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Are 1000 Teach For America Teachers Worth $8 Million?

Teach For America's presence in Texas may be in jeopardy thanks to the state's $20 billion budget shortfall.

Teach For America's presence in Texas may be in jeopardy thanks to the state's $20 billion budget shortfall. Lawmakers seeking to slash programs have commissioned a study that will look at the effectiveness and retention rates of almost 1,000 Teach For America (TFA) teachers across the state. The question they hope to answer: Are those TFA teachers worth $8 million dollars?

Teach For America teachers commit to teach for two years in the state's most difficult to staff, lowest performing schools. The $8 million investment-$4 million for each year of the commitment-funds TFA's 5 week training program as well as ongoing support of the new teachers. Individual school districts then pick up the cost of salaries and benefits.

State Senator Mario Gallegos told the Houston Chronicle, "My concern has always been the cost. Is the school district getting the bang for the buck on the Teach for America teachers? I'm very concerned with the budget constraints right now."

Critics claim that Teach For America teachers don't get significantly better results than teachers coming from traditional certification programs that don't require the state to pony up extra cash. However, a recent study by the Tennessee State Board of Education says that students taught by Teach For America teachers consistently get higher test scores.

Whether TFA teachers jump ship at the end of their commitment is also a bone of contention. Although many Teach For America teachers stay beyond the two years, and teacher retention is a problem in the profession as a whole, Gayle Fallon, the head of the Houston Federation of Teachers believes the state needs to decide if they, "want to train people to stay in a profession or train them to be there for a couple of years."

The final report is due to the Texas Legislature by January 31, 2011.

photo (cc) via Flickr user shawncalhoun

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