Are Teach for America teachers any good? Studies touted by TFA suggest the students taught by corps members generally perform as well as or better than those taught by traditionally trained teachers. …
Are Teach for America teachers any good? Studies touted by TFA suggest the students taught by corps members generally perform as well as or better than those taught by traditionally trained teachers. For example:
- A study by Mathematica Policy Research says TFAers hired before the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years were as effective as other teachers in the same elementary schools in teaching both reading and math. Corps members in lower elementary grades (prekindergarten through second grade) were more effective at teaching reading than other teachers in the same schools, increasing scores by an amount equal to 1.3 additional months of school. A separate study by Mathematica found that TFA teachers learn 2.6 more months of secondary math compared to students taught by non-TFA teachers.
- Principals responding to a 2015 survey by the RAND Corp. generally rated TFA corps members high on traits such as leadership, impact on student performance and subject matter knowledge, but gave lower marks for participation in school activities. Most said they would hire TFAers again, though some cited short commitments and classroom-management skills as reasons not to hire corps members.
- As noted by North Carolina State Assistant Professor Beth Sondel, who studies (and is critical of) TFA’s “role in promoting and implementing market-based reform in New Orleans and elsewhere,” TFA has been criticized for citing studies that are not peer-reviewed. In her dissertation, she noted that TFA teachers may be as effective as their uncredentialed peers but less so than certified and experienced teachers in raising students’ test scores. Other research suggests that TFA corps members achieve better results as they gain certifications and experience, but those benefits are lost when members leave teaching after two or three years.
- Technically, Teach for America is not a state-approved teacher preparation program, says Jeanne Burns, associate commissioner for teacher and leadership initiatives for the Louisiana Board of Regents. Instead, most TFA candidates are enrolled in The New Teacher Project. While the Regents evaluate teacher prep programs at state universities, there currently is no accountability system for private providers. The New Teacher Project is not included in the current “data dashboard” that the Regents release annually, although it has agreed to be included in next year’s edition. TNTP has been included in previous dashboards, but it also prepares other candidates besides TFAers so the numbers are not specific to TFA.