The TFA Top-10 Listers, Where Are They Now?

A frequent criticism of TFA is that their teachers usually don’t stay beyond the two-year commitment.

Over the years, TFA has had different responses to this.  For a long time the statistic they touted was that 60% of corps members who complete the two years also teach a third year.  Though this statistic doesn’t include those who don’t make it though the two years (which is around 12%) it still is more than most people would figure.  Though they don’t publish these statistics so much anymore, it used to be generally accepted that only about 25% stay for a fourth year.

Nowadays, TFA has found a sneaky way to inflate their retention numbers by using their annual survey.  According to TFA, 80% of people who answered the survey say that they are either still ‘in education’ or somehow ‘serves low-income communities.’  This number is inflated for two reasons:  1) The self-selection of the survey takers, and 2) The way they collect this information by having alumni answer these ambiguous questions:

Without having access to the data of all 50,000 alumni, it is hard to know, anymore, what percent of TFAers become career teachers.

Four years ago, TFA got some national attention as ten of their new 2013 CMs got the opportunity to read a David Letterman Top 10 List ‘The Top 10 Reasons I Decided To Become A Teacher.’  This offended many people who really decided to become teachers since most of the TFAers were likely not going to become teachers for more than two years.

Now I know that ten people is a very small sample, but I thought it would be interesting to follow up on these ten people, four years later.  Even though it is just ten people, we can presume that these ten people were not just randomly chosen by TFA to be on David Letterman.  Surely these were some of the more dynamic corps members.  Also I would think that after going on national TV and saying that you decided to become a teacher, maybe deep in their subconscious, that would make them think twice before quitting after two years.

So using my search engine skills, I did my best to learn the whereabouts of the TFA Letterman 10.  Here’s what I found out.

Of the 10, I was only able to get information about 9 of them.

Two of the 9 people, to the best of my knowledge, did not complete their initial two year commitment.  one, it seems, never made it to the classroom at all while another seems to have taught for part of a year in a KIPP and then part of a year in another school.  Now she has a company that helps students with college essays so I guess she would count in the 80% who is still ‘in education.’

Three of the 9 people,  taught for 2 years.  One now seems to be in graduate school, one is a filmmaker, and one now works for TFA.

Two of the 9 people taught for 3 years, and are now in graduate school.

Two of the 9 people are still teaching after four years.

These numbers are actually pretty representative of the retention numbers for corps members over the years, about 15% quitting, about 15% teaching beyond 3 years, and 70% teaching either 2 or 3 years.  If you were thinking back, four years ago when this was on TV, “I wonder how many of them will actually become teachers?” now you have at least an approximate idea.


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