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 Response Page - Sellers / Kemper  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Dan Sellers / Sara Kemper Interview of



Teach for America ("TFA") is the national corps of outstanding recent college graduates who commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools in the effort to expand educational opportunity and eliminate educational inequity. Drawn to Minnesota by the disturbing statistics on the minority achievement gap here, Teach for America will soon support 95 corps members teaching in the Twin Cities. Their efforts were bolstered by the recent enactment of legislation in Minnesota that will make it easier for all prospective teachers, including Teach for America teachers, to pursue alternative pathways to their licensure.

Executive Director for Teach for America-Twin Cities Daniel Sellers and Associate Sara Kemper describe Teach for America's strategy in creating a new culture of achievement inside teachers' classrooms, and the impact this can have on students' lives.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Sellers and Kemper. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. End compliance culture. (7.9 average response) Teach for America has a laudable goal, to help at-risk children by overcoming a “culture of compliance” that pervades public education.

2. Focus on achievement. (8.0 average response) Teach for America's approach, to focus on actual student achievement, not just compliance with prescribed standards, is sound.

3. Hold teachers accountable. (7.7 average response) Rather than teachers being excused from responsibility because of a student's background or environment, teachers should be held accountable for what students actually accomplish. 

4. Welcome TFA teachers. (7.8 average response) Teachers from Teach for America should be welcomed by Minnesota schools. 

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. End compliance culture.







2. Focus on achievement.







3. Hold teachers accountable.







4. Welcome TFA teachers.







Individual Responses:

Robert J. Brown  (10)  (8)  (9)  (10)

Al Quie  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Wayne Jennings  (8)  (8)  (8)  (8)

Bert Press  (5)  (5)  (0)  (0)

Jerry Fruin  (10)  (8)  (8)  (10)

Scott Halstead  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

We need parent involvement in their children's education.  There needs to be responsibility upon teachers, students and parents.

Marianne Curry  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Tom Swain  (8)  (8)  (9)  (10)

Paul and Ruth Hauge  (10)  (10)  (9)  (10)

Great to have the Caucus interview and send on the remarks of the local staff.

Carolyn Ring  (7)  (9)  (9)  (7)

1, 2, 3, and 4 are admirable goals and measures of achievement. The key ingredient still is the individual teacher, and not all TFA participants are going to be better than other teachers.  A great deal depends upon the leadership of the school district, expectations, parental involvement and the individual teachers' ability to innovate and succeed.

Terry Stone  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

TFA looks like a powerful and inspirational framework to restore the Minnesota we love and remember.

Ralph Brauer  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

Teach for America is a laudible program, but I have a suggestion, rather than send untried teachers to low income schools send them to HIGH income schools and use the master teachers they replace in the low income schools. In short, send Teach for America teachers to Edina and Edina teachers to Minneapolis.

Fred Senn  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Julie Manworren  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. End compliance culture. I think that there is opportunity to partner with supportive housing as families can then keep child in the classroom.

2. Focus on achievement. Simpson Housing focuses on consistent attendance, parent engagement, and tutoring support in math and reading for children who have experienced homelessness. We would love to boost TFA efforts.

Anonymous  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

4. Welcome TFA teachers. Having been a public school teacher for thirty-three years …(incomplete response).

Polly Bergerson  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (5)

2. Focus on achievement. There still needs to be a modicum of standards to function in life. Achievement is good, but if the student is not able to handle simple life needs then what is the feel good for?

4. Welcome TFA teachers. Not sure -- it is so hard to change the status quo, tenure and to move forward. I think it would be helpful if this approach (were) integrated into our schools to benefit everyone.

Dave Broden  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. End compliance culture. A very positive goal while also addressing all student performance

2. Focus on achievement. Achievement must be the focus; the education world is way off base with simplistic terms like compliance--students learn, not comply.

3. Hold teachers accountable. The measure is the student's progress, not how the teacher does.

4. Welcome TFA teachers. Creativity and innovation come from giving the teacher and the student freedom to explore learning, not ‘check listing’ (as) some are requiring and (as) is a frequent focus in Minnesota.

Bruce A. Lundeen  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (10)

Peter Hennessey  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)

1. End compliance culture. This statement consists of meaningless generalities. What is a "laudable goal" -- how is it any different from what teachers are supposed to be doing anyway? What is an "at risk" child; what child is not "at risk;" and just what is the risk? What is a "culture of compliance" -- compliance to what?     Why does "at risk" become defined as "students [who] qualify for free or reduced-rate lunch"? Does poverty mean you are less intelligent, less motivated, less... less what? On two continents, three countries and three States, this has not been my experience. The risk I have observed is that students are bored to tears; they are not interested in whatever is presented in the classroom because its relevance to real life is never made clear.    Does the "culture of compliance" mean the fiasco unfolding now in Georgia? Is that the problem, that teachers and administrators, for purely political reasons, are so obsessed with subverting the very intent of "no child left behind" that they resort to falsifying the individual answer sheets? Yes, we do have to combat teacher attitudes like that.

2. Focus on achievement. What is this, another example of a distinction without a difference? How do you measure "actual student performance" if not against some sort of a standard? Why would you not want to know how your student measures up against an objective standard?  Who decided, how and why, that teaching (only) to pass the test is what the teachers are supposed to do? That would make sense only if (1) the curriculum, the lesson plans and the day-by-day presentations in every classroom everywhere in the country were identical, and (2) the standard test is so comprehensive that there is a test question for absolutely everything ever presented, even just mentioned, in the classroom, in the text books, and in the homework assignments. Of course that's impossible; therefore the teachers should just stick to teaching the subject matter.

3. Hold teachers accountable. A teacher can and should do a lot to help a child learn. However, a teacher cannot increase a child's IQ and other innate abilities, preferences and predispositions. A teacher cannot do much about a child's home environment or lack of parental support. Therefore, dumping the responsibility on the teacher is just as (ill-advised) as totally exonerating the teacher for poor student performance in the classroom.

4. Welcome TFA teachers. I have seen nothing specific in this discussion to understand what … it is that Teach For America does any differently from what I learned in my education classes. The very title… is a turn-off and a telltale sign of some latter-day … (foolish) ideology at work here. It has long been the goal of a segment of the education establishment to recruit teacher candidates who major in the subjects they would teach, rather than teacher-college grads and education majors who are merely exposed to the subjects they would teach in school. Unfortunately for the schools, people who do get proper training and education in a specific field also have a greater earnings potential and wider range of career choices if working in that field, rather than teaching. Also, in the last few decades the classroom conditions have also deteriorated rather dramatically, including the imposition of more and more openly political requirements on the curriculum, deliberate erosion of teacher authority, and security measures complete with metal detectors at the main entry points and uniformed police patrols in the hallways and even in classrooms. Maybe the first thing we should do is (1) close the teacher colleges and academic departments of education, and eliminate teacher unions; (2) recruit only professionals in specific fields to teach the corresponding courses in our schools; (3) reverse the politically motivated trends established a few decades ago, coincident with the growing interference in education by the federal government; (4) restore teacher authority in the classroom; and (5) change the schools from virtual prisons back to ... schools.

W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (0)  (0)  (5)  (0)

1. End compliance culture. While the goal may be laudable, the approach is top down again. While this may show some success it will never work on a larger basis. Worse than that, as a top down "Plug and Play" program it again fails to tap into citizen input and support. It reeks of the arrogance of the education elitists who have led us down this socialist dead end road.

2. Focus on achievement. This is still about training widgets and falls far short of being the student-centered education we once had. This is about your grand socialist schemes not about what is best for children.

3. Hold teachers accountable. Teaching to tests or teaching to socialist, internal, pre-agreed-upon achievement goals amounts to the same thing at the end of the day. This is not "Child Centered" education; it is more training the workforce top down.

4. Welcome TFA teachers. "Teach for America" should be monitored closely. Not just by the standards they want to be evaluated by either, and we need citizen oversight.

John W. Sievert  (0)  (5)  (0)  (0)

1. End compliance culture. I disagree with the premise that there is a "culture of compliance" in public education and especially so in Minnesota.

3. Hold teachers accountable. There are so many factors in a student's performance.  The most important of these, in study after study, has to do with parental involvement and participation.  So if parents are not engaged, we hold teachers accountable for that?  What we need to be doing is to be holding parents accountable for their part as well, and there needs to be teeth in it.  For example, a school is required to develop a plan between an at-risk student, their family and the school about what each will do to solve the problem.  If the school does their part, but the student and the family don't do theirs, then the school should be permitted to take the plan to an administrative law judge who would determine if the parents could be taxed to cover the resources that they have consumed and wasted.  If this were the case, then it would be fair to hold teachers and schools accountable for their parts as well.

4. Welcome TFA teachers. While I think the teacher's unions are a big part of the problem (and my wife is a teacher and has no choice but to be a union member), there is good in making sure that we have qualified and trained teachers.  Teachers have to have the desire but they also have to have the tools to teach at-risk kids.  For example, while I'm the CEO of a company, I also am an engineer who is qualified to design, build and use a personal computer.  Just because someone uses a computer does not mean they are qualified to design one.  So it goes with teaching, while we may be well educated, that doesn't mean we know how to teach.    I have personally observed, during my (extensive) volunteer time in the schools, professional and trained teachers making a difference with the most objectionable children that I, an untrained but educated person, would have given up on long time ago.  There is a difference in what Teach for America does and what professional educators do.    Does that mean that professional educator's education doesn't need updating and enhancing? Of course not.  But what we, as a state, need to do is making teaching a desirable profession (it currently drives many of our best and brightest away) so that our best graduates go for a career in education for the higher calling that it is.  We then need to compensate them accordingly. Teach for America is essentially giving to our most disadvantaged youth the most unqualified and unprofessional teachers that we have available (they are not even trained educators).  We expect that to be a successful long-term plan?  It's a ridiculous proposition and it is discriminatory to those that need it most. This is not rocket science.

Don Anderson  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

Pat Barnum  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

2. Focus on achievement. Refreshing, common sense, approach.

3. Hold teachers accountable. I get tired of hearing that teachers aren't responsible for outcomes. Where else in America (besides other government jobs) do leaders put up with that kind of dodging of the issues? Certainly some classrooms and some children provide more challenges than an individual teacher can overcome. But that is like saying too many medical problems don't allow for weight loss. OK, that is true for a small minority of people, but what is everyone else's excuse?

4. Welcome TFA teachers. As a school board member in the West St Paul schools I would welcome these teachers with open arms. I can't speak for our administration, which actually hires teachers, but I intend to pass on this information and find out what we would need to do to help our poverty isolated schools hook into this resource.


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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