By Andrew Pillow
If you are in education, you have likely heard of Teach For America. The nation’s most popular transition to teaching program. The Teach For America program specializes in taking recent college grads and placing them in high need areas for teachers.
Sounds like a good idea, but it is not without its critics.
Being a proud Teach For America alumni, I try and stay tuned to the national conversation. I and other TFA alumnus are always quick to defend the program from criticism. We often perceive this criticism as coming from outside detractors. But a new report shows that when it comes to TFA alumni, we are literally our own biggest critics.
A survey funded by Teach For America and conducted by Rand Education has found that Teach For America Alumni actually tend to be harder on corps members when it comes to rating abilities.
This particular survey was a survey of principals that employ Teach For America corps members. The key findings from the survey were:
1. Overall, principals were satisfied with the performance and ability of their corps members.
“The majority of responding principals (86 percent) indicated that they were satisfied with the corps members at their schools.”
2. Charter school principals, and principals who were TFA alumni themselves tended to be harder on corps members than the rest of the survey respondents.
“There were significant differences in some of these perceptions by school sector and prior principal experience. Principals who were TFA alumni and those who led charter schools were significantly less likely to report positive feedback about corps members’ abilities to create classroom environments that supported student growth and achievement when compared with non-TFA alumni and non–charter school participants’ responses.”
3. The main issues that principals had with corps members were the length of the teaching commitment and behavior management abilities.
“Principals had two potential concerns about hiring TFA corps members: corps members’ classroom management skills and the fact that TFA corps members only make a two-year commitment to the teaching profession.”
Some of this information was already common knowledge. The “two and done” commitment was a well known gripe of most TFA critics. However it is very interesting that TFA alumni rate their own corps members lower than the general population of principals.
Just to reiterate, most of the principals said they would hire TFA corps members and recommend them to others. However, the discrepancy in responses between the different types principals is a phenomena that is certainly worth investigating.
Read the full study here. (Rand Corporation)