Meet Ieesha

Meet Ieesha McKinzie.    She's been a teacher with TFA and with Breakthrough Atlanta.  As our new Development and Communications Associate, she'll be making appearances on TeachBreakthroughs, sharing exciting opportunities for all of you.  Keep an eye on the top of the blog, as we'll soon be adding an "Opportunities" page to TeachBreakthroughs, a collection of jobs, scholarships, fellowships, and other fun things to help you get where you're going.  *Alums who receive the regular e-mails from our Yahoo Group will soon be routed to this page.*

On top of her role as an arbiter of career and educational information on the blog, she also brings a healthy range of experiences with her, and I'm sure she can be a resource for you in the future.  Her bio is after the jump.

Teacher Quality - Success in NYC

I missed this article last month from the Center for American Progress, where they look at the success that New York City has had in increasing the qualifications of teachers at their lowest performing schools.  The metric they used was the difference between the SAT scores of teachers at the best schools and the worst schools, along with the difference in the percentage of uncertified teachers at those schools.  Since 2000, they've sharply narrowed those gaps.  Remarkably, they've done that without just transferring stronger teachers from the low-poverty schools.

Policy Matters: Solving the Teacher Quality Dilemma (Center for American Progress)

Hiring Better Teachers

Slate has an article today about a school in NYC that raised its performance by setting a high bar for teachers, pushing out those that flunked.  Some definite pros and cons there.  Key quote:

While it's not fair to park the problem of global inequities at the doorstep of teachers unions, the continued floundering of public education in America is at least partly to blame: Education is an awfully good predictor of future earnings, and keeping bad teachers in classrooms filled with kids from poor families certainly helps to reinforce the cycle of poverty.

Of course, the

A New Education War?

Now for a bit of policy.

We've discussed teacher performance pay and union issues before on TeachBreakthroughs, and the discussion has recently returned to the campaign trail in earnest.  Last weekend, Barack Obama accepted the endorsement from the National Education Association, a 3.2 million member teacher's union.  He made performance pay a subject of his speech, just as he did at the NEA meeting last year, drawing boos.  In the primaries, the NEA decided not to endorse a candidate, while the American Federation of Teachers (a more Labor-Movement-Connected union) was among the most active surrogate groups for Hillary Clinton.  While Obama's work toward performance pay won't drive the unions to another candidate, there are some questions there.

Richard D. Kahlenberg wrote for The American Prospect a useful rundown of the education reform debate happening right now on the left.  It's a great read, but here's the gist of the piece:

While progressives generally agree that education in America is a mess and that performance needs to increase, there are two schools of thought that have seen little chance for compromise:

  • A "civil rights" coalition that wants the schools themselves to change.  This means applying efforts to issues ranging from teacher recruitment and pay to leadership structures.  This group, characterized by big-city school reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, along with politicians like Newark Mayor (and Breakthrough special event keynote speaker) Corey Booker.  The fact that many signature school reform measures are opposed by the unions leaves this group with a negative relationship to them.  They generally think No Child Left Behind was generally a good idea, though poorly executed and not thoughtful enough.  "We've got to do something, and we actually have some control over the school system.  Let's fix that and see what else happens."
  • A bigger-issues (and union-connected) group that makes the the case that student performance is determined by all the things that happen to a kid before he sets foot in a school.    There is plenty of evidence to support this side of the argument, most influentially the Coleman study of 1966.  NCLB is, to this group, misguided.  "Why send teacher job security and tenure down the river, if the way to really improve performance is to end poverty in America?"

Teacher Evaluations

Interesting writing from a veteran teacher on the way teachers are evaluated and supported.  This happens to be a recurring topic on TeachBreakthroughs.

TFA, Continued

Via the great Anna Hamilton of Fort Worth.

In case you haven't seen it: somone asks Wendy Kopp, why not place TFA corps members with experienced teachers in "easier" schools for the first few years--

What Teachers Need

A nice roundup of requests/complaints/assertions from teachers, via the Dallas Morning News.

What teachers need: Teaching as a profession

What teachers need: Teaching as an art

Teach For America Roundup

Teach For America is definitely having a moment in the media sun this week.

First they announced their recruiting numbers for this year: a remarkable 37% increase over last year, up to 24,700 applications submitted.  This comes as TFA was able to add 800 new positions at schools around the US, now placing 3,700 new teachers at low-performing schools.  This is


While Breakthrough is concerned with getting you into a teaching career, it is in our interest that you find that career to be amazing.  We don't necessarily think any type of school is any better than any other, and we know that there are both incredible and horrible charter schools, independent schools, and public schools.  We do talk a lot about charter schools here on TeachBreakthroughs, but only because they do a lot more recruiting, and there's a lot of action in that field.

If we find something great, though, schools that we know are excellent, dream schools that are

Who will teach our children?

Daniel Meier, a teacher educator at San Francisco State University has an op-ed in todays SF Chronicle.  He makes an argument for why it's so hard to find folks to do this important work, and he presents some reasons to hope.

The roadblocks for future teachers:

  1. Low respect for the career (def.