State audit of Teach for America: Effective teachers but too few to solve teacher shortage

empty-class-MediumA new state audit of Teach for America’s effectiveness in Georgia gives good marks to the teachers themselves, but cautions the program’s limits make it an unlikely solution to Georgia’s growing teacher shortage, which will be felt most in high poverty/Title 1 schools.

Teach For America is an alternative teacher program that recruits bright college grads to two-year classroom stints. While the highly selective program accepts about 15 percent of applicants, TFA is seeing a decline in applications as the improved economy offers top college grads higher-paying career options.

That decline mirrors a broader trend; the number of college students enrolled in teacher preparation programs has been falling nationwide and in Georgia. During the 2008-09 school year, more than 7,200 people completed Georgia teacher-preparation programs; three years later, that number fell to 6,405.

For the 2015-16 school year, 67 first-year TFA members were hired in APS, Fulton and Clayton schools. The Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts talked to all three systems about whether TFA is critical to their staffing strategies, writing:

Because TFA comprises a small percentage of overall hires within partnering systems and is not always able to address hard-to-staff subject areas, staff for the Atlanta Public Schools and Fulton County systems do not view TFA as a major tool for filling vacancies and prioritize other strategies. Clayton County staff, however, stated that they have a harder time attracting quality applicants and consider TFA a “key recruitment tool.” For the past two years, Clayton committed to pay for up to 60 new corps members each school year, but the availability of corps members limited the system to 46 in the 2014-15 school year and 30 in the 2015-16 school year

The detailed review of Teach for America’s role in Georgia concludes:

Additional school systems in Georgia may benefit from having TFA corps members in their classrooms given their positive impact on student achievement; however, the program should not be viewed as a strategy to eliminate vacancies because the limited number of corps members generally leave the classroom after fulfilling their two-year commitment…While TFA teachers may improve student achievement, they typically do not stay in the classroom longer than their two-year commitment. Approximately 38% of TFA corps members finished a third year of teaching in a Georgia school, compared to approximately 80% of non-TFA teachers who began teaching at Title I schools the same year as the corps members. However, this is consistent with TFA’s strategy of developing and mobilizing future leaders who will “strengthen the movement for educational equity” in all types of employment. State, district, and school leadership noted their concern over the retention rate, but they also stated the schools in which corps members teach may not have an effective teacher at all without the program. Significantly expanding TFA’s presence in Georgia is impacted by available funding and TFA’s national strategy which includes slowing new site expansion. Expanding the Metro Atlanta region beyond the three partnering districts would be hampered by the region’s operating budget, which has limited its allocation of corps members (the Metro-Atlanta corps has declined each year since 2011-12, when TFA received a portion of Georgia’s Race to the Top grant). For the 2015-16 school year, 67 first-year corps members were hired in three school systems, one of which requested and budgeted for more teachers than TFA was able to provide.

Released to the public today, the audit addresses:

•How effective is Georgia’s partnership with TFA at recruiting teachers?

•How effective is Georgia’s partnership with TFA at retaining teachers?

•What is the impact of TFA on student achievement?

•Is there sufficient evidence to support the expansion of TFA to other interested school systems in the state that may benefit from the program?

In response to the audit, TFA’s leader in Georgia, J. DeLano Ford, said in an email:

We’re grateful for our local and state partnerships, and for the Georgia audit team’s efforts to ensure that the state is supporting work that positively impacts Georgia’s students. And we’re encouraged that the audit finds that TFA is beneficial to partner schools, particularly that TFA teachers are having a positive impact on student achievement.

We are in our 15th year in partnership with schools here in the Atlanta area and I just love talking with our alumni – over 1,200 of them are living and working here – and witnessing how they are individually and collectively impacting educational equity. Eighty percent of them are working in roles in education or with low-income communities, with a third teaching and others leading local schools and non-profits, working in districts, and as school system leaders. I’m proud of them, and I also know that we and our many partners in this work must do more to attract additional leaders to work across sectors to address educational equity, and to keep more great teachers in our highest-need classrooms. “

 

Reader Comments 0

20 comments
teachingmyassoff
teachingmyassoff

@CSpinks as a teacher i will always have to defend my work.  If it is good I have to defend if it is bad i have to defend.  This is not the case in any other industry unfortunately but thank goodness I wake up each day for my students... not to comment or pick others apart.  Because I am sure TFA knew someone would say something like this, they had a national study done on the effectiveness of their teachers and it showed similar results as the state audit (btw, who would ever want the state to audit your work.  Do people request the IRS to audit their finances and taxes).  


See below:

 http://www.caldercenter.org/publications/performance-estimates-teach-america-teachers-atlanta-metropolitan-area-school-districts


Unfortunately, many will find something wrong with all of it instead of celebrating that some kids are getting a good education, even if just for 2 years.  Sometimes it only takes Jared to remember that one conversation with mr. harrison that can change his decisions and actions for the rest of his life.  AND it isnt only TFA that is having incredible impact in classrooms.  So are ed schools, other non-traditional programs.  but unfortunately, not one of these other entities is more researched or talked about than TFA.  with 2.3 million teachers in the country... TFA has placed probably 9k teachers this year and there are so many negative comments about only a tiny fraction of the educators in America.  This is so disrespectful to all of the other educators who are working tirelessly everyday to also have incredible impact.  The energy that all of you have around TFA is better than the apathy that many have around public education but it would be inspiring to just simply hear a "congratulations or good job" for once as an educator.  @jerryeads @Bitcoined 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@teachingmyassoff 

Having read your link, I must post that TFA teachers, as well as all teachers, including those who teach English (as I had before I earned a M.Ed. as a reading specialist), could use training in how to improve students' reading skills through having these TFA teachers (and all content area teachers whatever their experience levels in teaching) trained in the techniques of teaching vocabulary and reading comprehension skills in their specific content areas.

This training would take no more than an extra day added to the 5 or 6 weeks of training that TFA teachers already receive, but the precision and relevance of the reading instruction techniques would have invaluable positive impact upon all of the students that these teachers would teach.  Many of these reading-in-the-content area techniques can be taught to whole classroom groups, with students possessing reading skills ranging from well below grade level norms to well above grade level norms.

CSpinks
CSpinks

State audit = internal audit = oxymoronic exercise.


External audits conducted by competent, out-of-state entities is the only way to get closest to what's really going on with TFA and any other GaPubEd-related entity.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Maybe follow the $


http://prospect.org/article/true-cost-teach-americas-impact-urban-schools

"Another plausible explanation for school districts’ employment of TFA teachers is based on long-term economic calculations. Many districts are recognizing that investing in teachers who are unlikely to stay long in the classroom, even when factoring in the high cost of teacher turnover, can save them money down the line. If the bulk of teachers leave within two to three years, school districts will not have to worry about paying for the higher salaries and the state pension fund payments to which public school teachers with seniority are entitled. Even if 20 TFA teachers quit early, and the school district is not refunded the finder’s fees it paid to the organization, the district’s wasted $60,000 or so is relatively minor compared to the costs of paying for tenured and experienced teachers."

Bitcoined
Bitcoined

There is no teacher shortage, just a periodic effort by teachers' unions and their media allies to gain attention.

Just ask that niece who's been waiting years for a teaching job.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Is there anything that tells HOW schools systems determine the effectiveness of these short-timers?  Or is it just a question with no supporting data?

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Wascatlady The audit team looked at student performance on state tests. Essentially what the state will do to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

jerryeads
jerryeads

Uh-huh. When I was downtown, we tried mightily to get the cooperation of TFA to enable us to conduct a longitudinal comparative study of student and teacher performance. The state, in its infinite wisdom, did not identify TFA teachers in its annual data collections, nor were they identified as TFA by their certification (!!!!), so without TFA's help, we couldn't identify TFA "teachers." When they discovered we might actually try to quantify teacher performance beyond using the state's next to useless pass-fail minimum competency tests, they stopped responding to our queries (i.e., they stopped returning calls).

Claiming that a kid fresh out of college with six weeks of lectures on how to teach who leaves after two years is an "effective teacher" compared to one whose development includes no less than 600 hours of classroom time mentored by an experienced teacher - before certification - and who has been teaching for, say, a decade, is an interesting prospect. In my kindest, most reserved professional judgment: Ain't happenin'.

On the other hand, if what one really wants to do is further denigrate the teaching profession (and further debilitate public education) by conning the public even further into believing that any yo-yo can walk into a classroom and ensure the future of the society, it's a pretty good strategy.


Bitcoined
Bitcoined

A teacher shortage? To help readers assess that claim please tell us exactly how many regular ed Social Studies, English/Language Arts, Math and Science teachers each metro-area school district is in need of at this moment.

Bitcoined
Bitcoined

There is no teacher shortage. Maureen and the teachers' unions float that canard at the beginning of every school year to further the union agenda.

Apply for a teaching position today and you'll find yourself at the end of a very long line of qualified applicants.

Everyone knows someone in that situation.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@RCMorris Anecdotally, yesterday I received an e-mail from a fellow educator-friend who was complaining about our local school system's pulling paraprofessionals from kindergarten classes and using these folks to cover classrooms whose teachers were absent. This suggests that our local system, one of the best in the state, may face a substitute teacher shortage, if not  a teacher shortage. If our county system has a sub shortage, there's no telling the magnitude of the sub shortage other systems face. 


MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@RCMorris 

For the information of the reading public: Many substitute teachers only have one or two years of college.  Evidently, the TFA teachers have earned a four year degree from some of the top schools in the nation.  Weigh that pragmatic reality, as to how that difference will affect students.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

From the TFA:

"However, this is consistent with TFA’s strategy of developing and mobilizing future leaders who will 'strengthen the movement for educational equity' in all types of employment."

From TFA's leader in Georgia, J. DeLano Ford:

"Eighty percent of them are working in roles in education or with low-income communities, with a third teaching and others leading local schools and non-profits, working in districts, and as school system leaders."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The above quotes indicate that leaders in the TFA program have outstanding, far-reaching vision. If our state and nation are to understand the value of the educational mind, we must have people in all careers who have worked in teaching in school systems for at least two years.  This process will enlighten members of our society not only to recognize that developing the business mind is not the only avenue for success in America, and throughout the world, but also that the educational mind is just as valuable to this end, if not more so.

Someone in the TFA program has exceptional vision, not only for the present but for the future.  I am humbled and proud at the same time to read of the implementation of these goals for this program.  Very well done.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@MaryElizabethSings 

But according to this state audit of TFA , TFA members usually don't stay in schools longer than their 2-year commitment, with only 38% finishing a third year as compared to 80% of non-TFA teachers. The usual complaint on this blog has been that lower-paid TFA members replace non-TFA and higher paid teachers with seniority and then leave after a few years.  This audit seems to support that view.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@OriginalProf 

Please re-read the lines, ". . .developing future leaders who will strengthen the movement for educational equity in all types of employment"

and

"Eighty percent of them are working in roles in education or with low-income communities, with a third teaching and others leading local schools and non-profits. . ."

My point was that most of the TFA teachers will end up in other service jobs in the community, even if they do not remain directly in teaching, and that, as citizens, they will have accrued more awareness of the realistic needs in public education in that they will have experienced at least two years in teaching students directly in public school systems.