The open line: Plus, death of a football star and a dissenting opinion on Teach for America | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The open line: Plus, death of a football star and a dissenting opinion on Teach for America

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 4:45 PM

Here's the open line and today's video. Plus:

* NORTH LITTLE ROCK'S TENPENNY DIES IN WRECK: The sports world has buzzed today about the death of Altee Tenpenny, a 2013 graduate of North Little Rock High and a standout football player, in a one-car crash Tuesday in Mississippi. He played for a time at Alabama and had been suspended Sunday from the Nicholls State football team in Louisiana following arrest for discharging a firearm. Said the School District:

The North Little Rock School District is deeply saddened by the passing of Altee Tenpenny. The death of any young person, especially one with such talent and ambition, is tragic. A 2013 graduate of North Little Rock High School, Altee was a standout football player and human being. His beautiful smile and charismatic personality will be sorely missed. 

* HOLD YOUR APPLAUSE FOR TEACH FOR AMERICA: Many in the Billionaire Boys Club known as the school reform movement think Teach for America is the answer for lagging schools. Oust veteran teachers, some with union contracts! What do they know? Instead, recruiit brainy, idealistics young Ivy Leaguers who'll burn themselves to a frazzle inspiring the downtrodden before they wear out. Not to worry. There's fresh meat where they came from.

Nothing is ever pure black and white. And what you don't hear, thanks to the billionaires' press capability, is some of the down side on Teach for America. Clip and save this op-ed by a former Teach for America  participant when the cheerleaders ride into Little Rock. Writes T. Jameson Brewer, a doctoral candidate in Illinois:

Not only is TFA notoriously unwilling to listen to outside or internal critics (one former TFA manager decried its “inability and unwillingness to honestly address valid criticism” in The Washington Post). The organization has also spent millions of dollars on a press shop built to promote its brand while aggressively and proactively discrediting critiques.

This is bad for the organization, and it’s bad for students. TFA has real problems — its teachers are largely unprepared and fare no better than regular educators. It has a high drop-out rate, and the number of applicants has plummeted. Additionally, TFA sends its volunteer teachers to school districts in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, places now facing teacher layoffs and hiring freezes. Some school districts have even rescinded contracts with TFA, citing teachers’ lack of preparation and low retention rates.

Alum Catherine Michna, now a professor of education at Tulane, has said that she won’t write recommendation letters for students who want to join the program. “TFA members do not work in service of public education,” she wrote in Slate. “They work in service of a corporate reform agenda that rids communities of veteran teachers, privatizes public schools, and forces a corporatized, data-driven culture upon unique low-income communities with unique dynamics and unique challenges.”

TFA has the resources and the clout to address these concerns. Instead, it has chosen to ignore its dissenters. The organization is stuck, and it shows few signs of evolution.

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