Who makes the best teachers?

Looking at Teach for America and Troops to Teachers, Rory of Parentalcation hypothesizes that “patriotic, salty military veterans make better teachers than snot-nosed Ivy League graduates.” He cites two studies which suggest both programs produce above-average teachers.

In a 2005 study, nearly all principals said their Teach For America teachers were at least as well-trained as other new teachers; 75 percent said TFA training was better.

* Nearly three out of four principals (74 percent) considered the Teach For America teachers more effective than other beginning teachers with whom they’ve worked.
* The majority of principals (63 percent) regarded Teach For America teachers as more effective than the overall teaching faculty, with respect to their impact on student achievement.

In a different study, principals gave rave reviews to Troops to Teachers:

Principals overwhelmingly (over 90 percent) reported that Troops to Teachers are more effective in classroom instruction and classroom management/student discipline than are traditionally prepared teachers with similar years of teaching experience.

Troops to Teachers grads were praised for using using more research-based instructional methods than traditionally prepared teachers with similar years in the classroom.

Rory, who plans to teach when he retires from the Air Force, credits TMAO, a Teach for America alum, for inspiring the post. On Teaching in the 408, TMAO questions the hasty training and high turnover of TFA teachers, who commit to two years in the classroom and then usually go on to other careers. Rather than boast of TFA vets who go into education policy, the program should do more to encourage long-term teaching careers, writes TMAO.

In comments, teacher Nancy Flanagan of Teacher Leaders Network writes:

Anytime we portray teaching as missionary work, however, we are misleading the public. Teaching is complex intellectual and moral work, and suggesting that anyone (no matter how smart) can master it in a few months is simply false. Good teachers build a practice over time and through reflection. A revolving door of teachers (even teachers who got 33s on their ACTs) doesn’t help kids or schools.

As Nancy points out, TFA gets some very smart people hooked on teaching who might not otherwise have tried it. But most will leave teaching after two years, just as they’re getting good at it.

Military veterans who go into teaching, like Darren of Right on the Left Coast, typically plan to stay on the job for many years.

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