Thousands of Teach For America alumni will pour into DC this weekend for the organization’s 25th anniversary summit. With the spotlight on Teach For America, it’s worth looking at some misperceptions about what has become one of the biggest players in the ed reform movement. Last year at Bellwether we carried out an independent case study of Teach For America’s efforts to scale, including its accomplishments, missteps, and lessons learned along the way. Based on our work, we want to share five myths about Teach For America that continue to linger.
Myth #1: Teach For America primarily recruits white affluent graduates of elite universities.
It’s true that in Teach For America’s early years, a high proportion of the corps hailed from Ivy League universities. As the leadership began seeing the impact of corps members who shared the backgrounds of the students they served—both in the classroom and the broader community—it began changing the organization’s approach to recruitment. Today, nearly half of all corps members identify as people of color, 47 percent come from low-income backgrounds, and 34 percent are first-generation college students.
Myth #2: Corps members are unequipped to teach given that they only receive five weeks of training.
A common criticism of Teach For America is that the summer institute doesn’t adequately prepare individuals for the classroom—and is an affront to traditional teacher prep Continue reading
North Carolina has a new “Educator Quality Dashboard” with some fascinating data on teacher preparation in the state. I dug in and found 4 key takeaways for future teachers:
1. When you graduate matters, but maybe not as much as you think. There’s no question that there are better and worse years to become a teacher. The education profession is not immune to larger economic forces, and, just like with all other employers, school districts don’t hire as many teachers during recessions. The effects linger, but in North Carolina at least, it’s not as bad as you might imagine. Continue reading
Last week I wrote about the impact Teach For America corps members have on student learning, noting that the evidence is largely positive. The second part of Teach For America’s theory of change—which states that alumni will become leaders in the movement to end educational inequity—is equally important. Teach For America has always thought about this two-part theory of change as a balancing act, investing in measuring immediate progress within the classroom alongside how many alumni are active as education leaders. But this second metric is much more difficult to measure.
In light of how quickly Teach For America has grown, understanding how the organization measures alumni impact takes on even greater importance. As of 2014 there were over 37,000 alumni, or more than three times the number of corps members.
Source: Teach For America internal data via 2014 Bellwether Education report Continue reading
Earlier this week, Bellwether released a new report on the history of Teach For America’s growth over the past 15 years and the lessons for other scaling organizations. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing some of those lessons here on the blog.
The first lesson scaling organizations should take from Teach For America’s experience: Know Your Theory of Change.
What impact has Teach For America had on student learning and achievement? Has its rapid growth over the past 15 years weakened its impact? Yesterday Bellwether released a report that seeks to answer these and other important questions on Teach For America’s scale, which has been unprecedented in the social sector. In this blog post, I’ll dive into what the research says on corps members’ instructional impact on students. In the next post of this two-part series, I’ll explore Teach For America’s long-term vision and how the organization thinks about its alumni impact.
Overall, the evidence of Teach For America’s impact on student learning is positive: On average, corps members produce better results in math than other teachers and comparable results in reading. Importantly, there is little evidence to suggest that Teach For America’s rapid growth has weakened corps members’ effectiveness in the classroom.
Mathematica Policy Research, an independent social policy research firm (disclosure: I previously worked at Mathematica), has conducted two national randomized controlled trials—the gold standard for evaluating public policies and programs—to assess Teach For America’s impact on student achievement. In these studies students within the same school and grade were randomly assigned to either Teach For America corps members or comparison teachers (both beginning and more experienced ones). This type of study design ensures that differences in student learning reflect differences in teacher effectiveness—and not pre-existing student gaps prior to the start of the study.
Both Mathematica studies showed that Teach For America corps members teaching math produce better results than their peers, including veteran teachers: Continue reading