If a new teacher believes that veteran teachers are lazy, he will ignore some of the valuable suggestions the veteran offers.  Teacher bashing actually sets rookie teachers (and the students of those rookie teachers) up for failure.

Elisa Villanueva-Beard has been the sole CEO of TFA since 2015.  Throughout the years I have written about her various speeches and op-eds.  A theme that appears in all of her speeches and writings is that there is a dangerous ‘status quo’ in education where experienced educators deprive students of equitable education because they have low expectations for their students.  This is also the fundamental idea that fuels most of the reform movement.  Basically, experienced teachers are lazy (most reformers make the leap to blame this on the job protections of unionized teachers, though EVB does not generally mention teacher’s unions).  When politicians believe that experienced teachers are lazy, it makes them want to make policies that expand budgets for things like Teach For America.  Teacher bashing has been a very marketable thing for TFA.

Be sure to read the remainder of Rubinstein’s post, including his observation that Villanueva-Beard’s husband runs a Texas charter school chain, YES Prep, staffed with (as Rubinstein notes) “a large number” of TFAers and rated as failing.

In 2014, I wrote about YES Prep and its requirement that seniors be accepted into college as a condition of graduation, a blackmail-styled gimmick to enable YES Prep to advertise “100 percent college acceptance” of its graduates. (Scroll near the end of this post.)

Appearance versus reality.

My thanks to Rubinstein for scoring one in favor of the latter.

no miracles

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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

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

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