A new study that looked at various aspects of the teaching profession found the attrition rate of TFA recruits in the Los Angeles Unified School District is much higher than other new teachers. The study looked at two programs for bringing teachers into the district, Teacher for America and Career Ladders, a program that provides a pathway for LAUSD paraprofessionals to become certificated teachers. It compared teachers from both programs to all other new teachers. On average, students do very modestly better on standardized tests of math and reading with teachers from both of these programs compared to all other new teachers. However, while 87% of Career Ladder and 68% of all other newly hired teachers stay in the classroom for their third year of teaching, only 36% of TFA teachers stay. By the fourth year, 79% of Career Ladder and 59% of all other newly hired teachers stay. Amazingly, only 16% of TFA teachers remained by the fourth year!
Is the slightly higher effectiveness of TFA recruits compared to other new teachers worth such high attrition? This trade-off would only seem tolerable if other teachers didn’t improve with experience or there was a shortage of teachers. But, this same study also found that teachers overall show substantial growth in effectiveness during their first five years quickly surpassing the effectiveness of short term TFA recruits (and all novice teachers). Moreover, the study also found that students who are academically behind tend to get more novice teachers (this is also where TFA recruits generally end up). The exorbitantly high attrition of TFA teachers, compared to Career Ladder or other new teachers, especially in our neediest classrooms would seem to be a recipe for perpetuating this inequity – a bad trade-off indeed! A much better approach to ensuring all students have excellent teachers is to recruit from programs whose teachers have proven records of staying in the profession.