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October 29th, 2009
October 29th, 2009
At Teacher Beat, Stephen Sawchuck highlights an intriguing study that shows Los Angeles students taught by Teach For America teachers “outperformed peers who were taught by other teachers—including veterans with many more years of experience.” The study is another feather in TFA’s cap, but there is one aspect of the study that may unwittingly reinforce anti-TFA criticism. Note how the methodology is described:
The study included 119 second-year or alumni Teach For America teachers who taught either reading or math in grades 2-12 during both 2005 and 2006 in 27 different LAUSD schools. As a control, the study also evaluated the impact of 1,190 non-Teach For America teachers who taught the same grade levels and subjects in the same schools as the Teach For America teachers.
I’m not surprised that high-achieving, driven and energetic TFA corps members are pretty decent teachers in Year Two, and alumni even moreso. When you recruit top-shelf candidates, you expect them to move down the learning curve in short order. But what about Year One? Having worked with a significant number of first-year corp members, it’s fair to say most struggle. That’s not a knock on TFA. First year is a struggle for every new teacher.
The study is dated December 2008, and Sawchuck notes there’s a reason it’s only coming out now:
Initially, the study was performed for internal purposes. Having provided quite a bundle of financial backing for TFA, Broad wanted to get a sense of how its investment was paying off in terms of stronger student learning. But officials for the group said they ultimately decided to make the study public given the growing national conversation about teacher effectiveness.
The proposition of TFA is that they’re better — or certainly no worse — on Day One than existing teachers. If they’re solid in year two, but ineffective in year one, you’re essentially getting one good year for the price of two if they don’t stay past their two-year commitment. I’m not sure that’s a message TFA wants to send.