Study Outlines Teach For America Retention Rates
posted by: Alix | October 10, 2011, 01:56 PM   

Teach for America (TFA), a non-profit organization that recruits recent college graduates and professionals to teach in high-need schools for two years, has become one of the most well known and prestigious alternative certification programs in the country since 1990. While many studies have attributed student successes to TFA members and programs, little has been compiled about TFA retention rates and their impact on the high-need schools they teach in. As TFA enters into its biggest year yet, Phi Delta Kappa this week released a comprehensive study on how long TFA participants teach, and the patterns associated with participating in this unique program.

Based on the need to fill high-need positions and bring in the next generation of new and effective Teachers, TFA participants, or corps members, are given intensive training, and then required to serve a two-year commitment teaching in some of the country's most under-served schools. While the model is seen as effective, union-led critics assert that the teachers are not staying in the classroom for the long haul.

Currently, Teach for America claims that nearly 60% of corps members stay in the education field after they fulfill their two-year commitment. This new study is seen as the first comprehensive efforts to track TFA participants and sheds light on the career path of a typical TFA alumnus.

Among the interesting findings:
  • Nearly two-thirds (60.5%) of TFA teachers continue as public school teachers beyond their two-year commitment.
  • More than half (56.4%) leave their initial placements in low-income schools after two years, but 43.6% stay longer.
  • By their fifth year, 14.8% continue to teach in the same low-income schools to which they were originally assigned.
In general, the good news is that nearly two-thirds of corps members stay in the classroom beyond their two-year commitment. However, less than 25% stay in their initial, low-income assignment school for more than three years, one year beyond their contractual agreement. Keeping in mind TFA's mission and their commitment to closing achievement gaps, the attrition in high-need schools remains a problem.

While the data is helpful in addressing concerns, Teach for America does not claim to be, nor is it designed to be, a cure-all for our country's highest-need schools. Clearly evidence suggests that the problem of attracting effective teachers to struggling schools is much more complex and requires attention from all fronts.

What do you think about the study?
Comment below.

Comments (2)Add Comment
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written by Bill Medler Hoopeston,IL, August 09, 2013

Once the novice educator has his/her idealism tested by the realities of the degree of challenges involved with pulling children out of the quagmire of poverty, it shouldn't be so surprising to policy-makers that retention rates are abysmal.
Our culture is big on raising the bar for others while insisting on keeping the bar low for themselves. It may be politically incorrect, but the most capable are seldom attracted to teaching. And for the minority of high talent levels, the rate of pay eventually drives a significant portion of that small minority completely out of education. Society is willing to pay only lip service toward excellence in education but turn into misers and critics when it gets down to investing actual resources into attracting, supporting, and retaining high quality teachers and administrators. They want champagne on a bottom-shelf beer budget. It is unintended but real.
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written by Les Pharis Fayetteville, AR, October 20, 2012

The fact that the economy has been bad and
jobs in other fields are just not there for graduating college students skews the statistics in favor of TFA. I think it is very telling that less than 10% are still in their original assigned schools at the end of 6 years.

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