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Mastery poised to expand its influence around teacher coaching

By Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 10, 2012 12:25 PM

Mastery Charter and its methods for training and supporting teachers may soon exert greater influence in schools all over the city, a development that promises to cement the organization’s influence on educational practice well beyond its own schools.

The Philadelphia Great Schools Compact is asking the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for $2.5 million, some $650,000 of which would pay for Mastery to train teacher coaches to work in District and Catholic schools and other charters.

Some have criticized Mastery for promoting a style of teaching that is suited to test prep but not deeper learning. The compact’s proposal to Gates says that Mastery wants to use part of the grant to align its training with the soon-to-be implemented Common Core standards and help teachers run classrooms that are more student-centered and inquiry-based.

Its current methods, which focus heavily on giving teachers tools and techniques for classroom management and keeping students engaged, have already drawn Gates Foundation support. Gates has given Mastery $1.8 million so the charter management organization could run three teacher coaching institutes over a two-year period.

“We have funded Mastery because we think there are very few organizations that practice what they preach in classrooms,” said Don Shalvey, deputy director of Gates’ U.S. Program, Education. “You would see that it’s building good practice, and there’s a good evidence base for it.”

In June, Shalvey attended a three-day institute run as part of the Gates-funded Mastery Teacher Effectiveness Training Program. The training for teacher coaches attracted 38 representatives from 22 charter organizations and several districts, including New York City.

Mastery’s coaching process starts with laying out the standards for every classroom and each teacher, including a commitment to high expectations. The coach observes the teacher, analyzes her strengths and weaknesses, works out a plan for improvement with measurable goals, and follows up regularly.

“In a world of diminished resources, this effort is the most efficient way to help teachers and get kids what they need as quickly and effectively as we can,” said Mastery CEO Scott Gordon. “It’s a set of tools.”

Mastery’s coaches, who work with a group of nine to 12 teachers over six or seven weeks, give them a series of techniques for running a tight, focused classroom, such as circulating regularly around the room and promoting student participation. The coaches then monitor how well the teachers use the techniques through forms and checklists based on different levels of observation and feedback.

Each lesson has a measurable objective around student outcomes and teacher actions, such as counting how many students are actively on task or have answered verbal questions.

There are different levels of observation and feedback – up to and including real-time, in-person coaching sessions in which the coach gives the teacher instructions through an earpiece. Teachers can also opt for wearing a device called a “motivator” that buzzes them at preset intervals as a reminder to repeat certain activities, such as circulating around the room, until they become habitual.

One of the attendees at the June session was Grace Wu, who taught at Bethune Elementary School in Philadelphia as a member of Teach for America. She then served as a coach for TFA teachers here before joining Uplift Education, which runs 26 charter schools in Texas.

She now works in Uplift’s central office, which provides schools support around curriculum and instruction. She has traveled the country looking for coaching models, attending a variety of trainings run by different organizations.

Uplift is looking to start its own coaching – they have 250 new teachers each year – and “we’ve tried to see what is out there,” she said.

Wu likes Mastery’s approach. Mapping out strengths and weaknesses of teachers and making a plan for improvement is a real breakthrough, she said. In her experience, coaching can be unfocused, she said. The coaches will pay periodic visits to teachers and give them suggestions, but without systematic follow-through.  

In addition to being focused, Mastery's method assumes that teacher behavior can change and effectiveness increase “in a short amount of time, that changes can happen quickly and need to happen quickly,” she said.

Wu said that Mastery also “does the best job of incorporating data into the coaching.”  She gave an example that the coach might observe that at 9:05 just 6 students were on task, but at 9:20, 18 were on task. This kind of close observation helps the teacher pinpoint student weaknesses, focus her attention, and develop new strategies.  

Mastery’s method has a lot in common with the book “Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College” by Doug Lemov, which has garnered a lot of attention.

But Lemov’s system has also drawn pushback from some educators, who say there is no real evidence that these techniques work. Others contend that approaches like these are incompatible with a more humanistic, student-centered education that is based on inquiry and projects and would not be tolerated in schools serving high-income students.

Gordon, the Mastery CEO, argues that these criticisms are off base, while also emphasizing that Mastery wants to bring its system to a new level.

The Compact proposal says that Mastery would use some of the Gates money to create “Teacher Effectiveness 2.0,” which would refine its coaching system and set of teacher protocols to help teachers meet the more rigorous Common Core academic standards.

These standards, developed by the states, but meant to set uniform national benchmarks, are designed to promote more classroom rigor and critical thinking skills. Some of these standards and assessments tied to them will be put into effect as soon as the upcoming school year.

“The parties to the Compact wish to develop and broadly share subject-based instructional strategies that look to move classroom teaching in the direction of student-centered or student-led lessons from the currently predominant teacher-led approach,” the proposal states. “These new strategies will ... focus on increasing rigor in instructional delivery and content.” It said that Mastery “is itself hungry for these strategies.”

At the same time, the proposal credits its current teacher coaching and induction program with “helping Mastery produce dramatic gains in reading and math proficiency rates, and college-going rates significantly higher than the city’s average.”

Under the Gates proposal, Mastery would also play a large role in developing new principals and school leaders through a “residency” program in which candidates  spend a year apprenticing at selected schools.



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Comments (73)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 10, 2012 2:36 pm

What I would like to see is how Mastery students perform in college. Too many articles have been written about how students leaving high school are unable to write papers and think critically. We need tests that assess the critical thinking skills of students, not the ability to learn how to take multiple choice tests.

A recent article in Esquire Magazine argued that Microsoft itself suffered as a company because of its culture that lacked creativity. Thus, it's the testing itself that needs to be called into question.

Submitted by Monique (not verified) on August 16, 2012 10:52 am

Well i attend mastery nd im a senior nd we r prepared for college from the middle school section to the high school section of my campus. In mastery yes we are able to go to college nd finish knowing how to write papers because of the criteria they tought us through the course of our six years of being there.

Submitted by ANON 452 (not verified) on August 16, 2012 11:35 am

Well, since you brought it up, your grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure are certainly not college ready.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 10, 2012 2:12 pm

thank goodness their secret of how to teach will be out!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 11, 2012 6:26 pm

Mastery is looking behind door #3...where there is a boat load of money being floated to initiate professional development for teachers.

Mastery will go wherever the money leads.

Submitted by Annony (not verified) on August 10, 2012 2:48 pm

I'm not surprised someone from TFA endorses Mastery - they are from the same privatization, student achievement versus student learning mold. This will never fly at Masterman, Central, SLA, or the private schools Scott Gorden sends his kids to - it will once again be a dog and pony show/ drill and kill for neighborhood schools.

Gates money is undermining public education!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 10, 2012 3:43 pm

I find it interesting that some have questioned if Lemov's methods would be "tolerated" in upper income schools. Actually, his methods are basically centered around having really high standards and sticking to them. Having gone to an "upper income" school, I really wish my teachers had done that. The standards in U.S. schools are low. Very low. College instructors complain that students come in (not just from low-income schools) unprepared to write well, and lacking other basic academic skills. The truth, in my opinion, is that K-12 education in general in the U.S., outside of a few exemplars, is rather mediocre. "Good schools" succeed because the students have great supports at home and lots of resources (and connections/networking). "Bad schools" fail because they don't have those things. But the average teacher is basically just providing materials. And if you push too hard in a "good school" the parents complaint because Little Johnny didn't get an A+. (By far my best teacher in high school faced serious conflict with the administration because he "didn't necessarily reach every student," which actually meant that if you didn't apply yourself to his class and learn the material, you actually got a bad grade. Shocking!).

This isn't to discount the role of teachers--they are essential. But really good ones are unfortunately rare (it's not entirely their fault. Education programs are not rigorous, and very few administrators take the role of TRUE professional development and accountability seriously).

I don't have vast international experience, but every foreign exchange student I've met from Europe and even from Africa has found American high school to be a joke academically. When I studied abroad, the instructors at the unaccredited language school where I took classes, who were teaching there because they had not yet qualified for a public school position, were pedagogically far stronger than all but the best teachers I had in the U.S. Part of the reason is that we don't take TEACHING as a serious profession here (unlike most other developed countries, where becoming a teacher is just as prestigious/difficult/rigorous as becoming a lawyer or doctor). This means that 1) we don't attract the same type of talent into the profession and 2) we don't take training seriously.

I have criticisms of TFA (I was a corps member), but I will say that in six weeks over the summer at Institute, I got more specific, constructive, and useful training than in two years in a Masters of Education program. And in reading Lemov's book, I got more useful techniques that helped in the classroom (with students off all ability levels) than in any SDP or PFT professional development.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 11, 2012 5:53 pm

When I studied abroad, the instructors at the unaccredited language school where I took classes, who were teaching there because they had not yet qualified for a public school position, were pedagogically far stronger than all but the best teachers I had in the U.S. Part of the reason is that we don't take TEACHING as a serious profession here (unlike most other developed countries, where becoming a teacher is just as prestigious/difficult/rigorous as becoming a lawyer or doctor). This means that 1) we don't attract the same type of talent into the profession and 2) we don't take training seriously. Teaching should be a profession which should be competitive, not one for which there must be constant efforts to attract new teachers to the profession because half of all new teachers leave the profession within 5 years.
Exactly. Teaching is not a prestigious enough profession which attracts the best and the brightest. Also, there are huge disparities in school funding by district. I recommend the book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland by Pasi Sahlberg. There is a great deal that the U.S. can learn from Finland when it comes to education.

Submitted by gregory (not verified) on July 25, 2013 4:34 am
I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I'll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road. Cheers
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 10, 2012 3:33 pm

"The Notebook does not provide a forum for random putdowns and snide remarks." -- Paul Socolar, roughly 12 hours ago

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 11, 2012 3:26 pm


I've heard a couple of people mention that Scott Gordon sends his children to private schools. Where do they go to school? Does anyone know? Some charter schools, like Independence CS and Green Woods CS, have provisions in their admissions contracts allowing for the children of the CEOs to attend there. Does Mastery do that, particularly at the Lenfest campus (which is not a neighborhood school)? I have much more faith in charter schools where the CEOs want their own children to attend them. When charter school leaders send their children to other schools, I think that these CEOs want something different for their own children than for "other people's children." Everyone wants the best for their own children so it's hard to blame them for sending their own kids to the best school. However, when men like Scott Gordon and Doug Lemov, who are white, run networks of schools for children of color--that is, they make their money by running schools for other people's children, it just doesn't seem quite right.

Submitted by Tara (not verified) on August 11, 2012 4:41 pm

This is from Chris Lehmann's blog.

"To me, when you ensure your own child has an arts-enriched, small-class size, deeply humanistic education and you advocate that those families who have fewer economic resources than you have should sit straight in their chairs and do what they are told while doubling and tripling up on rote memorization and test prep, you are guilty of educational colonialism.

And it's time we start calling that what it is."

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 11, 2012 4:45 pm

And that's my issue with these people who run charter schools for economically disadvantaged children, and make a pretty penny doing so. It's fine to send your own children to a nice private school. But when it comes to other people's children who attend your school, you should be up in Harrisburg fighting for more money to fund a better education for children who live in poverty in Philadelphia. The District and its charters need to be fighting for equitable funding for the children of Philadelphia to ensure that they can have better than test prep, zero-tolerance, direct instruction.

Submitted by ANON 452 (not verified) on August 11, 2012 8:03 pm

I believe Scott Gordon sends his children to Friends Schools--that is pretty much the antithesis of Mastery's drill and kill test prep curriculum. But I guess it is OK fro the low SES kids. Several other posters over the last year or so have asked Mr. Gordon to comment on this. So far, he has not.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 11, 2012 8:42 pm

I find that quite interesting since I have read that the philosophy of Friends Schools is that they believe children learn at their own pace.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 12, 2012 10:32 am

That's a provision in the charter law allowing for preference for the children of a charter's founders. It's not something special to those schools.

Effing SRC based on their questioning during the last renewal hearing seemed not aware of this and asked a lot of stupid questions about it, specifically Ramos, I think. Sucks when people in the audience or tuning in online, including volunteers such as myself with no background in education, know more than the people in power making decisions. Months ago, I was curious about enrollment barriers and whether they're permitted under charter law so I looked it up.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 12, 2012 11:28 am

I assume this provision on the charter law was for community based charter schools where a group of parents/teachers founded the school. Scott Gordon is the founder of a charter empire and would not consider sending his kids to a Mastery test prep factory. Would he allow his children's teachers to be buzzed into action?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 12, 2012 11:47 am

I understand the fascination with Scott Gordon and where he sends his children to school. I really do.


Submitted by Annony (not verified) on August 12, 2012 9:36 pm

Based on the SRCs performance to date, I don't think they have read much - especially regarding charters. They have gladly renewed most of their contracts and relied on Darden, the former director, for direction.

Submitted by Education Graduate Student (not verified) on August 14, 2012 11:13 pm

It doesn't surprise me that some SRC members may not be familiar with specific provisions of the charter school law. They seem to have relied heavily on Thomas Darden when it came to information about charter schools.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 10, 2012 3:38 pm

There are many "styles of teaching" which are effective and one style is not necessarily any better than any other style. Each has its pros and cons. A god teacher adjusts his style to meet the nature of his class and the purposes of instruction.

There are more studies on effective instruction and more books about effective instruction than any of us could ever read in a year.

I believe in school based research (something we did back in the day). The problem is how do we validly measure outcomes when looking at the "whole child" and their psycho-cognitive growth.

I have to commend Scott for at least promoting a professional development pprogram. But, to be honest, it is hard for me to think that anyone or any organization can hold themselves out as knowing any more than the rest of us about what is good pedagogy.

With that said, I would like to participate in the program just for my own personal growth and knowledge base.

As I have always said, "We need an open-climate for collegial discussion and debate about what really are the best practices" in teaching and learning. That discussion needs to be collaborative and open to philosophical differences.

I think the "compactors" are getting ahead of themselves here. We supported Dr. Hite because he is an educator with actual classroom experience. He even taught Reading for a spell.

Dr. Hite also holds advanced degrees in educational leadership. I think he may have read a book or two about effective instructional leadership.

May I suggest that we all stand back and allow him to lead!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 10, 2012 10:07 pm

Does Scott Gordon have any background in teaching? Before Mastery, I believe he ran a company so he is another corporate trained person heading schools.

Submitted by Education Graduate Student (not verified) on August 14, 2012 11:22 pm


You make a really good point about expertise in pedagogy. Having honest debate, discussion, collaboration, and reflection on pedagogy is a key aspect of good teaching. Every organization is going to have its strengths and weaknesses. I hope that Mastery's professional development provides a forum for reflection and critical inquiry instead of being overly didactic. No one has all of the right answers. Having an open climate is key for sharing knowledge and improving the practice of teaching. It is also important for educators to be knowledgeable of the latest peer-reviewed scientific research on curriculum and instruction. There is a lot of research out there, especially from foundations like the Gates Foundation. However, the gold standard for research is peer reviewed research. It's important to always be open to change as the research progresses and brings new findings.


Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 15, 2012 6:55 am

The most important element in learning about effective methodology is experience in the classroom. I can hold myself out as someone with "considerable expertise" on the teaching of reading in secondary schools because I taught reading in secondary schools for 20 years. I also have a Masters degree in Psychology of Reading. I led a Reading program for those 20 years and we always gave a pre and post test along with several "informal" diagnostic measures. We studied the growth of reading ability and the effects of various approaches to the development of reading ability.

I can not hold myself as any kind of an expert on the teaching of Math because I have never taught it. As an administrator, I have observed hundreds of math lessons but that can never give me enough expertise to hold myself out as an expert although I have observed some amazingly outstanding lessons. At one time there were "Math Wars" about "traditional math" vs. the "Interactive Mathematics Program" or "IMP" as we knew it, which taught math in an inquiry approach.

I read article after article about IMP vs. traditional math, but I could never truly understand the practical differences because I never had the "background of experience" of actually teaching math. I had to rely on the expertise of math teachers who had taught math both ways.

The flaw with the District's "teacher coaches" is that a coach who taught math can not legitimately coach an English teacher or a reading teacher. An elementary teacher cannot effectively coach high school teachers or vice versa. Back in the day we had "Department Heads" in English, Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. who were appointed after going through a testing process. They monitored instruction on a daily basis and provided support.

To be honest, it takes years of experience to develop significant expertise in the "Art and Craft" of teaching.

It can't be buzzed in from outer space....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 15, 2012 7:58 am

Amen! Mastery's approach to teaching assumes there is a "tool box" of strategies to engage student and force them to learn. There also is an assumption - from Teach for America (TFA), Mastery and KIPP - that anyone "smart enough" can carry this tool box and have students "achieve." Experience is pushed aside for "enthusiasm" and, in my opinion, unquestioning belief in the "tool box." In addition, many TFA teachers did not major in what they are teaching; they are learning - and experimenting - on the job. TFA teachers are also placed in special education positions even though they have NO background in working with students with special needs. This would never happen in an affluent community.

With the emphasis on reading and math since NCLB, the expertise of a subject specific teacher has diminished. Those evaluating us (e.g. administrators) do not have the pedagogical content knowledge / subject area expertise. Look at what has happened to the curriculum office in Philadelphia. Rather than having teachers with at least 15 - 20 year of classroom experience (versus downtown/administrative experience), we have K-8 administrators who have not taught a class in decades. They couldn't plan an engaging unit no less evaluate it. This doesn't preclude cross curricular units / programs; cross curricular programs should be created by teachers with expertise in their disciplines who collaborate to create and evaluate the units / student learning. That would be a transformation!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 15, 2012 8:59 am

EGS: That is not to say that the study of education and pedagogy is not critically important also. I read what you say with interest because you are so knowledgeable about teaching and education. I do not know what experience in schools you have had, but I would love to have someone as zealous as you in my school. (If I had one right now.)

It is just that it takes time and effort to put theory into practice and that ability grows with experience.

I view Great teaching as an Art. It most certainly is at least a Craft. It is also always Coaching. We learn to be good at those things over time with a whole lot of practice.

To me teaching is the Greatest Profession!!!

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 10, 2012 3:43 pm

And the "Charter Charade" continues. Monkey see, Monkey do" is all it is but clear thinking people have known that all along. If Kenny Gamble and Dwight Evans aren't careful, little Scotty Gordon will pass them on the fraud list.

I agree, Thank God, Mastery is going to pass along their secret to educating kids.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 10, 2012 5:19 pm

The “drop by” model of teacher coaching has not proved to be effective. Learning organizations need professional development activities that are targeted toward situated learning in the workplace. A teacher coach who drops in once a week will not produce significant learning for teachers.

Notwithstanding, district led professional development programs should work in concert with schools to provide carefully designed situated learning that takes place within schools to support groups of teachers working and exploring significant topics together that will support student learning, engagement, and success.

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on August 10, 2012 8:35 pm

Why won't anyone ask us what we need! Coaches from Mastery is far, far, FAR down my list.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 10, 2012 9:22 pm

I need coaching. How do I teach a 100 plus students with no paper allowance?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 11, 2012 9:10 am

We probably all need a paper allowance. At my school, we are given 2 reams of paper per month. I generally purchase 3 reams of 750 sheets from Target per month at about $6.00 per ream. I take advantage of the sales at Staples when they offer rebates on paper. Sometimes, you can get paper at Pathmark for $1.99 per ream when it is on sale which will beat Walmart by .97cents. I double side everything that I copy. Sometimes other teachers will go into together to buy a case of paper to supplement their needs for paper. Hope these suggestions help.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 11, 2012 1:34 pm

Are you talking about lined paper or strictly copy paper?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 11, 2012 5:53 pm

I was speaking of copy paper. But if you are looking for lined paper, Staples was doing 1 cent sale of lined paper, limit 5 packs with $5.00 purchase. Also, you can buy a $10.00 school supply card from Staples that will save you 15% everytime you shop at Staples from now until 9/15/2012. Savings card can be used I believe on anything at Staples.

Suggestion, put lined paper on the supply list for your students and list how many packs they need to bring in and store the paper in the classroom, inform parents that paper will be collected and used at school.

Suggestion, make a list of items that you ask the parents to provide as donations to your classroom. Some will donate for their child's classroom. It's less money that you have to spend and with things being tight, parents are generally happy to help out their child's classroom.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 12, 2012 5:03 pm

The problem is that the letter has items every year that parents ignore. No liquid glue. Still have half the class bring it in. Dry erase markers will be needed. Good luck on that one. Parents seem to buy whatever they bought the previous year despite what I send home or tell them. Some parents are happy to help out, others could care less. Even bringing in a sharpened pencil is an effort for some kids. I've given them pencils to leave in their desk and they disappear or get thrown away.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 12, 2012 9:14 pm

I agree with everything that you said. For the last two years I have purchased school supplies for my students. Of course you know that I spent a small fortune, and didn't mind doing it--it's a tax write off.
I brought a large box of 72 pencils and I have some left over from last school year. I asked that the students come in with at least 24 pencils and a pencil sharpener. I will keep mine under wraps to see how many come in with pencils and we use them until we use their pencils up and then I will bring out my supply. I have brought four electric pencils in two years, so I don't allow them to sharpen their pencils with it. Dry erase markers were on sale at Staples.
Keep your receipts and use them when you complete your taxes--$250 is allowable write off and then there is some way that the remainder of your receipts can be written off on your state taxes (my accountant does my taxes so she knows how to do it).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 11, 2012 5:43 pm

Yes, problems exist with supplies, but let's not confuse the issues here. Part of our problem has consistently been tied to us not being able to identify significant issues and drilling down to the core of where we are and steps needed to get us to where we need to go. Copy paper, or the lack of, is the least of our worries.

The issues are so deep and so systemic that is it easiest to become bogged down with concerns that are easily solved--such as gaining access to copy paper.

Teachers and principals need to become engaged in real conversation that is free of the “us against them” mentality that has prevailed far too long in the SDP. We need eyes wide open in order figure what we need to do to help ourselves help students reach academic success. We (every employee who step inside the school door) need to rid ourselves of toxic adult behaviors and divisive attitudes that in essence is bringing down the house. We must begin to rely on and help each other as much as possible as the privatization pendulum swings.

Charters may seem like the favored child, right now, but this too shall pass as the movement to destroy pension plans gain strength.

Later, we'll long for the good old days when copy paper is a scarce commodity.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 11, 2012 6:06 pm

I really hate to say this, but get over yourself. If you will note, I was only responding to a need of a poster above mine and I offered suggestions to meet that need. That is what educators do, when another educator expresses a need, we come up with suggestions to meet the need. Now, grant it, copy paper in the big schema of things is not a major issue, particularly when there are bigger fish to fry, charter schools and how they will take over the City of Philadelphia if we don't do something to stop them.

Yes, we do need to come together, all parties who are interested in making changes and we need to come together and listen and respectfully engage in dialogue that will prompt change instead of working against each other. We need to be able to dialogue without fear of being written up, talked down to, and disrespected.

And further more, if people suspect/know that favoritism is being used and people are getting positions that they aren't qualified for, who while in their roles, cause damage, harm others because they use the power of their position, then something needs to be done about it.

The contract will be up in 2013, we need to be talking about what steps we need to be taking. Don't kid yourselves, we are going to be fighting when this contract is up and we are going to have to fight long and hard. Is there anyone here that remembers when teachers were on strike those 51 or 52 days and it was later ruled a lock out? That's what is going to be happening again, so start saving your money now. Start doubling up on those mortage payments cause it is going to an all or nothing affair.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 10, 2012 10:56 pm

Yes, school based PD created by teachers at the school is more effective than an outside organization (e.g. Mastery) attempting to make other schools follow their protocols / practices. Mastery has a very narrow view of pedagogy. They prepare students to take standardized tests. While I agree a teacher should never sit at his/her desk during class and needs to engage all students, drill / kill 7 steps is not the only way to engage students - it is teacher driven instruction. We all know Mastery "down our throats" will NOT happen at magnet schools (where some teachers need to be told to get off their butts and work with students rather than do their paper work during class) but those of us in neighborhood schools will be told it is "Mastery or the highway." When will the powers that be get that one size does not fit all? Students and teachers are humans - not widgets!

Submitted by RogueTeacher (not verified) on August 11, 2012 12:23 am

This article made me cringe. While I think more effective teacher preparation, coaching, and professional development is needed in the SDP, this method of training teachers reminds me of cattle being prodded by electric rods. It's like a one-size fits all method to create robot-like teachers. I would never want an earpiece with a coach on the other end giving me tips and feedback in the middle of a lesson. That would be too distracting. I also question who these trainers are and what happens if a teacher doesn't conform to their methods. Giving tips is one thing, but forcing a teacher to conform to a specific method is not very appealing. Not everyone can teach the same way as we are human beings, each one of us unique. Though, it would be interesting to experiment with these methods just to see how ridiculous they truly are and to disprove the theory that the Mastery way is the best way to go.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 11, 2012 1:17 am

You know what's at work here, it's the "one size fits all" theory to teaching. People feel that anyone can teach, because there is nothing to it. SO, they want pre-packaged and prepared standardized lesson plans or methods (7 step lesson plan) that they can then give to any WaWa clerk or man off the street who will work for min. wage. Because, afterall, ANYone can teach, right?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 11, 2012 7:39 am

TFA teacher "training" - you can't call 5 weeks preparation - follows the Mastery model. As you wrote, it is one size fits all , "anyone" smart enough can teach "anyone," and teachers are dispendable. After all, TFA only requires 2 years so every 2 years there is a revolving door. TFA is the epitome of the deprofessionalization of teaching. TFA heads the privatization bandwagon thanks to the millions upon millions they receive from the federal government to foundations like Gates. Buyer beware!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 11, 2012 7:20 am

The original purpose of charter schools was to promote innovative teaching methods and put control of the local instructional program into the hands of the teachers.

It even states that in the "legislative intent"section of the Charter School Law.

Also, anything that is done by Mastery has no binding effect on any other charter school or any of their teachers. Anything Mastery does has no binding effect on any teacher in the School District of Philadelphia.

The methodology and innovative practices within the School District of Philadelphia is purely within the province of Dr. Hite, our Superintendent, and the PFT.

The Compact and the committee has no legal power and authority over anyone or any school.

You are all free as Americans to take what Mastery promotes seriously or you can laugh at them at will.

But the bottom line is that we have always had professional development programs throughout the history of Philadelphia's schools. Some were better than others.

I would urge us to look at what is done in all of the blue ribbon suburban schools which surround us and replicate what they do. We should also look closely at what is done in our high achieving schools within Philadelphia.

The bottom line is that methodology is largely based on Philosophy and opinion and the question of "best practices" is highly debatable. I assure you I can look through the International Reading Association's "Annual Summaries of Investigations Related to Reading" and find a research based study to support anyone's philosophy.

We all know what works best for reading: Small class sizes in grades K-3 and the services of a certified reading specialist for every student who falls behind in reading.

When I visted Mastery-Smedley, what I saw was small class sizes in every class. That is what I saw of Mastery that should be replicated first. That is what should be done first in all of our elementary schools.

So how are we going to accomplish that?

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 11, 2012 9:28 am

It's not going to happen within our lifetime because these are poor, mostly people of color. It's racism 101. Pols don't care about them and folks like Corbett are building prisons to house them later in life.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 11, 2012 6:38 pm


I totally agree with your following point:

"I would urge us to look at what is done in all of the blue ribbon suburban schools which surround us and replicate what they do. We should also look closely at what is done in our high achieving schools within Philadelphia."

The SDP should be borrowing best practices not just from charters but from suburban schools and the best school in Philadelphia. The problem is that the SDP does not have the resources to implement the best practices from the best suburban and city schools. Penn Alexander receives additional money from Penn. Cook-Wissahickon and Meredith are able to do a lot of fundraisers. Philadelphia has many more people living in poverty and many vacant and abandoned properties, as well as years of mismanagement of school district funds. If elected officials cared about ALL children, they would recognize that the Commonwealth needs to provide more funding for Philadelphia's students, not just 33% of the District's budget. If lawmakers are so concerned about how the District uses the money, allocate more money to the District but let the state have more oversight of how the SDP and charters spend their funds.

Philadelphia simply cannot afford for its children what wealthy and middle class school districts like Springfield, Lower Merion, Central Bucks, Upper Dublin, and Colonial can afford for their children. If the Commonwealth wants all children to perform up to high expectations, then all children must attend schools with adequate funding. In Philadelphia, most of the schools don't have adequate funding. The "achievement gap" in Philadelphia is due in part to an opportunity gap for Philadelphia's students. It's unfair and unreasonable to expect the same from children in Lower Merion and Philadelphia when per pupil funding in the LMSD is twice what the per pupil funding is in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, too many people are content with Philadelphia's children receiving less. They see Philadelphia's children as potential inmates or "drains on society" because these children come from poverty. Promoting the common good means providing for all children equitably!

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 11, 2012 7:50 pm

As I stated earlier, it won't happen UNTIL the people of color outnumber whites and VOTE. Poverty has enormous natural consequences and all thinking people recognize that. Take a drive through North Philly and then take a drive through Upper Merion. In any case, elections matter and when you don't vote, scum like Corbett gets into power and here we are. Romney just picked Ryan as VP. Ryan makes Corbett look like Mother Teresa. Take a look at his eyes. Obama has not been a prize but Romney and Ryan, especially Ryan, is truly dangerous.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 13, 2012 6:15 pm

We CAN afford it. Look at String Thory Schools. My child is going to be getting all of those things at H.R Edmunds this Fall.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 13, 2012 8:54 pm

Yes, because String Theory received a $2 million grant - something Edmunds never had. Money is needed but only is going to charters.

Submitted by Education Graduate Student (not verified) on August 13, 2012 11:12 pm

Please elaborate on what is happening at the new String Theory Edmunds charter that your child will be receiving in the Fall. Were these promises or have you seen concrete evidence?

I'm also curious as to why such amenities weren't available at Edmunds when it was a traditional public school.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 14, 2012 8:54 am

It is a duplicate of the program at Performing Arts Charter. We were told that the grant money is going to just cover renovations and opening costs which means the school I showing to be running on LESS money than the district schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 14, 2012 9:09 am

Yeah because completely renovated schools ALWAYS cost more to maintain than something than a building that hasn't been given serious attention in decades. Nope, I'm sure String Theory is expecting no cost savings in facilities at all. For someone that demands critical thinking of us, you sure seem to lack it yourself.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 14, 2012 12:53 pm

A $2 million grant is not less money - it is money that should have been available for Edmunds to do the repairs. I work in a 100 year old building that is literally falling apart. So, if the School District characterizes the school, will there be money for repairs, renovations, etc.? There should be the funding NOW.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 11, 2012 6:02 pm

Earpieces? Bracelet Buzzers? Teachers need electronic "motivators"?

Who are these people?


Lisa Haver

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 11, 2012 7:04 pm

I agree--bizarre, dangerous nonsense. Teachers will dance around dead chickens too.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 12, 2012 11:58 am

Anyone tries whispering in my ear, it damn well better be Cote de Pablo, and if you try "buzzing" me, you better "duck and cover"

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 12, 2012 9:53 am

Wow, no paper, but we will be getting electronic buzzers.

Submitted by harry m (not verified) on August 12, 2012 4:44 pm

It is the Undergrad/Grad Schools of Ed of the Univ of Penn, Temple, Drexel, and the other teacher-training programs that have the basic responsibility for producing teachers. Additionally, they have the associated Depts of Psychology/Psychiatry to add expertise for the problem. Why doesn't anyone ask them what they've been doing for the past 25 years about the SDP.
I started out in the SDP as a Sub for 5 years. I've been to all the high schools.
The kids at Central, Masterman, adn Carver succeed because they have the attitude/culture that they want to succeed academically. The kids at University City HS, West HS, and William Penn HS don't have that attitude.
Indeed the parent is the primary influence on the child. After that proper teacher training is necessary to get kids into the learning.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 12, 2012 5:15 pm

Harry M--do you really think it's that simple or are you just trolling?

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on August 13, 2012 8:02 am

If you'd like a critique of the "Teach like a Champion" - which appears to be the theoretical basis for Mastery's (and KIPP's and Teach for America - TFA) "champion teacher" approach - here's one article to consider -

The assumption is students are "empty" and need to be filled with "correct" answers / interpretations in reading and math. (Yes, the epitome of the "banking concept" of education.) There is continuous teacher questions/students answer drills. It is a behaviorist approach that assumes students' questions, perspectives and mistakes are antithetical to learning. This is how Mastery, KIPP and TFA define "student engagement" and "student achievement." (See the video - - "teachers get students to do 100% of what they want 100% of the time.") Mastery's approach also assumes learning is linear. We start at point A and end up at point Z - no diversions, no off task to discover anything new because this conflicts with having a "right" answer.

So, yes, I assume this drill/kill approach does lend itself to standardized tests which presume only one "correct" answer but this has nothing to do with how we think/live outside of school - or, in my opinion, how we should learn in school. Also, 100% compliance is anti-democratic - even with children. As a parent, while it might be nice if my children listened to me 100% of the time, my power would be disproportionate (e.g. dictatorial) and my children would never learn to make decisions and from their mistakes. (I've certainly learned a lot from my mistakes!)

Before the SRC falls full line and sinker for more Nowak/William Penn Foundation / Scott Gordon/ Mastery's theory of how we learn, I hope they look critically at this behaviorist approach. I assume Prichett, whose children went to a private Quaker school and now go to Masterman, Ramos, who went to Central and whose children went to Masterman, and Loraine Carry's daughters went to private Quaker schools. So, none of their children will ever be exposed to the "empty vessels to be filled," behaviorist drill of Mastery's / KIPP's / TFA's magic methods or "techniques."

(Note, the author of "Teach like a Champion" - Lemov - is a Teach for America/TFA alumnus - TFA is central to the privatization movement in education and gushing at the seams with private and federal government money to de-professionalize education and thus teaching and learning. Lemov is in the tradition of early 20th century education theorist Thorndike, his "scientific methods," checklists, and measurement borrowed from the corporate world. )

Submitted by Education Graduate Student (not verified) on August 14, 2012 12:57 am

What does reputable PEER REVIEWED, scientific reading research say about pre-reading? I think that someone from the International Reading Association would be better qualified to speak on the value of pre-reading than David COleman or Doug Lemov.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on August 13, 2012 9:25 am

The following article should add to the debate on so-called "school turnarounds."

The Paradoxical Logic of School Turnarounds: A Catch 22

TINA TRUJILLO is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned a Ph.D. in education from the University of California at Los Angeles and an M.A. in education from the University of Colorado Boulder. This commentary appeared in Teachers College Record on June 14, 2012. Sources cited here are listed in the online article.

In the 1955 classic novel Catch-22, Joseph Heller chronicles the absurdity of the bureaucratic rules and constraints to which a conflicted Air Force bombardier and countless others are subjected. Each character lives under the absolute, yet illogical, power of these policies. One by one, they come to see the paradoxical nature of the policies, and eventually the bombardier realizes that the main policy—Catch-22—is an empty one, based on illogical reasoning. Its real purpose is to justify the behavior of those in power and maintain the status quo.

The Obama administration’s 2009 school turnaround policy is in many ways a catch-22. After announcing its intention to turn around 5,000 of the nation’s lowest performing schools over the next 5 years, the federal government poured an unprecedented $3.5 billion into the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Such a worthy goal, in the administration’s view, required quick, drastic action at the school level. Out of four policy options prescribed by the administration, districts that receive SIG monies choose the turnaround option the second most frequently for schools (Hurlburt, LeFloch, Therriault, & Cole, 2011). This policy mandates that schools fire the principals and teachers and change schools’ overall management. If the schools’ performance does not adequately improve (each state sets the definition of improvement), states can pull the funding.

Yet the assumption behind school turnarounds—that rapid, dramatic changes in staffing and management can fundamentally improve persistently low-performing schools—is inherently paradoxical because the turnaround option rests on faulty, unwarranted claims. In fact, the policy exists despite evidence to the contrary. Such reforms engender the exact conditions that long lines of research have linked with persistent low performance—high turnover, instability, poor climate, inexperienced teachers, and racial and socioeconomic segregation.

In this way, the policy presents schools targeted for turnaround with certain impossible dilemmas, or catch-22s, because implementing the policy is likely to lead schools back to the original problems that the turnaround was supposed to solve.

For example, architects of the turnaround concept ignored earlier research on analogous reforms that have been implemented to dramatically change school staffing, organization, and management in an effort to achieve similarly dramatic changes in student performance. This research documents a range of negative unintended consequences of these reforms, such as heightened racial or socioeconomic isolation and organizational instability (Mathis, 2009).

Consider reconstitution, the practice whereby employees are forcibly transferred out of chronically low-performing schools. This research shows that firing and replacing school staffs not only fails to yield the intended gains in test scores but also reproduces the same challenges that the reconstitution aims to ameliorate. In Chicago, reconstitution resulted in deteriorated teacher morale and staff replacements of no higher quality than their predecessors (Hess, 2003). Under these same reforms, low-income African American and Latino communities’ democratic participation in schools was restricted when the central office made reconstitution decisions in lieu of the discretion of local school councils—the district’s earlier school governance structures that were composed largely of parents and community residents (Lipman, 2003). In San Francisco, reconstituted schools repeatedly showed up on later lists of low-performing schools (Mintrop & Trujillo, 2005). In Maryland, in addition to not being associated with higher student performance, reconstitution inadvertently reduced schools’ social stability and climate (Malen, Croninger, Muncey, & Jones, 2002). Another study showed how hiring difficulties in five states forced many reconstituted schools to begin the school year with high numbers of substitutes (Center on Education Policy, 2008).

In the Philadelphia School District, where district and state leaders pinned their hopes on turnaround-style reforms and outsourcing of school management for over a decade, administrators recently announced the dissolution of the entire district (Mezzacappa, 2012). The turnarounds were too costly and just did not work (though former district administrators still plan to farm out the remaining schools to external management providers).

Recent examinations of the initial SIG turnaround efforts have documented other ways in which logistical challenges associated with the dramatic staffing overhauls may outweigh potential benefits. In New York, districts that selected the turnaround option struggled to find enough qualified personnel to fill vacant slots; they ended up swapping principals from one SIG school to another. In Louisville, over 40% of the teachers hired to work in turnaround schools were completely new to teaching (Klein, 2012).

From an empirical perspective, reconstituting school staff appears to precipitate the same conditions that led to the low performance in the first place. It destabilizes schools organizationally and socially. It undermines the climate for students and teachers. It increases racial and socioeconomic segregation. It does not improve the quality of new hires. And it actually breeds more problems with turnover and permanent staffing.

Like the characters in Heller’s novel, educators in potential turnaround schools can earnestly try to improve the situation quickly, yet when the conditions triggered by the policy mirror the conditions that led to their dismal situation to begin with, research shows that they find themselves, and their students, stuck. They’re stuck in a catch-22.

Despite this paradox, advocates of turnarounds maintain that education should take up such dramatic reforms because presumably they have produced the desired results in the corporate sector from which the interventions have been borrowed (e.g., Murphy & Meyers, 2007).1 However, research also shows that corporate turnarounds rarely yield the positive results that reformers expect (Altman, 1968; Nystrom & Starbuck, 1984). Studies show how turnarounds in the corporate sector have fared little to no better than less dramatically reformed organizations (Hassel & Hassel, 2009). Some analysts have found that such popular management techniques are associated not with greater economic performance but with greater perceptions of innovation (Staw & Epstein, 2000). Others have found that the most popular turnaround approaches successfully improve organizational performance in only a quarter of the cases (Hess & Gift, 2008).

By ignoring this evidence, architects of the federal turnaround policy don’t just overestimate the promise of turnarounds to bring about radical school improvement; they misrepresent the record of corporate turnaround practices and their applicability to public schools.

If we know that turning around a chronically low-performing school is unlikely to happen under such a policy—in part because of the policy’s inherently illogical rules and the conditions it facilitates—why does the federal government prop up the policy with such conviction?

Heller offers us some ideas here, too. In the novel, a character decides to sell chocolate-covered cotton to the government. Why? Because he knows it looks good on the surface. People will want it, at least for a while, because the lack of substance on the inside is hidden from view. In his bureaucratic environment, the visual appeal of his product is enough to hide the lack of deep, authentic quality.

School turnarounds are a lot like chocolate-covered cotton. Turnaround policies look good on the surface. The government pours extraordinary funds into the school. A flurry of staffing changes occurs. It’s a spectacle. But deeper changes are not required. The policy does not address the racial and economic isolation of schools targeted for turnaround. It sidesteps the challenges of building a pipeline of qualified teachers and principals into the hardest to staff schools and districts—and retaining them. It says nothing about how to deepen educators’ professional learning opportunities.

The federal turnaround policy creates the outward appearance of well-intentioned policy makers without addressing broader systemic inequities. And in a political environment that puts a premium on bureaucratic accountability and managerial efficiency in schools, appearances go a long way (Trujillo, 2012; Trujillo, in press).

Unfortunately, when all is said and done, the current policy is grounded in the familiar arguments in support of corporate-style reforms—arguments contradicted by empirical evidence. The policy is paradoxical. It uses our nation’s neediest schools—those serving primarily poor children and children of color—as laboratories for educational experiments, notwithstanding existing proof that the experiments will not succeed because they recreate the conditions that produced the needs in the first place.

The upshot of this paradox is an illogical reliance on turnarounds as a tactic for lifting the performance of chronically low-scoring schools, and an exaggerated promise of a strategy for dramatically altering the staffing, organization, and management of our country’s neediest schools. In doing so, the current turnaround policy distracts the public from more fundamental questions about the types of policies that can genuinely challenge the status quo by securing the necessary conditions for all students to succeed. Because at the end of the day, the schools targeted for turnaround are still caught, inescapably, in a catch-22.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 13, 2012 6:48 pm

Find me one parent at one of the Renaissance schools that doesn't tell you the schools are MUCH better after. 1oz of common sense is better than your 10lbs of PFT B.S.

We heard all of that nonsense at Fredrick Douglass and it turned out to be union drivel.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 13, 2012 8:45 pm

You obviously didn't read the post - there is no "PFT BS." How is Mastery drill/kill BS "common sense?" It is educational apartheid - only good enough for those on the economic bottom but not good enough for those who run the show like Gordon, Nowak, Prichett, Ramos, Cary, etc.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2012 5:13 pm

The real catch 22 is claiming that reform is not possible unless "social inequities" are fixed first. Or state funding is equalized. Or Philly annexes the surrounding counties and prevents middle class parents from fleeing. Or some other state of nature that has never existed is acheived.

This is a complete cop out to avoid even trying to fix failing schools or hold anyone anywhere in the system accountable for anything. Acheiving the unacheivable is the pre-requisite for any reform.

Your alternative (other than a forced levelling of "society") is to continue on a course with results that are a proven failure?

Of course that failure does in itself contribute to continuing inequality. And the refusal of a big city system to reform many of its bad failing practices will continue to make taxpayers reluctant to provide greater funding.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 5:11 am

You provide no solution other than "reform." The so-called "reform" model of programs like KIPP and Mastery is to narrow the curriculum and use drill/kill pedagogy for one purpose - standardized test scores. Their methodology does nothing to challenge the status quo. We need other models of "reform" which do not treat students and teachers like widgets. If a child centered, constructivist education is appropriate for Scott Gordon's children at a private, Friends school, than the same type of education should be appropriate for Mastery (and KIPP) students. There are other ways to hold teachers and families accountable beside standardized tests and Mastery type contracts.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 20, 2012 12:17 pm

Your statement is the problem with the public school system in a nutshell- the belief in the system and that there is a one size fits all solution that meets the needs of all kids. Friends is one type of private school. But there are others that are more traditional.

The school district needs to be held accountable for failure. My point is that the district and ed establishment has created a series of absurd conditions to avoid accountability for anything.

Charters are one way to hold such a system accountable. Why do you think parents have been fleeing for the last 40 years?

The problem with SDP schools other than magnets is that there really seems to be no discipline and the environment seems to cater foremost to disruptive anti-social students rather than those who want to learn.

In the end this helps no one, not the troublesome kids (I was one) or those who want to learn. But apparently it fits within some ed PHD's notion of equality and justice, so the SDP does not question its practices. Providing the best education to the maximum number of students is an afterthought in this mindset.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 20, 2012 12:30 pm

When you said, "The problem with SDP schools other than magnets is that there really seems to be no discipline and the environment seems to cater foremost to disruptive anti-social students rather than those who want to learn," you answered your own question, "Why do you think parents have been fleeing for the last 40 years?"

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on August 13, 2012 9:27 am

Instead of spending all this money on teacher training why not implant electrodes in teacher's brains and then administer a small shock when they stray from the best practices as codified by the wonderful folks at Mastery Charter.   Low voltage correction the first time with progressive increases for continued infractions.   An added bonus is that teachers who don't respond  could simply be given a large enough shock to turn them into vegetables, unable to work in classrooms.    No messy, time consuming, expensive due process.   Zap, your history.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on August 13, 2012 10:55 am

Thorndike, BF Skinner and other behaviorists would applaud this approach:) Yes, create more cogs for the educational factory floor! Behaviorism espouses giving the correct answer/response to a given stimulus. (Similar to programs like Study Island which recognize students' correct answers by "allowing" them to shoot canon balls.)

I have no idea if anyone on the SRC has any inkling of education theory, but they should "read up" before they expose more teachers in their care to the "Teach Like Champions" / Mastery / KIPP / Teach for American (TFA) approaches of professional development. The SRC needs to remember that what happens to teachers, happens to students. Unfortunately, none of Pritchett's, Ramos', Cary's, Houstoun's, and Dworetsk'sy children/grandchildren/nieces/nephews/etc. will have to suffer under this drill/kill mechanized so-called "learning."

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on August 13, 2012 9:04 am

Skeptical of Teach for America (TFA):

This is to "wet" your appetite:

TFA teachers cost taxpayers more money than traditionally educated teachers. The afore-mentioned review shows that the average cost of a TFA teacher is $70,000 per recruit. Public school districts are paying twice for recruiting: from $2,000 to $5,000 to TFA per recruit plus funding recruitment by their internal human resources departments. Recruitment costs should be one-time expenditures, but at the current rate of attrition, districts must pay anew every time a TFA teacher leaves. According to Barbara Miner’s investigations, on top of their school district-paid salaries, Teach for America candidates also receive taxpayer-funded Americorps stipends, plus because of their TFA member status, they qualify for funding that people who take traditional teacher training routes don’t. Finally, TFA receives millions in local, state, and federal dollars. TFA annual reports show that about a third of costs are borne by the public—add in a $50,000,000 grant they received from the Department of Education this past spring, and that share has probably risen. How can the federal government subsidize a jobs program for the privileged as it struggles to extend unemployment benefits for those who have lost their jobs?

Wendy Kopp and other TFA leaders counter that attrition and cost are not issues since the ultimate purpose of TFA is not to produce career teachers but to produce education professionals and philanthropists to fight educational inequity. I agree it’s beneficial for students of education policy to understand the realities of the public school classroom, but I don’t think it should be at the expense of knowledgeable teachers for our students. Many TFA alumni leave the classroom and enter into an echo chamber where the ideologies and industries of TFA, TFA alums, and like-minded individuals and organizations are promoted. This causes many of them to view education policy through a narrow lens and fail to recognize what causes the inequities in the first place: unequal distribution of resources, income inequality, and poverty. Furthermore, unlike jobs in teaching, many of the education sector jobs Kopp speaks of are very lucrative, for example being a charter school administrator in New York City, a superintendent in a mayoral takeover system, or a TFA executive, many of whom make $200,000 to $300,000 per year. One study even disputed the claim that TFA alums become civically engaged at relatively higher rates.

TFA claims not to be a political organization, but Barbara Miner reports on the lobbying organization founded by TFA, Leadership for Education Equity (LEE). LEE is a 501(c)4, a nonprofit that can engage in lobbying and political campaigning, which TFA as a 501(c)3 cannot. For example, LEE lobbies to water down teacher certification requirements. LEE is funded by big corporations such as Goldman Sachs, Visa, the Walton Family Foundation, Monsanto—parties who promote deregulation of the markets and in whose interest it is to break up the only viable unions left, those of the public sector. When a study done by Stanford University education academic Linda Darling-Hammond came out questioning the effectiveness of TFA teachers, Wendy Kopp called them “diatribes” and personally lobbied Governor Schwarzenegger to deny Darling-Hammond a position on the California’s State Teacher Credentialing Commission.

Read more:

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 13, 2012 10:59 am

I have known about 30 TFA Teachers and NONE of them could even begin to hang with the problems of Urban Ed. They bailed ASAP--EVERY single one of them.

In any case, here comes Obama pandering to the unions and the middle class after ignoring our problems for almost 4 years. The worst part is that Romney and his nazi cohort would be so bad, that even Obama looks better. It says here, we are in trouble in the good ol US of A.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 14, 2012 8:53 am

Mastery has moved in to 440. They have been there for months now. Nutter, Ramos, Bill Green & the SRC have been slurping the Mastery blue Kool-Aid to the point of addiction. Leaders are so desperate for the "magical actions". Things appear to be action but are actually like gerbils in their spinny exercise wheel. Mastery teacher observation & coaching is their iron-clad way of showing top-earners the door - especially when they have families (insurance costs, phew! who can pay THAT??). Believe me, after a promotion or two in the "merit" pay system, suddenly some Mastery teachers are "in need of coaching", placed on an improvement plan and eventually let go. Why pay someone $60,000 when you can welcome two TFA kids for the same cost? Besides, teachers become immune to that blue Kool-aid after a few years and start asking pesky questions about things like Black History Month which is not really allowed at Mastery. There is no time & its not on the next bubble test. Adequate resources? Stop whining & making excuses. Real college prep methods? What for? All we care about is getting kids admitted at some college somewhere! Who cares if they cannot think or borrow thousands. Hey btw, where do your kids go to school? Where? Oh, Green St Friends? Huh? Oh, because the Mt Airy neighborhood public school was not good enough. Got it. Wonder why? Maybe because millions are being drained to replicate yet another bureaucratic behemoth demanding cookie-cutter classrooms?

Submitted by Keith Newman (not verified) on August 14, 2012 8:31 pm

A school that has no special ed students, benefits from parental involvement without having to ask for it, is going to do professional development for educators who work in a completely different environment, one that Mastery has done everything it can to avoid that reality.

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