I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Are TFA Teachers Superior? No.

Reliably, Jay Matthews at the Washington Post tells us why Teach For American is so awesome:
I understand why many NEA members are bothered by TFA. They feel it demeans their profession to give classroom responsibilities to young people with so little preparation. They know that novice U.S. teachers need even more training than what they are getting in regular education school programs. Experts say new teachers should be closely monitored by veteran educators and given more contact with students before being asked to run classes by themselves.
Many TFA members in turn dismiss the NEA as an old organization stuck in its ways, jealous of what TFA energy and creativity have added to many inner city schools.
Both sides ignore this fact: the classroom performance of beginning Teach for America instructors is about the same as that of education school graduates just starting out. On average, both do poorly. More supervision and support would help both groups. How does aggravating the feud make that happen? [emphasis mine]
Is it true? Are TFAers just as good - uh, I mean just as bad - as ed school grads?

Here's a policy brief from the Great Lakes Center that summarizes the peer-reviewed literature on TFA and student achievement (p.7):
Generally, the studies reviewed found that TFA teachers usually showed a positive impact on student achievement in mathematics relative to the comparison group only when they had obtained training and certification in their second and later years in the classroom. They rarely had a positive impact on reading achievement, and four peer-reviewed studies found novice TFA recruits to have significant negative effects on elementary students’ reading achievement compared with fully prepared teachers. These negative effects for TFA beginners ex- tended to mathematics in three of the studies. Despite the decidedly mixed effects of corps teachers noted in the research literature, TFA continues to claim that, “Our corps members are as effective as, and in some cases more effective than, other teachers, including certified and veteran teachers." [emphasis mine]
Reading through the summary, a pattern emerges: TFAers did as well as the ed school grads only if they had student teaching experience or certification. In other words, if they had the same sort of training as ed majors, TFAers did as well; if they didn't have that training, they didn't do as well. Looking at the specific training of both TFA and non-TFA teachers is the key to making a comparison between the two (and is a big limitation of the CREDO study of TFA).

So, while Matthews is technically correct, we shouldn't attribute the parity between teachers to the TFA process - the research just doesn't support it. TFA isn't a substitute for certification and quality training.

More on recruiting teachers from "elite" schools later this week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a group of armed college grads could replace the police in some areas. It could work for a while. It could save a few bucks--as long as it's not your neighborhood, right?

Are suburban schools clamoring for TFA teachers? Unless you're in for the long haul, you're just slumming.