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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You expect spin from Sonita Young and the district about Teach for America but today on First Coast Connect all you got was misinformation.

I have to be careful when writing about Mrs. Young, wife of exiled Ribault Principal James Young; because last time I did she had my principal write me up. I know because that is how he started the meeting.

Well today Mrs. Young director of human resources for the district and Crystal Roundtree the area TFA director were on First Coast Connect talking about a recent report from Columbia University about TFA, and yes that is kind of like discussing hen house security and why it is overrated with wolves. Despite the fact the report said TFA greatly exacerbated the teacher retention problem and that their members perform no better than similar teachers they made it sound like TFA was the best thing since sliced bread.

Right away Crystal Roundtree started with the spinning saying how awesome it was that first year TFA teachers returned at an 84 percent rate when compared to a 77% rate for other first year teachers. She didn't mention that TFA members get 5,300 dollars a year in loan forgiveness, which I am sure helps make up a lot of their minds. Unfortunately regular teachers don't get anything. She then completely glosses over how the numbers slip to 33 and 63 percent respectively. Roundtree later also wouldn't tell Ross the host the amount TFA members get just saying they qualified for some AmeriCorp benefits.

It was also around now that Young said something that made my jaw drop. She said more TFA teachers were coming back for a third year so they can move into leadership positions, just what we need, 24 year old vice principals right. My jaw might have dropped again if it wasn't already open when she said that even though many left teaching, many stayed in the city and that brought ancillary gains. I kid you not, them leaving teaching but staying in the area "is something we shouldn't overlook." Yeah she said that as a justification for why we should continue with TFA.

Then despite the fact Roundtree said that TFA teachers were doing better it can't erase what the report actually said, "Results varied slightly across models that controlled for additional teacher and school characteristics, but all results suggest that TFA teachers are at least as effective as their non-TFA colleagues. No adjusted models indicated that TFA students learned less than other students."

Furthermore Young can say they help our lower economic schools have certificated staff but that doesn't change the fact that practically none of them have professional certificates. Instead they have temporary certificates which if you have 56 bucks and a college degree you can have one too. In fact since they create an ever revolving door they are actually stymieing those schools from having a staff made up of professional certificate holders.

They both then followed up with how only TFA cares about our poorest students. Young said all our kids deserve high quality teachers that have the training and skill to work with them, five weeks in ideal conditions makes up TFA's pre first day training by the way. Crystal echoed the sentiment saying they firmly believe all kids can achieve.  It's a good thing these ladies brought TFA to town because most teachers I know think kids deserve whatever they can get since most of them can't learn anyways. (sic) They say those things to give themselves some undeserved moral high ground because if they really cared they wouldn't send hobbyists or extended camp counselors to work with our neediest kids and instead would leave no stone unturned in trying to find professional teachers to staff those classrooms.

All in all I thought Melissa Ross did a solid job in the interview though I wish she had mentioned how the district is spending five million dollars over three years on the program which I believe is nothing but an indulgence to Gary Chartrand the anti-public school teacher activist who brought them to town. Regardless if you agree with that or not, how many professional teachers who would stay for more than two years could we have found with that money? My bet is more than enough. Furthermore I don't think it should be lost on anybody that the segment was sponsored by the Chartrand foundation. Like I said overall I thought Ross did a good job but their affiliation with Chartrand makes me wonder about the questions not asked. 

Finally I would like to say I doubt these two think anybody could go through a five week access course and do their high price jobs successfully and I will tell you neither is as hard as working at an inner city school, but at the same time they expect parents and the community to buy it.

Don’t buy it for a second.

To listen to the interview, click the link:

To see the study, paste bellow into your browser.


  1. I would have greatly appreciated $5,300 of loan forgiveness for the one year I taught with Duval County Public Schools. I do not currently have a job and my wife is paying $138 every month on my student loan out of her approx. $1,100 per month. Plus we have a child in high school and another in middle school. We pay a home mortgage and insurance for 2 cars and our JEA bills are devastating most months per year. Recently we sent out $240 to FEMA for Flood Insurance. We are existing at the Mercy of God Almighty - no other help.

  2. Sonita Young is very vindictive. She destroys careers. I didn't know she was married to James Young.