I speak my truth…


[NOTE: I’ve edited part of the speech that was not delivered which said that Board Members had quoted questionable figures. They did not do this at the board meeting, and in fact Board Member Arroyo was very aggressive in questioning the presenters from TFA about studies they cited, and in citing alternative studies. The Urban Institute study did appear in the staff report submitted for the meeting]

Last night’s board meeting on bringing TFA to our district was just informational, but based on the questions and comments from Board Members, I don’t think we will be discussing this particular item in the immediate future. I will be reprising my tweets from the meeting, with color commentary, in the next 24 hours, but until then, here is the text from my speech:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Alice Mercer, and I’m here tonight to share some perspective on lessons that can and should be learned from a so-called Superintendent’s Priority School. I have been the Computer and Technology teacher for three years at Oak Ridge Elementary,which is slated for some form of reconstitution (either whole staff, or partial staff changes). Complicating matters further, seven out of the 20 teachers have been given pink slips, including myself. I’m here to speak against the proposal to bring in TFA interns to the district to use in these priority schools.

In discussions with the district about solutions at Oak Ridge, there has been talk from administrators about getting more energy and enthusiasm.   Strangely enough, that phrase comes up in discussions about the advantages of TFA interns. I’m going to point out a salient truth about what has happened at Oak Ridge. There was not a lack of energy, youth, or enthusiasm. Many of you who visited the campus over the years know that.  TFA  will be useless because we’ve had youth and energy over the years. What’s needed is more experience and consistency.

At this point, I ran out of time (they cut comments from 2 to 1 minute), and simply tagged on the point that the folks from TFA during their presentation referred to a Harvard study saying 65% remained in teaching, but that was at year three, and it drops to 32% by year five. Below is the rest of the speech.

The Superintendent referred to the Einstein quote about insanity is continuing to do what has worked. By this definition, using TFA in this particular circumstance would be insanity.

A factor in what has happened over the years at Oak Ridge, is staff transiency.  TFA will exacerbate, not solve this problem. Other speakers will address some methods that would be effective to deal with this, but I want to make CLEAR that all the reputable studies on TFA indicate that they turnover at a faster rate than other teachers (85%). I am hearing figures about turnover quoted from the Superintendent  and Board Members that are not from reputable studies. They are from a study that no reputable education journal would accept because of it’s flawed validity. To put this in plain English, the findings are as valid and reliable as the response I would get by asking my husband, “Honey, do these jeans make me look fat?” I am not pleading for my position, but instead that we all learn the lesson from Oak Ridge. I can live with not returning to Oak Ridge, but it would really kill me if the lesson of Oak Ridge is ignored, which is the need for sober minded realism, not just youthful energy. The students, community, and teachers deserve better than that.

Martin Luther King Jr. said,

“On some positions, Cowardice asks the question,

‘Is it safe?’

Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’

And Vanity comes along and asks the question,

‘Is it popular?’

But Conscience asks the question ‘Is it right?’

And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular,

But he must do it because Conscience tells him  it is right.”

by posted under nclb, politics/policy | 3 Comments »    
3 Comments to

“I speak my truth…”

  1. March 19th, 2010 at 9:40 am      Reply YolandaV Says:

    Alice — you make very good points! I am a teacher too and I concur with what you have said. It is regrettable though that you were not able to deliver the rest of your speech which contains the mosy impactful agrguments. I hope you consider posting your speech on as many blogs as possible for these are words that have to be read by every career teacher concerned with the stability of learning. We really have to instill consciousness amout these things in the minds of all educators. I feel that we are not fired up enough to launch a crusade to defend our rights. Teachers have been bombarded too much with these layoffs that the last thing needed is adding insult to injury. Talk about timing, just after 700 pink slips are issued, the TFA issue comes to fore. Isnt this just disgusting? My grandmother taught elementary school for 40 years and during her retirement party speech she ended saying, “at the end of the day, bear in mind that teaching is the most noble of all professions”. I hope we can still prove this right.

  2. March 19th, 2010 at 11:28 pm      Reply David B. Cohen Says:

    Thanks for speaking up, Alice! I think you struck the right tone, not over-personalizing it, though it is personal, and not over-dramatizing it, though there’s some drama. Wishing you and your students and staff all the best.


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