Thursday, January 07, 2010

My friend (and TFA alum) Kelly Amis with some strong words on the McAdam study (and a well-deserved slap at Stanford’s “pathetic” ed school):

If you need another example of how that McAdam's "Civic Engagement"
research is so ridiculous, here you go:

I planned to go to journalism school--by my senior year at Georgetown
I was editor-in-chief of a campus journal--but I first wanted to "give
back" for the amazing opportunities I (a young woman from small-town
Nebraska) had received educationally. I looked at the Peace Corps and
teaching in Eastern Europe, but then learned about Teach for America
and immediately applied.. I was already tutoring inner-city kids in
Washington, DC after school and knew it could be a great fit.

Once I started my two-year commitment (in South Central, Los Angeles)
I was utterly amazed and outraged by what I saw. All these kids and
their potential demeaned, ignored and pushed to the wayside.. I am
STILL amazed and outraged (though today I am specifically amazed and
outraged that someone would research TFA alumni's level of "civic
involvement" without giving greater weight to our underlying

Because of Teach for America, my entire career became dedicated to
increasing educational opportunities for inner-city kids. I didn't go
to "j-school," I went to Stanford to study education policy (adding
fuel to my fury: why are Stanford professors so threatened by Teach
for America? It's embarrassing). Another day I'll tell you about how
uninspiring that program was ("pathetic" comes to mind). Needless to
say, my extra-curricular civic engagement does not include funneling
money to Stanford's School of Ed.

It does, however, include, helping to raise money and direct it
towards schools, programs and legislation that benefit inner-city
kids. Through my "day job", I've helped steer tens of millions of
dollars towards the growth of good charter schools, new inner-city
school buildings and scholarships for low-income students, and
hopefully my writing (some published in my name, some not) has helped
more people comprehend just how bad and unjust the situation is and
motivate them to do something about it.

I do personally donate to good causes (and also pay for a tutor for a
DC student whose schools have utterly failed him), but that's because
I can afford to do that. I also volunteer my time, including, not too
long ago, canvassing door-to-door to elect new school board members in
DC. But if I didn't do these additional things, the 40-60 hours/week
I've dedicated to education reform for nearly my entire adult career
should, I think, still land me high in the "civic engagement" measure.
Maybe the measure should be "civic impact".

I am not unique. Of the friends I made through TFA, almost all went
and got at least a Master's degree in education. Three are still
teaching. One started Generation Schools (
Another served on the DC school board and now directs millions of
philanthropic dollars towards carefully selected education ventures.
Two are full-time moms who volunteer and give money to education
reform causes. Two others work to expand KIPP schools so more kids can
attend them. And, of course, one woman I met through TFA is now the
Chancellor of DC Public Schools and has several TFA alum working with
her to make progress in that city that no one had ever even dreamed of
making before.

I guess I should thank Doug McAdam for reminding me that for every
person working on the front lines--whether in the classroom or
fighting from the outside--who is dedicated to bringing equity and
justice to the America education system, there will always be someone
else sitting in a room somewhere looking for ways to find fault with
how they're going about it.

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