Over the years there have been various studies comparing the ‘effectiveness’ of TFA teachers to non-TFA teachers. Though these studies are based on the results from standardized tests that may or may not be appropriate for this purpose, the results of these papers are still interesting to look at.
Many of these studies have concluded that TFA teachers, especially, corps members who have not become alumni yet, are a little less effective at teaching reading and a little more effective at teaching math compared to non-TFA teachers with the same amount of teaching experience. Considering all the teacher bashing allies of TFA, I always find it pretty ironic that if the average teacher in this country is supposed to be so bad and that the TFA teachers are about the same, then what does this say about the TFA teachers? But the reformers don’t really mind that TFA teachers aren’t so good. Most of those TFA teachers aren’t going to be in the classroom for very long anyway and some of them are going to be fast-tracked to help join in the fight to bash teachers.
The other day I noticed this tweet from TFA:
So I took a look at the research paper and found that when you look at the whole thing, there is actually a lot of data that suggests, according to their way of comparing teachers, that TFA corps members, particularly the ones who are in their first of second year, are actually underperforming compared to non-TFA teachers with the same amount of experience.
This diagram summarizes most of the results, though it does require some explanation.
There are five regions that corps members in TX are placed in, these are the A to E columns. Most important to look at is the middle rows of this chart, the ‘All CMs’ rows. Any black rectangle is a place where according to the methods of the study, TFA corps members in their first or second year performed significantly worse than their matched non-TFA counterparts. For regions C and D, you can see that there are two black rectangles for the ‘R’ and ‘M’ rows which means that in the all-important (for Reformers) 3-8 reading and math exams, TFA corps members were significantly less effective that non-TFA teachers with the same amount of experience.
The gray rectangles mean that the TFA teachers were less effective, but not significantly less effective. The dark blue rectangles indicate significantly more effective and the light blue rectangles indicate more effective, but not significantly.
When it domes to 3-8 reading, the study says
Of all content areas explored, the largest difference in likelihood to pass STAAR that favored the non-TFA group was found in Reading. Students of TFA corps members are 3.7% less likely to pass STAAR Reading than students of new non-TFA-affiliated teachers
One thing I found a little strange in the report was that first years corps members were a bit better than the average of the first and second year corps members, which goes against common sense.
But the paper, especially in its summary, does make it sound like TFA did very well, on average in the study. This is because there are some TFA corps members who continue teaching beyond their two-year commitment. In this study, those alumni did very well and brought up the results of TFA in general. Since about 50 to 60 percent of corps members do stay for a third year and about 25 percent stay for a fourth year, it is feasible that at any given time, about 1/3 of TFA teachers are first year corps members, 1/3 of TFA teachers are second year corps members, and 1/3 of TFA teachers have more than two years of experience. And, yes, if you average these three groups together, the alumni do bring up the average to get a positive final result for TFA.
But is averaging the three groups really appropriate? If you were to tell me that there were three TFA teachers, two who are less than effective and one who is very effective and one of them is going to be assigned to my own child, I might not like those odds, a 2/3 chance of getting someone ineffective. While if I will get a random teacher from a pool of three non-TFA teachers where the best of the three isn’t quite as good as the top TFA alumni teacher but the other two are much better than the two TFA corps members, I would go with the non-TFA teacher for my own child — it’s just too much of a risk even if ‘on average’ a TFA teacher is effective.
I guess the issue is the irony about how TFA will surely use some highlights from this study to claim that TFA teachers are superior to non-TFA teachers, the report really has a lot more to say than that, and seeing all those black rectangles in the summary diagram, it really is negative about first and second year corps members. TFA should think about this next time they use this report for PR.