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UPDATED: Live Blogging from Teach for America 20th Anniversary Summit, Part 4 With Closing Plenary

NOTE: See below for 4:45 added update
6:05 PM It’s after 6. Drink tickets are now valid. Hoping to see Kaya Henderson at the bar.

The audience is eating this up. It sounds tough. But do our schools and children need this sort of toughness? Education is not a business, but this panel believes it is. It is unbelievable how one-sided this summit is. 
Diane, are you reading this? We need you here pronto. I’ll pay your travel expenses and help you storm the stage. 
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Kaya Henderson, DC schools:
Where is the Pepto? I can’t stand this woman. She has the potential to be a more frightening monster than Rhee. (She spoke this morning in the opening brainwashing session.)
She is touting the success of D.C.’s 126 charter schools: “We have a robust charter school movement.” She claims these schools are so successful because they have the autonomy they need.
I’ll take some of that autonomy. Sign my public school and me up. Oh, I guess she isn’t offering that.  

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3:10 Just arriving to session entitled, The Future of Schools Systems:
How to get through this session? Is smells like the destruction of public education in here. Check out the panel:
1. Richard Barth: President, CEO KIPP
2. Kaya Henderson, Interim Chancellor DC Schools
3. Rebecca Nieves Huffman, VP of the Fund for Authorizing Excellence, National Association of Charter School Authorizers
4. Paul Pastorek, State Superintendent of Education, Louisiana Department of Education
Moderated by Ted Mitchell, President and CEO, New Ventures Fund
Paul Pastorek begins. Says we need to “Break up the monopolies.” Why? “Because we have to define what will be a truly great school. We need the flexibility to innovate. We need the city to get out of the way.” He discusses Louisiana’s effort to decentralize the school system and how he is relying mainly on charter schools to provide the innovation LA needs.  32% children who are not on grade level, and he says charter schools are the only hope.
Yuck. How can all these people sit here and listen to this? I know there are public school teachers here, as I’ve seen their name tags. Are they not outraged? I am, but you knew that already.
Pastorek then asserts the keys to his success: “We seed, feed and weed in Louisiana.”
              Seed: Bring new schools in.
Feed: Provide support if they want it, but don’t push it.
Weed: Remove schools that do not meant the standards.
Pastorek closes with “We need to engender competition.”
The audience is eating this up. It sounds tough. But do our schools and children need this sort of toughness? Education is not a business, but this panel believes it is. It is unbelievable how one-sided this summit is. Diane, are you reading this? We need you here pronto. I’ll pay your travel expenses and help you storm the stage.
After a day of this, I’ll be lucky if I can still think for myself. It feels a bit like the Fox News studio here. So much propaganda…
Rebecca Nieves Huffman: Continues the “charter school silver bullet” mantra. But does offer a little criticism charters are not educating as many ELLs and special education students. She wants to increase accountability to ensure that charter schools serve these students, but offers no plan.
Kaya Henderson, DC schools:
Where is the Pepto? I can’t stand this woman. She has the potential to be a more frightening monster than Rhee. (She spoke this morning in the opening brainwashing session.)
She is touting the success of D.C.’s 126 charter schools: “We have a robust charter school movement.” She claims these schools are so successful because they have the autonomy they need.
I’ll take some of that autonomy. Sign my public school and me up. Oh, I guess she isn’t offering that.
She says, “We need to storm the Bastille and take over the school district.” To France we go! She is really plugging for a complete charter takeover of D.C. schools.
Richard Barth, KIPP:
“We are working to ensure every KIPPster can leave the world better than they way found it.” Nothing like creating inequity to better the world, Mr. Barth.
I’ll have to try to get up there at the end and ask him about KIPP’s attrition.
Barth asserts KIPP asks itself some important questions to guide their work:
1. Are we serving those who need us most?
2. Do they students stay?
3. Are they making progress?
4. Are they going to college and graduating?
5. Is the school sustainable from a people’s perspective?
6. Is the school sustainable from financial perspective?
He stresses the importance of the freedom his schools have.
Why can’t we give public schools this freedom?
He closes by saying that there are good and bad charters. “We shouldn’t defend things that aren’t good for kids.”
Can’t wait to try to catch his ear at the end of this charade.
Rebecca Nieves Huffman
Quotes and praises Michelle Rhee. Talks about her “doing whatever it takes even if it means breaking rules” speech.
Does Rebecca not read the newspapers? Rhee was found to have improperly fired teachers in D.C. Rhee lied about the test scores of her students. Rhee taped her students mouths shut. Is Rebecca saying these are the behaviors we should encourage?
Kaya Henderson, D.C. schools:
I did not find any Pepto, but I am clutching my free drink tickets. Can I redeem them now?
“No one thought DC could win Race to the Top and now people are acting like it is ‘this whole new thing.’”
 What is she talking about?
Now she says “We can’t do this if our game is weak.”
Paul Pastorek
Hungry to please the crowd, he claims that Teach for America teachers in Louisiana are better than other veteran teachers in Louisiana. He doesn’t mention any data, but he swears it is fact. Everyone is applauding. There’s nothing like applauding an outright insult to teachers who have dedicated their lives to educating children in Louisiana. The arrogance of this man is shocking.
Moderator:
“Charters are one of the solutions we have discussed today. ”
Uh, no, it’s the only one my friend.
“Charters are seen as privatizing education. Really quick reflections panel: how can we bring charters into the public dialogue?”
Diane, are you out there. I can’t do this alone anymore. Charters are “seen” as privatizing education? They are shaping privatization as an illegitimate concern!

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 4:20PM
*A few responses follow, mainly more of what we’ve already heard, but then,
Kaya Henderson, is back on the mic.

“I was out drinking last night.” Audience laughs. “I need a nap…What you gotta do is not be comfortable where you are. I didn’t want to be a superintendent.” She goes on and on, the audience is laughing.

The Moderator is now leading a “Kaya, Kaya, Kaya, Kaya!” chant. I do not want a school system leader who brags about her drinking habits. This is who TFA wants leading the schools here?!

He announces the D.C.’s mayor is here and that we are ending our session early so everyone can get to the closing session of the day. No time for Q and A. Not time for any one to think for themselves.

4:30 I scramble to hand out some “Truth About Charters Brochures” but can’t really accomplish much. I want to talk to people before handing this to them, but they are all rushing out, and they all work for charter schools (as their name badges claim). I need to find, somehow, the people who might be thinking the questions I so desperately want to ask, but how?

Off to the finale of the day, Duncan is alleged to be there!

UPDATED: 4:45PM

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4:45 Closing Plenary
I find my friends, who have been at different sessions, and feel relief. One mentions that she was in a session about Segregation in our Schools and that one panel member, Pedro Noguera (Education Professor from NYU), offered some sharp criticisms of TFA and was well received by the 1,000 + audience members. I will report more on this session later. Seems like that would have been a better place for me to find people who might be receptive to my literature. Ah, an opportunity missed. But, I’m relieved to here that some sort of an alternative perspective was discussed today.
4:55 PM
Closing Plenary begins:
Opens with a KIPP school’s orchestra, and then, wait for it… a message from President Obama:
“Wendy believed it was possible to harness the desire of young people to make a difference.” He compliments the TFA teachers for their work and TFA is now 28,000 strong. He then steps away from talking about TFA, and simply talks about teaching.
He echoes his state of the union address. “Anyone who is a teacher deserves our respect and support…We want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the next years…I am encouraging young people to become teachers. I want to thank those who have stayed beyond 2 year commitment…Thank you for showing us the difference a great teacher can make.”
Generally, a pleasant message. No mention of charter schools. No mention of closing “bad schools.” No mention of “bad teachers.” A good change of pace from what I’ve listened today.
Vincent Gray, D.C. mayor:
Boasts: “40% of D.C. kids are in charter schools.” Then goes on to say, “This creates an environment in which we are motivated to improve our schools.”
He promotes mayoral control and its ability to strip away the layers that used to hold back education. I think he is referring to the community’s voice—yes, Gray, that has been stripped away.
He claims he has a strong team working with him in D.C. and sites his self-admittedly hung over interim schools chancellor. The crowd goes nuts again.
Arne Duncan, keynote:
Standing ovation, 98%. Starts his speech with a MLK story. “Everyone here is here today because at some point along the way, we had the great fortune of having a great teacher, a great education.”
“What Wendy Kopp did 20 years ago, and what you have done, is extraordinary.”
“Poverty is not destiny…Education can be a respected profession.”
“I know how hard your work is…You may not get the support you need. You may not have the resources you need…”
He then launches into a story about how a “failing” Chicago public school was failing, but when it was replaced with a charter school it became to show results: “Same children, same community, same poverty, same violence…Different adults, difference sense of expectations…that made all the difference in the world.”
He closes.
Standing ovation repeats. 99.8% now. My friends and I may be the only ones sitting down.
5:20 PM John Legend is now performing with the KIPP orchestra. He is now on the Board of Teach for America.
5:25 PM Video Clip
Principal, parents and students from BRICK Academy in Newark, NJ are on screen speaking joyfully about their school. A teacher there says, “A child deserves a proper education. One day, every child will have that.”
The video ends with “What role will you play?”
5:30 PM What Role Will You Play? Testimonials:
A series of speeches by TFA alum about the “roles” they now play.
1. Dominique Lee, BRICK Academy principal is on stage telling her story.
2. Miguel Solis, March Middle School, Dallas, Texas. Our first Public School educator, “To see I teach is an understatement.” He’s advocating for people to stay in the classroom longer, “There is no way that two years can be enough.”
He talks about a desire to promote educational equity. The first speaker who has said absolutely nothing that offends me.
3. Amy Spicer, Stand for Children, Colorado Policy Director. Promotes teacher evaluations based on observations and student achievement data. Many in the crowd clap.
4. Evan Stone, Co-Founder, Educators for Excellence. Tells the story about when he learned about he could possibly be laid off due to budget cuts. He was disgusted that he, a “good teacher” could be laid off simply because of when he was hired. He claims this was the impetus to create E4E, which has launched a serious campaign to end “Last in, first out.”
5. John Legend, “proud TFA board member.” Promotes his new album with the Roots called, “Wake Up.” He needs to wake up. He plugs, “Waiting for Superman.”
6. Mike Feinburg, KIPP, Co-founder KIPP, Superintendent KIPP Houston I need a nap.
7. Camika Royal, Ph.D. Candidate, Temple University
8. Mike Johnston, Colordo State Senate and Bill Ferguson, Maryland State Senate
I’m reminded of my institute training. They used to parade people like this in front of us every week. Got to motivate the troops.
6:02 PM John Legend Performs again. Motivating continues.
6:05 PM It’s after 6. Drink tickets are now valid. Hoping to see Kaya Henderson at the bar.
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Discussion

One thought on “UPDATED: Live Blogging from Teach for America 20th Anniversary Summit, Part 4 With Closing Plenary

  1. Were the free drinks koolaid?

    Posted by Anonymous | February 15, 2011, 8:53 pm

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