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Jersey Jazzman: Reformy Money Pours Into NJ

Anthony Cody makes the case that the recent resignation of Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is the outcome of just one more scandal in long line of "corporate education reform" failures. This entire movement is beginning to collapse under the weight of its own mendacity; the day of reckoning has finally arrived.

That may be, but reforminess isn't going away any time soon, so long as the money to sustain the "reformers" keeps gushing. Take, for example, New Jersey:  

Newark's Teach for America is getting a boost from the Walton Family Foundation, which has pledged $2 million to the program that brings young teachers into under-served classrooms.

Newark was one of several cities that will share the $20 million donation from the foundation.

“With this critical investment, Teach For America will be able to bring effective teachers into some of the most under-resourced classrooms in the country while simultaneously working to develop more of our talented corps members as long-term champions of educational equity and excellence,” said Matt Kramer, co-chief executive officer of Teach For America.

The money headed to Newark will be able to support 369 first and second year teachers who have committed to work two yeas at high-need schools.

Leave to the Star-Ledger to report this without any context whatsoever. The truth is that there is scant little evidence that TFA's corps members - who get a total of five weeks of summer training before being thrown into a classroom - are "effective" when compared to teachers who pursue degrees in education. Gary Rubinstein shows us TFA's training is wholly inadequate, and the claims of great "learning gains" from TFAers are little better than lies. High-quality research shows TFAers are not a superior substitute to well-trained, experienced teachers; in truth, TFA's high attrition rate works against the goal of improving student achievement.

TFA stopped being about classroom effectiveness long ago; it is now a political organization. And it's expensive, spending over $38,000 for each corps member who starts teaching. School districts like Chicago and Philadelphia, reeling from massive budget cuts and school closings, continue to pay TFA to place their corps members into schools.

But not just any schools: increasingly, TFA has become a de facto staffing agency for charter schools. As EduShyster reports, TFA is sending more and more of its recruits to charters managed by the big, national chains: KIPP, Rocketship, UNO, Imagine, etc. One ancillary benefit for real estate developers is that TFA gives them a consistent, constantly churning supply of yuppies, perfect for urban gentrification. Newark's Teachers Village is only one of several projects popping up all over the country that take advantage of TFA's steady supply of college-educated renters, desperately needed to "turn around" neighborhoods and raise property values.

These nascent urban hipsters are taking away unionized teaching jobs; nonetheless, unions - including some teachers unions - support these projects (which benefit from enormous tax gifts) because they create temporary unionized construction jobs. You can certainly understand why the Waltons, who run one of the most anti-labor corporations in the nation, would want to invest in a union-busting outfit like TFA - especially when some teachers unions are willing to shoot themselves in the foot and support bringing more corps members into their cities.

The resistance to TFA has grow sharply in recent months; however, as long as they have money to burn, they won't be going away any time soon. Same with the Gates Foundation:


Council of Chief State School Officers

Date: June 2013
Purpose: to support the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Institute for Transition and Transformation Services partnership with the NJ DOE to support the state’s efforts to support high quality implementation of the Common Core of State Standards
Amount: $799,825
Term: 12
Topic: College-Ready
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia 

Nearly $800K to imbed the Common Core into New Jersey from the Gates Foundation: they must be cheering in the Montclair school district's central office...

Common Core really means only one thing for New Jersey: testing, testing, testing. Reformy types like Andy Smarick, formerly Number 2 at the NJDOE, have already admitted the ultimate goal of these tests is to make New Jersey's excellent public schools look as bad as possible, allowing them to move their privatization agenda out to the 'burbs. Never mind these kids are already over-tested; we're going to pile more tests on top of them and stress them out further so we can implement even more innumerate test-based evaluations for teachers.

When parents and teachers learn about all this, they are going to rise up in revolt against the Common Core. Good thing the Gates people have coughed up so much money for propaganda a public relations campaign to quell the public's disgust while radically altering New Jersey's high-performing school system.

Anyone else in Jersey want our reformy money? "Cause we've got plenty!

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Jersey Jazzman

Jersey Jazzman is the pseudonym for Mark Weber, a New Jersey public school teacher and parent. He is the Special Analyst for Education Policy at the New Jer...