For Whom the Memphis Bell Tolls: Are Graduate Schools of Education Incubating Their Own Replacements?

By Wayne Jebian

It is a new educational experiment, an in-vivo implantation of a (purportedly) viable degree-granting institute into a mature host, an existing university-based graduate school of education. According to a post on the blog Schools Matter signed by the faculty of the Department of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership at University of Memphis, the embryonic Master’s program will be run by New York-based Relay School of Education with the purpose of training and certifying teachers to work in urban charter schools.

The Relay School of Education has been operating under its current name in New York City since 2011, when it became the first independent graduate school of education to be newly credentialed in more than 80 years, according to company literature. Before that, it was called Teacher U, and operated out of the Hunter College Graduate School of Education. Teacher U was the creation of three major charter school companies in 2008: Uncommon Schools, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), and Achievement First. Currently, Relay’s leadership includes Wall Street operator Larry Robbins, and at least two trustees associated with the “venture philanthropy” organization Robin Hood Foundation, David Saltzman and Norman Atkins.

According to Nancy Bailey’s Education Website, the implanted program has a second parent, one which will share the task of teacher training: The New Teacher Project (TNTP), founded by Michelle Rhee. It has been described by the New York Times as a spinoff of Teach for America, of which Rhee is an alumna. Nancy Bailey lists organizations donating to or investing in the new school as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, J.P. Morgan and the New Schools Venture Fund, among others. Chalkbeat.org states: “To support U of M’s program, $24 million in donations have been raised through commitments from philanthropists, who wish to remain anonymous. “

There are indications that there is much more at stake than just one southern university being invaded and victimized by northern insurgents while money changes hands. According to Nancy Bailey, University of Arkansas already has a program like this, motivated by the Walmart/Walton Family’s pro-reform zeal. The newsletter speculates:

I would say most university schools of education should watch for TNTP and Relay to come knocking on their doors. But don’t rest on the idea that this new teacher package will be just for the poor. While these alternative teaching programs may start out that way, experimenting around with hungry children, if you eventually dissolve teacher preparation as we know it, TNTP and Relay will wind up being the teacher programs for the way all teachers are made.

I truly believe this is the ultimate goal for today’s education reformers.

If this sounds like the same peril that public schools face from charter schools and their privatizing backers, educators affiliated with higher education programs may just have more to fear. While the push to transform k-12 education has been arguably characterized by far more hype than substance, opinion leaders in higher education have been quietly gathering a consensus that graduate schools of education are ripe for re-invention. Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, is as mainstream and influential in education policy analyst as they come, and his concerns are almost perfectly in sync with those of Nancy Bailey’s “be very afraid” alarm bells. He stated in the Hechinger Report in 2013:

“The point is this: University-based teacher-education programs are in trouble and could possibly lose their franchise. Can they be repaired, or must they be replaced?”

Do No Harm
Wayne Jebian is an independent education writer based in California’s Silicon Valley. His past reporting experience includes UNICEF’s BFHI News, the Crittenden Wall Street Mortgage Report and CTLatinoNews.com. His teaching experience includes University of Connecticut, University of Hartford and Capital Community College. He studied at Yale and Columbia as an undergraduate and holds Master’s degrees from Columbia and University of Connecticut. Wayne Jebian’s skeptical take on education comes from the following quote by J.D. Salinger:
“Strictly for the birds. They don’t do any damn more molding at Pencey than they do at any other school. And I didn’t know anybody there that was splendid and clear-thinking and all. Maybe two guys. If that many. And they probably came to Pencey that way.”

Biopic

The Personification of Pearson: Always Earning

My daughter was in Kindergarten when she first met Pearson. According to my daughter, Pearson was the bully that chased you around and around the playground until he finally got a grip on your blue denim jacket- and- with a mighty heave, stopped you dead in your tracks, spun you around, grabbed you by the collar, put his face right up close into yours, demanding not only your lunch money, but anything else you had in your pockets: coins, pencils, rubber bands, erasers, paper scraps, chewing gum, jawbreakers, even lint. Even Lint. Yeah, Pearson was THAT kind of bully. It seemed that he wanted everything that every kid had- all of your money, paper, ABC gum- you name it.

 

Needless to say, I marched myself down to the elementary school and discussed Pearson with my daughters teacher. I was told that Pearson was a challenge but that he had been adopted by the state and would be staying in my daughter’s school. As a ward of the state, there was nothing the teacher could do about that; however, she would make sure that my daughter was exposed to Pearson as little as possible and that she would never have to be in the same room with him during testing. Time passed- and my daughter- through lack of contact- rarely saw Pearson during the remainder of elementary school.

 

Fast forward to Middle School. Orientation. Guess who greets us at the door???? Yup.  Pearson. This guys is everywhere AND suddenly he is popular!!!  POPULAR! He is the darling of the new Teach for America teachers and old school testing gurus alike. He is still a bully, only now he is a sly one, a sneaky one, a slithery serpent of a bully who insinuates himself into the good graces of both Guidance and Gradebook alike. My daughter is wary of him, but this time, they are in every class together. She said that he doesn’t pick on her anymore but sitting next to him still makes her uncomfortable. I told her to just do her work and ignore him unless he becomes a real issue during testing and essay writing time. Thankfully, other than his overbearing and popular persona, Pearson doesn’t influence my daughter much during middle school. High school, however, will be a different story.

 

In high school, as luck would have it, my daughter actually began to enjoy spending time with Pearson. I don’t know what she saw in him, but she liked working with him on the school computer programs. The more time she spent with him, the more she began to like him. She had no problem with how much personal information he wanted from her.  As much as it creeped me out, it didn’t seem to phase her. Perhaps this is due to a “generation” gap,  but I can’t seem to shake the image of that pilfering bully on the playground all those years ago.I can’t stand the thought of his nimble fingers picking her pockets, rifling through her purse, or picking her brain.

These days, Pearson isn’t so much a bully as he is nosey. He wants to know everything about my daughter.  He asks her questions about her name, ethnicity, her likes and dislikes, questions about her parents. He records all of it in his data-bank of a brain, squirrelling it away for use at a later date. What is he going to do with this data? Where is it going? Who sees it? My daughter has even told me that he asks about us, her parents. Where we live, how much money we make, our phone numbers, our email addresses. I told my daughter our personal information is none of Pearson’s business and she doesn’t have to tell him anything about us- or her- if she doesn’t want to. She can refuse to answer any of his questions.

 

Hopefully, my daughter will take my advice about Pearson to heart. She will start college before too much longer, to become a school teacher, and Pearson will be at the same school.  Pearson, it seems is EVERYWHERE. Apparently, Pearson isn’t going to a four -year college; high school (and some dual enrollment classes)  gave him all the tools he needed to be college and career-ready.

 

Ironically, although he isn’t going to be attending my daughter’s college as a student, he IS going to be there. He got a job working for a company where he is in charge of monitoring the student teachers at my daughter’s college. Although he has no formal degree, he is working for the company  my daughter will be PAYING  to grade her student teaching experience! So Pearson, with his lack of education and lack of teaching experience, will be making money grading videos of my daughter ( which she has to pay money to upload ) while evaluating her as a student teacher. Wow. Pearson certainly does get around. In fact, you could say that from the moment my daughter met him, he was always earning.

by Lucianna M.  Sanson

Lucianna Sanson is a high school English IV and AP Literature teacher in Franklin County Tennessee. She is a public school parent and she is married to a public school teacher. She is FCEA President, and the Associate Co-Producer of the War Report on Public Education internet radio show. She is a warrior goddess activist for students and public education. She is admin on several FB pages and she can occasionally be found on twitter. You can also find her delivering nasty bits of edu-reform wisdom via Honey BADger Blurbs.

I Have Who Has: It’s NOT a Game

I have students’ best interests in mind.
Who am I?
Answer: Teacher

Who has no interest of students in mind but is only concerned with personal gain, being elected into office or getting rich by profiting off the backs of students?
Answer: Policy makers, politicians and greedy corporations

I have the knowledge and ability to not only be involved in conversations and planning about education topics, but to MAKE DECISIONS FOR MY STUDENTS.
Who am I?
Answer: Teacher

Who has developmentally inappropriate standards that are being shoved down the throats of our children, choking the life out of them along with the joy for learning?
Answer: policy makers, politicians and greedy corporations

I have the professional training and expertise in education?
Who am I?
Answer: Teacher

Who has never been professionally trained in education, no experience in a classroom and no knowledge or understanding about what kids need?
Answer: Policy makers, politicians and greedy corporations.

I have the will and power to fight for what’s best for our children and public education and take back my profession so our kids can get what they deserve.
Who am I?
Answer: Teacher

Who has a power trip status and hidden agenda with no idea as to what is best for children and public education?
Answer: policy makers, politicians and greedy corporations

I have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars out of pocket dedicating my life to students’ needs?
Who am I?
Answer: Teacher

Who has earned millions of dollars despite the fact their dedication is clearly to themselves and any personal gain they can achieve?
Answer: policy makers, politicians and corporations

I have spent my entire life loving and working directly with students, knowing what makes them happy, what makes them sad, what motivates them, what scares them, what interests them, what bores them, what they enjoy doing outside of school and who they are as people.
Who am I?
Answer: Teacher

Who has never been professionally trained in education, no experience in a classroom and no knowledge or understanding about who students are or what they need?
Answer: Policy makers, politicians and corporations

I have a sense of urgency, the drive to take back my profession so I can do what is best for your child.
Who am I?
Answer: Teacher

Who has the courage to stand up next to me, fight to take back public education and demand it be put back into the hands of the teacher. The teacher who knows your child, the teacher who has been trained to educate your child and has ONLY YOUR CHILD’S best interests in mind?
Answer:
Parents and Teachers everywhere!!!

The time is now. Let’s do it.

Stacy Biscorner, MA, LLPC, NCC

Honey Badger Blurbs

Hey Ya’ll-
Honey Badger blurbs are short, nasty, and to the point. Honey Badger reality consists of not giving a shit about much of anything except taking down the prey of choice- and when it comes to my students, my children, and my family- well- Corporate capitalist Rattlesnakes are my prey of choice. Be warned edu- Reformers- the Bad ole’ Honey Badger is coming for you!

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Out of the Mouths of Babes Comes Truth

Amazing personal narrative and opinion piece by Poetic Justice. #2015TheYearoftheStudent

Poetic Justice

Today I read this very moving piece from Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post Answer Sheet – Test-weary second-grader asks school board:’Is that all that matters to grown-ups?” It was the story of a remarkable little 7 year old, Saige Price, who took on the New Jersey Board of Education and formally testified about the lack of play and the excessive testing that she had undergone in her short two and a half years in public school. It really made me sad and it also made me angry. Paige cries out in the middle of her testimony when she is talking about the tests, “I remember being 5 and feeling mad and sad because the questions were always too hard for me.” I cannot fathom being only 7 years old and having such awful memories of being a child and going to school. To me, this is nothing short of…

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Naison Rants

“I have little confidence in those who are using their power to reshape the teaching profession, whatever point in the political spectrum they come from. And I am not too confident that parents, students and teachers have the power to overturn the apple cart and create and support public schools that place student needs and aptitudes above data gathering, social engineering, and meeting the needs of future employers. But what I can do, as one person, and I am doing, is trying to teach better than ever. To wake up in the middle of the night thinking– what can I do to inspire my students and get them to identify with the material, make it their own, and speak and write about it in THEIR voice? It’s not much. But it is something. And it is better than giving up.”- Mark Naison 1/17/15