"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, April 04, 2016

Northern Arizona U Neutralizes TFA Critique

 Even though Northern Arizona University associate professor, Barbara Veltri, knew the State of Arizona was closely tied to the charter school industry and to Teach for America (TFA), which supplies a third of the teachers in “no excuses” charter schools, she had no idea that her published research and scholarship on TFA would ever be slighted, denigrated, and mislabeled by her own university.

A little background is in order to better understand the censorious institutional insult that Dr. Veltri experienced last week. 

The new corporate paternalists and the old line segregationists have much to gain from the spread of charter schools in Arizona.  White charter schools, which make up the 48 percent of Arizona charters, are whiter than their public counterparts; black charters are blacker; and Native American schools charters are more Indian than the public schools that would, otherwise, serve these students: 

White students left district elementary schools to enter charter elementary schools that were, on average, 10 percent more white. Black elementary school students entered charters that were, on average, 29 percent more black than the district schools they left....Native Americans across all grade levels chose to attend charter schools that had a higher concentration of Native Americans than the district schools they exited. Hispanic elementary school students were the only group that didn’t … [have] a higher percentage of students from the same ethnic group.

The State of Arizona, the state university system, and the Arizona Board of Regents are heavily invested in charter schools.  Some officials earn large incomes from the charter industry, even as they continue to work not as separate governing bodies but, seemingly, in tag teams with the legislature, which privileges policies and funding for TFA and corporate charter schools: 

·      Jay Heiler, for instance, serves as Chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR), while he is the current President and founder of his own charter company in Arizona, the Great Heart Academies, which enrolls almost 10,000 students.

·      Governor Doug Ducey, an ex-officio member of ABOR, is a former regional board member of Teach for America.

·      To rub salt in the wounds of public educators of Arizona, the  state legislature provided $500,000 in 2015 for TFA recruiting and support, even as the community college funding was wiped out, while other higher education funding and K-12 funding were cut $100 million each in the budget deal.

·      Arizona State University is listed as a Teach for America sponsor in Phoenix, and the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education partners with TFA.

While the white/Asian charters in Arizona boast rich liberal arts curricula, the segregative charter schools that serve the poor, black, brown, and Indian children of Arizona are based on the brutal “no excuses” model, TFA temps, and never-ending test prep. As elsewhere in the U. S., Arizona’s KIPP Model charter schools have huge teacher attrition problems that could not be sustained without a constant infusion of inexperienced, untrained recruits from TFA. 

As “no excuses” charter teachers barely last two years on average before they are burned out by corporate charter management demands for higher test scores and, thus, more salable brand names, the Teach for America link is critical in the charter industry’s human capital chain.

Even with all this blurring of state and corporate lines, the special treatment she received came as a surprise when Dr. Veltri submitted her latest work to the public relations office at UNA.  Twelve other publication or conference presentations were duly noted by the PR Office on the day that Dr. Veltri’s work was publicized, and every single one, except hers, had the work's title along with the reference of where it was published/presented. 

Why would Dr. Veltri be treated differently than the other faculty members who submitted their recent accomplishments? Could it have something to do with the title of the chapter she recently contributed: “Teach for America’s Socialization and Manipulation”?

Instead of listing the title of her chapter, this is how the Northern Arizona University noted Dr. Veltri’s contribution:

Barbara T. Veltri, associate professor of education, had a chapter published in Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys Through “No Excuses” Teaching. Veltri’s chapter explores supplying the needed manpower and values components required to deal with high levels of attrition in schools.

Not only did the university fail to list the chapter title, but the description is not close to capturing the focus of the critical research that Veltri shared in the chapter.  To say that her chapter “explores the needed manpower and values components required to deal with high levels of attrition in schools” would be equivalent to saying The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich was about shifting political values in Germany in mid 20th Century.

For those seeking more information on the TFA’s contributions to educational inequity for poor children of color in the United States of America, they would never know from NAU’s pablum-atic description that Dr. Veltri’s chapter deals exactly with this problem. All the other scholarly work on the same issue that she mentions in the chapter becomes misrepresented as well by this inaccurate description, which means that NAU’s censorious cooptation is spread among other researchers who are focused on similar issues.

No one wants her work to be characterized with a summary that is unrecognizable from the work’s intent or meaning. Dr. Veltri’s chapter is not about "supplying the needed manpower and values components required to deal with high levels of attrition in schools." Only a technocrat with a desire to spare the feelings of Arizona’s corporate politicians could come up with such a disparaging and disrespectul thumbnail summary that conceals the essence of Dr. Veltri’s work.

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