“Good” vs. “Poor” Studies of Teach For America


At the last board meeting on Thursday, November 3rd, Dr. Robinson defended her support of the superintendent’s recommendation to sign what was at the time a $1.7 million dollar contract with Teach for America by claiming that she had spent the week reviewing studies on TFA and the effectiveness of the teachers placed in a system by TFA.

She claimed that there were both “good” and “poor” studies concerning the effectiveness of the teachers that TFA hires. In short, she was convinced that TFA’ers were more effective than traditionally certified teachers. In an email from Dr. Wardynski that Dr. Robinson shared with me, he claimed, “We are making this investment because evidence has shown that the achievement gains provided by TFA exceed the gains afforded by a similar investment in alternative strategies” (November 9, 2011).

Thus, the extra $10,000 spent training a TFA’er will be money well spent because TFA’ers will provide a “very large gain in school culture and student achievement” (November 9, 2011).

He offers no explanation of how the gains in “school culture” are to be evaluated, but the “student achievement” standard is fairly clear.

To evaluate that, we’ll need to look at the studies available to us.

“Good” and “Poor” Studies

Assuming that the Heilig and Jez study that I shared with her on November 1, 2011, was one of the “poor” studies, I approached Dr. Robinson after the meeting to ask for her thoughts about this study.

In summary, while she didn’t call Heilig and Jez’s study “poor,” she did claim that this study did not take into account significant changes that TFA made to their training program in 2009. As the study was published in June of 2010, she is correct that it does not take into consideration data after 2009. She did not offer an explanation of why TFA needed to make significant changes to their training program in 2009, nor did she offer any details concerning what changes were made to their training program in 2009.

She also claimed that the Heilig and Jez study was “supported” by NEA. On this “criticism” she is correct. The National Education Association is a supporter of the National Educational Policy Center. They are also funded by private donations to the University of Colorado Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

While it is important to know that the NEA has provided some funding for the NEPC, that does not mean that the NEA influenced the Heilig and Jez study to produce a negative report on TFA any more than The Ford Foundation influenced them to produce a positive one. (The Ford Foundation has made countless donations to Teach For America.)

Finally she claimed that the TFAers hired under this contract would be placed at secondary schools rather than at elementary schools. As such, she claimed that what we really needed to consider were TFAs performance at the secondary level.

When I asked for copies of the “good” studies that proved that TFA was putting teachers into schools who were just as effective as traditionally trained and certified teachers, she offered me two studies. In her defense, Dr. Robinson, unlike Dr. Wardynski, did proffer the links to the studies that she considered to be “good.”

Dr. Wardynski merely claims that there is “evidence [that] has shown” TFA’s achievement. For this, I thank Dr. Robinson.

“The Effect of Teach for American on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation”

The first was a 2004 study sponsored by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. entitled, “The Effect of Teach for America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation” by Decker, Mayer, and Glazerman. This study offered an evaluation of TFA for teachers teaching at the elementary level.

Dr. Robinson did not offer a reason why this study evaluating elementary schools in 2004 was a “good” study while the Heilig and Jez study of elementary schools in 2010 was not.

The Decker, Mayer, and Glazerman study claims that TFA’ers “produce higher student test scores than the other teachers in their schools” (16). Figure 2 (xiv) supports this claim concerning Math scores, but it does not support this claim concerning Reading scores.

Figure 2 TFA Scores.png


In short, while TFA’ers out performed the control teachers by “10 percent of a grade equivalent” (xiv) in Math, the effect on the reading scores was negligible. In other words, the math students were almost one month ahead of their peers with control teachers.

But who exactly were these control teachers with whom the TFA’ers were competing in this “good” study? They are described as including, “traditionally certified, alternatively certified, and uncertified teachers” (xii).

So, Dr. Robinson’s first “good” study proving that TFA’ers are better teachers than traditionally certified teachers compares TFA’ers to both “alternatively certified” and even “uncertified teachers.”

So some of the best evidence available showing that TFA’ers are better show only that they are marginally better (in math) than uncertified teachers.

As Hibpshman’s State Board review of the Decker, Mayer, and Glazerman report states, “it is conceivable that the effect size [TFA’s superior performance] would altogether disappear or be reversed if they were compared to better teachers” (5).

In February and April of 2011, the Huntsville City School board of education’s reduction in force plan laid off 154 certified teachers. When Mrs. Morrison asked Mrs. Belinda Williams, HR Director, for evidence that these 154 teachers were being re-hired, Mrs. Williams replied during the November 3rd meeting that she did not have data to support that claim at that time.

Making a Difference?: The Effects of Teach for America in High School”

The second “good” study that Dr. Robinson shared with me was by Xu, Hannaway and Taylor of the CALDER Urban Institute entitled, “Making a Difference?: The Effects of Teach for America in High School.”

This “Working Paper” from April of 2007 argues that, “The findings show that TFA teachers are more effective, as measured by student exam performance, than traditional teachers” (3). This is referred to as a “working paper” by CALDER because it has not been peer-reviewed unlike the “poor” Heilig and Jez study that I had shared with her on November 1st. CALDER themselves state that “CALDER Working Papers have not gone through final formal review and should be cited as working papers. They are intended to encourage discussion and suggestions for revision before final publication.”

While discussion is a hallmark of the educational process, it’s troubling when nearly $2 million dollar decisions, when decisions that will effect at least a third of a child’s primary and secondary education are being based on studies that have not even been reviewed.

In addition, one of the report’s primary authors, Jane Hannaway, discloses on the title page of the report that her “daughter is employed by Teach for America” (1). She does not report in what capacity her daughter is employed. Also, she does not reveal that she is “engaged in a major conceptual effort for the Gates Foundation on the design of human resource management strategies in education.”

The Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation have extensive ties dating back for at least a decade. Both foundations actively support Teach for America.

Despite the lack of peer review, I was able to find one independent assessment of this study by the Department of Education who provide CALDER with their primary funding. The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) offer the following assessment of this study:

What did the study authors report? TFA improved student performance on standardized end-of-course tests in math and science–by about one-tenth of a standard deviation. This is equivalent to moving a student from the 50th to the 54th percentile. (1)

So again we find that the best evidence supporting spending an additional $5,000 per teacher, per year is that it increases student performance in math and science (but not in the humanities subjects) by one-tenth of a standard deviation. The best that can be said is that math students are about a month ahead of their peers.

IES went on to offer the following assessment of the “Making a Difference?” report:

Students may be placed in a course taught by a TFA teacher because of their ability in that subject – and not solely because of their general math and science ability. If so, differences in performance in TFA and non-TFA classes may be influenced by differences in student ability in specific subjects. As a result, the study may not accurately measure the effect of having a TFA teacher. In addition, the data did not link students directly to the teacher who taught their course. Instead,  the study matches students to teachers based on test proctor and classroom demographics. This method is  somewhat imprecise, and matching errors could lead to misleading results. (1)

So again, the best studies that those who support hiring TFA’ers at, at least, a $1.7 million dollar premium can offer are studies that “may not accurately measure the effect of having a TFA teacher.”

This is what passes for evidence with the school board. But, in their defense, this is more evidence than they usually require before they rubber stamp the superintendent’s recommendations.

Dr. Wardynski often claims that our children only get one shot at their education. If he really believes this, why is he so willing to take a $1.7 million dollar chance on unqualified teachers? At best, TFA represents a huge investment for minimal gains in math. At worst, it represents a huge investment for significant losses in student achievement.

It represents a corporate experiment where TFA’ers learn to teach on other people’s kids.

We should cancel this contract immediately.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. Thank you for the in depth and comprehensive analysis. Here are the money quotes;

    “In February and April of 2011, the Huntsville City School board of education’s reduction in force plan laid off 154 certified teachers.”


    “It represents a corporate experiment where TFA’ers learn to teach on other people’s kids.”

    I see the Huntsville Behind the Times finally did a front page, below the fold story on the real cost of TFA last Sunday.

    “We should cancel this contract immediately.”

    That’s not the only contract that needs to canceled immediately.

  2. This is how real journalists work. Comprehensive, fact packed analysis. I’m going to do my best to send you some traffic.

    1. Thanks! I don’t know that I would call this journalism; I have much more freedom than that, but I am trying to help people understand what’s happening.

      Thanks for all your help in pulling this together, Philip! I couldn’t have done it without your help.

      1. It is my pleasure! I am so grateful to know that there is someone like you in this city trying to keep elected officials honest. I don’t have the patience for it anymore. And I will say it again to underscore the point…if more journalists did their jobs, we wouldn’t be fighting this battle, we’d be putting our resources towards creating a school system that works for children, teachers, families, and communities rather than national (money making) organizations such as Broad and TFA.

        Still trying to confirm Kopp’s salary…

  3. A very good example of the need for policy analysis that extends beyond that which confirms an already in place agenda. Thanks for this.

    1. Well it would be unfair and untrue to say I don’t have an agenda. I do. It just so happens that I’m not so committed to my agenda that I refuse to question it.

      I don’t believe these two studies are reliable, but if studies that are reliable are produced, I’ll certainly give them a close reading, and I’ll discuss them here.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Two other points, I think which bear mentioning from Barbara Torre Veltri’s book “Learning on Other People’s Kids: Becoming a Teach For America Teacher.”

    Velitri had a multiple year association with Teach For America: she was associated with one of the universities that serves as a site for the 5 week Institutes that represent the entirety of the training of Corp members, and she served as a resource for Corps members and TFA staff as the participants continued to learn how to teach. In writing the book she had access to a large number of current and former TFA members and the people in school districts in which she was placed.

    Her study notes that the majority of TFAers leave the classroom at the end of two years, with over 80% being out of the classroom after three. Some of the claims for evidence of better performance (by TFAers) are based on the less than 1 in five who stay, who have become fully certified. The question to ask is, “Why is turnover so high for TFA participants?”

    My central contention is that a majority of TFA participants are not going into teaching for the right reasons. When asked, most of the undergraduates whom I train to be teachers say, “I want to teach because I love helping kids and I love the content.” Students do this knowing that compensation is low (compared to other professions) and that the current climate of schools is increasingly hostile towards teachers (especially in the age of NCLB and Adequate Yearly Progress). These students spend countless hours in the college classroom and in schools during field experiences BECAUSE THEY HAVE MADE A LONG-TERM commitment to education, in most cases.

    So the next question to ask is, Why do TFA participants enter the program? Again, a quote from Veltri’s book: “A majority of TFAers take advantage of the benefits offered by graduate and professional schools towards former TFAers, and includes a stipend from AmeriCorps equal to $5,000/year for use against any past or future educational expense. Remember (1) this is paid for by our taxes, and (2) TFAers qualify for this regardless of any financial need.”

    This tells me that a compelling case can be made that a (vast?) majority of TFA participants see the program as (in the best case scenario) a stepping-stone to another career or in the worst case scenario as a way to get help paying off student loans.

    Students need teachers who are committed to their education, not just for two years, but for the long haul. Constant turnover strengthens administrators to make short-sighted changes to increase scores (what teacher will stand up to an administrator if he or she can be “pink-slipped” at the end of the year?) and weakens the quality of students’ education because experienced, EFFECTIVE, veteran teachers exist in smaller numbers.

    It’s time that the Huntsville City School Board members start asking the difficult questions instead of acting as sycophants when Colonel Wardinski barks out commands.

    1. TFA’s own numbers support the same point about turnover rates.

      It’s almost like they’re proud of it despite the evidence that shows that experienced teachers are more effective. (Which is certainly something I can attest to in my experience.)

      1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there a loan forgiveness component to TFA? i.e. For every year they teach their school loan is reduced a specific amount????

  5. What Phillip said all the damn way!

    “if more journalists did their jobs, we wouldn’t be fighting this battle, we’d be putting our resources towards creating a school system that works for children, teachers, families, and communities rather than national (money making) organizations such as Broad and TFA.”

    What Ed Prof said all the damn way!

    “Students need teachers who are committed to their education, not just for two years, but for the long haul. Constant turnover strengthens administrators to make short-sighted changes to increase scores (what teacher will stand up to an administrator if he or she can be “pink-slipped” at the end of the year?) and weakens the quality of students’ education because experienced, EFFECTIVE, veteran teachers exist in smaller numbers.”

    What Russ said all the damn way!

    “We should cancel this contract immediately.”

  6. Why will HCS offer the same salary to a TFA’er with 5 weeks of training as is offered to a certified teacher with a degree in education?

    Based on the wording of the contract, HCS may very well spend more than $1.7 million dollars on TFA training.

    • In 2012-2013, TFA will hire “30 or more” TFA teachers and spend $10,000 each for their training.
    • In 2013-2014, TFA will hire “40 or more” TFA teachers and spend $10,000 each for their training.
    • In 2014-2015, TFA will hire “50 or more” TFA teachers and spend $10,000 each for their training.
    • In 2015-2016, TFA will hire “50 or more” TFA teachers and spend $10,000 each for their training.

    Historically, HCS has never spent very much money on professional development.

    What if HCS spent $1.7 million dollars to hire some of the best educational consultants in the country to come in and work with ALL the teachers in the Title I schools? Wonder what the results would be?

    That would be a “good” study.

    1. What if HCS spent 1.7 million dollars on curriculum and establishing centers of excellence and get rid of the neighborhood school concept so property values won’t be tied to school/student achievement?

      I don’t think we need any more clueless consultants, instead we need to emulate and duplicate what works. We know the magnet school concept and curriculum works.

        1. Hiring knowledgeable consultants is crucial; but what else is crucial is long-term, on-going staff development. One-shot workshops may be okay for “make and take” purposes; however, for meaningful change, the staff development needs to be site-based, on-going, and offer feedback and follow-up. What happens when teachers go back to their classrooms and “the stuff” doesn’t work? They throw out the ideas and go back to whatever they were doing. Most of the time, this stuff doesn’t work because it is “generalized” information; it doesn’t match the population or needs…. I couldn’t agree more with the earlier comments; taking that money, investing in local teachers, providing meaningful staff development will do far more than TFA could ever hope to accomplish. This isn’t pie in the sky; this is well-documented fact.

          1. I agree. Imagine how our schools would be if we were as willing to spend money training our traditional corps of teachers as we seem to be to train TFA’ers.

    2. I made the same point to someone today about the training. Oh and wait till you see my post later tonight about the contract.

      Great minds.

    3. Actually I just visited TFA’s website, and I’m reading Learning on Other People’s Kids and both of these sources say that the 5K per year is not for professional development, IT IS TO PAY OFF COLLEGE LOANS.

      I’ll be asking about that tomorrow night at the board meeting.

      1. Wow. On October 11, Mr. Carpenter after describing the total number of teachers the system will hire (110 at that point) said:

        “In addition, we estimate that the recruiting, selection, and especially the professional development costs are roughly $20,000 per teacher per year. The district, Huntsville City Schools, will pay 25 percent of those costs. The other 75 percent I will raise from the private sector.”

        That is a direct quote. I have video if needed.

  7. The Heilig and Jez study you reference was actually funded by the Great Lakes Center, not the NEA as was indicated in your blog.

    The thing that makes this study of such high quality is that is underwent a blind peer review process prior to publication. Your superintendent couldn’t be more wrong.

    Oh yeah, and the Walton Family Foundation is listed on the Mathematica website and they just gave $25.5 million to TFA. That’s definitely a conflict, but nobody every mentions this.

    Good luck!

    1. K12 Guy:
      First, thanks for reading and for, I’m guessing, teaching. I appreciate your service to our nation. Thanks.

      The site hosting the report, and one of the organizations listed on the cover page, is the Nation Education Policy Center. They list on their site http://nepc.colorado.edu/support that NEA is one of their supporters. The Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice also states that the NEA is a “member.” http://greatlakescenter.org/about.php

      Now, I completely agree that the important thing about the Heilig and Jez study is that it is peer-reviewed.

      Excellent point about the Walton’s involvement in Mathematica. I hadn’t caught that one yet.

  8. I think this is an interesting article that does nothing besides increase skepticism around an organization that is doing absolutely everything that it can to close the achievement gap for students who grow up in low-income communities. THIS IS NOT ABOUT ADULTS! And far too often, people make it about them, which is the problem. This type of rhetoric allows those who are interested in the program or the mission disengaged with the issue of educational inequity because people are constantly criticizing TFA for silly reasons, thus distracting from the main issue: student achievement.

    I wouldn’t doubt that most of you who will read this are not low-income or have children who attend schools where we teach. In fact, I would bet that most of you are those who are paralyzed by your own skepticism to actually do something to right the wrongs of a system that has neglected and oppressed students in low-income communities for far too long. Let the numbers be the numbers –as a TFAer, I know numbers tell no story.

    I taught 10th Grade English in Houston Texas at a high school that was ranked top ten lowest performing schools in Texas. In my classroom, however, the achievement gap was closed by 105%, students learned how to analyze the world and demand more from it because I constantly emphasized their humanity and how to access their liberation from oppression brought on by the powers that be. I taught them to be dangerous, and that’s exactly who they are now. This morning as I road the train to work, I received a text from my former student asking me to write her a letter of recommendation for college. I wasn’t surprised. In fact, I was a little annoyed because she’s now part of a laundry list of students who are now asking me to write them letters of rec for college and I just don’t have time to do it, but I do, and I write the best letters of rec (if I do say so myself). I’m writing to Georgetown, Howard, Spelman, Dartmouth, University of Texas, Stanford, Baylor, and so it goes. Many of these students had not known how brilliant they were until they walked into my classroom. The thing is, folks, you have no clue the qualitative aspect of what it is we do: we inspire students to be their best selves and to live in the faith of who they can become. We are an organization that relies heavily on our own fortitude to build the future as we want to see it by giving students the tools with which they could advocate for themselves and redesign America how it should be. I am a lifelong teacher because I love knowing that I have no clue who I’m teaching, who they will become, or how I will need them in the future –that excites me because I know I’m giving them the tools to be dangerous to a society that is in disbelief of their powers and skeptical that TFA works. I am a product of TFA, became TFA, and now recruit others to join. We are not perfect and I am surrounded by hundreds of people each day who obsess over making best decisions FOR OUR KIDS, not ourselves.

    Takeaways: We are an organization trying to achieve a most altruistic justice. We are not perfect and we never claim to be. We believe that one day, every child will have the ability to attain an excellent education. And we want to be the very last generation to fight this fight. Stop talking about what’s wrong with TFA and learn what your role is in changing the game for students across our country. Not everyone is meant to be a teacher, but everyone should be a role model. It’s not about me, not about you, it’s about innocent children who are robbed each day of the chance to dream and of the future to live.

    Have a magical day!

    1. Tony TFAer,

      Thank you for sharing your perspective, opinions, and experiences. And thank you for your service to the children in Houston, TX. I completely agree that this is about the kids. That, sir, was why I started this blog in the first place: because I want the best possible education for my children.

      If I were convinced that Teach for America were the best teachers for my kids, I would support it completely. I am not convinced of that. That is why I am speaking out against this decision on the part of our Board of Education here in Huntsville. We have just laid off 154 certified, experienced highly-qualified teachers who also spent each day obsessing over every decision they made for our kids and not for themselves. They too wrote letters of recommendation to every college and university in the US and the world on behalf of their students. Their students also did not know how brilliant they were until they had the opportunity to sit in a classroom with a superb teacher who cares about their achievement and success.

      The thing is, Tony TFAer, you have no clue the qualitative aspect of what they did before they were RIFed to create a spot for your organization. They weren’t perfect either, but they were committed to educating our kids.

      If you care to read other posts on the blog, you will see that I do far more than talk about what’s wrong with TFA. I know exactly what my role is. I am a father who is committed to insisting upon the best possible education for his children.

      Since you questioned our commitment to low-income students, allow me to share with you that I too teach, everyday, at a technical college that specifically reaches out to low-income students. Nearly 80% of our students are able to attend college because of the Pell Grant. I spend every day working to find ways to expose my students’ to new worlds that they may have never dreamed of. Respectfully, TFA is not the first, last or best hope for low-income children and their education. And while I agree that the numbers do not tell the whole story (I never claimed that they did), the do tell a story. And that story deserves to be heard, which was the purpose of these posts.

      Finally, might I suggest that you look up the meaning of altruistic. If TFA were giving away their services to places who were not able to recruit teachers in sufficient numbers, I would have nothing but praise for your organization. That is not the case here. Here your organization is taking away public resources from our kids to support your own private agenda. That must be a definition of altruism of which I was previously unaware.

      Again, I thank you for your service to the kids in Texas. There are hundreds of thousands of teachers that don’t require an additional $5,000 per year to be recruited, selected and professionally developed who do the same exact thing every day.

      1. Very well-stated response. Ohio adopted similar unwarranted legislation earlier this year to bring TFA to our state. I also tried, unsuccessfully, to educate our John Kasich-led legislators about the program and why it is unnecessary here. Ohio is a teacher-surplus state, graduating many more teachers than we can hire annually. I originally posted my letters and posts on Facebook before moving on to a blog site (I only had one cross-posted). You can link to my other FB Notes through the post linked below. For clarification purposes, our House and Senate both proposed TFA legislation. The information isn’t doing much good for me anymore, but maybe there is something helpful for you.


        Best wishes in your fight for the best education for our children.

  9. I am currently finishing my last semester of classes at UAH, and will student teach next semester. I am just getting ready to enter the field and already constantly find myself worrying about how I will further prepare myself as an educator. Should I go to Grad school? If so, when? And what would be the best thing to get a graduate degree in? When I’m in the classroom will I remember everything I learned about classroom management, evaluation, differentiated learning… I find the idea that a person is prepared to enter the classroom after five weeks of training preposterous. My question is this: If you can teach a person all of this in five weeks why not do so with people that are already teachers and care enough about teaching to get a degree in it rather than spend all this money on people that are apparently barely lasting long enough to get tenure?

    1. These are excellent questions. I hope that we’re lucky enough to keep you here in Huntsville, but honestly you’d be foolish to stay here. Which is tragic.

      Thank you for you commitment to preparing yourself to serve our country. I appreciate it.

      I wish you all the best with your student teaching. Your inquisitive mind will take you far, and your students will be lucky to have you in their classroom.

      Thanks for reading.

  10. Thank you Russell for that insight and I, too, appreciate what you’re doing for students in our country. I always support the efforts of other organizations, people, and veteran teachers who have been doing this work far before I was born. Ideally, I would like more collaboration and sharing of information between engines of change because that’s the only way that we’re going to move forward and achieve this justice. Our conversation should not be one of conflict but of resolution. We have a long ways to go with our organization, I know. But we are fighting along side you, not facing you.

    You’re right Redeye, we are not the solution to low-income children. The only solution is equity. We are simply trying to be agents of change. I assure you, however, we are not the problem. Let’s point to what is the problem and move towards eradicating it. Demonizing TFA will get us nowhere as a people as we continue to charge forward.

    1. Tony,

      Pointing out that TFA is more expensive and less-effective than traditionally teachers is not “demonizing” TFA.

      Demonization is what our superintendent is engaged in when he dismisses “teacher colleges” as ineffective without presenting any evidence other than his opinion.

      Thanks for your post.

    2. Tony, I am a teacher educator at UAH and I would love to meet you and shake your hand for the hard work you’ve reported doing FOR KIDS in Houston. That being said, I’d like to add my two cents to this…

      You say that “people are criticizing TFA for silly reasons” and thus “distracting from the main issue: student achievement”…

      First, for a school district that is not experiencing teacher shortages (like those which were occurring in Houston) it seems ridiculous to spend an extra 1.9 million dollars (at last count) on a program THAT WAS NOT CREATED TO SERVE SCHOOL DISTRICTS SUCH AS HUNTSVILLE CITY. There is no teacher shortage (as evidenced by the 300 plus teachers which have been laid off in the past two years). The special education budget has been decreased by five million dollars while class sizes are getting larger and administrative salaries (and bonuses) have increased. If you think these as “silly” criticisms, then you and I have to agree to disagree as to what constitutes “silly”…

      Student achievement is only a problem at the schools which Dr. Wardinski has labled as “managed schools” (these “low achieving” schools are the schools with the highest rates of poverty, ELLs,and African American and Hispanic students)…”managed” is a euphemism for “micromanaged” and in which oftentimes teachers are REQUIRED to teach from a script from the basal reader. Tony, how are students supposed to (to quote you) “analyze the world and demand more from it because I constantly emphasized their humanity and how to access their liberation from oppression brought on by the powers that be”? when their teachers are not allowed to deviate from a script written by the textbook company?

      I see TFA members as people looking for some college money and who want a “cool experience” to put on their CV. Sadly, 80% of TFA participants leave by year three and 80% when asked also said that a major reason they entered the program was to get help paying off past or future student loans. If that is your major motivation to teach my kids (I have five in HCS schools right now), then I don’t want you anywhere near them…

      As much success as you have reported in your classroom, I would not want you, Tony, teaching my children without first undergoing a full semester of student teaching under the guidance of certified, experienced teachers (as well as university supervisors). As great of a teacher as you may have been, can you imagine if you had actually been more prepared so that you didn’t spend so much time learning how to be great and could have actually entered the classroom with your feet on the ground “running”?

      I’m not saying colleges and departments of education are perfect, but we have (as a general rule) students who have made a long-term committment to education and who have made the sacrifices of two years of their lives (which includes more than 200 hours in classrooms teaching and observing in addition to a full 16 week student teaching experience).

      I am NOT willing to experiment on the children of this district when all available data point to TFA as being no more effective than highly qualified, highly motivated, and traditionally trained teachers. If the Board is truly worried about teacher quality, let’s spend 1.9 million dollars on high-quality professional development, delivered in a coaching model that requires sustained follow-up contact.

      Tony, I’d love to hear from a great TFA graduate like you so I can futher understand this issue. Please email me at jason.obrien@uah.edu if you can spare some time to set up an interview to talk about some of these important concerns. I really want to be fair about this and I’d love to hear about your experiences that actually worked…Please consider my offer.


      1. ALL of THIS!

        I am NOT willing to experiment on the children of this district when all available data point to TFA as being no more effective than highly qualified, highly motivated, and traditionally trained teachers. If the Board is truly worried about teacher quality, let’s spend 1.9 million dollars on high-quality professional development, delivered in a coaching model that requires sustained follow-up contact.

        The Board is not concerned with teacher quality, the board is concerned with discrediting HEA, AEA and Alabama A&M University.

  11. “You’re right Redeye, we are not the solution to low-income children. The only solution is equity. We are simply trying to be agents of change. I assure you, however, we are not the problem.”

    With all due respect low income children don’t need agents of change, they need equity and yes, you are the problem, low income students deserve and need professionally trained, certified teachers who already know how to teach, not those who are learning to teach. If you want to be agents of change, change the unequal funding.

  12. May I offer a few points of clarification.

    1. There is no loan forgiveness program for TFA teaching multiple years. This misinformation colors the perceptions of those applying to TFA.

    2. The Americorps stipend can be used towards educational debt or for future educational expenses, if one successfully completes TFA’s two-year commitment. If you get sick and cannot complete your commitment (as noted in the book with a young 22-year old woman who contracted intestinal cancer during the spring of her first year) the experience as a new TFA teacher is very difficult. TFA monitors corps teaching with the organization and the Americorps stipend.

    3. Another clarification point regards “TFA means my grad school is covered.” Many grad school will double the stipend and it can be used for non-education course work; hence an M.B.A. degree might result post TFA teaching. However, one does need to take education courses for some time during one’s TFA teaching and some of the stipend is deposited in the accounts of universities that partner with TFA.

    4. The ‘good study” noted by Dr. Robinson, might require further examination by those in the community because one of the authors, is also the mother of a Teach For America alum (who completed her two years of teaching). Parents of corps members (who also happen to be researchers and even university deans) are unduly influencing policy related to TFA.

    5. In the research community, we are expected to acknowledge funding sources and agencies that support and finance our studies. In order to be viewed as valid and reliable, this full disclose is pertinent information and I contribute this to your thread.

    1. Dr. Veltri:
      Thank you for these clarifications. I’m still new at this! I had noticed that Jane Hannaway’s daughter was in TFA; what surprised me even more was to see just how often her name turns up in the “research” supporting TFA and other Broad endeavors. It would be helpful to see a full disclosure on her part of her of all the pro-Broad research she has developed.

      Thanks for reading and the support on the national level. Hopefully we can turn this around.


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