Reposting from another interesting education blog...check it out. More and more research is coming out on the limitations of these seemingly "miracle fixes" in education reform. How is that policy makers can keep ignoring the facts? While certainly these are good folks trying to do good work, this can't be the answer AND it's an expensive diversion from what really works.
Around the country today thousands of young Teach for America recruits are getting a crash course in how to teach students in low-income urban and rural schools, a job they have promised to do for the next two years.
The recruits are recent graduates from elite colleges, most of whom do not have a background in education, and they have been the subject of a running debate about how well they can serve needy schoolchildren.
Teach for America began in 1990 with 500 teachers in six communities and has grown to more than 8,200 individuals teaching in 39 rural and urban areas, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, the Mississippi Delta, and the Washington D.C. region.
Following are highlights of a new review of independent researchvidence on the program, an analysis conducted by Assistant Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig of the University of Texas at Austin and Assistant Professor Su Jin Jez of California State University at Sacramento.
*More than 50 percent of Teach for America teachers leave after two years and more than 80 percent leave after three years. [About half of all teachers nationwide quit after five years, according to the National Education Association.]
-Teach for America proponents say that the program is aimed not only at supplying teachers to needy schools but also improving the teacher labor supply and shaping individuals who will care about education in their future jobs on Wall Street, in Washington, or elsewhere outside the classroom.
*Studies indicate that students of novice Teach for America teachers perform significantly less well in reading and math than those of credentialed beginning teachers.
*Most studies find that those Teach for America teachers who stay long enough to become fully credentialed (typically after two years) appear to do about as well as other similarly experienced cedentialed teachers in teaching reading, and do as well as, and sometimes better than, a comparison group in teaching math.
--The study said it is difficult to know if that is a result of additional training and experience or from attrition of less effective Teach for America teachers.
*About a third of Teach for America’s operating costs are paid by the public through federal, state and local funds. For example, in 2008, the program was funded this way: 33 percent from public funds, 26 percent from foundations, 20 percent from individuals, 15 percent from corporations, and 6 percent from special events.
*Teach for America teachers make up about 0.2 percent of the country’s several million teachers.
The analysis concludes that proponents who see the program as providing urban and rural schools with “outstanding recent college graduates,” and opponents who see it as only a short-term remedy that “may not even be better than what it aims to fix” are both correct. It says:
“The studies reviewed in the previous section indicate that, in the short-term, when compared to other underprepared teachers hired into many high-need schools, they may compete well with similarly trained and situated non-TFA teachers (even if just marginally better and only in mathematics).
"However, TFA opponents are correct, too. TFA teachers appear less effective in both reading and mathematics than fully prepared entrants teaching similar students, at least until the TFA teachers become prepared and certified themselves.
"While the small number who stay this long are sometimes found to be more effective in mathematics than other teachers, their attrition rate of more than 80 percent means that few students receive the benefit of this greater effectiveness, while districts pay the costs of high attrition. In addition, TFA provides only a (small) fraction of America’s teachers to a small number of America’s schools, and likely has little to no impact outside of its participating schools. Unless it starts admitting larger swaths of college seniors and potentially watering down the quality of its corps members, it will not ever comprise more than a small fraction of America’s teachers.
"Finally, even in the limited cases when TFA has a positive impact, it is consistently small; other educational reforms may have more promise such as universal pre-school, mentoring programs that pair novice and expert teachers, eliminating tracking, and reducing class size in the early grades."
It recommends that policymakers and school districts:
*Support Teach for America staffing only when the alternative hiring pool consists of uncertified and emergency teachers or substitutes.
*Consider the significant recurring costs of Teach for America, estimated at over $70,000 per recruit, and press for a five-year commitment to improve achievement and reduce re-staffing.
*Invest strategically in evidence-based educational reform options that build long-term capacity in schools.
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By Valerie Strauss | July 11, 2010; 6:30 AM ET