Providing an Excellent Education for All

Monday, January 31, 2011

Wendy Kopp, founder and president of Teach for America, shares the lessons learned from teachers and alumni who have taught in low-income schools. In A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn't in Providing an Excellent Education for All, she explains that the ingredients for success in providing a quality education for all include visionary leaders who can attract and develop talented staff, build strong cultures, continuously improve, and who are willing to do whatever is necessary.


Wendy Kopp

Comments [19]

Suzanne from Texas

On tracks in schools: I grew up in a similar system. I was worried, like you, when my daughter started in a school system that did less of that. But so far her teachers have been able to do a lot of that type of work in the same classroom. I've been impressed. They work with the kids that need help and offer harder and extra work for kids that need it. And the kids work together as tutors and mentors for other kids in their class or in other grades. The main issue turns out to be class size, not the students' abilities.

Jan. 31 2011 04:06 PM
Cindy Nemser

When discussing the educational problems in the public scholls more emphais should be giiven to need to get the parents involved and to educate them as to the multiple serices the city can provide to many children who are not learning due to emotional and physical problems. I know from my experience as a teacher in a poverty stricken neighhood in Brooklyn. teachers need more than enthusiam they need the interest of the parents and the assistance of professional in speech,physical and emotional problems Students who sign up for Teach for America do not have any of that training or perhaps the abilitiy to obtain that kind of help for their students.
Thirty years ago I, an enuthusiastic young ed major who made the dean's list, after 6 years of battling these problems with little positive results,I gave up to become an art historian.

I am afraid I learned more than my students. I learned about the terrible effects of poverty and broken families.

Stop blaming the teachers and the union. (when I started to teach in 1958 there was no union and I was paid $4000 a year) I went out on the first strike. I learned I had some courage to do what was just. The system still is not doing what is just for the privileged kids ,who turn into underpriviled adults who produce yet another generation of kids who have trouble learning the skills that will take them into the midldle class..

C indy Nemser.

Jan. 31 2011 01:27 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Interesting topic, dull interviewee with often vague answers, a few of which made no sense at all.

Also, I recommend installing a "You Know-o-meter," which not only tracks the use of the useless "you know," but can be set to physically eject a guest from your studio if they attain a certain number of "you know's."

You know?

Jan. 31 2011 12:41 PM

Everyone would like teachers to be like Hilary Swank in that horrible movie "Freedom Writers." Don't forget that her character did not remain a high school teacher for long, her marriage broke up over her long hours AND since she was so poorly paid as a teacher she had to get a part-time job to buy her students materials. Is that what all teachers need to do? Basically, we are told to sacrifice everything for our students when the real teachers at home (parents) are the ones who truly determine success or failure.

Jan. 31 2011 12:34 PM
Brian from Woodbridge NJ

Seniority rules are in place to protect our best teachers. Teachers in some NJ are required to take 100 or more hours of training on their own dime in many cases. By laying off senior teachers you will throw that investment away. If the object is to save money then more senior, better educated, talented teachers will be thrown away. What she is saying is bust up unions and everything will be fine. As an organizer I know the language.

Jan. 31 2011 12:32 PM
Phil from Brooklyn

Wouldn't it be better to have teachers work as if education is an unending process with goals along the way rather than just making education a series goals that have a finite goal (graduation, degrees, etc. ) as I heard Wendy Kopp say?

Jan. 31 2011 12:31 PM
mick from NYC

I agree that funding is not the primary schooling problem for poor urban and rural children. I suggest Ms. Kopp and Leonard read "To Be Popular or Smart: The Black Peer Group" or "Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys" by Jawanza Kunjufu. Enough poor urban and rural children suffer from the influence of dysfunctional peer groups that their resulting disruptive behavior can destroy the educational opportunity for themselves and the other children in their classroom. Fixing that problem is outside the power of the school.

Jan. 31 2011 12:29 PM
danny from Woodbridge, NJ

I taught for 33 years and have found that the public and the so-called detached experts still don't realize that the educational system in the US is not like the health care one with its reasonable cures expected. The former is just like capitalism with investment and return both on the parts of the delivering instructors and the recipient learners. Without the learners seeing any sociological value in terms of jobs and status we're only throwing money down the drain. Look to Europe.

Jan. 31 2011 12:29 PM
Edward from NJ

We're hearing a lot about this one biology teacher who got her kids to bass the regents. Was that all her own doing or did TFA give her tools to work with? Is there a TFA method of teaching or does it just rely on the brightness and innovation of the individual members?

Jan. 31 2011 12:28 PM
Rob Caloras

Leonard, you stated that some PTAs in wealthy areas in NYC raise a lot of money to augment their budgets. I have been active in the PTAs in District 26 for 10 years as a member of the Community District Education Council. Not one of our schools in this upper middle class area can raise enough money to pay for a teacher or to equal the amount of money that Title 1 provides schools. My daughter's middle school is in Douglaston N.Y. and the PTA has a total budget of 18 thousand dollars. Please stop perpetuating this myth.

Jan. 31 2011 12:28 PM

Leonard said the city spends $12k per student per year. Isn't it closer to $20k (~20 billion budget with ~1 million kids)

Jan. 31 2011 12:26 PM
mc from Brooklyn

The guest (and others) keep pointing out the low percentage of teachers let go. What about the low number retained beyond the first three years?

Jan. 31 2011 12:24 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I posted a comment mentioning TfA to Brian's segment on teachers & the budget, not knowing that Ms. Kopp would be on Leonard's show! Maybe she can comment on how much her program has changed the way "new teachers" have been equated w/"young teachers," & how having experience in different fields affects how TfA participants teach?

Jan. 31 2011 12:22 PM

A well regarded and well educated teacher I know who has worked in poor public schools and rich private ones says a teacher isn't worth his or her salt for the first 5 years. She resents your program (as the magic bullet for a hurting school, which is often how it is treated).

I'm sure you've heard this before and I'm curious to heear your reply.

Jan. 31 2011 12:22 PM
Fafa from Harlemworld

Granted, there are issues with this concept. But a real societal benefit (intended or not) may be a real appreciation (awareness and respect) for what teachers do, which is required to provide them the requisite support.

Jan. 31 2011 12:21 PM
mick from NYC

There is "great lie" that a new teacher fresh out of a typically inadequate college teacher training course is better than a senior teacher because the new person has a fresh face and is energetic. In reality, inexperienced teachers are just that: inexperienced and often lacking not only in classroom management skills but--at the high school level--with inadequate knowledge of the subject they are trying to teach since they spent most of their college time on "education" courses. As of 2009 30% of new teachers leave teaching after 3 years and 45% of new teachers leave after 5 years. The most frequently cited reason for leaving is dissatisfaction with administrative support (38%) or workplace conditions (32%). Just as significant is the fact that 37% of career teachers are over 50 and contemplating their imminent retirement. Teach for America does nothing to provide meaningful numbers of qualified teacher. Inner city school systems like NYC are among the worst, most frustrating places to work. Administrators with their eyes on politics or teaching careers in colleges...many times after teaching only the minimum time necessary to get the administrators license and get out of the classroom...parade one fad after another that they sell first to the politicians and then foist on the teachers with little or no input from the people charged with implementing the newest methods and buzzwords...and then they publish their "breakthrough method" in an education journal to give it academic respectability, regardless of the actual outcomes. I have seen nothing about TFA that puts it outside that paradigm.

Jan. 31 2011 12:20 PM

What would get the recruits to stay beyond 2 years?

Jan. 31 2011 12:19 PM
Leah from Harlem

Please talk about the benefit to workers (such as teachers) of unions -- and the threat to unions that we see in the charter school movement.

Age-ism is another reality I never hear about.

To what extent does the increase in the number of applicants to Teach for America also have to do with the economic crisis we're now facing? Is that a number the guest is trying to track?

Jan. 31 2011 12:12 PM
john from Morris County, NJ

Does Teach for America publish statistics of the number of their teachers who stay in the profession more than two years, or the number that actually make the profession a career? My experience as a "curriculum and instruction" supervisor in a large urban school district in New Jersey is that many leave teaching after two years, after their college tuition debts are forgiven. I'm a retired educator who has supervised several Teach for America teachers.

Jan. 31 2011 12:06 PM

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