TFA teachers excel in LA

Teach for America teachers in Los Angeles outperformed non-TFA teachers in the same grade levels, subjects and schools, concludes a study funded by the Broad Foundation. From Teacher Beat:

. . . TFA teachers were linked to test scores that were 3 points higher overall than non-TFA teachers, even those who had been in the classroom much longer. And, they were even more effective than other teachers with similar years of teaching experience. (The scores for that comparison were 4 points higher for TFA teachers than for non-TFA teachers.)

Students weren’t randomly assigned, points out Teacher Beat’s Stephen Sawchuk. It’s possible TFA teachers had easier classes. But it’s not likely: Newbies rarely get the easy assignments.

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  1. I’m not sure how credible this source is, but it says that the Broad Foundation contributes millions of dollars to Teach for America every year. If that’s the case, this study may be a bit biased.

    The managing director of the Broad Foundation was also the chief operating officer of Teach for America earlier in his career. That may also have had an effect on the study.

    I think a lot of people going through TFA are great teachers, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think that programs like TFA are the solution to creating better teachers in the long term.

  2. > Newbies rarely get the easy assignments.

    Really? On what evidence is this based?

    It’s not intuitive, and if true would represent terrible management practice.

  3. I worked with first year TFAers for a couple of years. The idea that corps members were saddled with the toughest kids was pretty prevalent. I can’t empirically say if it was true or not, but there is a certain logic to it: put all of the bad actors in a single room, and the kids in the other rooms have a shot at passing the tests.

    Do I believe it happens? Put it this way: I don’t believe it doesn’t happen.

  4. At every school at which I’ve ever taught, the veterans taught the higher level classes and rookies generally were given the lowest classes. Seniority, and all that.

    And yes, it *is* a terrible management practice.

  5. Unfortunately, Stephen, the others are right. The least experienced teachers generally end up in the toughest classrooms. Doesn’t make sense, but there we are.

    Robert makes a good point in his blog:

    The study focuses on TFA candidates in year two but doesn’t make claims for those in year one, who likely haven’t hit their stride and may well perform worse than experienced teachers. Given the relatively high proportion of TFA-ers in year one, this could present problems.

    Haven’t seen the data, though.

  6. Sure it makes sense.

    The low seniority teachers are least likely to stay around and make a nuisance of themselves, they don’t have friends who might kick up a fuss on their behalf, the kids are probably on the slippery slope to nowhere so why not match them up with the teachers who’s most poorly positioned to avoid an unpleasant assignment like those kids.

    It makes all the sense in the world if educating kids is a relatively low priority for the administration.

  7. Mike Curtis says:

    Consider first, that most teachers in public education, have never worked outside of a classroom. All they have ever experienced has been institutional, classroom work.

    Grades 1-12…in class. Post secondary…in class. Rookie to experienced teacher…in class.

    When kids ask, “Why do I need to know this?” A TFA teacher may offer more relevant, real world reasons, than the typical, credentialed educator. Perhaps, that touch of “been there, done that” is more credible to the students.

    I watched a TFA, retired military, special education teacher, in a classroom full of kids with disabilities blended with the flotsdam of misfits that most teachers wished would be cleansed from their schedule; Yeah, I’m talking General Math in High School. One student asked, “why did you decide to go to college to learn how to be a math teacher after you left the military?. The teacher replied, “Well it took a while. I was too busy learning stuff.”

  8. Bear in mind, Mike, that ex-military TFAer was the exception. The overwhelming majority come right out of college, and TFA is their first real job. There are lots of alt cert programs that recruit mid-career professionals to teach. ABCTE is a good example. So is the NYC Teaching Fellows program (I’m a Fellows alum). Lots of others.


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