Saturday, August 18, 2007

Don't drink the kool-aid

Today marked the return of my TFA life. It is amazing what a year can do for you. I think about this time last year I would have voted for Wendy Kopp for about any public office, named a pet after Justin Meli and gotten some type of TFA oriented tattoo. No more my friends, no more.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still a fan of the organization and I'm still glad I'm doing this, but TFA does tend to be a little brainwashing for first years. You still have the lingo, you're scared beyond belief and you've yet to have a 12-year-old make you cry. After my first year (and first summer vacation) I found a bit of personal autonomy.

Enter Professional Development Seminar #1. The best way to get me back into rah-rah TFA mode is not to make me go to a seven hour professional development session. But alas, this is what one must do to get that sweet Americorps grant at the end of the year. So I headed out to the YES North Central campus (read: school I want to work at next year and am being mildly recruited for by my friend Nick, their new health teacher) for my day of fun. It wasn't really that bad, just long. I had a lot of planning time and made some good connections with some of my 06 friends. The 07 still have that deer in the headlight look and aren't really that good for pimping resources out of. TFA has expanded their tracking and planning for this year. Helpful, but a lot of planning. I plan to spend basically the whole day at my favorite coffee place, Taft Street Coffee, consuming large amounts of caffeine and 10,000 pages of planning.

The one thing I'm a bit annoyed with TFA about is their new student growth measurement concept. Essentially, TFA uses this thing called "significant gains" to show how effective their teachers are in the classroom. Sig gains is 80 percent mastery of basically anything you're looking at/teaching and/or 2 years growth in reading or math. There is some flexibility in there, but it's pretty much that. So this year to put it in really generalize terms, sig gains are anything you make them. If I make my sig gains 80 percent mastery of my class objectives and another teacher in the same grade and subject makes hers 60% growth on objective mastery and my class makes 78% and her kids make 70% (but grow 60%) then she has sig gains and I don't. Sounds like someone has figured out how to massage statistics doesn't it? I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a large jump in corps member effectiveness by the end of this year.

It's a little disconcerting that we're all not being measured on the same standard. I think I'm going to drag my heals and make my sig gains 80% again.

I do that. I'm difficult. I wouldn't drink the kool-aid either.

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