Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Teach For America and The Observer

I've been writing about connections between donors and public education lately, so I figured I should put this on the table: The Charlotte Observer was one of the sponsors of the Teach For America luncheon that drew more than 900 people yesterday, and which I covered.

I don't know details of the sponsorship; such decisions are made by Publisher Ann Caulkins and the business side of the Observer. I know what I read in the program: Bank of America and Wells Fargo were the biggest sponsors of the first-time event to raise awareness and support. Piedmont Natural Gas was listed as "green sponsor," and the Observer was one of three "event sponsors," along with Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrickcars.com.

Given the strong feelings that swirl around TFA, pro and con, some will probably wonder whether the connection affects news coverage. The publisher invited me to attend, and yes, that does boost the odds that I'll show up for an event in this hectic season. But I got no coverage directives from the publisher or my upper-level editors. My immediate supervisor, Mike Gordon, and I decided it was worth an article, given the crowd size, the interest in TFA and the prominence of the speaker. No one else weighed in on how to present the information, or on TFA coverage in general.

None of this is stop-the-press news. The Observer sponsors a number of public events that get news coverage. I just figured this is a good way of making sure everything's in the open with readers of this blog, who are a lot like reporters in ferreting out connections and asking questions.


Anonymous said...

You and the Observer should be proud of your association with TFA, an organization that is not content with the abysmal state of public education. Many long-time teachers want the status quo...other organizations see the education of our young people as a life or death struggle for America. TFA is in the latter camp. While I respect your disclosure and caution about editorializing, the media does it every day by choosing what to highlight and what to ignore. Some headlines say, "he vehemently refuses to release documents." Others say, "he declined to offer more specifics." It's all about where the person's history and viewpoint is centered (and who they are friends with) and it always enters the newspaper.

Anonymous said...

Young people need to be encouraged to Teach, a necessity with retirements,attrition, and the dissatisfaction that CMS and other Public School Machines have brought about. Replacing mass teaches with bright, energetic, BUT inexperienced teaching projects is not the answer, just a supplement to staffing. Extremely too much focus on "inner city yutes" and letting the middle class suburbanites get by on their own while the programs are geared NOT to help them, but hinder. Sadly, why would anyone want to be a teacher with all they have going against them from problem children, parents and financial support, only a Navy Seal would feel less valued @ $54 per year!

Anonymous said...

Maybe the status quo is working...there is a conflict of very smart, bright, well-behaved suburban students who needed a well-ordered classroom and strong instruction. And then, there are urban students who place no value on education, have been forced to be there by a parent(s) and use the opportunity to create havoc, meet other youths and basically drain resources. So, do we teach to the top 30% of students and help them excel? Or, do we cater to the lowest 30% and hope that some of them catch on and get inspired. In the latter case, we just help families make the decision to go to some private schooling. It almost seems that we need to have a college-track school and a vocational-track school and at least try to help unmotivated low achievers/trouble-makers get a skill.

Wiley Coyote said...

I don't know details of the sponsorship; such decisions are made by Publisher Ann Caulkins and the business side of the Observer.

Isn't it a reporter's job to ask those questions?

If you can't ask the hard questions from your own employer and what part they play in the story, then why should we put any credence into any other story you report?

I think you do a very good job, but the question has to be asked in the context of this story.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Wiley, that's the difference between a news story and a blog item. One of the reasons I started this blog was to get more info on the table for discussion, knowing I wouldn't always have time for a full-blown report, and/or wouldn't always have a headline that would grab general interest. I see this as very low on the education-coverage priority list, but didn't want anyone to think we were trying to hide something.

jon golden said...

Teach for America is a joke! These "teachers" are glorified substitute teachers who have NO intention of staying with the profession. 1st year teachers are useless and spend the first semester simply realizing that this inner-city experience is nothing like the sanitized classrooms utilized for their training. If TFA wanted to create a generation of dedicated teachers, then it should be modeled after ROTC programs that require a 4-6 year commitment after graduation. If that were the case, then the impact would be felt; however, these "teachers" leaving the profession after 2-3 years, only to be replaced by another inexperienced "teacher." These TFA recruits see teaching like teenagers see working at McDonald's: A means to an end. The end result from 2-3 years of service is a free college education. Yet, dedicated and experienced teachers are still struggling to repay student loans for 10-20 years. TFA is a joke!

Wiley Coyote said...


You and Eric do a great job and also get a lot of face time on the front page of the online Observer. Probably more than anyone because education and CMS are always hot topics.

So to me, your reports are more than just a "blog".

Personally, I think you're underutilized and most likely underpaid, based on your prior comments regarding furloughs.

I read the first paragraph of this particular "blog" where you stated the Observer was one of the sponsors, but in the next paragraph you said you didn't know the details and reported what you read in the program.

Maybe it isn't stop-the-presses news, but I am left wondering and interested in why the Observer would be a sponsor for this particular event.

Either the Observer feels TFA is a valid, new direction in teaching and needs to be expanded because the old way of doing things isn't working, or they have money to throw around to get their name out there on an event.

part-time teacher said...

My guess is the Observer feels TFA is a valid direction in teaching. The opinion page editor, Taylor Batten, played in the Monday pro-am at Quail Hollow. The entry fee is at least $4,500 (2009 price). The majority of the charitable proceeds from the Wells Fargo championship go to TFA. Is Batten just a rich golfer who paid that entry fee himself, or is the Observer actively supporting TFA?

Anonymous said...

The Broad Foundation has an opening for Director of the Superintendent's Academy along with various other propaganda positions in LA. If all the stars align and the Mrs. could find a decorative position, Pete could become the next governator.

Anonymous said...

Vocational schools is a great idea.

Wait! Gormans budget takes an ax to the Career and Technical education teachers.Slashes their jobs on TWO TIERS.So much for teaching job skills.I guess everyone in CMS will go on to college.

Anonymous said...

Even if the newspaper does support TFA, what's the big deal? Also if Broad and Gates contribute to the school system, isn't that a good thing? Many private individuals and organizations are supporting school reform. This should be celebrated.

Anonymous said...

Ann, thanks for bring up this topic. I would also like to see you investigate what CMS is doing to support its teacher assistants who are going to school to become teachers. How does it compare with the way they support TFA's?Teacher Assistants have valuable on-the-job training that TFA's do not have. A five-week intensive course is a great idea, but that doesn't compare to what a TA learns from working full-time in a classroom while pursuing a degree and license.

As a TA with 10+ years of experience, I'd like to know why I have to take methods courses (reading, math, science, social studies, language arts), each with 8- to 10-hour clinicals, pass Praxis I and II to be considered "Highly Qualified," and spend a semester student teaching if it's apparently not really that important. TFA's don't have to comply with these qualifications.

Anonymous said...

To the teacher assistant who has to go throught numerous classes, clinical observations, Praxis tests, etc. in order to be able to teach: The reason the TFA recruits only have to do a five-week training period is because they are better than you.

They are elite students who come from elite universities. They are much like opinion page editor Taylor Batten, and the Observer and other elites who support TFA.

The reason you have to jump through the administrative hoops of teacher licensure is so you can qualify for a full-time job with benefits in NC. If you don't like the process, you can go to graduate school, and then you will be qualified to teach part-time in our higher education system, unless you're an engineer or nurse or something along those lines.

I'd suggest you be happy with your TA position and benefits. If you want to look further, here are the current openings as CPCC. The PT stand for part-time:

PT Instructor Health Education
Req. #1632

Instructor, Surgical Technology
Req. #1624

PT Theater Events Coordinator
Req. # 1631

PT Lab Assistant II Simulation and Gaming
Req. #1610

PT Instructor CCE Yoga
Req. # 1637

Instructor, Computer Engineering Technology
Req. #1633

PT Instructor Paralegal Technology
Req. # 1636

PT Facilitator Collegiate Prep Test – SAT Prep (Math)
Req. #1638

PT Lab Asst II (Greenhouse, Nursery and Turf Management)
Req. #1640

PT Lab Assistant II Networking/Security
Req. #1639

Anonymous said...

There is a fact hidden by districts and TFA from the public. Districts will direct school principals that they have to 'open' X-number of slots for TFA candidates each spring. Non-tenured 2nd-3rd year teachers with regular teaching licenses and degrees in the fields they teach in are let go. Those non-tenured teachers (which statistically hit their best productive years at 3-5th year of experience)end up applying in surrounding non-urban districts - whom will then select the 'cream-of-the-crop' and not have to deal with the problems of 1st year teachers (statistically shown to be amongst the least productive years)...... The urban principals are then forced to hire X-number of 1st year, non-licensed TFA teachers - who have no college hours of specific teacher training, no experience in student teaching, and many times do not even have a degree in the content they are hired to teach..........In one case I'm aware of - a 2nd year teacher with Biology and Chemistry degrees who graduated top-of-her-college-class was replaced by a TFA candidate with a degree in English. This TFA candidate was given a waiver to teach all CHEMISTRY - without having ever even SAT in a chemistry class!.......... The displaced 2nd year Chemistry/biology teacher ended up being snapped up by the very first surrounding district she applied in. Then in her first year there out performed three other tenured Chemistry teachers and was handpicked to start up the AP program at that school. The TFA teacher that had replaced her ended up leaving the field of teaching after just one year because she was completely overwhelmed and unprepared to handle teaching a science she had no knowledge of........... So, in conclusion, this shows how some Urban districts are actually losing their best and brightest new teachers in order to meet their contractual obligations to TFA.

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