Letters to the Editor (Oct. 30)
October 30, 2007
**Teach for America is effective**
To the Editor:
p. After reading Max Fisher’s Oct. 9 column “Teach for America ineffective,” I was disappointed by the number of inaccuracies and misconceptions he advanced about the work more than 5,000 TFA teachers are doing in low-income schools across the nation.
Fisher argued that corps members are ineffective in the classroom because they are inadequately trained, and that the organization’s impact is limited to the two-year commitment. However, there are data and results that do not support these conclusions.
p. In fact, according to a 2004 study by Mathematica Policy Research, the most thorough and independent study conducted on TFA to date, though corps members generally don’t participate in formal teacher training beyond that provided by TFA, they produce higher test scores than other teachers in their schools — not just other novice or uncertified teachers, but also veterans and certified teachers.
p. There is also ample evidence to demonstrate TFA’s impact beyond corps members’ two-year commitments. A great example of its broader impact can be seen in Washington, D.C., where the public schools chancellor, deputy chancellor and 24 school principals are TFA alumni. There are also nearly 250 corps members teaching in the D.C. region. The result is a system focused on student achievement and providing excellent educational opportunities. Alumni are playing similar roles in reform efforts in New Orleans, Los Angeles, New York and Oakland, to name a few.
p. Fisher is right: the problem of educational inequity in our country is real. And this problem will only be solved if we dedicate our time and energy to raising expectations in the classroom and providing excellent opportunities to every student. In the past 17 years, TFA has done just that and will continue to enlist outstanding college graduates to commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders in expanding educational opportunity.
p. __— Matt Reamy ’05__
p. **Nichol ad harmful and misleading**
p. To the Editor:
Shame to the group Free America’s Alma Mater for its Oct. 23 ad in The Flat Hat. The authors use exaggeration and insinuation to harm the image of College President Gene Nichol by emphasizing his role in the College’s new bias reporting system.
p. However, the president’s only role in this system is passive. The Bias Reporting Team’s chairs only keep him “appraised of [sic]” the team’s activities. But the advertisement suggests that these reports will turn Nichol into Big Brother. The ad’s authors may be disappointed to learn that as president, Nichol is probably already apprised of many incidents that occur at the College. At any rate, the similarities between a university president and an omniscient totalitarian dictator seem to be overstated.
p. The authors also seem to challenge the merits of the bias reporting system, but they use sarcasm and misrepresentation instead of serious argument. It is never clear how the system wants to control our thoughts, or how it harms free speech at the College.
p. As for the misrepresentations, the quotation “Campus-wide trainings will be conducted [during the month of September]” only refers to the time during which interested academic departments may choose to learn more about the bias reporting system. The quotations under the section “What Happens to Anonymous Reports?” exclude any note of the actual report review process or consequences of investigations by the Bias Reporting Team.
p. The authors hope that the use of a quotation from “1984” will strike us with some depth or importance. In fact, the only two striking things are Orwell’s prose itself, and the ad’s complete lack of logic, fairness or coherence. The former is ruined by the latter.
p. __— Christian Deegan ’08__
p. **Teach for America’s personal touch**
p. To the Editor:
p. Technically, I’m a law student, but I really fancy myself a 10-and-under girls’ soccer coach. I guess I was never that good. Who am I kidding? I must have been downright horrible. After all, my team finished its inaugural season with a 1-7-1 record. This year, under new coaching, the girls are out to a 5-1 start. So, as I sat over fall break in Houston watching them dominate the competition, I amusingly mumbled to myself, “Dude, you sucked as a coach!”
p. Being a Teach For America alumnus, I was concerned when Max Fisher alleged that TFA’s presence in low-income communities amounts to a “subtle racism of low expectations” and only serves as “a good story at a cocktail party.” In his world a TFA teacher greeting a student implies, “Good morning! I am from a mostly white neighborhood, went to college and am better than you.” I have news for Fisher: in my experience as a fourth grade teacher, kids don’t see color or class. What they do see is if you believe in them or not.
p. TFA is no fairy tale. There is nothing easy about disciplining a child for not doing her homework when you know she had to cook dinner for her three younger siblings and put the babies to bed because her mom had the night shift. But you do it; you look her straight in the eye and say, “Sofia, if you do your homework every night and work hard in school you will go to college and be whatever you want to be.” You believe every word you say and keep in touch with her after she leaves your class to make sure it comes to fruition. If you didn’t, you’d be too ashamed to look at yourself in the mirror. Fisher calls this “paternalistic.” He can call it whatever he wants; he isn’t there.
p. With only a day’s notice, I offered to purchase a plane ticket for Fisher to visit my former students with me this fall break. Sofia’s mom was ready to put him up for the weekend. Understandably, he already had plans with his family. But I really wish he could have come. If I could get him there, like TFA got me there, I figured he wouldn’t discourage undergraduates at the College from serving. I wanted him to take it personally.
p. At this moment though, the only thing I take personally is the fact that we’re winning 2-0 and the final whistle is blowing. How is this possible? How could I have been such a lousy coach? Sofia comes running up to me, gives me a hug and says, “Don’t worry Mr. Crimmins, your coaching strategy is only like 75 percent of the reason we were so bad, 25 percent of the reason is because we got better!”
p. Fisher, 2019 will be Sofia Amaya’s college graduation. I’ll invite you to that as well. Don’t worry; you can use it as cocktail party material without even getting your hands dirty.
p. __— Charles Crimmins, J.D. ’10__
p. **Flawed staff survey**
p. To the Editor:
p. The staff survey published by Human Resources Oct. 12 paints an unclear picture of how workers feel about working at the College.
p. I and other members of the student organization Tidewater Labor Support Committee have noted several problems with this survey, questioning whether it is a useful tool for restructuring.
p. The first problem is who was represented in the survey. There are four different employee categories included in the survey: administrative/professional faculty, classified/university, hourly and unreported. However, when the response data is presented, the categories are all lumped together. Thus, we can’t tell the difference between administrators’ responses and those of hourly workers. Human Resources says it has not analyzed the responses of individual employee categories.
p. Each employee category obviously experiences very different working conditions. How can the survey shine light on the working conditions of staff when it doesn’t isolate the different employee categories? It is essential to isolate employee categories to determine if any one employee category is experiencing difficulties.
p. The second problem is that many workers have told members of the TLSC that they did not see the survey, or that when they filled it out, they were not in a place to ensure their anonymity. 44.5 percent of employees’ views are not represented by the survey. Dining Services workers were also excluded.
p. TLSC has worked with these workers on several issues in the workplace. Though they are not direct employees of the College, they are part of this community and their voices must be heard. To properly evaluate Aramark’s contract, we must know how it treats its employees.
p. The survey is severely flawed in terms of how it was administered and how the data was analyzed and presented. If Human Resources wants a better picture of working conditions at the College, it should work more diligently to ensure a survey that accurately presents the views of workers. To improve the College community, we must not leave any behind.
p. __— Alex Leach ’10__