Should Teach For America Require a Five-Year Commitment?

A new review article (pdf), which looks at a litany of studies dealing with teacher effectiveness, particularly as it relates to Teach for America, has a couple recommendations for schools that are considering using program participants: First, that TFA teachers should only be considered if the applicant pool consists on non-credentialed teachers or substitutes. And second, that, if TFA teachers are used, that they be asked to commit to five-year stints in the classroom.

The recommendations follow from several findings, which Valerie Strauss over at The Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog is kind enough to summarize: More than 80 percent of TFA teachers are out of teaching within three years. New TFA teachers are less effective than credentialed teachers. Once credentialed (after two years in the program), TFA teachers are as effective as credentialed teachers—and even a little bit more effective in teaching math.

While these findings are interesting, and the recommendations are likely not surprising—TFA targets schools in need of teaching talent—they may also be largely moot. After all, only 0.2 percent of teachers are TFA-affiliated. That said, a five-year commitment to teaching, which is how long 50 percent of teachers who enter the field persist anyway, would only add stability to the schools that so desperately crave it.

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