'Study laundering' on TFA

“Weaponized” education research and “study laundering” are illustrated by a Great Lakes Center study knocking Teach for America for high turnover and “mixed” performance, writes Eduwonk.

Half of TFA teachers leave after two years and 80 percent leave after three, the study says. However,  the researchers use data from studies that conflate TFA teachers who leave their original school placement with those who leave the teaching profession, Eduwonk charges. A 2008 Harvard study (pdf), found that 61 percent of TFA teachers stay in teaching beyond the two-year commitment.

Teach For America surveys its alumni regularly and the most recent survey found that 65 percent of Teacher For America’s 20,000 alumni remain in education, with 32 percent continuing as teachers. And remember, that’s a survey of alums going back almost two decades now so that one in three figure should be viewed in that context as well as the larger context of TFA’s mission.

On the performance issue, studies that use rigorous methodology find that “Teach For America teachers perform as well or better than other teachers, not only emergency certified teachers but traditionally trained ones and veterans,” Eduwonk writes, including lots of link to research studies. The results are not mixed.

By “study laundering,” Eduwonk means getting the mainstream media — in this case,  the  Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss and the New York Times’ Michael Winerip — to report uncritically on the study without mentioning other research or noting that Great Lakes’ board “is made up of people with a track record of trashing Teach For America and NEA affiliates fighting to keep TFA out of various states.”

Update:  Another survey finds TFA teachers are more likely to leave their original school if they’re assigned to teach multiple subjects or grades or out of their field, reports Teacher Beat.  Sixty-one percent teach for more than two years, the study found, matching earlier results.

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  1. I had never heard of study laundering, but I am not surprised that it happens. 🙂

  2. tim-10-ber says:

    one of the challenges for middle school teachers is they are not specialists if they have the elementary certification. since elementary and middle school are the weakest links in the K-12 system our state is looking at how middle school (and hopefully elementary) teachers are certified. they tried before but believe the time is right for middle school teachers to be majors in the subject they are to teach…this is what TFA teachers are — academic majors not generalist…this makes sense to me…

    the number of TFA members that stay in education at this rate (60+ percent) isn’t that as good as better than regularly trained teachers? hmmm….

  3. SuperSub says:

    Love the update on the increase in quitting due to multiple preps for TFA teachers. A school district I worked at had a pattern of assigning multiple preps in different schools to teachers who they wanted to leave.

  4. I’d be interested to see a study of the turnover rates at the schools at which TFA teachers are assigned. TFA turnover numbers are always compared to teachers in general with a caveat that low-performing schools (to which TFA teachers are specifically assigned) have higher turnover than average. How come TFA has been around for 20 years and no one has looked into this?


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