Ex-Teach For America member changes his mind

I sometimes hear from Teach For America corps members who have lost their early infatuation with the organization but are hesitant to speak out publicly. Here’s the story about one who did from Alexander Russo’s This Week in Education blog.

By Alexander Russo

One of the most interesting characters in the LA education scene is Steve Zimmer (pictured), a Teach For America alum and career teacher who left his classroom to try and be a “bridge” member on the Los Angeles Unified School District board of education, which is still elected.  

One of the reasons you hardly ever hear about Zimmer from TFA and others is that, once elected to the board, Zimmer found himself siding with reform critics (and the United Teachers of Los Angeles) as much or more than with the reform community led by Monica Garcia and the voting bloc that made John Deasy superintendent but could lose its slim majority in March.  Zimmer recently proposed an increase in charter school oversight, for example, and a moratorium on new charters.

Hillel Aron, the reporter for LA School Report, has been doing a series of interviews with board members (and flagging potential candidates for the March elections).  I thought this one, with Zimmer, was particularly interesting in the way it captures just how difficult it is to be an educator who wants change.  As it plays out in Los Angeles, basically, everyone ends up hating you and running candidates against you.

Here’s the interview:  Alienating Both Sides.  Here’s a preview of candidates who may run against Zimmer, including Children Now’s Kate Anderson: Possible Board Candidates: District 4. And here’s a look at the $5 million in independent expenditures that unions and reformers have spent on the last two LAUSD races: Dark Money Dominates.

Are there other career educators, TFA or otherwise, who have tried to be for reform but then struggled with the methods and priorities?  The only other two I can think of are Gary Rubinstein and Seth Lavin.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · October 5, 2012