Teach To None

Teach To One is a math program sold by New Classrooms.  Currently used by about 16 schools in the country, the Teach To One program incorporates a mix of video tutorials, small group instruction, and full class instruction.  A computer creates a ‘playlist’ for each student each day which, in theory, will help the students learn more efficiently as the computer can keep track of the individual needs of each student more easily than a human teacher could.

The CEO of New Classrooms is Joel Rose who created the program, then called ‘School Of One’ when he worked for the New York City DOE under Joel Klein.  After leaving the DOE he began selling the technology around the country including, and controversially, in New York City.  I think for the first few years the city paid either nothing, or a very small amount to use Teach To One.  At one point, there were 11 schools in New York City using the program.  I actually got a chance to witness this program 5 years ago and was horrified by it.  Most of the schools using Teach To One are unhappy with it which is why currently only 5 schools in New York City use it.  Recently a school in California was so unhappy with this program that they abandoned it mid-year.

In about a week, the New York City Panel For Education Policy (or PEP), will vote on whether or not to award Teach To One a contract worth $669,000.  The New York Daily News wrote a nice summary of the issues involved in this contract.

Knowing, first hand, how awful this program is and what a waste of money this is, I delved into the test results of the schools in New York City that currently use this program.  The program is mainly for middle school math, grades 6, 7, and 8.  Since this is a program obviously geared toward getting math state test scores up, I thought the most useful numbers to look at were the 8th grade math scores at the schools involved.

The 2017 test scores have not been released yet, so I downloaded the 2016 test scores from the city’s public data site.  According to New Classroom’s 2015 annual report , there were 16 schools in the country using the program.  The five from New York city were:

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So I checked for the 8th grade test scores for these 5 schools.  To put these numbers into perspective, the citywide average for 8th graders on this test was 25% getting either a 3 or a 4.

SCHOOL % getting 3 or 4
IS 228 24.3%
JHS 88 11.1%
I.S. 381 14.4%
I.S. 49 1.8%
 I.S. M286 0.0%

The last school is no longer called Renaissance Leadership Academy, but now it is The Urban Assembly Academy For Future Leaders. and still has the M286 code number so I am pretty sure it is the same school with a new name.

So there’s a school with 0% and another with 1.8%.  And they are asking for three quarters of a million dollars to expand?  With numbers like these, surely this program has not proved itself to be effective.  But in reform marketing is much more important than results which is why this program continues to grow and to get these large contracts.

Of course this program is funded by the usual list of reform cheerleader, with over $1 million from The Gates Foundation and from the Bezos Family Foundation.  You can also see Reed Hastings on there and Joel Klein and all the other reform types.  Here is their list of funders from their 2015 report.

Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 4.51.22 PM

One final irony is revealed in the list of the Board of Advisors:

Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 4.51.57 PM.png

The two founders of KIPP, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin (as well as TFA founder Wendy Kopp, who is married to another leader of KIPP, Richard Barth) are all on the board yet this Teach To One program is not in use by any of the 200 or so KIPP schools across the country.  That is quite a non-endorsement of their own product!

I actually know Joel Rose from way back.  We met at college when we lived in the same dorm in 1989.  I went to TFA in Houston in 1991 and he did TFA in Houston in 1992.  Even now, twenty five years later, I run into him time to time as we live less than a block from each other.  He was always a nice guy, pleasant, funny.  He was actually the recipient of one of my famous ‘open letters’ that I wrote years ago.  I don’t know what happens that makes some of the TFA types get involved with the likes of Joel Klein and lose their minds.  Maybe it is the opportunity to make money, I really can’t say.  But for sure if this post can be seen by the members of the PEP voting on whether or not to award $669,000 to this failure of a program, it would be great to not reward an ineffective program with any money at all.

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2 Responses to Teach To None

  1. Pingback: Gary Rubinstein: Why Would NYC Invest Another $699,000 in a Failing Program? | Diane Ravitch's blog

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