An Interesting Comment to the Implied APN vs. Actual Candidates Positions Post


Recently I posted (link) on what I considered to be a stark contrast between the picture painted by an APN article (see here) and the espoused views of certain candidates for the BOE.

A commenter made some interesting observations excerpted below [see full comment here],

… it’s interesting how you use the typical language of the reformers a la Michelle Rhee or Tony Bennett when discussing these candidates. The rhetoric of fake altruism is frankly getting old … Do you really not see how laughable it seems to those of us who have been in the classroom for more than a brief stint of 2-3 years how these corps members seem? These TFA characters have a definite agenda that ought to be questioned more deeply than you pretend to do in your article. Instead of echoing their platitudes and empty rhetoric, one that is so offensive to my colleagues and those of us who plan to stay teaching and not assume it’s a trampoline for self-interest, you should ask them a simple question: 

What could possibly qualify you to be a candidate to such an important position considering you have so little experience in the classroom? 

Of course, I have heard the responses and believe me the responses they’ll give can be googled, especially considering how they have the corporate PR TFA team helping them through their honorable (it’s for the kids) challenge.

My response: Juan – what I find interesting is that you attribute “the typical language of the reformers” and “The rhetoric of fake altruism” to me. Nowhere in the post did I quote anyone other than direct quotes from the APN article or the candidates own words or positions that they have publicly shared.

Further, the only opinion I voiced was that, based on the candidate’s stated public positions, there did not appear to be a monolithic view or a hidden agenda (a “cabal”) that was espoused by the candidates in question. And, in this case, I stated my opinion because I believe the candidate’s positions lie in stark contrast to the dark and conspiratorial picture painted by Cardinale.

Additionally, based on my discussions with the candidates, I am not able to reach the conclusion that you have and lump them into a group of “TFA characters [that] have a definite agenda”. Each candidate has differing views on not only charter schools and their place in APS, but also hold a wide range of views on how to improve educational outcomes – including focusing on early childhood education; improving new teacher training and empowering principals and teachers at the school level.

None of this sounds ‘scary’ to me and it certainly does not come up to the level presented by the APN article of a “movement to corporatize education…. take education out of the public space… [and] taking democratic control away from communities”.

Lastly, you ask me to ask the candidates a simple question – “What could possibly qualify you to be a candidate to such an important position considering you have so little experience in the classroom?”

I think it is a very valid question if you drop off the last part – “considering you have so little experience in the classroom” as this implies a false choice. The false choice is that to qualify to be a BOE member you must have extensive teaching experience (>5 years). If that were the case, then all the current BOE members and 20 of the 21 candidates in the race are not “qualified”.

If this is your contention, then I could not disagree with you more.

However, the question – What qualifies you to be a candidate for the BOE? – is valid and important. And most (not all) of the candidates have attempted to answer that question by presenting their training, education, work experience, community involvement, position on issues, etc. [see here for individual candidate positions]

That is what I looking to and considering in assessing their qualifications for positions on the BOE.

My hope is that the voting public will also look to the individual’s background and position on issues as a basis for deciding who they will vote for versus accepting a non-specific and shadowy characterization that does not apply.

4 Responses to An Interesting Comment to the Implied APN vs. Actual Candidates Positions Post

  1. H.A. Hurley says:

    I share Juan’s concerns about the TFA overblown confidence of knowing just about EVERYTHING about education, based on 5 week training and a couple of years of teaching (if they lasted that long). Educators are insulted by such a drive-thru process and the historic practice of spreading that ‘anybody can teach’ philosophy.
    Our nation is replacing excellent experienced teachers with 5week wonders. Because they are so much cheaper, nothing will change.

    APS BoE members do not have to have credentials in education or teaching. Most don’t. It may be communicated that some of the candidates are show casing the TFA background. I often think that they know just enough to be dangerous and harmful to education – my bias.
    Financial Deconstruction Blog – I rely on your detailed reporting and professionalism about APS. I appreciate all the hard work and dedication. I hope that others will chime in and send comments. I am almost ready to stop commenting, since I have been the only one for months.

  2. Juan says:

    Robert, I understand that individuals will differ from the institutions or political associations they often seem connected with. Certainly, this is the case with TFA. In fact some, like Gary Rubinstein (http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/), have become a sort of a pestering fly that just won’t go away for this organization. You’re also absolutely correct in bringing up the point that a school board doesn’t need to have educational experts or experienced teachers to run it. I remember when I was growing up in Carrollton that my own school district had a variety of board members, farmers, doctors, retired educators, and even some local businessmen. They shared a love for their community and wanted to give back as much as they could. But even greater than the desire to give back and more important than the years of work, life experiences and education, they had wisdom and never came across as arrogant know-it-alls. I have to say that your thoroughness with keeping up this blog reminds me of some of those civic oriented individuals that looked out after the welfare of our schools and town. Unfortunately, the selfless leadership that I experienced is not what seems to be currently taking over at the national level or in our local schools.

    I am weary when I hear TFA next to education of any form. Too many school districts and cities around this country have been taken over with disastrous consequences by hubristically arrogant people who this organization lauds and rewards as exemplary representatives of their vision but are nothing more than charlatans, Michelle Rhee, Kevin Huffman, John White…

    I don’t know the candidates personally. However, they all sing the gospel of Charters which undeniably function as the right arm of the movement. TFA is synonymous with charters, which incidentally tend to hire corps members almost exclusively in some regions like New Orleans, where charters completely took over the system. It’s not unusual to see a school that has been in the community for generations shut down and ultimately replaced (in the same building) by a fancy sounding charter that employs the all super TFA corps member from principal to the teacher of record. How is this fair to students and to the profession of teaching?

    Perhaps, I should ignore these candidates’ charter mantra to simple political chicanery and one that will fall off in the same manner as other education fads went. But I think something is different now. Education is huge money. The amounts that metropolitan regions spend in this country goes into the billions of dollars. When individuals chose to wear the cachet of TFA savior with pride to gain a political position with power over our most important resources, I think we as a society need to begin to demand more explanations, particularly since at least a couple of these admittedly received “some advice” from TFA and as I mentioned before they have so little experience in the short time they have worked.

    I find that these reformy types, particularly the ones in higher positions, tend to love to send other people’s kids to Charters, but when it comes to their own children, magnet schools sometimes will do the job but Westminster sounds better.

    Perhaps, you’re not as nostalgic as I am, but I’ll leave you with this thought: how would you feel if your own k-12 experience had been one determined by “transformative charters?”

  3. Julie says:

    While it may indeed be a “false choice” to imply that ‘to qualify to be a BOE member you must have extensive teaching experience (>5 years),’ I wonder if the idea doesn’t merit more consideration. You respond, “If that were the case, then all the current BOE members and 20 of the 21 candidates in the race are not ‘qualified’.” Should we then be asking ourselves whether this is part of the problem when we look at how the BOE makes decisions? While certainly it is important to have a diversely qualified Board, and teaching experience alone is not a qualifier, should we be concerned that only 1 individual of all current and potential board members has 5+ years of actual teaching experience? If we had a bit more balance on the board with more experienced educators as sitting members, might we see different or better results?

    • Julie – Thanks for the comment. I think you raise an excellent point and I hope that teachers (or principals) with long experience will run for the BOE. My sense is that they would add value to the oversight process. If there are additional teachers are out there that can improve educational outcomes at APS by serving on the BOE, then I hope they will throw their hats into the ring and let the voters decide. Just as importantly, I believe that too often teachers are ignored inside APS. As in any organization, so often the best answers come from the bottom up versus the top down. My sense is that the teachers running this year for the BOE understand this and they are looking for ways to empower teachers and principals with the ability to make decision that are in the best interests of the students. It would also be very helpful if the next superintendent strongly believes in the value of empowering teachers and principals and is a leader that knows that their success is dependent on the success of the individuals on the front lines.

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