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Answer Sheet
Posted at 11:06 AM ET, 03/09/2012

Teach for America wins millions more from the feds

The Education Department just announced that it was awarding about $25 million to three organizations with the aim of “increasing the effectiveness of teachers and principals.” And which are the three chosen organizations?

The California-based National Writing Project is getting the largest grant, for $11.3 million, to train 3,000 K-12 teachers to themselves train other teachers in all 50 states on how to teach students to write. Some 12,000 students are expected to be helped during the next school year.

The second-largest grant under the Supporting Effective Educators Development program, $8.3 million, is going to Teach for America.

Yes, Teach for America, the organization that takes new college graduates, gives them five weeks of training in a summer institute and then places them in some of America’s neediest schools.

And yes, Teach for America, the organization that was recently awarded $49.5 million over five years by the Walton Family Foundation to double its teachers corp.

And yes, the organization that thinks teachers only need five weeks of training before they start teaching is seen by policymakers and other high-profile supporters as a leader in teacher training.

That’s where we are in school reform these days.

The new funds from the Education Department will be used by Teach for America, according to the Education Department Web site, to support recruitment efforts at colleges and universities, as well as summer training programs in Atlanta, Chicago, Delta in Mississippi, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Tulsa.

Overall, 9,000 teachers would be affected by the money this school year and 5,800 in the 2012-13 school year.

The third grant, for nearly $5 million, is going to the New Teacher Center in California, which will support novice teachers and principals in the Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida.

That’s the school district that has won at least $100 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a teacher evaluation that is supposed to reward student achievement instead of seniority.

It’s all part of the Gates initiative aimed at improving teacher effectiveness — an altogether worthy goal — with expensive experiments in assessment that are likely to do absolutely nothing helpful, which might be worth the effort on the off-chance of success if there already weren’t available, effective evaluation systems, which there are.

And that’s how the Education Department chose to spend $25 million.

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By  |  11:06 AM ET, 03/09/2012

 
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