An Anomaly Occurred At Students First!!

(Cross-posted from Students?First)

From Stephanie Rivera, who thought twice after reading about our concerns about StudentsFirst. Stephanie is a great example of someone who actually does the work before forming an opinion. Good for her.
Phew. That was intense.
It’s currently 3:04AM and I just spent the past 2 hours trying to understand why people were attacking  StudentsFirst’s (an educational reform movement) Facebook Page. I discovered SF a few days ago and briefly reading its purpose, I immediately thought–this is exactly what I need to take part of. I was planning to send in my application as a Campus Director tomorrow. Then this happened.

To begin, StudentsFirst was founded in 2010 by Michelle Rhee who is now the CEO. She’s done some fantastic and inspiring work for education. She taught with Teach for America, “created a Youth Cabinet to bring students’ voices into reforming the DC Public Schools,” and founded The New Teacher Project (TNTP).  Evidently, I found her phenomenal, how could anyone attack her and this movement?
So when I was just skimming through SF’s facebook page,  a comment by user “Tee Eff  Tee,” (Acronym for The Frustrated Teacher) caught my eye.
“Wow Amy, with so many silly statements, and erroneous ones, you’d think you would want to learn about the topic before posting.
SF is NOT a good cause. They are causing damage. Damage you don’t see, for some reason I will refrain from speculating on.”
I immediately thought, this guy doesn’t have a real name, he’s just a guy with no life attacking an incredible cause. Yet, then I saw more posts from him. They weren’t anything thoughtless either, there was clear effort. It caught my attention when one SF supporter wrote, “And what do YOU do to make an education change in our system?” And TFT replied: “I left the classroom. I started a blog. I helped with the SOS March. I work with kids with special needs the schools won’t or can’t work with. I interview people on internet radio about education reform.”
Obviously I do not have real proof that his statement is legit, but he does in fact have a blog.
Anyway, these lashing outs from supporters and non-supporters went on for over 55 comments on almost every post on SF’s wall. I was questioning to myself, “Is all I know a lie? There’s no way, this guy is just a fraud. But what if he’s not? I can’t apply or support something I have misconceptions about.” Then finally I decided, enough is enough of these biased opinions. I’ll do the research myself and make my opinion on that.
I watched her “Save Great Teachers” video which I think had a lot of great points. Yet, of course, comments stating her statistics were wrong and other attacks were not hard to find.
I read their Mission Statement, Michelle’s Bio, basically everything that could give me a clearer idea. I downloaded SF’s Policy Agenda. Read the first two pages and was ecstatic she was pushing for better training of teachers and better evaluations. Finding the flaw was a puzzle, I just kept thinking, “I don’t understand, where are these people finding a reason to attack her?” I went back to the FB wall in an attempt to find a more clear reasoning, but this time it wasn’t an attack from TFT, instead a teacher. Take a look for yourself:
 (I know it’s lengthy, so in a nutshell, he is basically questioning where in SF’s movement do they address critical issues in our education system)
There are about 50 more comments like these that address issues that StudentsFirst fails to address such as     the problem with our nation’s emphasis on test scores, he writes,
“The current environment in public schools has devolved to a test-score grind-house…Consequently, students are missing important experiences that…would give students a window onto the world around them thereby informing them and giving critical life experiences that are foundational to developing an ability to evaluate, discriminate, and critically think about problem solving.”
In addition asking how this will fix the achievement gap between those in lower socio-economic statuses. Although I understand this topic can get one with a lot of passion heated, this one made me say “ouch” out loud in this attack to George, an Ohio State Campus Director for StudentsFirst.
The question to you, George, is why you support predominantly low-income children of color being taught by TFA (Teach For America) teachers when research shows they would be better off if those teachers had more training before they’re put in front of that particular classroom. Consider that that middle class white school districts and elite private schools probably wouldn’t hire someone unproven and with only five weeks of preparation you must consider there’s a reason why TFA teacher are in Compton, California, and not in Beverly Hills. In our society it’s OK for low-income black and Latino children to have inexperienced teachers with only five weeks of training. That would never fly in wealthier and whiter school districts.
With about 20 more comments by others and 3 days later, Dave wrote:
George – Do you have any answers to my questions? Are you reading the posts? Or is it that you can’t reconcile the conflict in your heart.
Personally, I think that statement may have taken it too far.
So my final say on StudentsFirst? I’m not too sure yet. I will say it has excellent intentions, but it fails to address serious and primitive issues we have continued to ignore for too many years. Moreover, this  definitely open my eyes and made me realize I cannot take on reform in such a simple manner. Looking back now, I can’t believe I was about to apply for such a serious position without completely researching the facts. I just thought, “Oh, educational reform? It must be legit then!” I guess it’s good I learned this lesson now than later, though.
Of course I am excited that so many people are taking action and care for better education. But I am still new to the complexity of reforms and social change. I can’t rightfully make judgement on something I do not fully understand, so for now I will just continue to advocate the issues I believe need to be addressed. Because in the end, were all fighting for essentially the same thing.
What are your thoughts on this reform?

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