New study: Principals satisfied with Teach For America teachers

Most principals are satisfied with the Teach for America teachers in their buildings, according to a study released today by the RAND Corporation.

“TFA is pleased to have partnered with RAND to gain objective insights from our principals about their experiences with our corps members and alumni.  Their feedback on where we can continue to improve is critical,” said J. DeLano Ford, Teach for America executive director in Atlanta.

There are 162 corps members teaching in Georgia through partnerships with Atlanta, Fulton and Clayton schools, as well as three charter partners, said Ford. In addition, TFA has more than 1,250 alumni living in Georgia, including more than 400 who continue to work as classroom teachers or instructional leaders in schools.

“The survey results cover our entire national organization. Here in Metro Atlanta, we continue to seek to develop strong principal relationships grounded in effective educators and instructional leaders. We partner with principals like Mr. Maxwell at Creekside High School and Ms. Alex Bates at Westlake High School, as well as assistant principals like Gabe Zaragoza of Unidos Dual Language Charter School. In fact, both Ms. Bates and Mr. Zaragoza are alumni of TFA,” said  Ford.

Here is the official summary of the findings of a RAND Corporation study on principal satisfaction:

A large majority of school principals are satisfied with teachers provided to their campuses through the Teach For America program, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

Principals with more experience rated Teach For America corps members more highly. By comparison, principals who are Teach For America alumni, along with principals at charter schools, were similarly satisfied overall but rated corps members’ abilities lower in specific areas.

The findings are from a RAND survey of 1,803 principals that Teach For America commissioned to help improve the preparation, placement and performance of its teachers.

The results show that more than 80 percent of the principals surveyed in 2015 expressed satisfaction with Teach For America teachers. Approximately 20 percent of the principals surveyed said they were not satisfied. In a similar survey of principals in 2013, only 6 percent expressed a similar sentiment.

“While the overall satisfaction rate with Teach for America remains very high, the decline in principal satisfaction, along with Teach For America alumni who were more critical of corps members, provides an opportunity for improvement,” said Mollie Rudnick, lead author on the study and graduate fellow at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

In this 2012 photo, Teach For America teacher and Spelman grad Quinesha Rome helps a group of 4th grade students at Meadowcreek Elementary School in Norcross. Bob Andres bandres@ajc.com

In this 2012 photo, Teach For America teacher and Spelman grad Quinesha Rome helps a group of 4th grade students at Meadowcreek Elementary School in Norcross. Bob Andres bandres@ajc.com

Researchers say the principals who participated in the latest survey had fewer years teaching and less experience as a principal than participants in the 2013 survey.

The study found satisfaction rates are directly connected to how long a principal had been a school leader. When compared to principals with less experience as a teacher or principal, the principals with more experience rated corps members’ abilities to improve student performance significantly higher. These same principals also rated the Teach For America corps members higher in comparison to the other novice teachers in their own schools.

Key areas where principals gave high ratings to Teach For America teachers include developing positive relationships with colleagues and administrators, having an impact on student performance, having high expectations for all students and knowledge of the subject matter they teach.

In addition, 86 percent of principals indicated they would hire additional corps members and 66 percent indicated they would recommend hiring corps members to other principals.

“School principals interview, hire and rely on our corps members to make a significant, positive impact with their students and contribute to a thriving community. Principals are essential partners for Teach For America,” said Elisa Villanueva Beard, chief executive officer for Teach For America. “We’re glad to see that principals are overwhelmingly satisfied with the teachers we provide to their schools. We will use these findings to continue to improve our recruitment, preparation and support of corps members.”

Principals identified their own experience with previous corps members, along with the corps members’ ability to fit in with school culture, collaborate with staff, their commitment to teaching, and the support and training provided by Teach For America, as the main reasons they would hire corps members in the future.

The two main reasons the principals gave for not hiring corps members in the future were their classroom management skills and the fact that corps members’ initial commitment is for only two years.

For RAND researchers, the results suggest there is an opportunity to provide additional education to all principals who are hiring Teach For America teachers, as well as review how the corps members are trained for their classroom experience.

Other authors of the study are Amanda Edelman, Ujwal Kharel and Matthew Lewis. This research was conducted by RAND Education, a division of the RAND Corporation. Its mission is to bring accurate data and careful, objective analysis to the national debate on education policy.

 

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29 comments
Anotherteacher
Anotherteacher

TFA teachers are clearly smart, idealistic, and capable people. Really the only criticisms that I hear leveled against them are: 1) they don't have as much formal educational training as normally certified teachers, and 2) they only commit to teaching for two years, a time period that is too short.  Both of these criticisms are overblown.


On the first charge, TFA teachers have intensive training the summer before they are placed into schools.  It is true that they don't get as many hours of formal pedagogical instruction as people who major in education programs in college.  However, it is also true that many education classes are not very useful.  Believe me -- as an education major, I attended lots of them.  The most useful thing that TFA candidates miss by not being education majors is the chance to be student teachers.  Student teaching is very helpful: it is a baptism by fire that has built-in support, because the student is working with an established teacher in an existing classroom.  It is unfortunate that TFA teachers miss the opportunity for this practice.  But fear not, they get their own baptism by fire soon enough.


The second charge -- that TFA teachers should have to commit for longer than a two year period of service -- is patently unfair.  Regularly certified teachers don't commit for two years: they only commit for one.  And many regularly certified teachers quickly leave the profession.  I believe the statistics are something like half of all teachers leave the profession before they have completed 5 years of service.  To hold TFA participants to a different time commitment standard than other teachers isn't right. 


Furthermore, even if many TFA teachers do enter the profession with the intention of leaving after only a few years, so what?  They are smart and capable people, so isn't it better to take the two years they have to give than to reject their offer?  Don't we want our students to be taught by intelligent and idealistic teachers?  Yes, it would be nice if they stayed in the profession for 30 years.  But isn't 2 years better than 0?  Especially when we consider the fact that many of the schools that TFA participants serve have trouble attracting qualified applicants at all... why are we attacking the idealistic young people who are willing to work in those environments for at least 2 years at a time?  Indeed, when critics argue that TFA participants ought to all remain teachers for a longer period of time, aren't those critics implicitly acknowledging the high-quality job that TFA teachers are doing?  They do such an excellent job that even their critics want them to stay in the profession for longer.


By the way, the criticism leveled above would never fly if it was aimed at other groups.  For example, many young women enter the teaching profession with no intention of staying for long periods of time.  Some female teachers plan to teach for a few years and then quit so that they can stay at home and start a family.  If the same people who argue against the short time frame of the TFA two year commitment took aim at young women who only plan to teach for a short period of time, they would run into a fusillade of criticism.  And rightfully so -- it is none of the critics' business how long an individual teacher intends to stay on the job or what the teacher's long-term plans are.  If a young woman desires to leave the teaching profession in a few years after she starts a family, that should have no impact on a school's decision to hire her now -- the school should hire the candidate that is best for this year's students.  The same is true for TFA teachers.

hssped
hssped

I've never worked with a TFA teacher.  They only go to poor schools, right?  What is the criteria for a poor school?  Title 1?  We have Title 1 schools in Fayette.  I wonder why we never get any TFA teachers?  When I worked in Clayton County there were no TFA teachers either and there were a lot of poor people.  How poor does the school have to be to get a TFA teacher?

anothercomment
anothercomment

My nephew is a second year teach for America teacher in Boston. He graduated on full academic scholar chip from NYU. He was valedictorian and class. Presidents in high school. He has dual use any British citizenciship. Father has taught I'm med school, private practice. Been a navy Doctor. His girlfriend is also a tea grad, a grad of rit.

I would rather my shield get them than a c student from a chird tier college that can't speak correct English and tels parent as Meet and greet she doesn't like math.

HS_Math_Teacher
HS_Math_Teacher

I worked in corporate sales in Atlanta from 1982 through 1989, and wanting to return to my rural roots below the gnat line, I went back to college for a couple of years to be certified to teach. I finally found something I really liked. I feel somewhat connected to these non-traditionally trained teachers. Without DATA to look at, I would bet my wallet that most bring a lot of good things to the table. Cheifly, I would think that these folks don't gripe about extra duties, and appreciate the stability and security of a job that allows them the opportunity to touch and shape the future.

Raja44
Raja44

I don't know a ton about TFA, and don't know a large number of TFA teachers and alums, but from what I do know, it seems like a program that has a pretty positive influence in the lower SES schools for which I understand TFA is targeted.  My understanding is that TFA teachers generally have pretty strong undergraduate records from some of the country's higher caliber universities and colleges, and who are recruited to teach for at least a couple of years in generally lower SES schools as a sort public service. I don't see why placing smart, young people, from top tier colleges, who might not ordinarily be considering a career in teaching, in lower SES schools where it may be hard to attract stronger teachers, is a bad thing -- it seems pretty positive to me.


I sometimes hear whispers that TFA teachers are some sort of right leaning ideological plants, designed somehow to infiltrate and take over public schools, but that seems silly and I don't see that happening in my experience.  To the contrary, the TFA teachers I know seem very idealistic and with a desire to provide meaningful public service -- and so typically seem pretty liberal in orientation, and certainly not conservative idealogues.   


I understand they may not have the teacher training, or education in education background, that traditional new teachers have, and I don't dismiss that, but I think that is counterbalanced in many cases by the bright, high quality people I see that are TFA teachers.

popcornular
popcornular

Veteran teachers hate TFA teachers. The unflattering contrast with these energetic kids exposes sluggish fossils for what they are. 

Astropig
Astropig

@popcornular


You'll see that today in the comments section- teachers denigrating other teachers that in many cases are doing the exact same job that they do.

Belinda51
Belinda51

i bet the "real" teachers make the TFA teachers feel soooooooo welcome. Maybe that's why they leave in a few years.

anothercomment
anothercomment

The same thing happened to me when I in my mid 20's first put in for the Director of Facilities management job at a bank. I told the boss, I could do a better job than the two male project manager as one handled two projects at a time the other could get up to 4. I could manage 22 at a time. The only real worker were the secretary and administrative assistant. Things were pretty tense or a month while the board decided. They decided to make me the manager and let the two other project managers go. It would reduce $42-45 k salaries plus benefits in 1986 pay rates. I could keep the assistants and secretary,. I eventually whittled that down to one Lowell AA.

I then had the same thing happen again where I became the director deputy sector of engineer in government facilities. I had beat out several internal candidates who wher all in their 50's and I was 28. I immediately introduced Autocad for doing drawings. All but two of the engineer is decided it was time to turn in their resignations, the two who stayed stayed it was the best decision of their live. They enjoyed working with all the young beipole in hired and even the ones older than them, and they loved drawing on the computer. It was sad when " sport retire 10 years later in his 70'.

It would

BG927
BG927

@Belinda51 They leave because most have no intentions of staying.  TFA is like the Peace Corps - or at least that's how Wendy Kopp, the founder, envisioned it. 

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

What?  I thought we needed student test data to evaluate teachers.  We can evaluate them just by asking principals what they think?

Point
Point

Don't you just love data?  It will prove whatever you want it to!

jerryeads
jerryeads

Lessee - TFA kids are no doubt in general pretty quick - they usually come from pretty fancy universities. They also get a grand total of SIX WEEKS of training - hardly any of it, my understanding, includes any classroom time. My guess is the study is a damnation of principals, not support for TFA. What this piece suggests is that the principals represented by the study wouldn't know anything remotely related to competent teaching if it rolled into their office on a parade float. They're the ones we always hear about who rate a teacher based on two minutes in the classroom counting how many cutesie posters are on the walls.

Astropig
Astropig

@jerryeads



" My guess is the study is a damnation of principals, not support for TFA"


Your guess would be wrong. What it really shows is that with such high principal satisfaction ratings, the old status quo model was/is grossly inefficient and attracts low level candidates.If a group could perform this well with 6 weeks training,the traditional candidate must have been pretty slow if they needed 4 (or more)years to reach the same level of proficiency.



redweather
redweather

"The results show that more than 80 percent of the principals surveyed in 2015 expressed satisfaction with Teach For America teachers. Approximately 20 percent of the principals surveyed said they were not satisfied. In a similar survey of principals in 2013, only 6 percent expressed a similar sentiment."


So I guess the glass is either half full or half empty. Talk about the horns of a dilemma.

Astropig
Astropig

I'm happy for these teachers,happy for these schools. TFA is not a magic bullet,but an important tool in a diverse toolkit of much needed reforms. This program attracts the very type of people that we want in education,so it's a win-win.


Exciting times we live in.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig


So ironic that you are always denigrating my teaching skills, since I would have been the perfect TFA candidate... top grades, quick learner, non-education undergraduate degree.  In fact, one of my professors told me I was "too smart" to go into teaching.  However, that was the calling I felt I had to follow, so I became a teacher.  Only difference between most TFA candidates and myself is that I took a more traditional route to the classroom and had always intended for teaching to be a career, not just a gold star on my resume. 

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@popcornular @Quidocetdiscit


Once A week?  Hmmm.  I believe I have brought it up maybe a couple of times in the years I have been posting on here, usually in response to some comment about low IQ teachers.


On the other hand, you are always around to tell my colleagues and me how stupid we are at least once a week, and usually quite a bit more often.  I figure reminding you occasionally that no, teachers are not universally idiots, is a fair response to your constant attacks on our intellects.

Charan Kumar
Charan Kumar

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SV23
SV23

@SouthGATeacher 

Must we always put up with your side's cynicism and resistance to innovation? God knows change is long overdue.

liberal4life
liberal4life

So, what are those 850 "alumni" of TFA doing if they are no longer teaching? How long did they teach?


Another thing that caught my eyes: the principals surveyed this time had less teaching experiences, but I wonder in general how many years of teaching experiences principals have. Does it matter?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@liberal4life Also How does that compare to all teachers that the principal hired? TFA paid for this lame piece of PR "research". TFA Teachers also have clean burning diesel engines.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@liberal4life There is quite a difference between principals with extensive, RECENT classroom experience and those who were "promoted" to get them away from kids!

williev2000
williev2000

@AvgGeorgian @liberal4life  RAND is a reputable research group.  I am sure they would not ruin their reputation just to help an Agency (i.e., TFA) improve their PR.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Or the headline could be, "Principals Dissatisfaction with TFA Teachers Triples in Just Two Years"