February 4, 2014 by juicefong
Standard disclosure: I work for Teach For America, but I blog independently of my job duties and am not edited by anyone else. You can find me on Twitter @jgfong.
People seemed to like my “Unofficial Year in Review”, so I thought I’d try to keep this up on a monthly basis. Here are the major stories from the TFA universe for the month that was January 2014.
• Count ’em: Four Teach For America alumni were elected to the Atlanta School Board. Courtney English (Metro Atlanta ’07), who was already on the board, was elected its chairman. Relatedly, EdWeek’s Stephen Sawchuck wrote about TFA spinoff Leadership for Educational Equity which helps alumni gain influence.
• Nine of Forbes Magazine’s “Top 30 under 30 in Education” this year are TFA alumni, including Dan Carroll (Bay Area ’09) who was profiled in the New York Times. His company, Clever, helps to sync all kinds of student data across many platforms, saving educators a whole lotta time. See the entire slate of TFA alumni earning this recognition.
• The National Education Association, one of the nation’s biggest teachers unions, teamed up with BetterLesson on a multi-million dollar deal to open up the lesson sharing site to all teachers. BetterLesson was founded by TFA alum Alex Grodd (Metro Atlanta ’04).
• Bard College sophomore Troy Simon introduced Michelle Obama at the White House to speak at a higher education summit. Growing up in New Orleans, Troy could not read until he was 14. He was the student of many TFA corps members and attended alumni-founded schools. I saw him speak at a TFA gala a couple years ago, to a rousing ovation. It will send shivers down your spine.
• Education was in the spotlight in Obama’s State of the Union address. There were also several TFA connections that night: College-bound senior Estiven Rodriguez was recognized by Obama, a student at the WHEELS School in New York City, founded by alum Brett Kimmel (Houston ’96). Among Michelle Obama’s guests at the event was 15-year veteran and D.C. Teacher of the Year Kathy Hollowell-Makle (D.C. ’98). Obama also shouted out D.C. Public Schools and Tennessee schools for their dramatic progress on the NAEP, systems run by alumni Kaya Henderson (New York ’92) and Kevin Huffman (Houston ’92), respectively.
• For the fourth straight year, the Teach For America organization made FORTUNE Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. The organization came in at #88 this year, down from previous years, but still an honor just to make the list.
• Amidst a huge snowstorm blanketing the Southeast, hundreds of TFA teacher support staffers convened in Birmingham, Alabama for an internal conference. Susan Asiyanbi, the head of this division, gave a very personal, vulnerable and honest speech. Amidst all the travel woes, many staff members volunteered their hotel rooms for other stranded travelers, which made the local paper.
• On the critical side of things, TFA alum Chad Sommer (Chicago ’11) wrote about what he sees as the organization’s union-busting conspiracy to drive down teacher pay in Chicago. In response, Hawai’i-based TFA staffer Christina Torres wrote about her own experience, which differed dramatically.
• Meanwhile, outspoken critic of TFA and University of Texas researcher Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig wrote up his latest paper (and accompanying blog) examining teacher effectiveness of TFA teachers. That caught the attention of TFA’s head of research partnerships, Raegan Miller, who subsequently wrote about Heilig’s work here and here, some of it in research-y jargon I don’t understand.
• Things were getting rough for Newark, NJ Superintendent Cami Anderson (Los Angeles ’93). She unveiled her controversial “One Newark” plan but seems to have not spent enough energy getting community input and buy-in. She marched out of a recent board meeting after an audience member’s remark appeared to offend her.
Let me know if I missed something.