Monday, August 2, 2010

More on Teach For America

After I blogged about Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' study of Teach For America, Superintendent Peter Gorman suggested I look at another TFA study, this one done by UNC researchers.

He passed along a PowerPoint summary of that study, presented to the UNC Board of Governors in April.

His tip landed after I'd finished Sunday's story (and four weeks after I started asking CMS for information about the costs and benefits of TFA). I'm still trying to track a full report. But there's clearly a lot of interest in this topic, so I'm sharing what I've got.

Update at 5 p.m.: Go to this link and click the first report, on "Teacher Portals," for the full study. Thanks to lead reasearcher Gary Henry of UNC Chapel Hill for a quick response. It's 63 pages and I haven't read it yet, so the rest of this is still based on the PowerPoint.

The study looked at Teach For America recruits in CMS and 12 rural districts in eastern North Carolina, comparing them with teachers trained through the UNC system, those from private schools in state, those hired from out of state, and N.C. Teaching Fellows, who earn scholarships in return for four years of teaching in-state.

That study found that TFA teachers got better results on several middle- and high-school exams than teachers who came through the traditional UNC route. The gap appears to be biggest in middle-school math, where the slide show notes that "TFA corps members increase student test scores for middle school math by approximately ½ year of learning." In elementary school and some secondary subjects, the two groups came out about the same.

Out-of-state teachers underperformed those trained through UNC in four of 11 areas tested, with no significant difference in the others, the study found. CMS has one of the highest concentrations of out-of-state teachers, the study says.

Data on Teaching Fellows appears to be even more mixed, and it's a bit hard to decipher from the PowerPoint (such presentations always feel to me like trying to read someone else's notes).


Anonymous said...

Try to get the whole study instead taking the word of a PowerPoint presentation. The devil is in the details. While I could make a few assumptions from other studies I have dug into detail on, I will refrain until I see this whole study itself. Cheerleading might be involved.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Agreed. It's often quite revealing to see what's omitted from notes and summaries. Have asked Gorman and the lead researcher for a full copy. Will share it when I get it.

Anonymous said...

Good to know there may be a reliable study out there-
But keep in mind, Teaching Fellows are given the toughest assignments and provided minimal support- they endure, succeed, and then thrive in our public schools for decades!
In a 1-3 year study TFAs might appear to make a bigger impact, but Teaching Fellows will continue teach our children long after TFAs are gone!

Anonymous said...

I knew it was Gorman who posted on your last TFA blog! Who is he kidding? (We teechas to dum 2 figyer that out.)

Yeah, that's what he thinks about us. Huhhhh, come on G man, it's a self fulfilling proficy.

You believe wholeheartedly that TFA works. Therefore, you are trying to dig up supporting evidence to prove to us (and yourself) that your THEORY is correct and that you are doing the right thing by bringing them on board.

Not so fast big fella. You have laid teachers off, because of TFA. And most of them will be gone before you.

PLUS, you're burning out and wearing down 'good veteran teachers' to help THEM get the job done.

I implore of you again Peter, to stop screwing around, and create stability in the low performing schools by:

1) hiring competent and strong administrative leaders that will create and foster a positive school culture...and

2)nurture and support the teachers that you already have that want to stay in education for the long haul.

You can't make us think that this is working, no matter how many studies you bring in.

Tell you what, since TFA is so wonderful with the best and the brightest ladies and gents, send them to the high performing schools, and swap out those teachers for the low performing schools (giggle).

Nah, that would never happen would it?! OK THEN! GET them out of 'your schools'...our schools.

Anonymous said...

I would counter Dr. Gorman's PowerPoint that includes very selective information---as I HAVE read the entire report with this recent publication:

Let's face it...He only taught 2 years egocentric as he has proven to be...maybe he feels teachers should model after him...2 years then done.

Anonymous said...

Most of these groups that write reports like this are just a circle pat on the back club. These consultants coming through are just making a name for themselves and the senior staff and superintendents are also just lokking for their next jobs.

By the way, I am very distressed this BOE is so concerned about diversity and equity and most of them do not a rat's batuti about teachers. I think we should have only 3 guiding principles, student achievement, discipline enforcement, and support for teachers and staff.

This newspaper and BOE needs someone from Missouri (the show me state). Pete needs to be constantly challenged and pushed back on by the BOE so that he is required to show every dollar is a sound investment and is value added.

CMStfa said...

A few things to consider:

-Remember that many non-TFA teachers leave the classroom in their first two years.

-Keep in mind TFA teachers typically teach at the lowest performing schools(West Charlotte/Meck, Spaugh, JT Williams, MLK). I doubt many teachers jump at these positions. I've personally been told that "I would quit before working with kids who don't care" from a veteran of CMS.

-TFA is not the only avenue for non-traditional certification. In fact, many of the teachers at the lower achieving schools have "Emergency Licenses" granted by the state.

-Do not assume that veteran teacher translates to a "master teacher." Many of my worst teachers growing up were veterans.

-Americorps provides $5000 per year to TFA teachers for service to pay back loans or go to further education. $10k(even in this economy) is not worth it for the hard work it takes to get results in those classrooms.

-Someone mentioned that TFA's do not coach or serve on committees. Please do not repeat this ever again. Almost every single male TFA teacher that I know from 2007-2009 coached a sport and nearly all female teachers were heavily involved.

Anonymous said...

Soooo.... there are many teachers who have been laid off who would love to fill the positions at the low performing schools.

Furthermore, the low performing schools typically do not have strong administrators to support teachers at these schools. That's why teachers would prefer not to teach there.

That problem could easily be fixed by the superintendent, not TFA.

Anonymous said...

In Detroit, I understand that TFA teachers are called “educational mercenaries.” I refer to them as Teachers for Aminute.

I have worked with several TFA teachers; they are generally quite dedicated and have had good results. As for them topping some veteran teachers, that’s probably so. But don’t we have young and talented accountants who beat old time accountants or young doctors who out-doctor medical professionals practicing medicine for decades? I’m sure there are newbie reporters that can tease out a great story better than a few pasty veterans. Every profession has its tired and worn that are just slouching to retirement.

Young and eager graduates infuse energy, ideas, and "Qi into many professions. But to suggest that most TFA teachers (which CMS tends to do) are better than veteran teachers is simply absurd. And more to the point, quality teaching isn’t why school districts, like CMS, are jumping at the bit to bring on more TFA teachers. It’s about economics. Look at the TFA organization – elite graduates of elite colleges – mostly affluent and sophisticated young kids who are passionate about justice, equality, and education. They work 2 years with fairly positive results – and bad or misfit TFA teachers weed themselves out. TFA supports, mentors, and trains its teachers throughout the two year term. That’s something almost no school district – like CMS – does because it costs too much. After two years, TFA teachers mostly move on and school districts like CMS just hire another crop. They never have to increase wages or worry about firing teachers. If only CMS and other school districts would just be honest about the process instead of commissioning inflated reports that depict TFA teachers levitating minds and walking on water. I wish there was an AFA --- Administrators for America – they could come in for 2 years and run our schools. Because let’s face it, anyone with a good college education can run a school, right?

Anonymous said...

New Leaders for New Schools.... that is the name of your AFA.... it's here and CMS just "bought in" to that as well.

Anonymous said...

I worked with TFAs...most don't know how to handle the classroom and their teacher grades are good, but the kids still fail the standardized test. They need to get certified before going in the classrooms!