An interesting article and new study on Teach for America (TFA) that challenges much of the conventional wisdom of this and other alternative certification programs. Key points here are that 31% stay in the classroom after the program (note: much lower than traditional teacher training) and that the grads don't see themselves as social servants but rather as part of "climbing up the elite ladder — it’s part of joining the system, the meritocracy.” This shouldn't really be surprising if you know anything about how it works and is marketed (most don't BTW) but these programs are continually touted as the answer to contemporary challenges in education....but the data just isn't there.
Of course, one can't help but wonder if we'd have higher retention rates with these very well-educated folks if they actually had some teacher training before dropping into classrooms...perhaps this is something we should look into.
Gauging the Dedication of Teacher Corps Grads
Teach for America, a corps of recent college graduates who sign up to teach in some of the nation’s most troubled schools, has become a campus phenomenon, drawing huge numbers of applicants willing to commit two years of their lives.
But a new study has found that their dedication to improving society at large does not necessarily extend beyond their Teach for America service.
In areas like voting, charitable giving and civic engagement, graduates of the program lag behind those who were accepted but declined and those who dropped out before completing their two years, according to Doug McAdam, a sociologist at Stanford University, who conducted the study with a colleague, Cynthia Brandt.
The reasons for the lower rates of civic involvement, Professor McAdam said, include not only exhaustion and burnout, but also disillusionment with Teach for America’s approach to the issue of educational inequity, among other factors.
The study, “Assessing the Long-Term Effects of Youth Service: The Puzzling Case of Teach for America,” is the first of its kind to explore what happens to participants after they leave the program. It was done at the suggestion of Wendy Kopp, Teach for America’s founder and president, who disagrees with the findings. Ms. Kopp had read an earlier study by Professor McAdam that found that participants in Freedom Summer — the 10 weeks in 1964 when civil rights advocates, many of them college students, went to Mississippi to register black voters — had become more politically active.
“There’s been a very clear and somewhat naïve consensus among educators, policy folks and scholars that youth activism invariably has these kinds of effects,” Professor McAdam said. “But we’ve got to be much more attentive to differences across these experiences, and not simply assume that if you give a kid some youth service experience it will change them.”
Teach for America is nearing its 20th anniversary. Of its 17,000 alumni, 63 percent remain in the field of education and 31 percent remain in the classroom. (This reporter took part in the program from 2003 to 2005.) READ MORE